by Wendy Sherer
In the Spring of 2005 I attended a week-long writing workshop in New Mexico, hoping to discover whether or not I was any good at crafting drama. I took on the assignments. I experimented. I got great feedback, and wrote a comedy scene which my classmates performed, and the audience laughed.
There are no words to describe the feeling.
Then I returned home and didn’t do a thing with it. For ten years.
I floundered for a long while, vaguely conscious of uncharted courses and neglected longings, and certain that the job I was working at the time did not represent my vocation’s ultimate fulfillment. Sometimes I would be bold and actually say aloud to another person, “I’m a writer.” But I wasn’t writing, so even speaking it felt fraudulent.
Spring 2015. Something clicks.
I announce to myself that now is the time. I’m going to write. Exactly what, I have no idea. But I target the day, and decide that no matter what, I will sit down, open a new file, and words will ensue. The night before, I have the closest thing to a panic attack I can ever recall. An extra glass of wine at dinner to calm my nerves, but no relief. I try to distract myself by watching a film, but can’t sit still.
"Chocolate," I say. "I need chocolate."
I never say this. Something is up. In a haze, I float to the corner shop and return with Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food and a package of Cadbury Creme Egg cookies. It muffles, but doesn’t completely silence, the familiar voices that every writer hears when they finally get serious.
- You’re no good, you know.
- Everyone will think you’re rubbish.
- Once you do this thing that you believe is the fulfillment of your life and you fail, what will you have left??
The next morning, I awaken and begin writing what will end up being my first screenplay. Two months later I finish it. Revisions follow. I have no idea if this particular story will ever be produced, but I did something that not everyone manages—I took on something bigger than I knew how to do, and completed it.
But beyond the script itself, something else happened during that time, and has left me forever altered.
During those weeks of inventing superheroes, researching pet reptiles, and capturing conversation snippets in my portable journal, I discovered a giddy excitement, coupled with a persistent annoyance whenever I was obliged to do something so mundane as answer emails, brush my teeth, or fold laundry—essentially anything that was not writing my screenplay.
I experienced myself as never before—alive to a world that had suddenly burst into technicolor and overflowed with irresistible aromas and sensations.
“I’m writing a screenplay!!” was my jubilant reply to every innocent “How are you?”
I enjoyed being around people. I enjoyed being me. I never wanted it to end.
It did, of course, not long after I stopped writing.
But the genie was out of the bottle, and there was work to do. I made a plan and a promise to myself that no matter what else needed to be a done (namely, a PhD), I would never again banish the muse. And I would design and enroll in a self-guided course: how to succeed in dramatic writing. I chose texts to read and gave myself assignments.
No more waiting years to do the thing that obviously inspires me.
No more waiting, period.
Of course it would be inauthentic to imply that those nasty voices weren’t still present while I was pounding out my 120 pages of genius. Or that they don’t still flare up when I’m slogging through a 500 page comprehensive history of American screenwriting. Or when I ponder the task of packaging and selling myself to one of the least compassionate and most competitive industries going.
- You’ll never be one of them.
- You may have talent, but no one will ever see it, or green light it, or produce it.
- You’ll give up before you ever succeed.
Go on, little demons. I know who you are, and I know that you will always be sitting on my shoulder, muttering ceaselessly.
But your ten-year reign is over, and if you would be so kind as to turn down the volume a bit, I have some dialogue to write.
About the Author
Wendy Sherer is a regular contributor to Transformation-is-Real. She is a rostered ELCA pastor living in London. She's also a radio presenter and a writer.
Another fine contribution of Wendy's can be found at this link here.