It’s been a while. A long while since I had the urge to write. Actually, that is not exactly true. I have had the urge but I always found a way to put it off. Stories in my head and words on a page are two very different beasts. In my head, my ideas are brilliant. They are perfect and there is no risk. Once I start committing to paper (or any other medium) I run the risk of not being as great as I am in my head.
The trigger that took me off writing was another failure. It happens when you are a writer. You hear stories about all the rejection letters that famous writers got and then one day they became successful. Letters aren’t so bad. Even if it is a form letter, there is some recognition of your work. It gets hard when you hear nothing. No letter, no email, no feedback. You submit something and then you wait till one day you decide that you will not hear anything and move on.
When I was offered the opportunity of writing for a TV show, I was understandably nervous. My first attempt had been a solid effort but it had been a while since and so whilst I wanted to grasp the brass ring with both hands, I was hesitant. At the time I had one request in taking on this task. Feedback. I asked that someone give me feedback on what I was submitting so I could see what was going on and work out where improvements needed to be made. I wanted to do it right and I would rather have had less work and be submitting good work than just take the money. The feedback never came. Nothing. I would just get called and given another script and to be fair, I never asked if there was anything to work on, after all I had asked for feedback and if nothing was given that meant that I must be doing something right. Right?
Then one day the phone stopped ringing. No calls, no emails, nothing. I never knew if it was personal or professional or both. (Having been a script coordinator for a few years I had seen personality issues with the head writer see writers get struck from the writers list.) In the end I had to assume that they didn’t like my writing but again with no feedback it was hard to know where to begin to improve. I was left to my imagination as to what went wrong and when you have a writers imagination unleashed, it can be quite terrible.
That can shake the confidence but as any successful writer tells you, you have to persevere. So I did. I had a couple of old bosses, one in particular that would give me his time and advice on my work and I pressed on. I wrote a short play that was moderately successful but many of my other projects missed the mark. When I had a miss I would go back to my friend and get the pearls of wisdom when he had time. I did a couple of courses as well, run by people who were good at what they did and the feedback was always very solid. I did a submission for another former boss who gave me great feedback (he always did when I wrote scenes as a coordinator) but before I could really get back into the serial writing, my friend and mentor passed away.
I had already decided to do some traveling but without his assurance it was hard to find the enthusiasm to jump back into a world that he had so intrinsically been a part of for me so I hid. I kept writing though and tried to find that formula. I would occasionally submit things but never get any response and with no one to bounce off the work it became harder to maintain the enthusiasm. Then I had one project that I felt was great. I had refined my craft and I thought provided something that was short and punchy and exactly what they were after but again there was no response.
My friend James once said to me “Being a writer requires a massive ego. You have to believe without a doubt that you are the best person to tell the story that you are telling.” He also threw in some swear words and a few insults as James was that sort of guy, but without him as a constant antagonist and mentor my enthusiasm wasn’t there. So I stopped.
I still had the stories in my head and the ideas always seemed to flow but I didn’t want to share them. I took a break with the intention of not writing again and see how it felt.
To be honest, there was relief. No demands of myself, to produce, to be judged, but there was also an absence. I like writing, I like the ideas, I like that feeling that I have a story that is worth telling, but sometimes I felt like I needed that mentor to remind me of this and to encourage me. Family and friends are one thing but having someone who really understands what you do and reads your work is a rare find.
I’m not certain if there was a trigger to start again. I have been revisiting projects to try and understand how to improve them. I have stood in front of my keyboard and started to gingerly type the words. I have lost momentum and I can feel it when I write. It takes time but I can’t help but think that when the wheels come off if you aren’t happy with where you have ended up, it’s worth putting the wheels on and having another drive. It will be interesting to see where the road goes from here.