21 days later: there is a silver lining

Writers are having a hard time, but there is something you can hold on to.

It’s easy to see why writers feel down right now. In fact, it’s completely understandable. We work hard and pay our dues, and some of us work day jobs to support our dreams of becoming great original writers or getting staffed or hired. Then, the “all is lost” realization sets in that studios have lost more money than the writers were originally asking for in negotiations. These are the same writers who reached our dreams and graduated from the top schools globally to create great content. If they can’t get fair treatment, what chance do we have?

This thought has persisted in this writer’s head since before the strike started. Working as hard as the next writer, learning and adapting, and struggling away from the system is no guarantee that this writer will make it. That is a risk for every writer, strike or not, and it’s been a wake-up call. The craft we love and value could be done by a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters, and the fact that we’re human just means we get paid, albeit unfairly. This is a hard truth and one that is incredibly difficult to accept. The awards, the work, and the struggle aren’t guarantees of success. That hurt to write. In fact, like many of my fellow writers, it’s been incredibly difficult to write lately, and we hyperfocus during times of stress and try to write something amazing. We sometimes can’t when we need it, and it throws us further own. Makes us doubt ourselves.

All felt lost, but there is something that changed.

At my worst, I turned on one of my favorite comfort movies. I needed an escape, so I threw on a pretty bad film. I won’t say which, but it was a very poorly executed spoof. I couldn’t stop laughing. As a writer who has struggled to write for a decent period, I looked at the film and didn’t care if it was good or bad. It was entertaining. After that realization, I looked back at my work, and I thought, “With everything going on, why did I start writing?”

The answer was simple: I love telling stories. My job, nor yours, is not to tell the next great Oscar Winner. A lot of that comes down to either sage-like skill or a perfect storm of luck. What writers do comes down to three simple things: Tell stories, entertain your audience, and, if hired, give the client the story they want. I looked at my work and I realized I was too focused on forcing a good story that it didn’t come naturally, and it was no longer entertaining. I didn’t get much traction from it, so I set it aside and started working on concepts for other works. I will get back to it, but I’d rather write aloud and enjoy the process. I wanted to be like the people in the strike. They want to tell stories.

Looking through the WGA’s social media, one thing was certain: Writers were using their voices and personalities through the difficult time. Whether they used provocative signs, dancing and smiling, or referencing many of the best shows in production, these writers show their voices in this difficult time, but the most beautiful things were simple: they were together, and they were unique. As hard as this time is for writers, who have their day jobs, who have children, or other stresses that have nothing to do with their job, they stood up because they want to tell stories and be appreciated and rewarded for their efforts.

The big saying for this strike has been “Pencils Down”, but I want you to remember this, these writers are still writing. No, they’re not writing for the studios and producers, but they have their own material that they want to maximize. They are getting shows and pitch decks ready for when the producers lose to the WGA. They are working on their strengths and weaknesses. Most of all, they still love writing. They wouldn’t be out there if they didn’t love what they do. They are like you.

They just want to tell stories.

It’s a dark time for writers. I understand. I am one. It’s understandable to feel jaded, angry, or any other synonym or collection of adjectives that express the contempt we feel right now, but remember why you started writing. It wasn’t because you thought you’d make $500 million at the box office. It wasn’t because you saw someone polishing Academy Awards or Emmys. It wasn’t because you thought the world would love your script.

It’s because you want to tell stories. Look at the writer’s strike. They want to do the same.

Remember that. Pass it on. You deserve to tell your story. Even if it isn’t through the lens you initially saw it through. This is why you started writing.

Nobody can take that away from you. Keep writing.

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