We all dream and fantasize. We all do. I’d get into some of the dreams that I do have, but on the off chance I ever meet those certain actors or writers in real life, and on the off chance they might have ever stumbled across this in a moment of random internet insomnia, I’d rather not introduce that awkward moment into the conversation. “Hey, so you fantasize about me?” Yes, actually, I do.
But when I sit here on my couch in my little apartment in South Salt Lake, what I find myself thinking about the most is the other side of the journey. The success. The lights and the glamour and all of the stuff that we are taught not to expect or even want because that’s just a bridge to far. That’s a dream that won’t come true. And there is a lot of logic in that idea – let’s face it, if all you want is the glamour, you aren’t going to want to work for it either. And I think that for myself, I spend so much time writing that I don’t think about the work I am doing, so I jump to the glamour point. I don’t think that made a lot of sense. So let me try again.
A couple of years ago, when I was at the awards ceremony for the Utah Arts Council Literary contest (in which I won an honorable mention, thank you) I was asked by the wife of one of the other winners if I am a prolific or an efficient writer. And I had to step back and think for a moment. The truth is, I can be incredibly prolific. I can turn out 4000 words in a day, words that are out on the internet somewhere. But the idea of effiency struck me. Because often, I am not efficient. If I were, I’d probably spend less time writing fanfiction and more time finishing – pick your project here. And whenever I find myself dreaming of that end goal, that Emmy speech, that Oscars moment, I am back in that room at the ceremony, being asked that question and realizing that no, I am often not an efficient writer.
This is coming up in my brain because I find myself on the verge of a huge question in my life – what is it that I want to do when I grow up? I’m not talking in the broad scheme of things. I want to get paid to write. I want to write it all. I want to write novels and plays and screen plays and teleplays and I want to be a better poet and I want to write essays and blog posts. I want to put it all down because my mind never stops working. It wants to tell a story and I want to tell that story to more people than myself and my cat (who is biting my fingers as I write this, so I am assuming he is saying hello.) But that sense of want doesn’t translate into a concrete idea and there are moments when I have to hold my breath and count to ten because while the truth is that writers don’t often come into their own until they’re in their 30s and 40s, I still live in a terrified world that I’m too old to ever try my hand at writing for television. And I don’t know how to direct so where are those people I could connect to who want to direct my words and I know that there are projects out there, but see, if you’re as overwhelmed reading this as I am writing this, you know my problem.
So again, let’s start over.
A couple of years ago, I was on track to apply for the ABC/Disney writing fellowship. It’s a fellowship that brings people in to the writer’s room, for a year, paid, and teaches them the ropes of the business. As far as I always understood it, it was meant for writers who maybe didn’t have the easy way in to the studio system as other people. I toiled on my spec script. I even went back to school and took some film and screen writing classes so that I could understand what I was doing wrong because honestly, I can write a story but the screenwriting format was a mystery to me at the time. And as I worked through my application, something jumped out at me that I hadn’t seen in previous years – letters of reference/recommendation needed from people in the industry. You can imagine how my heart sunk. I even wrote to them, asking what they meant by that, and was just told that I had to meet the qualifications. I’m a kid from Utah who didn’t figure out until a few years ago that all she wanted to do with her life was write. I don’t have people in the industry who can speak to my qualifications. I have my portfolio and my little certificate with my award. The wakeup call was a harsh one. I mean, while there is a part of me that has these silly dreams about being a writer for TV because it means that I might get to give that Emmy speech I’ve had memorized for twenty years, there’s a bigger part of me that just wants to be one of the people in the room, writing a character who might one day save some little girl or boy’s life. There are times when I wonder if the writers at CSI or Once Upon a Time or ER or Lost or even shows like America’s Next Top Model realize the impact they really do have on the world. Not in terms of advertising dollars but in terms of creating a character that can save a life. And maybe that’s a flash of vanity, to want to be part of that world, but I want to be part of that world. And maybe it’s idealistic, and maybe it’s silly, and maybe I have the bright lights of Hollywood in my eyes, but I still believe that there is a magic world where dreams come true and that those dreams can change the world. For all the bitching about the media companies owning everything and churning out mass produced entertainment in a world that wants to dumb down the already lowest common denominator, there is still something magical about a character walking and talking and existing with us in this world. For all the critical thought that comes along with Hollywood, that needs to come along with Hollywood, a dream of innocence in a less than innocent world remains. We want our villains and our moral compasses and even the characters who are just like us, who question everything.
I know that’s what I want.
And so the other day I am hanging out on twitter, contemplating my next blog post actually, and I see Jane Espenson post about script writing programs with NBC. And so I look at the links because honestly, what have I got to lose. My fantasies right now often involve some show runner wanting me to write two or three scripts a year because they love my novel so much. I work my ass off to get there but do it in a roundabout way … because I don’t know how to do it any other way. Because this wasn’t a world I jumped in to when I was 18. Because I was so burned and scared by the ABC/Disney situation that I think a part of me gave up. But I checked the link and saved the link and set up the plan that for March, I’d finish my spec script. Just so I’d have something on the ready, should one of these applications pan out.
You don’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.
So this month, I’m buying that ticket. Or at least driving up to the store and sitting in the parking lot. It’s terrifying, you know, to really come to understand what you want. Whether it’s writing or driving trucks for a living. And a long time ago, I came to the realization that all I want is to write. And I’m willing to do what it takes and do the hard stuff to make it happen. But sometimes it’s a bit scary. Just for example, I have financial responsibilities that keep me from being able to go to a lot of the conferences around Salt Lake, forget picking up and moving to Los Angeles or something for a couple of months for a script writing program. I’m willing to do it, but I wish things were just a little bit easier. Just a tiny, tiny bit, you know.
But you still have to buy the damned lottery ticket. (Is the metaphor old to you guys yet? It’s old to me.)
So here I am, pushing past the fantasy and working on the reality.
Just don’t judge me if I sit here some nights and re-write my Emmy speech. I really do want to give it someday.