For the Strikers
A tv writer friend of mine who is a WGA member and has (obviously) been on strike all these months messaged me the other day:
So I promised him I would sit down and figure out a way to support him and give him a little pep talk, and this is what I came up with this morning. He said it was OK for me to share it with all of you, strikers or not.
I spent the night thinking about the issues you're having, and I just devoted my morning meditation to it, too. I love you and I want you to feel better.
I want to say first that what you are feeling is totally valid. You are someone who works hard and is committed to making your art, but also have found a way to beautifully reconcile making your art commercial in order to reach a larger audience. You are someone who offers up the best of your skills, to accomplish a lot of things at once for a lot of people. All you ask for is to be paid and respected in return.
Now you have been betrayed in a bigger way (than usual) by the people who run these companies. If you suspected they didn't understand or appreciate your worth before, it is now clear they do not. They have expressed this in so many ways. Not just financially but in their words and actions. They do not support you. Your feelings are all correct.
But still, you must write. Not for them, but for yourself. You have things you need and desire to work on. In order to carry on, you must find a way to extricate your true passion for writing from the work you have been doing for the last decade or so. Because now is the time to reclaim it. I do not think this strike is good for anyone, but I do hope that this reprieve from being paid for your work can in some small way end up benefiting your relationship with it.
I was thinking that you might spend some time remembering when your work was purely just for you. When you were not writing with the idea that something would be seen by someone else on a grand scale. Maybe it's a time when you were more actively in a cohort and you wrote to entertain yourself and your friends. Or educate or impress, or express deeper feelings. No larger end goal in sight beyond just communicating certain things. Just writing to write.
I remember the summer I wrote most of The Middlesteins – a few years before I met you. I was totally in credit card debt, and I thought there was no end in sight. I took the summer off from drinking, and I just rode my bike around and did yoga and worked at the bookstore and on bummer freelance copywriting projects, and got up early and wrote every single day, chapter by chapter.
This was when I still lived in Brooklyn and I wrote on that big metal work table -- do you remember that table? I still can't believe I left it behind in New York when I moved to New Orleans. The best writing table. And they hadn't built the building across the street yet, so it was all just sky and the city in front of me in those big loft windows. I still channel that feeling all the time. The perfect table and the perfect view and no money and just words.
I had a writer friend who would read my work for me every day. I sent her the thousand words I had finished, and she would read it during her happy hour and tell me it was brilliant. And I was so fucking broke and thought I would be broke forever but I knew I was writing something good that would make my friend happy to read and that's all I cared about. The little kid in me who wanted to play and then show off what they had made.
And then piece by piece, over the course of the summer, I built almost an entire book. But the end part is not what I am thinking about here. It was the part where I needed to love my work again. Forgot about making money. Just wrote to save my life.
When was the last time you wrote something and really loved it when it was just for you?
I was also thinking that you might spend some time remembering when you first started to love writing. Like when you were young. Was it when you were a child? Was it when you were in high school? When did the stories start to speak to you?
I just remember writing little stories even when I was four or five because it made sense in my head to do it. I loved books so much and I wanted to make one myself. That was where my brain was happiest, in the confines of some kind of made-up place that had a beginning, middle, and end. If I sat down and wrote with my little paw I could create something out of scratch. How amazing is that? That we can do that. Conjure up something out of thin air? Just with our brain.
I love my brain, don't you? Whenever things get complicated I just shut out the world and all the pressures and everything just becomes about my relationship with my brain again. Is this all hopelessly naive? I don't know. But I do know they can't take away our brains from us. That's ours. Don't you let them have it.
OK that's it for now. I have to start getting ready for the day. Not sure if any of this will be helpful but I wanted you to know that I was thinking about you -- all of the people out there striking, too. It's your writing. It's yours. I hope you can find a way to taking pleasure from it again.