The Hope Machine and Me

Last week a screenwriter named John Gary went on a rant about what he calls “the Hope Machine.” Both Amanda Pendolino (The Aspiring TV Writer) and Bitter Script Reader have given their thoughts on the subject, and I’d like to do the same. Because, you know, I’m a follower like that. And because it’s relevant to what I’m going through right now.

Reading through John Gary’s story and the following pieces, as well as the fact that recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey toward a career as a screenwriter, I began to think about my reasons for wanting to do this. I’ve made reference to it in the past and spoken about it with fellow bloggers like Daveler, but I think it’s time to explicitly state my reasons. Why I let the Hope Machine to continually lead me on.

“Superficial” Reasons:

I put superficial in quotation marks because I feel like calling something superficial cheapens it, when really these reasons for pursuing something are no less valid than any other. Most people make their decisions based on some superficial want – usually money. Speaking of which….

1.) Money. Working in the entertainment business, specifically film and television is good money while it lasts. I think that is the main draw for most people. I’m not particularly money motivated, but I’d be a god damned liar if I said I never fantasized about all of the things I could do with a million dollar spec sale (not that it would happen – after all the whole point of the Hope Machine is to make you believe it can when it actually can’t).

2.) Fame. I want to be recognized for my work. I want people to come up to me and say, “Didn’t you write The Inhabitors? Dude, that was awesome!” Not only is it a good feeling, but on an intellectual level I want to be able to discuss my ideas with people. There is also another, related reason, for this that isn’t as “superficial.”

3.) Revenge. This one is something I rarely admit to myself, partially because it’s not a huge driving force. Regardless, it’s there. I feel it. It motivates me. So it goes on the list. I want to be able to tell those who said I couldn’t, or those who questioned my abilities or placed theirs above my own, that they were wrong. It’s petty. I know. I probably wouldn’t ever even explicitly call anyone out on it. But knowing that I’ve succeeded where they haven’t, or when they thought I couldn’t, would be a good feeling.

“Legitimate” Reasons:

1.) The Sickness. This one’s easy. I have The Sickness. Capital “T” and capital “S.” I need to write. I need to tell stories. There are a lot of reasons for this embedded within, some of which include (but aren’t limited to) writing being a way for me to make sense of the world, writing allowing me to exorcise demons, and writing giving me a voice where I’d otherwise not have one. I can’t not write and tell stories.

2.) Influence. This is related to number two in the “superficial” section. With fame comes influence. They aren’t necessarily related, but usually are. I could, honestly, go without the fame. Seems like more trouble than it’s worth. But I’d love for some kid to come up to me, like I imagine thousands of children have come up to someone like Ray Bradbury, and say, “You science fiction book inspired me to become an astronaut,” or, “I want to be a writer, like you,” or, most importantly, “Your story gave me hope.” I mean, what better feeling is there than that?

I wouldn’t mind using fame and influence to make a larger difference, as well. Bill Gates is probably the posterchild for using his to enact positive change throughout the world. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach those heights, but to be able to lend what I’ve earned to others to help them would be the ultimate fulfillment, I think.

3.) Pride. This is sort of the opposite of number three above. I want to be proud of myself, say I did something difficult, but I also want to make my friends and family proud. Maybe this more than anything else I’ve listed. I like the idea of someone seeing a movie, or picking up a book, and saying, “I really enjoyed that,” to my sister or girlfriend. They don’t have to say that they know the guy who did it, I would hope they don’t lest we slip into bragging, but for them to know that I accomplished something so big with their help, often driven by their support, would make the hard times worth it.

Perhaps that’s the most important reason of all. I’ve put in a lot of time, effort, and work so far and I have a lot more to go. But because of that I’ve also relied on the patience, charity, and support of people that don’t owe me anything. To succeed, even though it would be seen as a personal success, would mean that everyone’s sacrifices were worth it. And believe me, there have been no shortage of sacrifices on the behalf of the people in my lives.

I think succeeding would be the only way to properly say, “Thank you.”


  1. Daveler

    I would like to add more accessible opportunities. My biggest wish is to not constantly be fighting to do what I want creatively. It takes so much effort to even get an offer to possibly write a book or a play produced that someone will actually see. It's the hope that it get easier (even though it rarely does) to get people to support or have faith in your projects that makes me want success. (As well as everything you said.)

  2. Craig

    I agree with that and wish it would have occurred to me as I wrote this post. I want to make a career writing – not be one and done. Hopefully my first published work or sold screenplay will only lead to more and better opportunities without the work it's taken to get a sniff at the first one.

  3. Daveler

    Allegedly, you also forget about how hard it was after it IS finally published, which is the only reason why you have the morale to keep going. I hope that's true.

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