Monday, February 4, 2008

It doesn’t get easier, does it?

“If we wanted easy, we wouldn’t be show people”.

That’s still one of my favorite lines from my newest spec script about the children’s theater tour.

I like it because you can easily substitute “show people” for “writers”.

Last night I finished reading Dennis Palumbo’s book, Writing from the Inside Out. I’d recommend it to any writer of any medium anywhere. (Another book I’d recommend is Gary Garrison’s Playwrights Survival Guide—also chock full of goodies to help you keep your sanity). Palumbo’s book is based on essays he wrote for his column in the WGA newsletter and details many of the struggles all of us have, whether we’re writing our first spec script, our tenth novel, or our hundredth sit-com.

It’s a great book to dig into when you need gentle reminders that “writing is hard” and “you’re not alone in your misery.” And hey, who doesn’t need that?

Near the end of the book, there’s an essay saying that writing never gets easier. All writing is hard, whether it’s a fast action flick or the latest winner of an Oscar for dramatic picture. Writing a non-fiction essay is hard. Even writing a blog is hard (if you don’t believe me, try writing one…). And even though the more you do it, the better you get (one hopes), it never gets easy. As you acquire more skills and technique, the harder it gets to rewrite (because that’s what writing is really all about anyway).

Of course, the more you write the more opportunities you have to receive joy and fulfillment from your work. And that’s pretty great. Because if you’re looking for fulfillment solely by monetary rewards or accolades, that may not happen as much as you like, and when it does, the high you feel from your accomplishment won’t last long.

This is why there are many people out there who write one or two plays or screenplays that never go anywhere and the writer just throws in the towel…because they really thought it would be easy…You write a flashy script, sell it for a million bucks, and its all downhill from there…

Yeah, like with any business endeavor, that’s a nice fantasy but not realistic. Building a writing career in TV/Film takes a lot of time. Not everyone has sold their spec for millions of dollars and if you want the real scoop on that, go here.

When I think of the things that my writing has given me over the years, I usually think of the people that I’ve worked with, the friendships that I’ve made, and the shows that have come together in such a way as to be purely magical moments of my life. And also, if I wasn’t such a great playwright, I never would’ve gotten a date from the woman who became my wife (it’s a long story, but it’s true…)

For a sample of some of Palumbo’s wisdom, go here for a great article partly about the film Adaptation, but mostly about how even the most successful writers still struggle with insecurity, doubts, fears, and painful writer’s block.

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