You better enjoy the small stuff

Emily of Bamboo Killers had an interesting post yesterday that kind of falls in line with my previous post about When To Quit. Emily poses a good question and a good answer, as she often does (if you don't read her blog, then you're being silly and you should stop it, she's entertaining and she has an uncanny ability to consistently post on her own blog, it's downright eerie and impressive), but it made me think about Two Things:

1) If no one ever saw it? and 2) You better enjoy the small stuff

An acquaintance, for lack of a better term, and I were talking about this general topic when it was asked: "If no one was ever going to see what you wrote, what would you write?" The question wasn't along the lines of "Would you be more honest?" (because that's boring), but more of "If no one was ever going to see it and it was just for you, would you still write what you're currently writing? Or switch to poetry? Novels? Comics?"

Essentially, what would you write if you were just getting your jollies off? What would you write if you were just writing for nothing but your own pleasure?

I think that's an interesting question. Especially if you're writing screenplays. Because if no one would ever see them, and there was NO chance they would ever be made into the movie you hopefully watch over and over in your own head, then I doubt most people would continue to write out the blueprints that screenplays simply are. Sure, some would. But I think most would switch to something else, something more complete and living. Novels. Graphic novels. Whatever.

I know my own answer to that question, but I think that, in connection with Emily's Q & A, it brings up a larger point. No one knows if they're going to make it out here. Emily's dead-on when she implies that there's really no answer to her question. Even someone who has "made it" couldn't really answer that. There's no one way to do it.

BUT. If your only goal is to "make it big" in this town, or to make it at all, then you're setting yourself up for disappointment. The numbers are against you (which makes the consistent efforts of those of us here even more admirable), and there's really no way to know if you're going to find that fulfillment even if you do make it. There's a common adage that goes something like: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. And you hear something to that effect from people in the business. The struggle never stops out here, it just gets different -- and harder. A lot of people "make it," only to realize they don't enjoy it.

And either way, my main point is that you better enjoy the small stuff. Whatever "making it" means to people, that glossy dream isn't the life of a successful writer in Hollywood. The life of a successful writer is like any other writer: a daily engagement with writing. Day after day of trying to achieve an elusive alchemy with the right succession of words. Day after day of crafting sentences, lines of dialogue, lines of plot, characters, etc. Whether you made it or not, that basic element doesn't change. You just add on more pressure.

So if you don't enjoy that basic drudgery of craft, that wordplay, and if you're just waiting until you "make it" and the all the paper starts rollin' in and you can live the life, then you might want to rethink things. Because the paper only keeps rollin' in with that steady heavy lifting of the craft. The day-by-day repetition of the basic skills we've all spent all these years working on, over and over again.

Being a writer is nothing but writing. "Making it" just implies that you're handsomely (or even adequately) compensated -- which also means you're a working stiff. You've got a boss, and it isn't you anymore.

So you better enjoy the small stuff.

ps. The requisite grain of salt: I have not "made it," either. So this is just my knee-jerk writerly response to this whole thingamajig.

No comments: