The Choices That We Make As Writers
So on Saturday I went to a barbecue that was largely attended by members of my screenwriting group, people that (other than quick conversations before or after our Monday night meetings) I rarely get to hang out with socially.
So I found myself in a conversation with three other aspiring writers, good writers, who I have a lot in common with: we're all in our late 30s-to-mid-40s, and we're all in a period of our lives where, we'll we are getting better as writers, we're also in periods of our lives where we can't devote the time to pursuing a writing career that we really want to.
Or if we do, it means major changes in our lives.
One woman has been trying to devote herself more to writing, but she had to take a long leave of absence from working to really do so, plus she's got a husband and couple of kids, so even then writing is not something that can consume her days.
Another guy is just completing a pestigious masters program in screenwriting, but he had to go heavily into debt to do it. The last guy is a lawyer, who loves writing, but his job is also sucking up more and more of his time.
Devoting a lot of time to writing is really a young person's thing. It's just so much easier to do when you don't have a wife/kids/career/rent/mortgage pulling you down.
But, ironically (and I know there are exceptions, but still), good screenwriting is something that you get better at when you have these things in your life. When you have a life to draw on, when you've matured and experienced more. The things you have to juggle -- hell, the process of juggling, of dealing with responsibilities, of making choices in your own life -- make you better as a writer.
So it's a Catch-22. An endless juggling act, for people sliding into middle age, who really have to make serious choices about how much time to devote to the pursuit of a writing career, as opposed to really putting the time into the more stable career you are currently involved in, the one that might need to actually support you and young family for the rest of your life, the one that you often just can't afford to give short shrift to.
And the sad thing is that this dooms a lot of people who'd probably turn out to be pretty good writers. Because unless you can find the time to write, really write, it's all going to slip away. Like I see happening to so many people I know.
Like I see happening to me.
I've tried to screenwrite as much as I can, and I had an inadvertent aid during the writer's strike, when business was so slow that I had big blocks of time at my disposal. I didn't have to juggle, I didn't have to worry about the effect of choosing writing over work, because the work wasn't there much.
Financially it wasn't so good, but I wasn't really making a choice. The time was there. I used it. And I got some things done.
But now, I'm back in the grind, where there is always a pile of work to do, and credit card bills calling out for me to do it. And don't get me wrong -- I love reading scripts for a living.
But wow is it hard to find the time -- or the will -- to write when I've plowed through 20-25 scripts by other writers in any given week.
But this is my dilemma, and versions of this is currently being wrestled with by a lot of writers I know. There are X numbers of hours in a week, they need to be parceled out, and often devoting them to writing means being selfish, and taking them away from areas of your life that need time too.
And I respect the hell out of anyone who can make that work.
I even respect anyone who can bite the bullet, and pull the plug, and devote life to family and career and let the writing thing be a mistress that you just visit every once and a while, without much commitment.
But today's the day I start another push. At least one hour a day, every day, devoted entirely to screenwriting. Whether it is brainstorming a script, or outlining a script, or banging out pages. I did it last fall, and it was scary-effective, but then I went off the rails after awhile. 40 days? 60 days? I don't even remember any more.
But it's back on now. Because I'm not getting any younger -- hell, let's be honest, I turn 45 in 10 days. It's time to step up or drop out.
Anyhow, I just wanted to put these thoughts in play. If anyone wants to share their current juggling acts, feel free.