It’s a funny thing, the way the mind of a writer works. You see, writing isn’t everything to me. I allow myself other interests. Time away from the keyboard – to actually get out there and live life – is just as vital to my process as scheduling (and keeping) time to bang away on my script. At the same time, I am a writer, and so everything that I experience gets filtered through that lens. Every story on the news, every overheard conversation (Script’s beloved editor Jeanne has written about balance), every book, magazine, and billboard, and every song on the radio is seen through the prism of “is there a story here?”
And it wasn’t any different last week when my daughter was born into the world. That evening, after my wife was done with all of the real work, I found myself holding this wonderful little creature against my chest. She had immediately changed everything in my life, just as my son had done three years earlier, and as I sat on the worn down hospital room sofa, I couldn't help but wonder – is there a story here?
And I think the answer is less that there was a single story, and more that every story was there.
You see, I’ll spend the next 18 plus years taking this little girl, right now full of the same kind of unexplored promise that greets every writer when we first sit down to face off against that blinking cursor on page one, and helping to mold her into a complete and well-rounded person. There will be times where I’ll force my preconceived notions of what should happen on her (I’m sure it will go very smoothly), and other times when I’ll be smart enough to simply stop and listen to what she’s telling me she wants to do. In those quiet moments, when I let her guide me, those will be the purest and most exciting times of all.
I’ll fend off “experts” who want to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do – I’ll judge myself against the successes of other parents, even though every journey is unique and all the more beautiful simply for being made – and then, after I’ve poured every ounce of love, hope, and knowledge that I possess into her, I’ll let her go. Because that’s why you have a child – to send them out into the world as an adult to make their way. To love and be loved; to succeed and to fail; to reach for the highest rung of their ambition knowing that you gave them every tool you could.
The results might not always be pretty for my little girl. They might not be what I wanted, and they certainly won’t be what’s in my head at the beginning of this journey back there on the hospital sofa, but what’s the point in having children if you never let them go out and find their way?
And that’s at the core of every story isn’t it? All of our scripts are destined for greatness in our heads at the beginning, even though we know the odds aren’t in our favor. But we cherish them with every ounce of our creative hearts because they’re a part of us. And that makes it easy to hold onto your script. To coddle it endlessly trying to form it into some perfect version of itself that you have in your head. But the truth is, you have to let it go. Guide your characters, do revisions, make your script the very best that it can be, but acknowledge early on that it will never be perfect.
Someone you show it to will not like it. I guarantee you that. And it will hurt. I can guarantee you that too. But that’s not what it’s really about is it? In the end it’s not about us, it’s about the story; this story that you so badly wanted to tell that you slaved over it for months (or years). And a story needs an audience. It needs to go out into the world and try to make it on its own merits. If you never do that, then why write it in the first place?
Like I said, it’s funny the way the mind of a writer works. I hope that no matter what happens down the road, my daughter can look back and know that, despite my flaws (and there are many), I did everything I could in the best way I knew how. I want her to know I love her enough to devote myself to her, and believe in her enough to let her go so that she could forge her own way.
And I want my scripts to know the same thing.
Now go stock up on diapers and burp clothes, and keep writing!
- Balls of Steel: Balance
- More Specs & The City by Brad Johnson
- Balls of Steel: How to Manage Time Flying
Tools to Help: