Today’s piece is written by Becky Hartman Edwards, Co-Executive producer of “October Road.”
Having read a number of these essays, I’m amazed that while everybody’s story is unique some themes seem to run throughout… People write because of a childhood spent watching television and/or films, a hatred of the writing process but a love of having written, enjoying the company of other writers, a two-day, three-night, ill-fated affair with a married ad exec during a company retreat in 1986. Well, maybe that last one’s just me…
I was interning in New York at what was then Telepictures and in the process of becoming Lorimar-Telepictures before it was swallowed up by Warner Bros., which was in the process of becoming part of the Time-Life “family” which later merged with/was taken over by AOL. To “celebrate” the Lorimar-Telepictures merger a company retreat was planned in La Costa (a resort outside of San Diego); the word synergy was bandied about and the heads of various departments and subsidiaries were all invited. My job was to help put together a facebook of the attendees, basically, a whose resume is bigger kind of thing. And then I was flown out to La Costa to help make sure everybody’s massages were properly scheduled and the conference rooms were stocked with snacks. I’m pretty sure Les Moonves was there, but as he had no complaints about either his snacks or spa treatments I can’t be sure. Barbara Brogliatti, who was the initial AMPTP spokesperson, was definitely there because she had lots of notes on my Marv Adelson facebook blurb. Anyway, despite the blurb fiasco, the job left me just enough time to get into trouble with the above mentioned married ad exec.
When the conference was over and I returned to New York, I rediscovered my conscience and he discovered the intern who sat at the desk next to mine. And then I went into a tailspin. I became a cliché. I cried for days, ate bad Chinese food, and listened to so much Suzanne Vega that my cassette literally broke and then it hit me… There was no way this affair deserved this amount of mourning. There was something missing from my life– something besides the sleazy ad exec, something besides a decent moral code. Writing. For the first time in my life, with the exception of the facebook blurbs, I wasn’t writing …
In elementary school, I wrote. And it was always clear why. I wrote satirical, political short stories culminating in the “The Elves Go On Strike” because my leftist sixth grade teacher gave us extra credit for them. In high school I wrote borderline factual news stories for the school paper (I was often my own unnamed source) and a humor column called “Straight From the Hart.” In college I covered sports and had a column called “HartBeat.” (For better or worse, Hartman lends itself to a lot of bad column title puns.) My roommate and I wrote and directed a makeshift soap opera parody featuring cameos by Jeff Zucker as a rock ‘n roll janitor (Okay, now I’m done name-dropping members of the AMPTP.) It’s not hard to see why I never thought I could actually make a living doing this. So after graduation, I took an internship with Telepictures in their finance and public relations departments. In addition to helping put together the La Costa retreat, I worked on spreadsheets, scheduled meetings, organized the company Christmas party and even got to go on a cruise as a liason to the stars of “It’s A Living.” (The fact that nobody knows who the stars of “It’s A Living” are is exactly why they needed a liason.) I was doing all kinds of things, some of them even pretty cool, but what I wasn’t doing was writing.
So I left Lorimar-Telepictures to pursue whatever writing I could find… The “Coming Nexts” over the credits at A&E. – “Next after Thackeray’s ‘Vanity Fair,’ Rommel marches through Africa in the ‘Desert Fox.” Entertainment News segments for VH1—“Cher fans were exclaiming ‘I got you babe,” today as they snapped up bottles of her new perfume,” an episode of “ThunderCats”—“Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats… HO!” It may not sound like much, but I couldn’t believe I was actually getting paid to write. And it kept me from consuming four tubs of hot and sour soup a day and from drunk dialing the ad exec. Okay, maybe once. But that was after a birthday party when at least seven or eight tequila shots were downed.
Anyway, my random writing gigs became a career thanks to Danny Ableson, a freelance writer who took me under his wing, Mark O’Donnell, an incredibly gifted writer and teacher who taught a class on monologues, dialogues, and sketches, and Keenan Ivory Wayans, who enjoyed reading sketches centered around dick jokes as much as I enjoyed writing them. Over the past 17 years, I’ve somehow been lucky enough to keep writing, moving from sketches to sitcoms to dramas. Clearly, I’ve gotten a lot less funny and a lot more verbose.
So I write because I never want to have to listen to “Marlene on the Wall” again. Well, actually, I still kind of like that song… I write because when I don’t, I do things that really depress me like sleeping with married ad execs or walking around in a circle, holding a sign, chanting outside of ABC .
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. 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.