I have a bone to pick with Hollywood. You see, I’m a Jersey Girl, born and bred, and so it really irritates me that I’m always being told that I MUST MOVE TO L.A., if I want to have a career in screenwriting. I find this hard to understand. Especially, as I toil away at my computer, all alone in my sweats, with crumbs from my chocolate oreos (mine) and sticky fingerprints (my kids) still on my lap.
I can write from practically anywhere – be it Toronto, a secluded beach, or even my bed. Location has nothing to do with the actual work of writing.
I know, I know, we’re talking about the business end of screenwriting, rather than the art of screenwriting, when we talk about moving to L.A. But as a writer, I hate discussing such crass business concerns. After all, I’m too busy worrying about inspiration, creativity, and poetic muses. I can’t possibly worry about self-promotion. I want my words to speak for themselves. And I want to be discovered by the powers-that-be, even though I scribble and type alone in my little home office three thousand miles from the powers-that-be.
If only it all were simple. But it isn’t. Not only is it difficult to break into the screenwriting business, it is difficult just living the life of a writer. Like all writers, I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Trying to explain to people why I feel compelled to write is like asking some people why they breathe. Writing is a solitary task, which makes it both lonely and isolating at times. Writing also takes commitment, time, passion, patience, and perseverance. It is life-consuming and all encompassing. And it is a fickle undertaking where words can be frustratingly difficult to find or pour forth in uncontrollable volumes when you least expect.
My job of mothering is somewhat similar to writing. Mothering is often an isolating task that takes commitment, time, passion, patience, and perseverance. My children’s lives sometimes consume me completely and leave little time to me, the person, let alone me the creative writer. I sometimes feel numb and depleted from the mundane aspects of mothering, such as laundry, grocery shopping, and bedtime rituals. And yet I find that overall mothering is extremely inspiring, and that sometimes creativity flows from the least expected places.
The difficult part is finding a balance between mothering and writing. There is an unwritten rule that writers must write everyday. There is also an unwritten rule that mothers must mother everyday. These rules are unfortunately at odds with each other. Sure I still steal time to write. But it would be a heck of a lot easier without constant interruptions, and without the distractions of running a full-time household. And of course I would undoubtedly be more productive if I were alone; or truly focused on the writing.
My writing/mothering dilemma is not unique to myself or even new. Any writer who has decided to share a life with others has surely had the same concerns. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote in Gift From the Sea, “The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.” With five children at home, and a famous husband, Anne personally knew all too well, that often it is the function of women to give; but that women need to replenish their souls too.
Since becoming a mother seven years ago, my writing has primarily served to feed my soul, rather than my ego or my career. Like Anne, I have utilized writing to meditate on my life and mothering, and to keep the embers of my creativity aglow. And it is true what they say – the more I write, the easier it becomes. The daily writing doesn’t always come out in screenplay form. Sometimes it’s a journal or blog entry, a short story, an essay, or a poem. But it is all fuel for the fire, and it keeps me from getting blocked.
And as all writers know, writer’s block is one’s greatest fear. After all, if writing is like breathing, then what could be worse than not being able to write? Writer’s block comes when we are distracted, unfocused, or when we begin to think that we just aren’t good enough writers. Most of our self-doubt comes from rejection or fear of rejection.
I’ve had my fair share of rejections. And there are times that I’ve vowed never to write again. It’s just too agonizing to have a story burn within my head, only to set it to paper and then see it sit within a musty drawer for years to come. And of course, there’s the guilt. It’s difficult to justify the fact that two children, a spouse, and a needy Labrador Retriever, must be ignored (and neglected) while I selfishly give in to my latest writing obsession. In the end, I find myself asking, why expend so much time, energy, and creativity for nothing?
Because I AM A WRITER. And no matter how frustrated I’ve become, or how many times I’ve “quit,” I simply can’t help but go back to writing every time a new story, a new idea, a new spark lights within my head. Yes, to some people writing, especially screenwriting, is a business. But to me, it is merely a way of life. I find it is hard to hide from inspiration. Ultimately, it always finds you.
Which brings us back to Hollywood. Do I really need to uproot my children from their home, schools, and life so that their mom can write in a different, warmer time zone? Why does it matter where I live, as long as I commit to the work? And besides, shouldn’t mini DVD’s, MP3’s, cell phones, palm pilots, e-mail, and laptops be useful for something besides being the latest “toys” for spoiled trendy teens?
At this point, I should be able to type scripts on my palm pilot from the moon, if I so wished. And who knows, maybe someday I will.