Rather than waiting until close to midnight to journey out to the Think Tank, I’m going to open the doors now, in hopes that it will spark even more Deep Thoughts than usual.
I’ve had a lot on my mind this week, and I really need our time together in the Think Tank to sort out some of the thoughts crashing around inside my head.
The last two Fridays have played host to the best sessions in the history of the Think Tank, and I would love to see if the earlier hour draws some new Modern Philosophers to our weekly gathering.
So put on your Deep Thinking Togas and meet me there…
This week’s topic: Today was a coworker’s final day. She quit her job, has nothing lined up, and said she is looking forward to spending more time with her kids. This got me to thinking about how much I’d love to quit my job and write full time. Of course, this leads to the great internal debate of: “Should I chase my dream, or be responsible?” Where do you stand on this? Have you ever just chased your dream? Have reality, bills, and other responsibilities made chasing your dream impossible? Is it ever wrong to just throw caution to the wind and go for it?
This great debate has raged on inside my head for decades now, Modern Philosophers.
It is no secret that my dream is to be able to support myself as a writer, and while I have achieved things that would make any screenwriter proud, the annual income from my writing is nowhere near enough to pay the mortgage and keep The House on the Hill heated through a Maine Winter.
I’ve always known that very few who set out to become screenwriters are successful at it. I have been lucky enough to have had two of my screenplays made into movies, and when I first moved to Los Angeles, I optioned a screenplay for a large amount of money.
Those successes tell me that I have the talent necessary to make it as a screenwriter. However, for all the happy tales, I have dozens of stories of agonizing failures, rejections, and giant pay days lost just when I thought I had finally “made it”.
So why haven’t I ever just said #$%^ it and gone after the dream? Maybe a little history lesson will help me explain.
I have been living on my own since I was 17. The summer after I graduated from high school, my family moved to Virginia. I stayed in Brooklyn, worked all summer as a busboy to help pay the bills for college, and moved into the dorm when it was time for my freshman year at NYU to begin.
I haven ‘t stopped working since. Four years of NYU were expensive,and my family did not help pay for college. Every weekend, I went home to Brooklyn, worked in the restaurant, and then returned to the dorm on Sunday night.
When I graduated, there were student loans to pay, so I couldn’t just lounge around chasing the writing dream. I was living with J, the girl who would grow up to be my ex-wife, and she was only working part time so that she could finish college.
I met J when I was a sophomore and she a freshman at NYU, but she never graduated from college. She was constantly going to different schools, forever changing majors, and never working full time so that I could stop working and pursue my writing dream.
So, I just wrote when I could. I sent out tons of query letters to agents, and worked on becoming a better screenwriter. All the while, I was paying off my student loans and whatever other expenses a twentysomething living in New York City had.
After we got married, and I was successful at a job that was so far from screenwriting that I started to worry that I had given up on my dream, we decided I had to give writing a real shot before it got too late.
We moved to California, and the plan was to live rent free with J’s Dad and Step Mom while she worked and I did nothing but write.
That didn’t last long. J decided to go on a cross country bike ride for charity. You don’t earn a paycheck when you do that. I took a part time job as a tutor and kept writing.
During this period, I wrote Close To Me, the script I would go on to option for a large sum of money, and .33 Reverse Gunther, the bank robbery script that will hopefully start shooting later this year.
We ended up moving into our own place, J went back to school, and I went from being a part time tutor to the Director of the tutoring clinic. I still went to Hollywood meetings around my work schedule, but as always, I put paying the bills and being responsible ahead of chasing the dream.
Sure, if that deal with Dr. Dre to buy .33 Reverse Gunther hadn’t fallen through at the very last second, I’d probably have an entirely different life write now. But after that, I was frustrated with Hollywood, wanted to get the hell out, and start a family. So, we bought The House on the Hill and moved to Maine.
I got a job and wrote the two screenplays that have since been produced. But I also got divorced, so the full weight of the mortgage fell onto my shoulders, and I was never really able to capitalize on the heat of having two screenplays produced.
Every time, responsibility wins out. I want to quit my job, write all the time, and finally catch that elusive dream. Something inside me just won’t allow me to do that, though. I’m too damn responsible.
Or am I a chicken hiding behind the excuse of responsibility?
I know it’s not too late. It’s never too late. I’ve got a really good shot at getting Gunther made this year, this blog is very popular, and I’m writing for The Nite Show with Danny Cashman. As my Dad would say, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire.
As I would then say, hot irons don’t pay the mortgage.
I’ve rambled on for far too long, Modern Philosophers. It’s time for you to chime in here. Where do you stand on this whole “Dream vs. Responsibility” issue? I’ve pulled back the toga to reveal some of my secrets, so let’s hear some of yours.
Remember, there are no wrong answers in the Think Tank, so write whatever comes to mind. I’m really looking forward to reading what you have to say, and learning if your are dreamers, responsible types, or stuck someone in limbo.
Thanks for joining me in this. I really enjoy having this safe place where we can share our Deep Thoughts and say whatever we feel.
Happy Friday. May your dreams never be out of reach…