Perspective for the New Year

As the last days of the decade slip away, and a new one races toward us, many a screenwriter turns a critical eye inward to question what they have accomplished, what they have failed to accomplish, and what they have masterfully put off doing. Thoughts also turn ahead to the future and what they want the following year to bring. And being screenwriters, most of these ponderings on past and future are of a pretty basic sort - sex and writing.

Was it good enough? Often enough? Will there be more? Better? Earth shattering? Or is this it? And if it is, are there regrets?

As writers, we often make life choices that are considered a little off, strange, and just slightly outside of what most parents dream about for their children. Yes, we may not jump on the 1.6 child 2 car garage steady income job with security white picket fence American dream bandwagon, but strange?! That hurts. (I prefer the term quirky). Suffice to say, many writers make lifestyle choices that support their craft - and some of those choices are not conducive to having a life. Things that most people take for granted like occasional social interaction, remembering to shower, and knowing the taste of another human being as anything more than a distant memory, are sadly out of reach for the serious screenwriter. It's the price we pay. A sacrifice we willingly make. *

So it's natural to stop and question these choices every now and then, particularly when everyone around you happens to be blind-ass drunk and blowing horns in your face while wearing party hats that make them look like morons. So go ahead and take a good hard look at what exactly you've had to give up in order to write.

What would life be like if your mother had raised you right and taught you to say no to the muse, instead of jumping right into bed without even holding out for a cheap dinner? What if you had been strong enough to turn away and go into accounting or brain surgery, if you had tossed the muse half-naked onto the street rather than become her bitch?

Would life have been better? Simpler? More fulfilled?

Here, for your entertainment ridicule enlightenment, the Single Screenwriter lays bare her life and compares it to how the other half lives (the other half being those sane enough to lead that thing called a normal life) in order to help others navigate this soul bearing process and take stock of their own existence.

I'll use my friend The Maven, as a shining example of normal. The Maven is a wonderful woman who, instead of devoting her life to feeding the bottomless maw of the Muse, actually took the time to develop a long-term relationship with another human being. And more importantly, she has managed to maintain this long-term relationship for, well - a very long time! How pathetic bizarre amazing is that?! Her spouse - we'll call him some random name for now... say Mark? It works. (And for the heterosexual male and lesbian readers out there, substitute Mary for Mark in all of what follows.) Anyway, Mark is, for all intents and purposes, the ideal we all strive for - good looking, smart, funny, decent, and good in bed (umm... so I've been told).

So The Maven has a Mark. What do I, the Single Screenwriter have that can possibly compare? The closest thing would be my intimate long-term relationship with my showerhead.

(Go ahead and take a minute to visualize that if you need to, then read on.)

So, did I get the raw end of the deal? Would I trade my writing life and my showerhead for a Mark?

It is a tough call. A Mark takes out the trash. My showerhead would never do that. A Mark brings income into the family home. Mr. Showerhead costs me every month in hydro.

Mark - 2. Mr. Showerhead - 0.

Things aren't looking good.

On the plus side, Mr. Showerhead never expects me to make dinner, or to listen to a never-ending chorus of work woes. And he never gets huffy when I ignore him for days on end while I pump out pages.

Mark - 2. Mr. Showerhead. - 2. Ha!

On top of that, Mark is human, and like any human, he has wants and needs. Unlike Mr. Showerhead, whose only role in life is to please me. And Mark has a whole range of unpredictable emotions. He can be grumpy one minute and happy the next. Mr. Showerhead gets hot and cold too, and even lukewarm for special occasions, but unlike Mark, I am in control of Mr. Showerhead's temperature. And bonus points - Mr. Showerhead helps me clean without ever muttering a complaint. Mr. Showerhead is there when I need him, and never calls to check up on me when I don't. He takes care of all of my needs and doesn't insist on talking or cuddling afterwards.

... but he would never make me breakfast. Hmmm...

Time to check the tally.

Mark - 3. Mr. Showerhead - 7. Yeah!

See, my imaginary boyfriend showerhead totally kicks Mark's ass. Although, when The Maven pukes, Mark does hold her hair away from her face. And he makes her coffee, and looks at her with wonderment and adoration. And he scoops cat litter and takes the dogs for walks.

Okay, I admit it. Mark wins. My substitute boyfriend loses. I suck.

Does that mean that I've short-changed myself by devoting my life to doing what I love? Is it time to re-evaluate the path I've set myself upon? (And more importantly for you dear reader, does this mean that YOU should get out of the writing game before you too become as pathetic as I appear to be?!)


See, devoting myself to my passion (and Mr. Showerhead), has produced many benefits. Who needs a gym when my girlish figure comes with ease after shovelling out 60 feet of snow every winter! (Looking like Schwarzenegger is girlish, right?!) And, hey, I know how to use a snake on a clogged drain. I pump my own gas, I mow my own lawn, I change the filter on the furnace religiously, and I am very skilled at killing bugs. Sure, hanging a picture may take twenty hammer swings to Mark's two, but I get the job done. And well.

Who the hell needs a Mark when you're this incredible! I am screenwriter hear me roar!

Do I regret my choices? Not one bit. That's not to say a Mark wouldn't be nice to have around every now and then when I come up for air between scripts. So I've found a way to get the best of both worlds.

See, The Mark and The Maven are good people. All I have to do is bat my pathetic single screenwriter puppy dog eyes and voila! I've got myself a platonic boy toy husband. The Mark and The Maven practically fall over themselves trying to help me out. (Must be the I'm-having-sex-and you're-soooo-not guilt.) Mark has offered to put up my Christmas lights, fix my brakes, and help me finish the basement. And he even occasionally makes me coffee. And I don't even have to put out! How perfect is that?! The Maven can take care of all his pesky needs, and I get all the good stuff... and still have time to write.

Mr. Showerhead, a platonic husband, and writing. Life is good.

See, it's not what you have; it's what you do with it that gives life meaning.

So go ahead and make your resolutions to write more, better, and earth shattering pages while somehow managing to have regular sex a meaningful relationship, and don't worry how the other-half lives.

The only thing that matters is that you love what you do.

Happy 2010.

*This post fully ignores that very small percentage of successful screenwriters who have actually managed to find someone willing to put up with their idiosyncrasies long enough to establish a relationship, as they are the exception to the rule and make the rest of us look bad. If you are one of these rare breeds, please contact me and tell me how the heck you managed to pull it off.

Funky picture by Bitca