The Producing team and I sit in a crowded café discussing the character arcs of an upcoming TV show that the FADE IN: writing team and I are working on. The conversation drifts between the plot of the pilot episode and the current state of Regional TV stations.

I am talking about the importance of character desires to drive strong dialogue when a young man interrupts me.

He stands in front of us, kind of shuffling in place, and tells us that he’s about to enter his first year of university and he has chosen the arts. He has a simple question for us:

Do you have any advice for me?

We fall silent. Literally, we were taken aback.

I felt like he was asking:

What does it mean to be a writer?

And I’ve asked this question time and time again.
Here are some of the answers I usually get:

– A writer is someone who has published a book.
– But what if, they published one book their entire lives? Aren’t they just someone who has written something, rather than a writer?
– Yes, but what if that book is really good?
– Who decides if it’s good?
– The public.
– Fifty Shades of Grey.
– …

Here’s another one:

– A writer is someone who writes.
– Seems simple enough. So it’s just pen to paper?
– Correct.
– So, are all literate people considered writers?
– …

You can replace the word “writer” with any art form really, because we all share the same questions of identity, the same insecurities that lead us to ask that question in the first place.

I’m not sure I have an answer yet, but I know it’s not just pen to paper. I also know, it’s not just about being published or getting your screenplay produced.

I turn to the young man at the café. I want to tell him that he is brave and even though I don’t know him, I’m proud of him for deciding to go into the Arts. I want to tell him that it hurts but it’s worth it, I promise, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Instead, all I said was:

Are you willing to dedicate at least 10 years of your life to the craft you have chosen?

Without any hesitation, he answers, yes.

I don’t have a solid answer, a concrete definition of what it means to be a “Writer”, but I do know one thing, maybe this kid is already more of a writer than most.

I hope he makes it.



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