Baby Steps [Stay-at-Home Nerd]
I had a very, very, very long piece written about how I became a stay-at-home dad and after I gave it to my wife to read she said: “Yeah, but what’s the point?” She also asked if it was necessary for me to chronicle every job I ever had from mowing lawns, delivering papers, making subs and bussing tables as a kid, to managing video stores and working at banks while I endlessly paid my way through college, to the Literary Management and UCLA Extension Writers’ Program jobs that eventually led me to pursue a writing career. I told her that, yes, of course it was important for everyone to know every intimate detail of my work history so that they would understand how I came to be the stay-at-home parent I am today.
Then I reread what I’d written. At 2,037 words it did seem a bit long. I’d also hit page 4 without making much of a point, at least not one that clearly emerged from the self-deprecating jokes about getting kicked out of two colleges, and couch surfing my twenties away. The point I wanted to make and will make here is this: I love writing and I want to make my living as a writer. It’s a weird thing to say out loud and even stranger to write down for others. Those that know me know of my successes: After three years working with my writing partner, Scott Honea, we finished five and a half feature screenplays, landed an agent, optioned two scripts, had two other scripts in development, and were finalists in the Slamdance screenwriting competition. They also know of my failures: the writer’s strike killing one movie, our scripts in development are still in development, Slamdance garnered us some meetings, but no sales, and our options have run out, literally.
Scott moved back to Texas with his wife and shot a film based on his own script called Believe You Me. I’m fortunate to have a co-producer credit on the film and can’t wait to see my name on IMDB. Somehow, it feels like little to show for what has been years of work. And, now that I’m a stay-at-home dad the road feels tougher. My days are filled with naptime, playtime, reading-time, feeding-time, diaper changing, grocery shopping and cooking. I sometimes clean, but wife’s tolerance for dirt is so much lower than mine that she usually beats me to the punch.
In addition to those chores, which I’ve chosen and am not complaining about, I’ve put my writerly education to work and make extra money as a screenplay analyst and screenplay contest judge. One of the perks of living in LA and having worked in the industry is that you meet people, read scripts, write coverage and have these opportunities open up for you. It’s the perfect side job because I work from home, set my own hours, and can pretty much work as little or as much as I want. It’s not enough money to get rich, but it does buy a few dinners out, pay off some student loans, and make a dent in that monstrous DirecTV bill (damn you sports packages!). It also keeps me reading, writing and thinking about scripts and story and that is something I love to do. I also like to think that my notes are helpful, and based on some of the feedback I’ve gotten I believe they are, no matter what Craig Mazin says.
As you can see, though, my path towards becoming a working writer has taken a bit of a detour. In fact, it had me thinking this weekend about what, if anything else, I could do. There will come a time – it may be sooner, it may be later – but it will certainly come after we’re done having kids and they are in preschool that I will have to go back to earning real money. I’m not going to lie, the “What am I going to do for money” question has haunted me most of my life. I said I wanted to make a living as a writer and I meant it. Along the way I’ve thought of other passions as being potentially profitable like cooking or photography. I did go to school for film editing and briefly worked as a freelance editor before my son was born. Unfortunately, the hours are grueling and the work is sporadic. I don’t regret going to school for it. I learned a lot and don’t think I would’ve been much help co-producing a movie had I not gone.
I said earlier that it seems like I have little to show for a lot of work towards these ends, but that just depends on your perception. A co-producer credit on a feature film is a big deal to me. The fact that my friend Scott was able to write, direct, edit, and produce a film on his own dime gives me hope. It’s a little disconcerting that he had to leave Los Angeles to do it, but now is not the time to focus on the bad. Now is the time to focus on the good. What’s good is that writing is free. It doesn’t cost me anything but time to finish working on my new spec feature, which is the first one I’ve written on my own in five years. It also doesn’t cost anything but time to write some shorts and see if I want to direct one myself, or to spec that TV show, or to even try my hand at graphic novels as some of my friends have done and done well. The point is that it’s never too late to be what you might have been. And, to get where your want to go sometimes involves taking baby step – lots and lots of baby steps.
featured image credit: SeattleYogi