Why am I a writer? Because I keep on coming back to it… and happily so.
When a new film comes out and I see an interview with an actor or director, I often see them say they do what they do because they “couldn’t imagine doing anything else” or perhaps even that they’re “not good at anything else.”
For those of us who to aspire to be some small measure of renaissance men and women, this seems strange. If I am to believe both people and paychecks, I’m arguably good at many things, not just one thing. And I know I’m not alone. No end of people contain multitudes — and very capable multitudes at that. I underestimate others at my peril.
Of course many of us have skills that we’d be happy not to employ as frequently — as well as activities that, whether we’re the most skilled at it or not, bring us great joy.
So I suspect the actors and directors who “can’t imagine doing anything else” have been lucky enough to find something they really like doing, are pretty sure they’re good at, and get paid decently to do it.
Apart from the “paid decently” part, that describes me and writing. But more on being paid in a moment.
Unlike producing, where I’m trying as much as possible to do the impossible and make a production go flawlessly, I don’t worry about being flawless while writing. Unlike acting or doing voiceovers, I don’t fret about getting it right every time.
This isn’t to say I don’t want to make my writing as ‘flawless’ as possible. This doesn’t mean I don’t try and make my writing “right.” But here, the difference is that, for writing, I always feel free to think long-term in a way that I don’t while I’m on set as a producer or an actor.
Mind you: as an actor, I’ve been taught to risk, fail, and risk again. But regrettably for film and voiceover work, time constraints mean the risks must be far more calculated than what I’ve been used to on stage. This is certainly the case with producing, which while it involves creative problem-solving, the solving is the urgent goal. Exploration, abject failure, and exploration of said abject failure are not something to be done while you’re trying to “make your day.” There’s also the feeling of letting the rest of the team down. I don’t like other people to suffer for my art.
Not so with writing. True, deadlines can loom, but there’s the day-in, day-out “trenches writing” where the only person who might need to suffer for your art is you. You have good days and bad days, but even if I just write 20 minutes a day that still means my brain is thinking about the writing for the other 23.6 hours of the day. And that’s wonderful.
In other words, whether I’m having a good day writing or a bad day writing, I’m loving what I’m doing. I can’t imagine anything else that comes close. I suspect that’s what some of those actors and directors are thinking.
And when you find something like that, awards help. It generally means people like what you’re doing. Pay helps. It means you don’t have to question whether you can afford to do what you’re doing. But that feeling you’re right where you need to be?
That’s something you keep on coming back to… and happily so.