Hey, Pamie: “How Do I Not Give the Fuck Up When Other People Get What I Want?”
It’s that time of year when networks are ordering pilots. This means tv writers are sitting around anxiously waiting to find out which scripts they’ll be viciously hate-reading.
This brings us nicely to the latest Weekly Procrastination.
Pamie, my question to you is this:
Please tell us some self talk you use to keep on keepin’ on. What are some of the things you suggest we say to ourselves when the self-doubt niggles in? Thoughts like: we’re not as funny as we think we are, or how so many writers out there are much much more talented than we are.
I have this dream, and I don’t want to give it up– but then I read someone’s writing who is successful, and I put the dream back in the shoebox, stuffed in the shelves of my existence.
What is your cheerleading Go Fight Win Pamie! ? How do we not give up the good fight and see our dream through?
I’m going to head you toward these Five Writing Tips I did for Novelicious last year, as they’re all helpful in getting your fingers on the keyboard, but please pay attention to tip Number Four:
Keep your eyes on your own plate.
This one is hard, but it’s important.
This is what my mother used to always tell me when I was younger and would worry that my sister might have gotten more food than I did or had a bigger piece of cake or was just generally getting away with something awesomer than I had. “You have food to eat. Worry about that, and then you can decide if you need more. It shouldn’t matter how much someone else has.”
I use this lesson all the time when it comes to something as big as my career or as tiny as how far along I am in a particular project. In this day and age, when the Internet allows us to basically stalk thousands of other people living out various versions of our dreams, it’s easy to think you are stumbling around in very last place in the world’s biggest marathon. For every press release or humblebrag, remind yourself that you don’t know the whole story; you don’t know how long it took to get to their announcement day. You don’t know the sacrifices they made, the rejections they faced, the work they put in. You only have your own plate of work in front of you, and you can’t get any more until you clean your plate. Get to work. Mind your own beeswax. (That one Mom said all the time, too, but I never knew where all this beeswax was I allegedly owned.)
But you’re only human. Of course you’ll find out that someone else has written or sold something you wish you’d thought of, or something exactly like what you were planning on doing. There are two ways to handle that situation. You can get pissed off and depressed and shove even more into your over-stuffed shelf of existence, or you could take it as a good sign. You were thinking of something that was actually marketable. You were on the right track. If only you’d written it. Or maybe you have written it. What then? Well, unless there’s some serious plagiarism going on, chances are your material and whatever that jerk wrote aren’t exactly the same. That means either your project is still alive or it’s letting you know what was wrong with what you wrote. And really: if there could be only one of something awesome, we couldn’t have The Hunger Games because they would’ve stopped at Battle Royale.
If someone out there is impressing you enough that you think you should keep quiet, then you aren’t impressed — you are intimidated. You are scared. That’s not the same thing. Great writing can be freeing. You can think to yourself, “I’m never going to be that good. So I won’t pressure myself to be that good. I’ll just do what I can.” But here’s the secret: it might be that good. It might be great. You can’t know until you write it.
And as for watching other people get successful, I try to remember that it can’t happen to all of us all at once. These things take time, luck, and experience. With every story of someone getting something I might want for myself right now, I tell myself that it just wasn’t my turn. And since it’s not my turn yet, I get all this extra time to get prepared for when it gets to be my turn. If it gets to be my turn.
But some days, Alexandra? Some days this shit just isn’t fair, and it’s okay to get really pissed off. If you care about the writing you’re doing you will get really pissed off. Sometimes you’re not just making excuses. Sometimes life gets in the way, or your timing is off, or your dad’s sick or you just can’t deal with all that’s going on and you look at how much harder your life will be if you also factor in following a dream that more than half of your brain is telling you is a bad idea. Some days it just sucks and there’s nothing anybody can do about it and there’s no way to fix it.
Those are the days when it’s time to fight. That’s when you rally. That’s when you shove all that anger in your pocket — not on a shelf, but deep in a pocket where you can grab it with fists — and you plan your attack. Take your worst days and use them as fuel. Rage against those shitty, unfair, bullshit days. Write because you have to. Use it as your escape, your real escape from your fear, from your jealousy, from the nay-sayers and guilt-trippers. This is way more powerful than any pep talk. That’s your dream teasing you, testing you. That’s your dream in someone else’s hands. You want it? Go get it.
If you have a question about writing for television or novels or screenplays or any of these places where I write words and other people read them, send an email to pamie at pamie dot com with the subject line: YOUR WEEKLY PROCRASTINATION.