Wednesday, August 29, 2018

FADE OUT...

Being a screenwriter is difficult, lonely and sometimes soul destroying work. You are often sat isolated at a desk for days/weeks/months on end, continuously delivering blood, sweat and tears on the page in the hope someone likes your work enough to pay you for it. Even when that glorious day arrives it's not the end of your toil and pain. It's an infinite search for the next job, delivering the impossible on a daily basis and shrugging off the continual rejection and disappointment. When things are going well writing is hands down the best job in the world. When they aren't every single word you type is an unspeakable torture. This is what it is to be a writer.

The last two years have been extremely difficult. Even though I have had regular meetings with producers, development executives and production companies I haven't had a single commission in nearly 18 months. Money is impossibly tight and yet I still have to find enough to pay the mortgage and feed and clothe the kids. I've lost my motivation and enthusiasm for what I do. I've started to over analyse everything I write agonising over every single word and I'm beginning to resent the fact my love for writing is consuming so much of my life. It's difficult out there. Bloody difficult. Pretty much all of the current writing initiatives I've been putting myself forward for state they are searching for 'diverse voices' and I'm guessing that a 49-year-old white Englishman isn't going to be at the top of their search criteria.

But I enter anyway. I sit at my desk and force myself to type a few words most days, trying to fight the temptation of YouTube and Facebook or to go back and rework the last ten pages of my screenplay, which have been reworked a thousand times already that week. And I still press send on emails electronically posting my latest work off to producers with a faint feeling of equal amounts hope and terror, with the thought that maybe, just maybe I don't actually suck at this. I've even tried diversifying, recently taking a script editing course and applying for script editing and lecturing jobs in an attempt to restart my career.

As I've said before, writing isn't for the faint-hearted. I've always been an advocate of pushing on even in the face of adversity, never giving up and giving everything you have to your writing and your career. However, I've finally decided that I'm coming to the end of my twenty-year journey. I've set a date. A few months from now. If nothing significant happens with my career between now and then, I'll walk away and find something else to do with my life. This will give me just enough time to finish those projects close to completion and tie up loose ends.

My wife suggested I get a full-time job and continue to write in my spare time. The trouble with that is writing isn't a hobby and that's what it would become if I was to do it only when I had a few minutes here and there. You have to give your all to writing, your life, your friends and family and even your immortal soul. There are no half measures being a screenwriter.

I think what I'm trying to say here is that you instinctively know when you need to put in a little extra work to get where you want to be and when it's actually time to walk away. My time is close. I'm sad but also surprisingly calm about it.

Happy writing!

9 comments:

Marnie said...

Sorry to hear that Dom.

Regarding your wive's suggestion, have you considered writing for the stage? With your talent, I'm sure you could switch disciplines and find local directors willing and happy to stage your work?

Realise that it's not the solution to all the issues, but would mean keeping a creative toe in and the collaboration involved could make it a less lonely endeavor than you are currently finding screenwriting?

DeeTour said...

Dominic. Only you can decide what's best for you, and your family and I wish you well whatever you decide. I do have an alternative suggestion to just stopping though. All those great stories you already have worked out are just waiting for an outlet, right? Why not turn your favourite one into a book? Have fun with the format that allows you much more freedom to expand the story and characters. Without a deadline, there's no pressure on any daily word count but the one you give yourself and you can write as the mood takes you and time available dictates.

Even if you self publish, your story can then find an audience, but what if that also found it's way to a Producer. They are, I was told by a US Producer, always looking for good IP to adapt to film - and UK books are as interesting to them as any. And what if the book got picked up by a publisher?

And also, as Helen Black is finding, that's another way into the screenwriting side. And look at Fiona Leitch and her audiobook success, and there's many other LSF/B2W group book writers who have had success this way. There's more than one way to skin a cat as they say.

Dominic Carver said...

Hi Marnie

Yes, one of the unfinished projects is a stage play and it is something that I am considering turning into a hobby. I could never give up writing completely but I do feel it's time to stop thinking of it as a career.

Dominic Carver said...

Funny you should mention that DeeTour, my screenplay ELEVEN is currently being rewritten as a novel. I'm actually enjoying the process too. Further exploring the idea from a different perspective is fun.

Unknown said...

Hey Dominic, Sorry to hear the stress you've been under but it sounds like you're being reflective about the whole process and comfortable with your decision. I was once commended by my vicar for announcing my intention to close an Art's cafe I'd started a few years earlier as I felt it had run its course. He said words to the effect that 'in the Anglican Church you can start up as many ministries as you like but woe betide you if you try and close one down.' Interestingly, my team of helpers (enablers and sustainers) insisted on persevering with it for another year before it finally closed - which I could have told tham as once the visionary has moved on (physically or in their head) the game is up. All the best. Bob

ADiaz said...

I know that dark feeling. Ironically, two years ago, it happened to me. Felt and thought like shit and wondered what was the point.

I won't give you some schmaltzy pep talk: you do what's right by you, and year's end seems fair. I do hope you'll keep the consultancy going, as it's still a useful resource and help make a bit of change and sixpence on the side.

Craig Howells said...

Hi Dominic, I've never read your work, but you strike me as one of the most professional writers I know. I'm not saying to keep going and keep dreaming, that's hard to do when the bills need paying and the kids need shoes and you haven't had a proper holiday in years, I know, but as you say you could never fully give up and nor should you. Write something, be it script, book or play and make sure you love it. Do some competitions, mate. It's amazing what a little kudos does for you. And get back your love for what you do. Maybe start with watching all your favourite films - those that inspired you in the first place. It's hard to make a career out of writing, which is why a lot of writers diversify into related areas besides. But get that passion back, mate. I'd love to read something of yours if you have something you'd love to share. All the best, Craig.

Kryz Woodhouse said...

Hi Dominic,
I've followed your blog for many years and have found it not only insightful but also encouraging to find someone else who often feel the same way I do.

Just thought I'd comment this time as I supplement my writing with a part-time 'brain-less' job. Yeah, it really sucks. After a whole morning of attempting to write, inspiration has a habit of turning up ten minutes before I have to leave for work. Also, constantly having to debate management over requests for days off to attend events, meetings, seminar and the like, becomes a real drag.

But, on the plus side, the exposure to real-life bizarre experiences and the extreme oddness of human beings has not only kept me grounded as a person, but has provided me invaluable inspiration and humour. I guess it's also good for the soul, as it forces me to get myself out of the writing cave us writers can often dwell in for too long.

Anyway, I guess my long-winded point, is that there are some wonderful positives for either path you choose. Creative writing is a strange mistress who is blind to circumstance or income, and will continue to lust after your ability to harness her regardless.

Dominic Carver said...

Thank you, Kryz. I have had an abundance of very sound advice from followers and friends. The current thinking is - take that full-time job and keep writing when you can. It'll be tough and I won't have a lot of time for friends or family but when writing is in your DNA, it's not something you can really walk away from.

I guess I just needed a boot up the arse from people who understand.