I never wanted to be a writer. In school, I hated English, barely comprehended grammatical structure. What I loved was TV and movies. I wanted to do that. Tell stories, entertain, make people laugh and cry. Make people notice me.
I needed attention. Lots of it.
I tried acting, teaching acting, various adventures in production. As well as a shitbarge full of day jobs – everything from selling vibrating pillows to post-payment auditing.
Nothing worked, but everything stuck.
Everything I did from the time I was 17 on, has led me down this career path. That’s not just spiritual “Let go, let god” stuff, it’s the pragmatic truth. Where I am makes perfect sense. This is the only place I could be.
I learned about the importance of organic behavior, moment-to-moment interaction and compelling character choices from three years of Meisner acting training. All of that shows up in my writing. I learned how to weed out good actors from bad and how to get great performances from actors through my three years of teaching Meisner. All of that shows up in my directing and producing.
I learned about depression, suicide and damaged souls from thirteen years of starving artistry, alcoholism and addiction. I learned about god, faith and humility from fourteen years of recovery. I recently learned about love and joy from my wife, stepkids and newborn daughter.
Eight years ago, I hit a bottom. All of my life choices collided and through some act of providence, I wrote my first script. From that script on, I found my voice, my vocation. I found my way.
I became a man.
And a man needs to work. I believe that men are defined by what they do. At the end of the day, I need to feel like I've built something. That I've hunted and gathered. Without that sense of accomplishment, I grow bitter, and hopeless. Before long, I begin to complain, find fault in everything and everyone. I slam doors and punch holes through newly-painted drywall.
Writing is not just what I do, it’s who I am. When I’m not writing, I feel disconnected from myself and my surroundings. Down time fucks me up. It emasculates me.I have honored the strike, supported my union. I've not written a single page since October 31st. At first, it was fine. I crammed and finished three different projects before the deadline. I needed a breather. But now, I'm miserable. I feel lost. I feel like punching drywall. I know there's a lot I can do to stay busy. I have producorial duties on my pilot, I can walk the picket lines, volunteer at the WGA HQ, etc. All that fills my calendar, but not my heart. I am not a striker or an administrator. I am a writer and I cannot write.
It's nearly 10 p.m. here at the newspaper and I'm listening to a police scanner, waiting for the inevitable fatal car accident, home invasion robbery, or drive-by shooting. So I was passing time by reading some old entries.
Being naturally curious, I've tried to read up on you: how you grew up, where you came from, how you got your start. Not a lot of info out there that's honest. But this is, isn't it?
Your words echo my own thoughts on writing. I've always wanted to tell the stories, to say something that will be listened to and - God willing - perhaps make people think about their own condition and the world around them. So I took up journalism. Hunter S. Thompson compared journalism to serious writing as working at Red Lobster is to acting. In that I agree. Right now, with the way that the industry is going... we can't write what we want to write. I wrote a story on a documentarian that was shooting fictional crap in Iraq and selling it off to hundreds of thousands of Americans as "the truth about Iraq," exposing him. I had that story cold.
The story was spiked.
There are so many stories out there that need to be told, and rather than telling them I, or we, are being relegated to pancake breakfasts. I was hired to a Washington Post newspaper before I even graduated college and was one of two reporters who handled an international story that was picked up by everyone with a TV camera - CNN, FOX, Al Jaziera, and that was before my first year at the paper.
Now the job is just... recycling copy. Going through records to retell stories from a year ago. We're not telling anyone what they need to know. We're just telling them what they want to know. That "bitterness and hopelessness" has set in and I really don't know what to do. The idea was to one day get to where you're at - that level where you can write something genius and introduce a new world to people who'll never look farther than their TiVo in the first place. Just to write something that will fill someone with a feeling of wonder. But now even that dream is beginning to wane.
I just want to write. It's the only thing I've ever been good at.
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