This post was difficult to write, because it feels like the opposite of coming out. Instead of shouting “WORLD. I AM A TELEVISION WRITER” I’m whispering “World, remember when I wanted to be a television writer? Well I think I made a mistake and I want to follow a new dream now, please.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Well, that’s not strictly accurate–I wanted to be a veterinarian for about three years until someone mentioned that part of vet school was dissecting animals. “Even cats?” I asked, “even cats,” was the sober answer. So I stopped wanting to be a vet. To be honest my veterinarian dream was a blip, a glitch, an anomaly. It was the natural outcome of being a little girl who loves animals, and with that career goal safely eliminated, I was free to pursue my original plan: writer.
You know during the Oscar pre-show? When they interview the moms of the big-ticket nominees? (Though sometimes I do wish they’d bring in the mothers of the people who are nominated for one of the technical awards. “Oh, Timmy was always a sound mixer. When he was a baby he would sample sections of his daddy’s LP collection”) (I don’t really know what sound mixers do, can you tell?). The moms always say the same thing: “he/she was always an actor. Always a director. Used to put on little plays in the backyard. Just devoured movies from a young age. Knows all the classics.”
Well that was me. Except with books. I would bring books everywhere–restaurants, car trips (thank the Lord I never got car sick), baseball games, the beach. I could devour books in a day, two days, a week, depending on the length. I made friends with like-minded girls, and together we all consumed books about unicorns and magic and princesses. We used the stories to fuel our make-believe playtime. I wrote stories myself–unintentionally hilarious, over-dramatic pieces of fantasy fiction about genies who fall in love with the wrong men and shape-shifting princesses who make friends with thieves.
So I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Simple, right? Once I reached the age where people start asking you about such things, I always figured I’d get a BA in English (possibly with a second major or minor in secondary education), find a job as a teacher, and continue writing. I mean, it’s not a glamorous job, and it probably wasn’t what my parents had in mind, but it seemed solid. It seemed to work.
Until my senior year of high school, when I discovered playwriting. Then nothing would do but I had to write plays for my entire life. And then I realized that maybe I wanted to write screenplays. So I entered college, waffled between those two majors for a while until I actually positively decided that no, I didn’t want to write plays or screenplays, I wanted to write teleplays. So I studied television for the remaining 2.5 years of undergrad and then I graduated and I moved to Los Angeles.
And then one day I realized that somewhere along the line I forgot what it was like to be a writer–just a writer. Somewhere along the line I forgot (or refused to let myself realize) that working in television–writing for television–is more than just writing scripts. TV writers are often also directors and producers: two roles with skills sets that I might well possess, but if I do, I don’t enjoy possessing them and I certainly don’t want to exercise them. I hate working on a set, because I either I’m in charge (and I have no idea what to do) or I’m not in charge (and I have no idea what to do). I had a roommate in Chicago who thrives working on set–she’s also wonderful producer. When push comes to shove I’d rather sit in front of my computer and do things like write and research historical characters than organize or run a film set.
I just want to write.
I don’t think I wasted my time in school, or in moving out to Los Angeles. I’m a big believer in Reasons and Fate and God, and I’m a huge believer in process of elimination. After all, I would never have known that I probably don’t want to work in television unless I came out here and figured out what the world was like firsthand, right? I do worry about being a “bad investment” for my parents, but whenever I bring it up to them they get all annoyed and remind me that if they didn’t want to support me, then they wouldn’t (and after all, I’m at least three times less obnoxious than Hannah from GIRLS).
My friends and family used to say “I don’t want you to give up,” which is a mark of how much they care for me and want me to succeed. The thing is… last month I would have been giving up. This month I’m simply rediscovering what my dream actually is. I don’t want to work in television, I want to write. I love television with an all-consuming, fiery passion that engulfs my life, but I don’t want to work in television. When people talk about how wonderful and egalitarian the internet is–how you can shoot a web series and put it on the air and then become the next Felicia Day and The Guild–it gives me anxiety, because (see two paragraphs earlier) I hate doing all that.
But then I think about self-publishing a book–something which my own grandmother did with three different books. (Not the one with the tattoo or the one I wrote about last week–my third grandmother, my mom’s mom. It’s a long story, but I have six grandparents) When I think about that… it seems… attainable. More than attainable, it seems realistic. With websites like Kickstarter and Lulu, with the advent of Kindles and viral marketing, it feels within my reach.
I am, after all, a 21st century woman who cut her eye-teeth on the possibilities created by the internet.