Am I A Failed Writer? It depends on the day.

t’s not often that I feel like a failed writer. I certainly have not succeeded – at least in terms of big success – yet. I have had screenplays optioned twice. One is currently under option now with Runaway Productions. I’ve earned all of $100 total for these options. For several years, I attempted to start a copywriting/ video scriptwriting business. Very few people hired me, but the ones that did seemed happy with my work. In 2008, I got hired for all of one scriptwriting job. However, that video won an award, so I was pretty happy with that. I still do an occasional odd writing job here and there, but I can’t afford to keep driving to networking meetings and sending out mailings to advertise my services. I gave it a good, solid shot for about two years, but I just can’t afford to try it anymore. My business simply failed. It happens. I can accept that.
Overall, I’m pretty much okay with being an unsuccessful screenwriter/novelist. Usually the writing is joyful enough for me, with or without recognition or success. Don’t take that to mean I’m not ambitious or that I don’t care. I get up at 5am every day to write for 1-2 hours before work and I write on as many nights and weekends as I can. And I certainly do care. I don’t really mind when people are prettier, smarter, or richer than me. But I can tell you that it hurts when I hear of someone selling a script or a novel. I’m happy for them – really, truly. But it hurts. It’s a gut reaction, that pain. I can’t control it. But I get past it and move on.
Anyway, this week I’ve felt like a failed writer. I’ve recently returned to work full time since my kids are in school now. I’m working longer hours than I have in years, yet we have less money. This is mainly due to problems at my husband’s work. He is one of the only honest people working at his place of business, and that’s why we’re broke. He gets punished for not lying and cheating the customers. The employees who cheat not only make more money, but are rewarded by management. The corporate office found out – to a degree – what was going on so the local office fired the manager just to make corporate happy. A bit of justice, we thought! At least the dishonest, horrible manager is gone. Yesterday we found out that the manager was re-hired at another local office owned by the same company that fired him. One that is busier. This means that he makes more money. He essentially got promoted for his cheating, lying ways.
What does this have to do with feeling like a failed writer? I really don’t think about writing as a means to make money too often, at least with my screenplays and novels. But if I made money- good money – as a writer, I would get paid to do what I love and my husband could tell those crooks to go to hell. He wouldn’t have to bravely go into battle at work every day and get punished – verbally and financially – for being a good person. In the movies, the bad guy doesn’t win. But this is real life. These bad guys have been winning forever. It’s not going to stop.
So at times like this, when we watch people lie and cheat and steal from their customers as they profit heavily and live in luxury while we cannot afford the day care so I can work full time, I feel like a failed writer. If I was a success, this wouldn’t be happening. Like my husband, I work hard, too. Both at my day job and I pour my heart and my soul into my writing every day. At my day job, I don’t get paid enough. For my writing, I don’t get paid at all. But still I continue to work and to write.
This is just a tough week. Even the little money I’ve made on my scripts, I cannot keep. It took me 15 years of screenwriting to get that $100 for my script option. The only thing I wanted was to go out to fancy dinner with my husband to celebrate this success. But it was not to be – that money went to pay bills instead. I didn’t cheat to get that money. I damn well EARNED it. But I still can’t have it.
The money and awful work situation will stay the same for a long time, but I won’t dwell on it. I cannot change it, so my anger at these cheaters will dissipate, and I’ll get on with life.
I just started a new screenplay this week. And when I write in the morning and get lost in the characters and the story, nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have enough money or that I don’t get paid for my writing. It doesn’t matter that I write a blog that nobody reads.
All that matters is my story, my characters, my world. I’m only on page 10, but the deeper I get into the story, the happier I am. And then it doesn’t matter if the script sells. I’m not a failed writer anymore. I’m just a writer. And I’m not waiting for a paycheck to prove it.