Today’s piece is written by Marshal Gordon, Freelance screenwriter, creator of nothing you’ve seen yet.
I remember the first time I sat down and actually wrote something. I was all of 9 years old and decided I would write a short story. A meaningful short story about life and love lost full of angst and pathos. Ok, at 9 what the hell did I know about life and love lost and angst and pathos. At that age I probably couldn’t pronounce angst or pathos. But I was determined.
In the years that followed I wrote more, plays, short stories and poetry anything that came to mind, but I never told anyone. I kept everything spirited away. In my world young Black boys didn’t do stuff like that. We played basketball, football, tough guy stuff. But I knew somewhere in me that there was a writer. I’d go to the movies and marvel at the worlds that were created and imagine myself writing and acting in them myself.
I never told anyone not even my family until….high school! I took my first drama class and did my first play. Now I have to admit that I had ulterior motives. Naturally a girl. I had my first taste of being on stage and getting laughs but more importantly I got to kiss the girl. Now I have to give an important plot piece her because this was the first time I actually wrote something that was actually performed. There was no kissing scene for my character in this play, but I really wanted to kiss this girl, did I mention she was really, really pretty? So inspired, I convinced the drama teacher to let me put in a scene that would get laughs and at the same time advance the play. The teacher bought it and the scene worked great, we got huge laughs! And the girl was so impressed that the kiss got better and better over the three performances. That experience convinced me that there might be something connected to the whole writing guy gets the girl thing.
So my secret was out and decided to go all out. I started a politically themed poetry and dance group that and that’s where I found out what words could really do. I found people listening to the words I wrote and being moved by them. And again…it got the girls only this time older college aged girls. Suddenly the pen was mightier than the basketball. College was series of drugs, acting, more poetry except I had advanced from political to the kind of things that made women sigh and wish their boyfriends would be as sensitive. Nothing like being the guy that stole the girl with a well turned sonnet.
Cutting to Act 2 …the reality of life for a young Black male considering writing as a career was not a prudent career choice. So I found myself in the corporate world slaving away for “THE MAN”, for myself, married, divorced, married, separated, together, divorced again, clinically depressed, cancer ridden and to top it off homeless. All the while I continued to write convinced that it was somehow in me to do so. The problem was how you get the girl when you’re homeless.
I knew I had to get out of my situation. And that’s when I BECAME A WRITER! Well, actually first I became a fake perfume salesman. “Big Bottle last long time.” It also put enough money in my pocket to earn a enough to hire people to help me sale and get me into an office suite, that I lived in. My trick was a poem for every bottle purchased. I would show women my writing and they would believe that they were being bohemian.
All this lead me to finally making the leap of faith onto an Amtrak ride to Los Angeles where I could do the sofa circuit and tell people that I had gone to live out my dream to finally be a WRITER! Well, actually first I became a business consultant, telemarketer, tour manager for a B level R&B singer, but I kept writing and when people asked me what I did during my daily basketball games…my reply was always…writer/ consultant/ telemarketer/ tour manager. Isn’t everyone in Los Angeles a hyphenate? But at least the Writer part feels real and true now.
The reason that no matter what I have done in life that writing has always been a constant is that there is power in words for everyone. Be it making us laugh, reflect, angry or just making us think. And for me there is nothing more exhilarating or rewarding as seeing someone’s eyes light up as they read my words or I imagine them being played out. Ok well, maybe getting the girl is still the most exhilarating thing, but then this is an article about “Why We Write”. Oh wait, that is why I write. But I have to wonder if this strike goes much longer will the women still be impressed as if I utter the words …. “I’m a writer”… right after I say… “Welcome to Wal-Mart”?
WHY WE WRITE is a series of essays by prominent – and not so prominent – TV and Film writers. Conceived by Charlie Craig and Thania St. John, the campaign hopes to inspire and inform all writers during the strike, and perhaps beyond. If you’d like to comment, or tell us why you write, visit the Why We Write WordPress site or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.