[I’m gonna interrupt this series on Villains for a quick “Bulletin from the Trenches.”]
When I first came out to Hollywood from New York and I was scuffling around desperately for employment, I wound up doing a couple of small writing jobs for the director Ernie Pintoff. Ernie was a seasoned pro (he had actually won an Oscar for a short subject, titled The Critic). My frantic state was very clear to Ernie and, one day after we had finished work, he drew up and gave me a look that told me he was about to impart some serious wisdom.
Ernie said he knew that at my stage of the game, most of the gigs I could attract would be pretty low-ball, non-remunerative, and even in some cases a little dubious ethically. But, he said,
What Ernie meant was don’t turn your nose up at paying (and even non-paying) assignments. “Yeah, a lot of ’em are gonna be pretty lousy and you’re gonna be saying to yourself, ‘This is really for the birds.’ But keep working. You never know who you’ll meet on a job, what contacts you’ll make, what opportunities may present themselves. Stay in the action. Keep perfecting your craft. You’re acquiring experience. You’re learning all the time, even if you don’t think you are.”
I’m taking Ernie’s advice right now, and it’s saving my life.
My “Trenches” book is done. Shawn loves it. I love it. It’s out there now, looking for a publisher.
Now the waiting begins.
Now Resistance appears, big-time.
Now the temptation arises to hold your breath and attach yourself emotionally to an outcome.
That attitude is bad news.
If you’re reading this, I know you know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been in this place, some of us multiple-multiple times. It never gets any easier. The mind never gets any stronger.
Dark thoughts obtrude.
I repeat to myself all the psych-up mantras I know so well. But they still ricochet around in my head, seeking purchase and often not finding any.
I’ve started the next book. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m doing it every day. I have to.
The Muse tests you and me 24/7. She flies over and peers down on us. What she wants to see is that we are dedicated to the journey, to the process, that we are in it for the long haul and in it for keeps.
What she doesn’t want to see is that we are attached to the real-world outcome of one specific project.
The goddess hates that because it shows that we have misapprehended the nature of her alliance with us and of our apprenticeship in her service.
The pro athlete who gets cut from his team, the ballerina who is let go by her dance company … both must go home and IMMEDIATELY begin training for their next job. The sent-down wide receiver must head over to the local college and recruit one of the young quarterbacks to work with him, alone and at night if necessary, throwing passes on the practice field, letting him run routes, helping him keep his technique sharp. The ballet dancer must sign up for class at once, continue her strength training, keep up her barre work.
For you and me, finishing Book #1 (or #21) means only plunging in immediately on #2 or #22.
We have to.
That’s the law.