One of the first questions people ask when I say I’m a writer is, “Have you written anything I’ve seen?” Which is a RIDICULOUS question, because the answer is always, “No.” It’d be a no for the majority of writers. It’s our celebrity society which makes them ask, because if they’ve seen it that means I must be popular and therefore good. Again, ridiculous.
I know, I know, they don’t know any better, they’re just trying to initiate conversation, they’re just trying to have an interest in my out-of-the-ordinary line of work. I know. It used to humiliate me to no end, though. For a time I just couldn’t cop to being a writer. ‘Cause I was trying to be popular (and therefore, good) and failing so so badly. Now, I could give a crap because there’s no way the person asking has seen anything I’ve done because everything I do is done in schools. And I announce that fact quite proudly.
The second question I sometimes get is, “Don’t you want to go to Hollywood and be a screenwriter?” I had an optometrist ask me this question with a gleam of sun and movie stars in his eyes. This one makes me hoot like a thing that hoots a lot. Because it’s even more ridiculous than the first question. The person who asks that is someone who has no idea what a bottom feeder soul-sucking cow-towing time consuming life a screenwriter has. I paraphrase, but still.
The life of a Hollywood writer is quite a specific task and there are those who enjoy it and do it well. You can live really well and still be a writer. I am not, and would never be one of those people. My skin is not thick enough. I don’t take it kindly when someone who knows nothing about writing tells me to change this or that or, well, the whole damn thing. I can’t write what other people want, I can only write what I want.
I spent one year as a writer for a crappy Canadian TVshow. Not even a real show, a medical talk show that showed up at six in the morning on the higher reaching cable channels. It just about killed me and is responsible for my lingering Diet Coke habit. I still wake up with the shakes.
Jon Robin Baitz is a New York playwright who created the show Brothers and Sisters. He tried to bring craft, character, interesting storylines that involve people over thirty to the show. This article in The Huffington Post is about how he had to give up the ghost and walk away.
Reading the article just solidified it all for me. (Life, The Universe and Everything!) I may be poorer and I may never be able to answer the question, “Have you written anything I’ve seen?” but I’m happy in my corner of the world. And I can never regret it, and I can never look over the fence to see if the grass is greener. This is where I belong.