May You Live In Interesting Times
by Bill True


You’ve heard it before, right?  What an intriguing phrase.  On the surface, it sounds like a blessing.  But scratch away the veneer to the irony underneath, and it’s actually a curse.

As a society, we certainly find ourselves in some interesting times these days.  On one hand, COVID-19 has given many of us the silver lining of time at home to rest and contemplate, and the recent social unrest hopefully represents a watershed moment for humanity.  Yet, part and parcel with these has been hardship for many, along with feelings of anger, despair, and uncertainty for others.  Add to mix the pressure of producing something great during this time because “Newton outlined the principles of gravity during a pandemic, and Shakespeare wrote King Lear during another.”  Yet, for many, along with the hardship and anger and despair and uncertainty, has also come paralysis.

As a writer, how do you handle these interesting times?  I have two thoughts.

First, our current situation brings to mind another interesting time in our national history, when, for me, the idea of writing movies and TV shows felt trivial and pointless.  I expressed this sentiment to a producer friend of mine, who immediately clapped back, “Are you F@&!#G KIDDING?!?  The world needs you more than ever right now.  Don’t you dare quit!”

I realized then that, yes…the world needs “important” works.  But how does one define important?  As ridiculous as it might sound, don’t both Schindler’s List and Super Troopers serve different, but important functions for audiences?  One illuminates and the other provides escape from the problems and pressures of the world.  If you’re worried what you’re writing isn’t “important” enough, remember that the world needs your deep, profound drama, but it also needs your screwball comedy and romcom.  Trust the world needs your voice.  And write what you write.

Second, if that’s not the case, and you’re feeling too sad or overwhelmed or angry to write at the moment, cut yourself a little slack.  Yes…writers write.  But also remember a large part of the process is, well, processing.  It’s contemplating and seeking to understand life experiences, so we can synthesize them later in our characters and stories.  This is a big experience we’re living through right now.  It’s okay to not feel able to or not want to commit thoughts about it—or any thoughts, for that matter—to the page.  In fact, I would argue that you are in the writing process when you’re processing all this.  So congratulations.  You’re not a loser because you didn’t write your King Lear during the pandemic.  You’re doing the work to create your own masterpiece later…when you’re done processing.

As I talk to pals in the industry, the overwhelming message is that Hollywood remains open for business.  It’s still there, and it’ll be there when you’re ready to share your work.  Whatever it is and however it comes out in these interesting times.

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