I have a dream. I don’t often talk about my dream publicly. I mean, my friends know. And my family knows. And I’m always striving, always working toward that goal. I think I have a sort of weird knock on wood mentality about my dream, like if I say it out loud, it won’t come true. It’s something that I have to keep on the inside, something that’s my own.
Before you think you know what it is, it’s not being a “writer.” Saying I want to be a writer is like saying I want to be biologically classified Homo sapien. I’ve had a problem with the word aspiring for a long time, especially as it pertains to writers. Are you writing? Yes. Are you actively pursuing a career as a writer? Yes. Than you’re a writer. If you label yourself as aspiring, my first assumption is that you’ve never actually finished writing anything that doesn’t begin with the words, “Dear Diary.”
In Hollywood, it’s weird. There’s a “who do you want to be” atmosphere that I finally reached the breaking point with.
So, here are some things I’ve learned about dreaming, straight from Hollywoodland.
1) Celebrate the victories
My dream is huge. It takes a lot of steps. Usually, when someone asks me what my dream is, I only tell them the current plateau I’m headed for. Like “head writer” or “created by.”
I have a problem taking compliments. When someone tells me they like something I’ve written, the dreamer in me reminds me that this isn’t the peak I’ve dreamed. This is a road sign to blow past. But, that’s not really the case. I’m working on celebrating these moments of compliment, because I know where they come from. Rather than answer with an I’m not there yet, I take them in stride and acknowledge and appreciate them.
2) Dreams are hard
When I told people I was moving to Los Angeles to pursue my dream, I got a lot of reactions. Most of them started with “You’re so brave.” I suppose that’s a compliment, but it struck me as odd. I didn’t think I was brave at all. I was simply doing that which was necessary to achieve what I wanted.
So, step two is to understand that some people find out that their dream is hard, and they stop going for it. There are other people that don’t acknowledge that part of their dream. There is no hard, there is only an obstacle that has to be surmounted. If you get stuck on the hard, you need to either reevaluate or quit.
3) Aspirations are misleading
So often, people want the simple answer. The question isn’t so much what as it is who. Who do you want to be?
I don’t have an answer for that. I want to be myself. I don’t want to compare myself to other people. So, Tina Fey? No. Tina Fey can be Tina Fey. I will not be better at being Tina Fey than Tina Fey is. Jane Espenson? Closer, but no. I would not make a very good Jane Espenson. (I love Jane Espenson and have the utmost respect for her.)
I understand why this is a question that people ask. It’s the same reason they have to take complex scientific theories on sci fi shows and distill them to clumsy analogies that are simple enough for a largely unscientific audience to understand.
Regardless, stop comparing me to other people. Our dreams might not be the same, and even if they were, everyone’s path is different.
4) Reputation is currency
I suppose this could be specific to my field, but I don’t think so. It’s a little bit karma, but mostly attitude. If you go out to meet people, get to know people, connect with people on a basic level, you will develop a reputation of being kind. I know myself enough that I am often considered aloof and disinterested. I’m not. I’m fully engaged, I just usually enter a receptive state.
Yes, I’m listening. But my face is apathetic. Understanding my aloofness, I have to remind my face to do things when I’m talking to people. Be aware of what you’re putting out there. People might talk about you. You don’t want them to say bad things.
That’s what I’ve learned so far. It’s a work in progress.
I’m moving to Los Angeles.
I’m moving to Los Angeles!
Oh, my God, I’m moving to Los Angeles.
Well, not until later in the year, but reality is setting in and it’s setting in hard. The other day, my dad told me we needed to talk about when we wanted to head out there. To look at apartments. Which I am perfectly capable of doing on my own, but, I mean, come on. What are fathers for if it’s not negotiating real estate? Also, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, I’m sure I can see the Hollywood sign from every window in my apartment no matter where I live.
In other news, sometimes I feel like I’m losing my grip on reality. You know when you watch those movies/read those books where there’s a pretty obvious ticking clock?
So, here’s my trouble.
How do I say good-bye?
I made a new friend (which is amazing, by the way) and she is going to school at MIT. In Boston! And, despite the distance, we have kept up our friendship through Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.
But what about the others?
I honestly can’t remember who I had this conversation with, so, if it was you, let me know.
“I’m leaving.” Me
“Okay. So?” You.
“I feel like I’m trying to cut off all my connections because it doesn’t hurt as much when I finally go.”
“That’s how it’s always been.”
“Yeah, but you have roots here. But, your parents are here.”
“I might be the one keeping them here. When I leave, they really have no reason to stay.”
So, here’s this.
Two weeks in, I’m giving you a New Year’s Resolution Post featuring (gratuitous capitalization)!
Let’s dive right in.
- Start/Join a band
- Don’t talk about “The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named” or, more commonly, “You-Know-What”.
- Save up $10,000 to move to LA
- Punch anyone who says “You’re so young!”
- Be more Internet social
- Read 100 books.
Let’s go in depth!
1. This one seems to always make it on my list. I have two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and a bass guitar. This just goes to show, having the equipment does not automatically get you into the band. Bummer. Drag. Total waste. Except I still play often, much to my parents discontent. I need to up my street cred. I need to brainstorm band names with a bunch of crazies. I need to get my writer friends to make this happen.
2. Ah, The-Book-That-Will-Not-Be-Named. Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint. It may or may not have something to do with vampires that sparkle. I know some of you are going to get offended that I have decided to remove You-Know-What from my day-to-day conversation. This tome is an emotional lightning rod. Whenever it is brought up, voices are raised, teams are chosen, everyone gets excited, and I’m left sitting there, wondering what the Hell just happened. I’ve also found that most of my Harry Potter references are dropping off, too. Am I moving on with my life? Probably not, but if you want to talk (argue) about Twilight, take it somewhere else. Life’s too short.
3. Oh, yeah. THIS one. I have three jobs now. One with a television network, one at Barnes & Noble, and now contract work writing for a social media company. I’m going to be a better blogger whether I like it or not because I’m getting PAID! The whole “moving to LA” thing is this nebulous lurking glob on the horizon.
I’m getting erased from people’s minds.
I’m freaking out a little bit.
I’m going to be a television writer.
4. People: Stop saying “you’re so young”. This is a meaningless statement. Would you like me to say, “You’re so old?” No. The answer is no. Besides, the “you’re so young” is not complementary, because you are inferring immaturity and a lack of patience. I am not too young to pursue my dream. No one is ever too young or too old to do that.
5. In the last year or two, I’ve tended to be more of a poster than an interactor. This changes! I will respond to people’s tweets, even if they have no idea who I am! I will put crap up on Google+, even though no one will see it! I will approach social media the way it was intended! The spirit of the conversation!
6. This is another one of those things that always makes it on the list. Last year, I read 65. To be fair, I was quite busy with a new job at the beginning of the year, as well as being disgruntled with the world in general. I didn’t finish reading a book until March. This year, I have my Goodreads goal set and they will be coming for me if I don’t make it. I’ve already knocked two down. We’ll see what happens.
I may have…accidentally…on purpose…inadvertently…quit my job.
That was the teaser.
Now for something completely different.
My final semester of college, I flipped my academic advisor (and group of friends) the bird and moved to New York City. NO REGRETS! Jiminy Cricket, I love that city. I participated in an internship program. The Great Lakes Colleges Association purchased an old hostel on 29th Street and 8th Ave. (I could practically spit on Madison Square Garden). Out of all the artistes participating in the program, the coffee-fetchers, the case carriers, the note-takers, I had something amazing.
An internship at Sony Pictures Television.
I was in a three-person department which consisted of the Development VP and Producer for Mini-Series and Made for TV Movies, her assistant, and lil ol’ me.
And this was no coffee-fetching internship. I was picking writers for projects. I was determining which rights to acquire. Script coverage, contacting agents, sitting in on budget meetings, editing scripts…my God, I’m almost shedding tears thinking about it.
Once the writers’ strike was over, the VP was on set while her assistant and I held down the fort at the New York office. I was watching dailies, seeing costuming. I only went out for coffee once, and the assistant apologized at least four times for asking me to do it.
I was in love. There’s something about that city. It doesn’t work for everyone, but when it gets inside you, you feel it. It whispers in your ear. It tugs on your heart. It lifts you up high and reminds you of every low. It makes you forget everything outside of itself.
In retrospect, I did some stupid stuff in that city.
I walked around by myself at two-o-clock in the morning just to feel the pace still burning through the streets when the world should be sleeping. Okay, I didn’t go to Central Park at night. I have seen almost every episode of Law and Order: SVU. I’m stupid, but not suicidal.
And, when walking through NYC at two-o-clock in the morning, I knew what I want to do with my life.
I want to produce content. Not just books, not just TV shows, not just movies. I want to tell stories, no matter what form that takes. I want to take these fantastic images in my head and hand them to someone else and say, “Look. Without me, this would not exist. What do you think?”
I know. All mad gab existential.
But, more than that, I want to be someone people can associate with quality storytelling. I want my name to be attached to a TV show, and a group of people take over a bar on premiere night so they can make up a series drinking game. I want to share other people’s stories that I find brilliant.
I want to determine what gets added to the cultural genetic structure.
Sounds crazy, no?
It’s not about the money. It’s not even about the reputation. It’s about the story. It’s about the culture. It’s about striving for a higher standard, raising the expectation, and achieving something amazing.
This past weekend, I took a step back and looked at Day Job. I adopted a British accent, stuck my finger in its face, and screamed, “You’re not helping me achieve my bloody goals!”
I told my boss I think I needed to explore my options. Because I have to keep moving forward. Stagnancy is going to kill me.
Wish me luck, pray for me, keep me in your thoughts, whatever.
Because I might be broke forever, but, at the end of everything, at least I can say I tried my hardest.
And, that counts for something.