You know the saying: “Write what you know?” Well, it takes living a bit of life to know stuff to write.
I just wrapped a feature film that I co-penned. There is no greater feeling than watching my words come to life through a visual medium. Very few people actually get the opportunity to create their own films, and I recognize the magnitude of this accomplishment with gratitude.
I moved to Los Angeles at nineteen years old and I remember sitting down and trying to write. Every time I put pen to paper it pretty much just came out like a journal entry or a VERY short story. I now realize it was because I had few to no real life experiences to draw from. As the years passed in LA, and my desperate obsession to succeed in the film industry grew, every other life opportunity that arose I shoved to the side for a later time. The later time never came, and my chicken scratch seemed to have little importance.
After ten years in LA I took a break from the non-stop hustling of trying to succeed in Hollywood, packed my bags and moved to New Mexico to escape myself, who I had grown to despise. Turns out you can’t escape yourself, because wherever you go, there you are (this line, although worded differently ended up in my most recently shot script). And thus, began a year long journey of giving up my dreams, rediscovering myself, re-falling in love with myself, getting a job as an elderly companion, and beginning a new life dream as a filmmaker. What I didn’t know then, but have since discovered, is that for the first time in my adult life I was actually experiencing life. When I took the focus off of myself and my career, I was able to actually listen to other people when they talked, grasping the gravity of what they were saying. My clients had fascinating stories, and I looked forward to going to work every day to hear their tales from history that I had only read in books. I was engrossed in their life stories, realizing I was on the fast track to a pretty boring existence. I learned from them that I wanted to have what they had, a life well-lived!
Often my days off were spent exploring the open roads of the New Mexico desert. I would get lost in the Wild Wild West, envisioning the history of the settlers who came before me, and meeting the locals at a café I stumbled upon in the middle of nowhere. Life in New Mexico was a constant adventure because I was open to anything. I tried new things, took on new jobs, and always said “yes” to an opportunity.
It wasn’t long after moving back to LA from NM that I began to write my first feature film. I finally had life experiences to draw from. I had spent ten years failing in LA, gave up, ran away to a new city, rediscovered myself, and even began my new life as an independent filmmaker. This was the beginning of really being able write what I knew. I even started writing for Ms. In The Biz around this time, because, guess what, I finally had something to say.
Before moving and growing up a bit, my life was empty, completely void of any real life participation.
Now, as I get older and wiser like a good glass of wine, I can shed that wisdom onto a blank piece of paper and be proud to watch as the actors bring those lines to life. I am even more honored when someone on set comes over to tell me how touched they are by my words. And even better yet when an email comes in from half way across the globe from a woman or a man whose life was changed by my words and my stories.
But first, we must have some life in the rear view mirror before we can try and create a story that will be impact the masses.
Enjoy the ride of growing up, it’s a privilege not everyone gets to have. Soak in all that life has to offer along the way. It’s ok to let life unfold and know that someday you will draw from the wealth of knowledge that a well lived life can provide.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision in life and become focused on one endeavor or one singular goal, or to not understand that being young doesn’t always lend itself to being the best writer. I encourage you, and myself daily, to get out there and take risks, live life, go on the adventure, visit the museum, volunteer at the nursing home, jump out of the plane! Don’t get so sucked into the Hollywood hustle that you have no story to tell at the end of the day, or even worse, the end of your life.