One of my social media spirit animals, Amy Vernon, shared a link to her new favorite tumblr, SHIT ROUGH DRAFTS. Of course, tumblrs are pretty much the definition of ephemera, but how timeless is the complete and utter self-worth vacuum that is the first draft of any project?
If you've ever written or produced any content, then you know what the fuck i'm talking about.
Writing professionally -- or working in any creative field -- is a clusterfuck for three main reasons:
- First, there are enormous barriers to entry into many of these fields. In a place like New York or Los Angeles where there is industry infrastructure in place, there are always more asses than seats available. Nepotism, sketchy business dealings, and sheer luck cloud the pool of talent even further, making actual talent only one component to success. Anyone with a trifling understanding of statistics is able to assess the odds involved in the traditional studio or publishing approach to be slim to suicide-inducing.
- Second, stigma sucks. Since I semi-accidentally moved to Los Angeles, I've realized just how pervasive the stereotype of the slash is. That is, everyone is an actor/bartender, model/barista, writer/bum. If you're not making a living doing what you want, and you are not a complete douche nozzle, you may feel self-conscious talking about what your dreams are. The problem is that if you never take yourself seriously enough to view yourself as the actor, model, writer, whatever, and to share those dreams openly, the chances that you'll connect with them are...slim to suicide-inducing.
- Finally, there is no CORRECT way to go about doing your "work." You can (and absolutely should) seek advice from people that inspire you, but at the end of the day, if you're not producing work, you have nothing to show for yourself. The protest to this assertion is usually something like "Nobody will give me a chance! How can I act/sing/write?"
I have an answer for you. It is simple. It is called MAKE YOUR OWN SHIT.
But first, back to shitty rough drafts for a second. I am one.
I have tried to be reasonable in the past. In the name of having a "stable" "adult" career, I have done a bunch of other completely WRONG-FOR-ME things. It would take another 16 posts to cover so I'll spare you for now. But for starters, I knew well before I took the Hippocratic oath, that I was not a physician by calling.
I am also not a particularly reasonable person.
Currently, I live in Los Angeles. I moved here semi-accidentally after dropping out of medical school, quitting several related jobs, selling all of the shit that didn't fit into my car, and driving across the country to California.
I did not move to LA with the goal of becoming a writer, actress, filmmaker or -- actually, scratch that, I had no goal in coming here other than not being in New York City for another winter.
Since I've gotten here, I've worked as a ghost writer, marketer and content developer. I hadn't been working on anything of my own since I stopped writing my blog One Girl No Diet back in 2011. But I could feel the fabric tearing away from the seams every time I handled a release for a client's project.
Yes. Somehow, I made it all the way to Los Angeles after all of the tumult and still held on to the delusion that it was accidental.
Despite a decent amount of success via and in social media, I realized that social media was not a destiny but a catalyst propelling me towards my next draft. At Big Frame, i was surrounded by a new wave of content creators, writers, and non-traditional badasses of all varieties. I was not on the right side of the business. But I was inches away from an industry I never really knew, understood, or could admit to wanting a part of until then.
The pigtailed brat version of me -- the one who refused to go to recess so she could finish a story -- was staring at me with an eyebrow raised. "Hey. Yeah. Hey. Are you a MO-RON? Fuck. The. Odds."
The only thing that would tranquilize the pain of watching people create all around me was to start making the things I wanted to make for myself.
So the odds are still shit. Yes, of course! Completely dire. But the alternative is worse. Since the end of last year, every day, no matter what, I sit down at my desk and I write. This is a habit that has come to me as easily as Lindsay Lohan follows court orders. That is to say, it is rough. It hurts me.
I do it anyway. And a lot of it ends up in the proverbial waste basket. On fire. But a shitty rough draft is better than no draft. And it's fine because, at this rate, I'm either going to be satisfied or I'm going to have a brain hemorrhage and die. Either way, the suffering will end eventually.
Plus, if there's a heaven, it feels something like the kernel of a story (finally!) showing up on a page after nothing, nothing, nothing would come; after the confusion; after all the clusterfuck of human experience falls away leaving a three-second window into something truthful.
Heaven is being left with an ounce of 'ah, i see' after fighting through tons of what the fuck?! The only reason I have this dubious honor is because I do not have a choice. I cannot stop doing it. The difference now is intention.
So I'm coming out of the closet. My name is Jessica Brookman.
I am An artist.
And it's a good thing, too. Because, in the words of Anne Lamott, other than writing, I am completely unemployable. I started on this path because I hate routine. I hate schedules. I really fucking hate spread sheets. And seeing the same people everyday makes me a flight risk. But really, secretly, when I'm not being smart-alecky, it's because I want to [write] and I'm good at it.
So. Time's a crooked bow and shit but where I'm standing right now is not an accident. It's the result of relentless self-revision. Fuck waiting for chances.Do I know exactly what I'm doing? Fuck. No. But I will figure it out.
o my advice for you if you want something but you're not sure how to get it:
Go make it.
That should cover all excuses under items #1-3 above. You are welcome,
PS - "The first draft of anything is shit. Go fuck yourself." - Papa.