The Climb


“It took, I dunno, six years after getting out of school before I got a start as a writer.”

This was from John Wells- arguably one of the topmost showrunners in television, who had led such shows as ER, The West Wing, and Shameless. I felt an instant flood of relief: I was going on three years out of a very expensive grad program and it seemed as if I were burning every hour of my life just trying to make ends meet, much less shove the Career-In-Entertainment boulder up the proverbial mountain. I was writing every day, and now and then I’d try to squeeze in a university event or workshop to try to feel like I was at least near my dream, but mostly I struggled with the constant fear of why haven’t I found a toehold yet, and what if I never do?

I mean, I wasn’t psyched about the possibility that I might have three more years of this limbo to endure, but to know that the likes of John Wells had taken a long to get a start was an immense relief: he’d done pretty OK in spite of the delay. Maybe there was hope for me yet.

The infuriating truth about success in the entertainment industry is that everybody who has “made it” can tell you how they got there, but nobody can stand where you are and give you directions.

Just keep going. Seems to be the bottom line. An act of extraordinary faith. Successful people look back on the days of having too little money in the bank to get a twenty dollar bill out of the ATM, or about selling off possessions to put gas into a car that would die every few blocks: about living on couches and having relationships fall apart, and I sometimes fear that I’m living life too comfortably to ever reach success: as if my anxious need to pay my bills and live in a house and eat three meals a day might somehow prevent fortune from favoring me with a breakthrough. I try to remind myself that I don’t need to go looking for trouble: the point of the story is the perseverance, not the adversity. Someday I too might tell about how I worked three jobs at once or moved across the country only to get rejected within the first week of arriving. These weren’t things that actually helped me get to where I am today, but they didn’t stop me either. Really that’s the important part.

Last year I made a five year plan- or, at least, a vision of where is like to be in five years, the details on how I would actually get there were hazy. I’m now a year in, and I don’t feel much closer to the goal- no representation, no industry mentors, no fast-paced entry level jobs that pay peanuts but help me make contacts. The only thing I’ve done is write.

“How much have you written?” John Wells described a conversation with a friend from early in his career. “If you stacked all your work on the floor how tall would it be? Let me know when it gets to this height.” He indicated a stack somewhere in the neighborhood of his knee. I’m guessing that I’m somewhat closer to the ankle, but I’m pretty happy with the progress so far: five feature scripts, one television pilot, and one monster novel. That’s something, right?

But once again, it all keeps coming down to keep doing the thing. Keep Writing. Keep working. Keep in touch. It’s not so much a leap of faith as it is a free-solo climb up a rock face in dense fog- it’s an endurance sport, but I’ll reach the top eventually.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 3, 2019.

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