Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Column #17: The road to being a writer has twists and turns

"If you don't mind me asking, how did you become a writer?"

The young lady asking this was a friend of a friend.

She had asked if I minded her question, which usually doesn't happen unless the question seems like a rude one. (For example: "Hey, if you don't mind me asking, what happened to your face?")

The way she asked it was odd, as if being a writer were some weirdly obscure profession that polite people don't talk about. Replace the word "writer" with "executioner" or "prostitute," and you might get a sense of her tone.

However, being a writer is far from an obscurity. I would guess that there are many multiples of millions of people who are writers, or like to consider themselves to be writers.

I considered myself a writer, and would tell people that I was, long before I was ever paid or otherwise recognized for accomplishing such a task.

When I was 14, I tried to write a TV script for the first time. I didn't think it would get produced, but at that time I didn't have many friends, and my ability to play baseball competitively had ended as others grew larger and stronger than me.

If anything benefits a writer, it's having lots of free time and no other more useful abilities.

My favorite TV series at the time was Moonlighting, an inventively comedic detective-romance show. I got 30 pages into my script before I gave up. There are a few reasons why high school freshman don't write for major Hollywood productions. I wish I had kept that script, though. I'm sure it would be fascinating to look at today.

At 22, I moved to Hollywood (or, more precisely, Santa Monica). I didn't know where to go to be a writer, or to whom to give my writings when I was done. I hadn't thought that I had a foolproof plan. I just didn't know what else to do.

A listing in the LA Weekly caught my attention. There was a comedy show happening near my apartment, featuring a comedian I had seen on TV, which is where famous people live!

The show was free. The venue was called Connections or Crossroads and was in a small storefront run by an aging Venice hippie. (It closed months later, because free shows don't help pay the rent.) It - clearly - was not a comedy club. It was more like a workshop for the many free spirits who would perform, for free, in the hopes of being spotted by an agent.

Amateurs were allowed to get up and try to be funny, too. Months later, I, hoping that one five-minute spot would get me hired on The Simpsons, decided to try. Three years later, my writing abilities had improved, though I had learned that I am not a good performer.

I met a girl, Tannis, who also wanted to write for TV. We wrote three scripts, all of which went nowhere. The years were going by, and my personal life was as big a failure as my professional life - good material for writing, but bad for living.

Before L.A., I had spent a year in Louisville, attending the University of I-Can't-Find-a-Parking-Spot-Within-Three-Miles-of-Campus, and I had loved the relatively small scale and pace of the city. A month after I returned, I met a guy in a bar.

A mutual friend told him that I was a writer, and that I knew a lot about music. As a Louisvillian, surely you have recognized that the man I met that night was Jeffrey Lee Puckett, the mayor of Germantown and the pop music guy at our newspaper.

So, that's one way to become a writer.

c. 2010 Velocity Weekly

No comments: