Writers need focus. And kindness. Lots of kindness. I wrote yonks ago here about the myth of artistic poverty – how a lack of money (and, related, time) absolutely stymied my work.
It leads to me chasing my tail, rather than having confidence enough to focus on a single project. It leads to me running up and down my projects, my contacts, the competition deadlines, watering them all, hoping one – just one – will bear me a fruit.
Of course, this is mad.
If studying the lives – and work – of great writers I admire tells me anything, it is that they sat with their work. One work. They listened. They thought. They paid attention to the task in hand.
Of course, they had to go to the post office. Of course, they had to shop, meet, talk, hustle, eat, drink, recover etc. But they treated their work with more respect than I have been showing mine. And that’s something I resolve to change.
Seeing as you’re here, you might be like me. You read posts about writing. I stumbled over one the other day that was so fresh, so generous in its tone, that it reminded me of Stephen King’s On Writing, or Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. What was so fresh was that it did not tell me I was doing everything wrong. It did not tell me that I could learn what 10 terrible mistakes I was making with every script. It did not tell me that if I would only be a better something [insert noun that’s simultaneously a carrot and a cat-o-nine-tails: “human”, perhaps], then I would be gobbled up eagerly by agents/producers – and not in a necessarily harrassmenty kind of way.
It was this. A post that says, “you can find a champion for your work”. That says, “yes there are hurdles, but you can get over them.” That nudges you gently out of the nest so you can fly, instead of screaming, “Jump, you tosser!” from the ground. So thank you, Hayley Mackenzie of Script Angel. It’s that kind of thoughtfulness – along with the likes of Philip Shelley‘s thorough confidence – that gives the industry a good name.
I don’t believe that making people feel bad, or in competition with their peers, works. Scriptwriting professionals like Hayley and Philip (they’re not the only ones, of course) remind me that I choose who I listen to. This is utterly personal of course, but the gentle encouragement of guys like this, and so many other writers, is one of the things that keeps me in the game.
It’s a privileged place to be, with words in your mind, in your hand, on a screen or page. The last thing you need is a beating. Just find some focus, do some listening and get those words out.
[skips off, distributing sunflowers, into a nuclear horizon…]