Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Journey Matters More than the Destination

What's it all worth?
We live in a culture where money and winning are everything. Yet so much of that’s a lie, especially when it comes to defining who you are as a person. Of course, me being me, I had to take the long way around to learning that important truth.
Back when I lived in Los Angeles, I wanted to be a creative writer. In fact, that’s why I moved there. In L.A. they jokingly say everyone's working on a screenplay. If true, then I was one of the roughly 10 million or so people out there writing a script. In fact, I ended up completing a bunch of them. Scripts for TV shows, movies, and even manuscripts for novels. I have quite a collection. But here’s the rub: I never sold a single one. And you know what that means. For all those thousands of hours of work, I never got paid. Popular culture translation: Loser.
Not so fast. I did make some money here and there on creative projects. It just wasn’t enough for me to consider myself a success. Of course, I was basing all that on a mistaken belief that in order to anoint myself the 'creative writer' title, it needed to be my primary vocation and I had to make serious bank. Neither was the case. I did however have a decent career as an entertainment journalist but to my mind, that didn’t count.
Still, those lean years were some of the most satisfying of my life. Why? Because I was doing what I loved. Back then, nothing kept me from putting pen to paper. Or rather fingers to keyboard. I’d write anywhere, anytime, for hours – even days on end. On scores of occasions, when I was in the zone, I’d forego eating and sleeping to write. And bathing? Fuhgetabout.
Like most aspiring writers, I suppose I held mental images for success: like having a multi-book contract with a big name publishing conglomerate, smoking a pipe and walking around the house wearing a white linen robe with a silk ascot. The trappings. Yet as I really think about it, I didn't care so much about that stuff. What was important were the words I put on the page. It was my passion. And nothing kept me from it.
Since that time I’ve come to realize some things. Over the years, I developed a serious body of literary work. Writing all those unsold scripts and manuscripts improved my writing skills and helped me understand that the process of working can be just as important as the material rewards you may or may not gain at the end.
Jim Carrey: money isn't everything
On reflection, I was selling myself short and discounting my hard work because I’d bought into society’s definition of success. But that’s hogwash. I now realize I am indeed an author and screenwriter, if I’m just a legend in my own mind. Still, I have a significant body of work to support that belief.
After all these years, I’ve learned a very simple truth. I don’t need a lot of money, a fancy title or fame to define myself as a success. Or to be happy. It’s like superstar comedian Jim Carrey reportedly once said, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed so they can see that's not the answer.” I’d say that’s sound advice.

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