Get it? Passion of the Christ? Passion of the Career? Fuck. I know. I’m leaving.
I realized something over my last stint of unemployment. You know, when I made a push to become more than an unknown, amateur screenwriter screaming into the void. I realized that for any career, at least any that doesn’t require back surgery at middle age or the classic phrase, “Would you like fries with that?” (probably more accurately updated as, “For 25 cents more would you like to make that a large?”), that those who are the best at their jobs, who go further in their careers than others, don’t look at what they do as a 40-hour week. For them, it’s a way of life.
I realized this as I was screenwriting because that’s exactly what it became for me.
I didn’t stop at the writing. I didn’t stop at the brainstorming. I didn’t stop at the outlining. I didn’t stop at the research. I didn’t stop at the forums. I didn’t stop at the blogs.
Screenwriting, for better or worse, seeped into every area of my life. And I didn’t mind one bit. I thought of other professions; did proposal writers seek read about proposal writing in their downtime? I know books and forums and magazines exist, so I would imagine so. I can confirm that my architect brother-in-law reads about architecture and watches documentaries about architecture and talks about architecture outside of work. Doctors do the same. As a matter of fact, it would surprise me if there wasn’t a profession out there that someone was able to be successful at their job while keeping it separated from their lives outside of work.
What this realization really means, though, is that if I fail as a screenwriter I need to be passionate about something else. Something that I care about and don’t mind dedicating my life to, 40 hours or more per week. Is that proposal writing/business development/government contracting for me?
I’m not sure, yet. I’ve been with three companies now and I can’t say I’ve ever loved what I do. However, the first two companies I worked for I didn’t like not because of the work but because I thought management was awful (if you want to argue that my attitude is a bigger problem, I’ll gladly listen to what you have to say – I have an anti-establishment streak in me but, more importantly, don’t respect people that I feel are incompetent. Do with that what you will). This new company I actually like quite a bit. They treat me well and I want to work hard for them.
But that’s still not the work.
I’ve found myself thinking more deeply about what it is I do. Thinking about ways to innovate. That may be because I’m bored with the box they put me in, or it may be because I’m becoming legitimately interested in improving. I may be interested in improving because I’m scared if I don’t I’ll never make money and feel secure because I’ll never keep a job. It’s all a bit unclear.
Regardless, knowing that to make a career there needs to be a willingness to let it seep into the cracks of your life has added perspective to my search to find something fulfilling. If I do eventually figure out that I’m more interested in proposal writing because, on a deep level, I want to be great at it like I want to be great at screenwriting then I’ll know that I’m safe.
I think that’s an important moment for anyone. We can’t all be writers/dancers/actors/athletes – all of these “fun” professions that are difficult to gain and even more difficult to maintain. The world needs proposal writers and architects and sewer maintenance people otherwise everything would go to shit (literally in that last case – ha! Ok, ok, I’m leaving…). But those people need to be passionate about what they do, otherwise their responsibilities will be shirked and they’ll find themselves in the strange limbo of joblessness I’ve lived in for the past few years.
Some of the idealists and romantics out there might cry out, “But how can you truly love more than one thing? How can you truly succeed if you’re splitting your passion between careers?” I think it’s possible. In my case, proposal writing and screenwriting are somewhat related. Not closely, but enough that I can use them to feed one another (and, on the flip side, my energies can be drained doing one and not the other). I also think that closing yourself off to opportunity by being so focused on one narrow band of opportunity is short-sighted. What if I were to have a producer call me right now, tell me there is $500,000 with my name on it for The Inhabitors, and then I hated the entire process? Would I go back to machining? Unlikely. Burger King? Never again. Proposal writing is a somewhat safe bet to ensure security for myself and, maybe someday, my family.
Because at the end of my life, when I’m able to contextualize my silly life, as important as it is to me that I tried as hard as I could to realize my literary dreams it’s more important that I don’t overlook the ones I love in doing so. I’ve spent quite a few days and nights already not being with the people I love because in my ambition I’m locked in my room striving for something bigger. That’s all well and good, but it’s no way to live my entire life. I want a family. I might even know who I want that family with. The opportunity to become a writer will be there until I take my last breath. Starting a family and actually being able to provide for them will pass me by.
This was a long post of rambling and trying to rationalize my priorities. I’m sorry for that. It’s just food for thought and a reminder to myself that ambition and dreams aren’t the be-all, end-all in one’s life. There are other things that are more important.