How to Be a Misfit - Part One

by Jessica Brookman in ,

Last day in LA. 

Last day in LA. 

FACT: There are no rules. Do whatever you want. 

A few years ago, in the midst of a break-up, i posted the following gchat status:

“One day, this will all make a fine screenplay.”

Now, I wasn’t actually serious, at that point, about writing a screenplay. I was musing on a drama-laden, mid-twenties, NYC-style breakup situation. But it took less than no time for the schadenfreude to surface.

Seconds after posting, a little window popped up informing me that “writing a screenplay is actually really hard. so, um, good luck with that.  

Everyone has a person or two in their lives who seems to be compelled to dispense unsolicited advice on the basis of how hard things are for them. I suggest removing them from your buddy list, both electronic and otherwise, if it becomes a habit. 

But it wasn't the general discouragement from this "friend" that I took issue with. It was the implication behind it. The idea that, because a task was difficult and risky (and because few are willing to assume the risk), it should not be attempted.

Certainly not by you...certainly not in their presence.

This kind of attitude is harmful on an individual level (as it's the passive-aggressive equivalent of playground bullying). But it's also harmful on a cultural level. It creates an economy of fear. Fear suppresses artistic and innovative contributions. This is fucked because these contributions are the only progressive force in our control as humans. 

Basically, on Earth, it's new stuff vs. entropy. And entropy is always increasing. Because....physics. And physics is the most science-y of all sciences. Without innovation, we are on a thermodynamic conveyor belt to disorder. Hashtag OMGSCIENCE.  

But for those less scientifically inclined, I am calling for less half-hearted bullshit. Because non-bullshit will save the world. 

But I'm also here to warn you: When you say you’re going to do something difficult, (even well-meaning) people will feel an urge to save you from your own ambition. Not because you shouldn't do it, but because it's disruptive to the order of things. Be prepared to be discouraged, bullied, shamed, ridiculed, and/or shunned. 

Then do it anyway.  This is a story about being a misfit.

But first, back to writing screenplays... 

Subject: Screenwriting/introduction.
Hello Jessica, 
tried calling you but your voicemail is full. I really like your website and writing! Do you have any screenwriting samples to send my way?
[Capital-A Agent]

So, this may not have been an actual phone call (because lord knows I don’t answer my phone when I see an unknown number...HELLO Cornell student loan offices). But this email and the following conversation, was certainly a call. It was a break; the beginning of some people's LA Story. 

But I never planned on an LA story. So naturally, being a rational woman in this situation, I left LA and moved across the country. 

Presently, I am writing this from a lime green chair in the Cambridge Innovation Center which is my new home for this next phase of work.

There were pieces to LA that I loved. People come to LA to chase a dream - no matter how delusional it may be. There are great things that go along with that. There is a sense of "newness" to Los Angeles always. The turnover rate is intense. People come, get stuck, get lucky, go bust. Stick it out or leave town. It's a human mosaic overlaid on a broke-down paradise landscape.

But it's a tough town. The other side of the coin is that, as far as you can identify your "goal" in LA, you can enter what is basically a lottery. Everyone seems to be an aspiring something. For example, there are 100k+ “actors.” About 10% of them are working and about 2% make a living doing it. The statistics change categorically as you move through the sects (screenwriters, directors, etc, etc, ad nauseum) but the fact remains that the odds are slim that one "makes it" in the traditional Hollywood way. 

It was interesting to be submerged in this when you don't care to learn the rules of the game going on around you. I flirt around the edges of "entertainment" but i'd never go so far as to identify with a particular camp. I knew my days in LA were limited; I had been there to make a dent in my story...not to replicate one of LA's pre-existing narratives.

What I mean to say is that I do not write professionally, just compulsively, and with some unusual results. 

But after the call, I made an attempt to settle down in LA and to produce a script. But, call or no call, it didn't really fit at this juncture. And, as i learned through getting into (and subsequently dropping out of) medical school, simply having permission and ability to do something difficult is not a reason to do it. Of course, leaving was met with just as much resistance, confusion, and veiled outrage as (the mere suggestion of) me writing a screenplay. 

Moral of the story? Write your own damn story.

The more you like your choices, the less it matters who else likes them. So what should you do? Dude. I don't know. Figure it out. There are no rules. And, for the time being, this is a free country, so do whatever you want.  Go be a motherfucker  

I went to Cambridge to surround myself with some of the smartest and most-talented weirdos that I know. And, yes, this will all make a fine story someday. But I’ll have to write about that in another post.


PS - "The first draft of anything is shit. Go fuck yourself." - Papa.