The word “process” is a fickle term. It makes it seem like there’s a certain path or standard way of writing (or being creative in any way, for that matter). The truth is, there isn’t. Everyone has their own, unique guidelines. There’s no “right” or “wrong” process. Blogging daily won’t make you a great writer. Going out into the world and finding things to blog about will.
In his nationwide search for a writer’s assistant, Tucker Max outlined the problems he faced while reading applications, and touches upon a glaring problem with the “life” of a writer:
OK, now I get it. Notice how this person didn’t say they want to write. And nothing else in their application talked anything at all related to actually writing. They said they want to “live the life of a writer.”
That’s the problem: So many people who applied for this job don’t care about the work, all they care about is the status that the work will get them. They want an identity that they perceive as cool or high status or meaningful, but they don’t want to put in the work, or take the risk, that living that life entails. Don’t get me wrong: I was the same fucking way at 22. It’s a very common mindset–and it’s exceeding dangerous to your success and happiness. I said it earlier and I meant it: 22 year old Tucker Max wouldn’t have made it through this process, and I don’t want those people working for me. They make awful assistants.
Later on, he asks what could be the question of our generation:
How does someone who has a little bit of talent and a lot of motivation succeed in life?
It’s a question I ask myself almost daily. In a world drowned in art and technology, how is an artist expected to find their own, unique voice? The answer is simple: by not being an artist.
I don’t tell people I’m a writer, nor do I tell them I’m an actor. I tell them I’m a theater student who is also a staff writer for a hockey blog. By placing those specific labels on myself, I’m putting myself out there as a progressive and driven young man rather than fishing for compliments from other “artists”. People talk, creativity speaks for itself.
Don’t take this as modesty. I love writing plays. But I’d never tell somebody I’m a playwright, because I’m not. I’m a twenty-one-year-old college student. You don’t walk into medical school and call yourself a doctor on the first day. You tell your friends you’re a medical student, studying to further your craft and to turn your dreams into talent.
Of course, writing needs talent. There’s a reason why The Book of Mormon is on Broadway and my play isn’t. I haven’t earned the merit nor the respect for that kind of an audience. Chances are I never will. But I’m not sitting here telling myself “You can’t do that.” I’m also not telling myself “You need to do that.” I’m telling myself “Focus on what you can do, and take it as far as you possibly can.” The bane of being an actor, or a writer, or “creative”, is that you’re constantly bombarded with people who are better than you, while being surrounded with people who think they are better than you. The flaw so many of these people have is that they see things like “Book of Mormon”, and instantly say to themselves, “I want to be that.” Fame is poison to creativity. The moment you say “I want to be that”, you’ve pretty much guaranteed that you never will. You can’t walk into a regional theater audition expecting to be the next Brad Pitt. That’s not how art works. You walk into that audition thinking “Well, I never thought growing up I’d see myself auditioning for the Fluker County Regional Theater production of ‘Miss Saigon,’ but bring it on, Louisiana.” You suck it up, put it on your resume, and move on.
We’re a culture that’s become obsessed with attention. We’ve all been guilty of posting a clever Facebook status and watching the “likes” flood into our news feed. The world has made the idea of fame and attention somewhat routine and common. What could once be considered “life-changing” and “cool” is now a flash in the pan, a viral video, a witty saying (“That’s what she said!”), a feature film that comes and goes on a wave of hype and hysteria. It’s maddening to watch.
I’ve been blessed with some great internships, and some wonderful contacts. I finished 11th out of 4,000 applicants for that Tucker Max job. I wasn’t proud of coming close. I wasn’t upset at not getting the job. It reassured me that although I didn’t get that gig, I’m on the right path to someday getting a similar position. Even if that means trying harder for less, I’m still in a better position than having not tried at all. During the application process, I wrote entire essays, often in one night. Our last task involved assembling a thirty-page research report documenting the life of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 48 hours. I think I only slept for five of those hours.
My process is trying. Even if I know I’ll probably fail, and get scoffed at by some asshole in a flannel shirt and skinny jeans (“I cannot WAIT to tweet about this, this is TOTALLY gonna trend!”), I’ll be satisfied with the fact that I’m at least putting myself out there earnestly.
So to all who are looking for an answer, here it is: Get outside. Put yourself out there. Meet new people. Even if it means getting off your laptop and heading to your local pub for a drink and a talk with a complete stranger, go. Work for what you want, and do it because you want to. Don’t live up to anyone’s expectations but your own. That being said, as your work and talent evolves, so should your own expectations.