“All the trappings of a union protest were there… …But instead of hard hats and work boots, those at the barricades wore arty glasses and fancy scarves.”
Oh my God. Arty glasses and fancy scarves. That is so cute! My head is aflame with images of writers in ruffled collars, silk pantaloons and ribbons upon their buckled shoes. A towering powdered wig upon David Fury’s head, and Drew Goddard in his yellow stockings (cross-gartered, needless to say). Such popinjays, we! The entire writers’ guild as Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Delicious.
Except this is exactly the problem. The easiest tactic is for people to paint writers as namby pamby arty scarfy posers, because it’s what most people think even when we’re not striking. Writing is largely not considered work. Art in general is not considered work. Work is a thing you physically labor at, or at the very least, hate. Art is fun. (And Hollywood writers are overpaid, scarf-wearing dainties.) It’s an easy argument to make. And a hard one to dispute.
My son is almost five. He is just beginning to understand what I do as a concept. If I drove a construction crane he’d have understood it at birth. And he’d probably think I was King of all the Lands in my fine yellow crane. But writing – especially writing a movie or show, where people other than the writer are all saying things that they’re clearly (to an unschooled mind) making up right then – is something to get your head around.
And as work? Well, in the first place, it IS fun. When it’s going well, it’s the most fun I can imagine having. (Tim Minear might dispute that.) And when it’s not going well, it’s often not going well in the company of a bunch of funny, thoughtful people. So how is that work?
It’s always hard. Not just dealing with obtuse, intrusive studio execs, temperamental stars and family-prohibiting hours. Those are producer issues as much as anything else. Not just trying to get your first script sold, or seen, or finished, when nobody around believes you can/will/should… the ACT of writing is hard. When Buffy was flowing at its flowingest, David Greenwalt used to turn to me at some point during every torturous story-breaking session and say “Why is it still hard? When do we just get to be good at it?”
I tried to make this point Tuesday when I was talking to the college kids about tough stories, emotionally, and online reprisals and some of the weird and hard parts about my job, but like I was gonna make any point about anything better than Fuckin’ Joss.
People used to get pissy that I loved my job so much, that I was so into it, that I loved my co-workers like my family, that I spent all this time there and talked about it all the goddamn time and it made meso freaking happy. “Wow, isn’t THAT nice,” was the expression, with its bitchface sneer accompanying, implying I couldn’t possibly be for real, that I had to be getting away with something.
And in a way, man, I am. I keep trying to write about the process of getting my book published, what a relentless fucking humiliating exercise it was (until it wasn’t), and I always stop about three paragraphs down thinking, “Bitch, get over yourself, you weren’t walking point in Fallujah, quit whining.” For the most part, I do have a pretty easy gig. I sit at a desk and I type. Talk on the phone. Go to the library. Sometimes I have to convince somebody that doesn’t want to talk to me to do so, which means I … say different words, a lot. Sometimes I run out of coffee. Sometimes two of the fingers on my left hand start twinging. Quite the piteous figure, am I.
But writing is carpentry, it is a skill you acquire. You can’t teach somebody to want the story but wanting it isn’t enough, you do actually have to learn stuff, and there are times when your own inadequacy is pretty staggering, like whenever I re-watch BSG’s “Malestrom” or Babylon 5’s “Comes the Inquisitor” or read Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and just think, “Holy living fuck, I should just go work in a tollbooth, this is stupid, I’m 32 years old and what’s the point if I can’t dothat by now?” And I know what I can and can’t do … I can’t do that. I’m not there yet. I have to read more and write more and meet more of the people who will blow my mind and change my life before I’ll be able to do anything that even approaches that, if ever. I do have work ahead of me.
And it is work. I’m not saying it’s the hardest job ever in the whole world (that would be teaching sixth-graders and the aforementioned Fallujah sitch, probably, though digging ditches doesn’t look easy, either) but it is work and people who do work should be compensated fairly for it.
In other words, fuck, just go read Joss already.