1/17/17

Write What You Need To Write (aka Spend It All)

Don't punch a gift horse in the mouth.
That's how it goes, right?
Lately, I've been delving back into the world of freelance writing. I've started blogging here and there for the first time in years. I'm even fielding film review requests again.

All this means I'm knee deep in redrafts, swimming through information about click throughs and conversion rates.

These are not complaints. My worst day as an independent creative is filled with more joy and inspiration than some of my best days punching a clock. And I've had some good ones, so that's saying something.

In regards to mixing business savvy with creativity, I mean...you have to do that. Especially if you're independent or freelance. You must be brave enough to pitch, you should know when to share articles on social media so they won't get buried. Yes. Of course. Do all of that.

But. BUT...


Sometimes, there's a story in your head that just won't go away. It might not be what the market wants right now. It might not be a trendy genre. In my case, I've been thinking about how it wasn't a great career move for me to fundraise for a 100 page comic that I wrote. It's my first comic. It's probably rife with flaws that will inevitably become lessons to learn along the way that will make my second comic better.

But I still did it. Because I wanted to. Because I love my story and my characters and the world they live in. And that is reason enough, no matter what you are being told by a website or a listicle or your well-meaning whoever.

You know what happens if you stay focused on your work? Let me tell you a story. Years ago, I got a screener copy of a documentary called "Zombie Girl" in the mail. I loved it. It was about a kid (literally, a kid) in Austin, Texas who wanted to make her own feature-length zombie movie. So she did. After that she made another movie, then another. She recently got a deal with Netflix and her newest movie "Coin Heist" is out now.

If you're anything like me, the dread of a first attempt can shut everything down. As writers, we've probably had the "crappy first draft" pep talk one too many times. I mean, it's a great pep talk. I used to teach it to my undergraduate writing students. It's important and true. But like a lot of other advice floating around in the zeitgeist, we can sometimes internalize it to the point where it becomes automatic routine. We're first-draft fatigued before we even start.

You have to dig really deep when that happens. You have to go below the layer of existential terror. (Which is situated directly underneath the anxiety titled, "Oh Dear God, how will I pay my bills this month? HOW?!) Somewhere in there, I promise you, is a sweet spot. Sometimes, your first draft isn't that bad. You don't have to carry that "everything is SO HARD" badge of honor to blend in with other writers.

Maybe I shouldn't have said "dig deep". Maybe I should've said "let go" instead.

Because here's the thing. You must write the stories you feel like you need to write, exactly when you need to write them. No matter what you think or believe the outcome will be. Creativity is a gift. It's not always in your control. Turning ideas or inspiration away due to their impractical nature (as gauged by a constantly shifting industry) is almost like looking, no...punching a gift horse in the mouth.

This summer, an idea hit me for an action film starring four sisters who grew up in the early nineties. This inspiration struck right when Ghostbusters was getting screamed down pretty much everywhere. Was it a good idea for me to write a female-driven action screenplay amidst all that? Nope. Did I do it anyway? YEP. Why? Because I loved the idea. I still do. It's first on my redraft list starting in February. And guess what? As it sits right now, it's in pretty good shape. It's not terrible. It needs work, but I still love it.

As I said, the industry is always changing. Constantly. You can't predict when you'll have something that will suddenly become valuable or trendy. But you can always be sure when you've written something you love. You can always write a story that represents you. And guess what? Sometimes the industry pivots around you when you present something truly wonderful. Good art is good art. There was nothing like Hamilton going on before Hamilton. You get the idea, right?

It's okay to ignore advice about what to do and what not to do. It's okay to take it too. Just don't spend too much energy on anything other than your actual writing. Tell the story you want to tell whenever you feel like it. It's okay to love what you're writing more than you love the business of being a writer.


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