For the last few months, I’ve been taking an acting class. It’s incredibly helpful for writing and incredibly addictive. Seriously. It’s totally out of my budget, but I keep signing up for month after month.
There is no writing equivalent of an acting class–a few hours in which you simply hone your skill with no expectations of outcome. Sure, you can take writing classes, but they are mostly instruction, and your final is inevitably a project you hope to finish. There is no sense of writing for writing’s sake, of finding the joy in the words, of letting go of the final outcome.
Actors have little say over the final result of a film. An editor will chop up a performance and splice it back together. The movie might never get released. The movie might tank. The movie might suck. Actors really can’t do anything about it.
They have to let go of the results. The work is the result. The acting is the result.
Okay, sometimes the paycheck is the result too.
As writers, we tend to hold on to the results. I need to sell this script. I need to get an agent. I need to get this movie made. I need to publish this. And these are all good goals, but they can suck the joy out of writing.
But we lose sight of the means. We stop finding the joy in our work.
Now, I am the first person to profess how much writing sucks. It’s exhausting and awful and all-consuming. You can’t shut off your brain. You can’t focus on other things. You can’t hold down a regular job because you need your writing time.
But, if you’re a writer, you have to write. You can’t stop.
I don’t want my work to be a bunch of files on my computer. But I have to accept it might be nothing more than a bunch of files on my computer. I have little control over the outcome. I could sell a script that never gets paid. I could publish a book that no one reads. I could shoot a movie and lose all the data because of a corrupt hard drive.
I can’t put my happiness in someone else’s hands. I can’t decide that when I produce a film or get an agent or make a living as a writer, I will finally be worthwhile.
Writing, while incredibly fulfilling, will not make you whole. It will not make you worthwhile.
I have to decide for myself that, whatever the outcome of my work, I am worthwhile.
It’s tough, but I’m working on it.