So today in my screenwriting class, our professor showed us a film that was comprised of interviews with successful and unsuccessful screenwriters who talked about the tricks of the trade. Time allotted for us to only see ’bout half the film, but they basically said this: you will write dozens of screenplays before your idea is considered good enough to be put on the big screen; you have to write a dozen screenplays considered good enough before you can actually make a living as a screenwriter without the assistance of a second job; after you do manage to write a good one, the directors, producers and other “political” figures will change it, ignore it or bash the majority of it; after your story has been crucified by everyone you will work with, you are thrown to the sidelines as nothing, where it becomes a “how far away can we keep the screenwriter from their own script?” type of deal. For me, this gathered a few reactions, which I decided to share with you all.
Firstly, it served as a reality check that slapped me on the face that continues to sting even as I write this. Those who know me well know that I’ve always had my vision focused on being a writer. As I’ve gone through almost a year and a half, I’ve broaden my dream to look at different kinds of writing that I could pursue, but my heart is still set on writing. (Though, let’s face it, I will always truly want to be an author.) But I didn’t realize until high school how hard this line of work is and how little of a reward it offers monetarily. Whether I became an author and publish books or adapt books into screenplays, there is roughly a 95% chance that I would have to get another job to support myself, because unless you reach J.K. Rowling status with an instant bestseller, you won’t make it on writing alone. (And even her first draft of Harry Potter got rejected by numerous publishers; guess they’re feeling moronic now, eh?) Yet here I am, an average white girl from a small town who is already thousands in debt trying to get a degree in Creative Writing because society requires me to have a college education to survive; to even get a chance to look at the job market. Yet after I get this degree, the line of work I want to pursue won’t be able to support me? That thought alone is not only infuriating, but it is terrifying.
Which brings me to my second point: the writing world is cruel, ruthless and relentless. Being a writer is not something you do for the money. If that is your plan, you’re obviously choosing the wrong profession. And I think that is something that sometimes people don’t realize, because we constantly only hear about the best-selling authors who have had their books translated into 120 different languages. Books like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and dare I use it as an example, Twilight, take the spotlight and disguise the world of writers as a glamorous, fantastic environment. And while they do deserve the spotlight (with the exception of Twilight), people assume that spotlight means instant success, which is definitely the case. After informing people of my major, some are like, “Oh, cool!” Others are like, “What, you’re majoring in storytelling??” While in jest, lemme just kill the belief that being a writer is easy right here, right now. I want to murder that idea with a quick slice through the jugular, so that the lies it spits to society spills down the throat and away from everyone’s consciousness. Sure, most people can spin a pretty phrase and plenty of people can come up with an idea for a simple plot, especially since they unconsciously draw from ideas they’ve been exposed to previously.
But I think it takes a special type of person to want to do what a writer in the 21st century is forced to do. They create a storyline, which cannot be overdone, cliquéd or stolen from someone else — otherwise, they’ll be ridiculed for not being original enough. Yet it also must be familiar enough that people are intrigued enough to read it and can relate to it. After they come up with that, they have to go through the pain-staking process of actually writing the bloody thing. They have to find their style, which is a battle in itself, because once they do, then they have to fight to maintain it and not conform to what society may want, expect or like. After they manage to write it, then they have to find someone who likes it enough to publish it, with hopes that people will like it enough to read it. And if you make it to the shelves, as soon as you make it back off, you are constantly judged on your ideas, writing style, and contents by people both qualified (whatever that means) and people who could never have done what you just did. And you will have people love it and people hate it. I even did just that in this essay listing my examples of best sellers (look at picture below if my opinion wasn’t clear.)
So basically, a person will either have to be insane or super passionate to want to be a writer. I think I’m a tad bit of both, but even describing some of a difficulties a writer would go through, my desire and decision to want to do that with my life hasn’t wavered or faltered a bit. Which leads to my last point: no matter what, go after your dream. Despite being completely terrified that I’m not going to make it as a writer, that I won’t be good enough, or realization that I’ll prolly have to get a second, unrelated job, I still have every intention to chase the dream that I’ve had since I was kid. People focus too much on getting the degree that will get them a high paying job later on. Or getting the degree that your parents want you to get instead of something that you want to do. So you want to be a nurse because you like helping people? Then do it. You really like movies? Be a film critic. You can’t imagine your life without writing, because you have a chance to inspire people you’ll never met? Go for it. Don’t let the world and how it runs hold you back from what you want to do; what you enjoy to do. It is your life and your choice on what you want to do with the time you’re blessed with. Might as well enjoy it!
“All there is to writing is putting a word on the page, followed by another, and another, until you’re done. It’s that easy and it’s that hard.”
P.S. — The title of this blog, “Story of a Modern Child”, is actually a song title. It is a new song by We are the Ocean, which really has a good message that fits with this line of thought, so you should check it out. 🙂