Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Burn

I think in every writer's career there will come a time when you are demoralized and disheartened. Rejection compounds with disappointment over a lack of marketability or a sense of helplessness in the face of all these variables that need to align to create a long term career in this business. There may come a time when you are thinking of calling it quits, hanging up your spurs and heading off to find your bliss in some other pursuit.

Should you? I can't tell you that. I can't give you the pep talk and say, "Absolutely not! Keep going, no matter what!" Because it isn't about how good you are, it's about you. Your passion. Your "burn" as Roxanne St. Claire puts it in this EXCELLENT blog post about a writing friend of hers making the decision to hang it up.

Last September, in this blog, Josh Olson (screenwriter of A History of Violence) says "You cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I've done you a favor, because now you'll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is."

I agree mostly, but I don't think it's necessarily about talent. My feeling is that it is more in keeping with Roxanne St. Claire's burn. It's passion. (Of course, that doesn't mean it has to be a raging inferno inside you, sometimes passion is so deeply imbedded it comes out in quiet moments - Jane Austen style.)

Here's my little personal anecdote about finding your bliss:

About a gazillion years ago, for about fifteen seconds, I worked in the film industry. I love movies. Love them. Always have. You can ask my parents. I wore out our Beta player as a kid. In college, I began to get involved in film - the production side. For a while there, film editing felt like my calling and I was good at it. I landed an internship with an independent film company in New York and went to get my first inside look at the biz.

It didn't last long. It wasn't that I realized I wasn't good at editing - I am. It wasn't that I realized I didn't love editing - I still do. What happened was I came to the realization that I didn't love editing enough to make it worth the uncertainty inherent in working on movies. Those projects don't last forever and then you're out of the job, struggling to find your next paycheck. I didn't have the burn, the passion. At least not enough to make it worth it to me. So I left and I've never looked back. Never had a coulda-shoulda-woulda moment. Not for one second.

And, yes, I recognize the perverse irony that I left that career path only to pursue one with just as much flux and instability. But with writing, no matter the uncertainty attached, I have the burn. I've never considered quitting. And if I ever did, I know it wouldn't stick.

So my question to you is: have you ever considered hanging it up? What stopped you? What keeps you going? Have you been lucky enough to find your "real talent", as Josh Olson calls it?

2 comments:

Amber Scott said...

"You cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer...." I love this quote. It is so true.

Kate S said...

"What happened was I came to the realization that I didn't love editing enough to make it worth the uncertainty inherent in working on movies."

Well, there's the rub, isn't it? I read somewhere that writers are obviously crazy because they're the only ones who'll toil away for years with no paycheck, and no guarantee that they'll ever receive money for their work.

It's kind of like raising children - if we didn't love them so much, there's no way anyone in their right mind would go through all that. ;)