Ripple In Still Water
Sometimes we don’t realize we’re lost until we see the path we should have been taking in the first place.
As I’m sure you’ve never heard, I’m an aspiring television writer who convinced himself he has a sense of humor. But, as I realized last week, it had been almost two years since I wrote something that made people laugh.
I write. A lot. But my ever-curious mind has led me on more than a few boondoggles in college. I’ve written countless drafts of a horror script, a doomed Christmas special, an experiment with a surrealist novel (I know), and multiple plays named after Bob Dylan songs, among other ill-fated projects. I’ve also started lots of sitcom pilots that I didn’t finish, as my entrepreneurial obsession with starting new things constantly derails my creative slate. So without trying, I went two years without writing something that was a.) comedic b.) completed c.) actually good and d.) shown to an audience. And looking back, I think a lot of my recent career anxiety can be traced to that fact.
That streak came to an end last Thursday in my playwriting class, as I staged a reading of a play I’ve been writing on the side since December. I had written four drafts of it, and had reached the point where none of the jokes seemed funny, as I’ve read them 5,000 times. I brought the play in as something of a Hail Mary, because I hadn’t had time to write another play for the class and needed something to turn in.
Then it killed.
It turns out that all of my rewrites had paid off, and I was able to fall in love with my jokes again as I saw people experience them for the first time. The feeling, that something that came entirely out of my own head was making people laugh, was long overdue. It reminded me that I’m in the right industry, and that lights sometimes exist at the end of a tunnel.
In the grand scheme of things, this story couldn’t be more meaningless. I made some people laugh at a tiny staged reading in an academic setting. So what? But in context, it was everything. I’ve been on a bit of a losing streak, in every aspect of my life, and I’ve been starting to question everything. Whether I should abandon screenwriting in favor of other passions. Whether I should shift focus from comedy to drama, which can be less subjective. Whether long hours of rewriting scripts alone was worth it. This little reading reminded me that I’m doing what I love the most, and that the insane time commitment that writing requires sometimes comes with an insane payoff.
I’ve been looking for a win in my life, but I would never have guessed it would come when it did. But now I’ve flung myself back into the writing process with zeal, loving every minute of editing and collaborating with friends, making my funniest script even funnier. It gave me a new lease on my spring semester, and helped clear away some of the fog on the road to my writing career. It created a ripple effect that has refocused and reenergized me, and I don’t see the ripples stopping anytime soon. I hope everyone who needs such a win can find one soon, but I wouldn’t worry if they don’t appear. You can never tell when one is right around the corner.