I recently confronted myself over the idea of how willing I am to write. I talk about myself as a writer and it’s a big part of my identity. I’m a writer. And I work the way I do and approach my work with a certain attitude that does not tend to change much over time. I love to write, and my standards for myself are high. These principles I set for myself—–a truly original, honest story with high emotional stakes—-cause me to get caught up with the process and will often intimidate or discourage me. If you find yourself experiencing stress when you write, this might be due to your own internal standards of excellence, which we should all be proud of.
So writing is difficult and then when you’re done, some people you would like to read it don’t get around to reading it. Or your script is read but they don’t respond the way you would like, and you know you have to keep working on it. Sometimes I get excited about what I write and people are not as excited. This happens a lot actually. But I don’t see it coming as I’m excited. Recently, I saw a moment in the script I’m working on come alive in my head and I jumped up and ran around my home completely thrilled. I don’t know if anyone will ever be that excited about that moment as I was that afternoon.
Obviously, there are many things out of our control for writers, and many of the questions writers have are how to deal with these forces that we can’t control. What can’t writers control? Who will read our script, who will make it, and who will like it. The industry, the audience. When we think about all of this, which many of us do, we can get overwhelmed and dismayed as it makes us feel like we do not have choices about our fates as writers.
What we can control is our ideas, our words, our stories and our response to feedback. Am I conscious of the power I have as a writer? I have to remind myself that every wonderful and good thing that has happened to me is solely due to what I wrote. There was no door, no famous sibling, no geography or luck that closed the deal. Did all of these things happen? Yes, but without what I created as a writer, nothing would have ever happened.
Writing begins everything for us. Our ideas are our ideas and we can make them up, change them, marry them together, put them on a train or stick them in a house in Italy. We put the words down and we make up the stories. We are the ones who can respond to “bad” feedback with a constructive attitude and find a way to the next draft. I control myself as a writer in all the important reasons, the reasons any writer ever sees their story screen for an audience.
But knowing this—–the freedom and absolute power of story creation which rests in my hands——does that mean I’m truly willing to write? How willing am I to find the time in the day to write? How far will I go to face down the notes I receive? Am I willing to make my scripts the best they can be?
If I’m okay with a script that’s not great before I start another, how can I say I am willing to write? I’m not. If I let days pass without showing up for the digging of ditches work of writing and rewriting, maybe I don’t want to do the work as much I act like I do when I tell people I’m a writer. Yes, I am a writer, but am I willing to work as a writer?
Every writer has another gear we do not know we have. If you believe you can become better, even after all these years, the next question I have to ask myself is do I truly want it?