BALLS OF STEEL™: Do You Write for You or for Fame?

Many people claim to be artists, yet they have their priorities wrong. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman encourages you to write for you, not for the fame.
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Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the Editor of Script magazine and a screenwriter, having written the narrative feature adaptation as well as the 10-hr limited series of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, which was honored in the Top 25 Tracking Board Launch Pad Features Competition, CS Expo Finalist, the Second Round of Sundance Episodic Lab, and as a PAGE Awards TV Drama Finalist. Follow Jeanne on Twitter @jeannevb.

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By now, most of you know I'm not 25, living in L.A. and full of Botox, but in case you don’t, let me assure you, I’m none of those things. I have teenagers, live in New York, and all my wrinkles have been earned… by working my fingers to the bones at all hours of the day and night in pursuit of my dreams.

The other night, I sat in my living room, trying to steal quality time with my almost-off-to-college teen, and the TV remote landed on one of the spin offs of Real Housewives. I don’t remember the name, but it was the one with a gaggle of gorgeous young waiters and waitresses in hot pursuit of careers in entertainment (yes, these are things a mother watches for the sake of teen time). At varying moments during the show, each one declared, “I just want to be famous!”

Really?

It wasn’t simply the declaration of their sole goal being fame that shocked me, it was the way in which they said it. Their eyes sparkled at the thought of getting all dressed up, walking the red carpet with cameras blinding them. One even said she’d know she finally arrived when the paparazzi ran her off the road.

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I may be old enough to be their mama, but I cannot imagine having fame be the motivating factor of what career I pursued, especially this one!

I apologize in advance if this post turns into a rant, but this is a subject I feel very strongly about because, in my opinion, your attitude and priorities will make or break your odds of success.

Pursuing a writing career is going to take every ounce of your energy. Every. Single. Ounce. You will lose friends. You might even lose your spouse – it’s extremely difficult to find someone to share your life with who understands the drive of an artist.

And I’m not talking about the drive of fame.

A real writer will stop at nothing to create. Writing becomes their main focus and is as important as air. Whether they had time to write in a given day affects their mood, their ability to focus, and their concentration.

If a “writer” is only looking for fame, s/he will fail. Miserably.

Why?

Because the narcissist who only wants fame won’t have the balls it takes to last long enough to achieve it.

What if they are lucky enough to surpass the odds and achieve that fame and fortune? I can assure you, a bank full of money and all the red carpets in the world aren’t going to bring you happiness. That is not a cliché, cop-out statement made by someone jealous of those with fame and fortune. I’ve never had fame, but I have had fortune in my life. Trust me, money does not bring happiness. It brings a whole other boatload of stress and problems you could never possibly be able to imagine.

It ain’t what you think. Not one bit.

But if you love writing, if you breathe it, live it, crave it and need it for your survival, that love of your art is what will feed you more than any amount of money could.

I want to share with you a successful 20-something artist who is not a narcissist – Colbie Caillat. I stumbled upon an interview of her and let out a sigh of relief. She is a true artist.

She spoke about how scared she was going out on stage, not just five years ago when she become “famous,” but even today. How she had to work hard to accept the fame aspect. How what she loves about singing is creating the songs with other artists. During the interview, she performed and after said, “even that scared me.”

After Grammy wins, she still says, “I’m a beginner.” She craves learning from musicians more seasoned than her. “I need that because they inspire me.” I may add, her humility makes more and more songwriters want to work with her. Her opportunities are endless simply because she recognizes she still has room for improvement and wants to be the best she possibly can, not out of competitiveness, but out of love for herself and her art.

She defined success as “getting to do something you love to do, inspiring people, and being rewarded by people still coming to my shows. They still want more.”

She moves her fans with music the same way a writer moves her readers with words. Creating is all about tapping into people’s emotions, especially storytelling.

When asked her how she sees herself evolving as an artist, she expressed a desire to be more comfortable both in her own skin and in her performances. “Women say that happens in your 30s. I’m looking forward to that.”

Chalk one up for the old chicks.

The reason she’s successful is because she focuses more on her music, her craft, and the challenge of collaborating with others than on fame. “It’s good to always grow.” And she’s not talking about getting more famous, she’s referring to growing in her craft.

“The truth of the matter is you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” ~ Norman Schwarzkopf

Working on your craft and your understanding of the industry is hard work, brutal even. But taking screenwriting courses, reading the trades, spending one hour a day online researching what’s selling and what’s in preproduction will all help you succeed. Standing in the mirror practicing your Oscars® speech won’t.

Sit your butt down in the chair and write. Then write some more. Fame be damned.

On a side note, one other trick to success is to run, or take a walk and simply move your body. Seriously. It keeps the blood flowing to your brain and let’s the ideas fly. I’m determined to get back into my running routine, not as much for fitness than as to achieve my writing goals.

And if you’re still stuck on that idea of fame, the exercise will help you fit into that Oscars® dress. Hey, we’re all vain.

Ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly:

What motivates you to keep writing?
Are you pursuing fame?
Do you want to become the best writer you possibly can?

If you sincerely just want fame, step away from the keyboard. But if you want to live, sleep, and breathe writing, keep your priorities in focus. Either way, being honest with yourself is the first step to success.

I’ll leave you with tweets from two industry friends who responded to my recent Twitter rant about fame vs. passion:

@rprestonclark Being known for what you do and being great at what you do are not the same thing.

@MyPDFScripts When you do it out of passion, fame will eventually find you, but you have to put in the time. The Universe knows when you’re ready.

Nuff said.

Watch ScriptMag Editor Share Her Advice on Facing Your Writing Fears

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares her personal story of facing her fears in order to propel her writing and her career. Click on the image below to watch Jeanne's advice. In just eight minutes, you might have a whole new perspective.

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