Today’s piece is written by Jaime Paglia, Executive Producer and Co-Creator of “Eureka.”
I’d like to say that I write because it’s been a life-long dream. I’d love to recall with a wistful smile how I still remember the feel of my first Ticonderoga #2 scratching across a yellow legal pad, or the clack of the keys on my grandfather’s classic Underwood.
But I can’t. And I don’t.
The truth is, I never had a clue what I wanted to do with myself, and in many ways, I still don’t. I’ve spent a lifetime tormented by too many options, perpetual self-doubt, and chronic indecision. I think the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to do something memorable. Like playing pro football. But at 150 pounds, THAT wasn’t in the cards, so I went off to college with lofty goals and no direction, and to fulfill a general requirement, took a course in playwriting. Our first assignment was to write a scene about a misunderstanding between two characters. Being a wholesome, small-town kid, I conceived of a meeting between a businessman and a guy he thinks is an auto broker…but turns out to be a pimp. The two men talk about what “type” the businessman is looking for and the double-entendres start flying. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but trite as it sounds, when we had the table-read, people laughed. A lot. Which was, quite simply, intoxicating. More exercises led to writing plays and eventually, screenplays, which got more laughs, until a realization began to slowly dawn on me: if I could actually make a living doing this, I’d never have to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. There was a limitless cast of potential characters I could create and try on. I could be the hero, the villain, the sidekick. The drifter, the lawyer, the spy. The love interest or the love-lost. Winner or loser. Damaged or healed. I could be as confident, charismatic or as witty as I rarely felt in real life. (How many times had I thought of the thing I wished I’d said half an hour after the moment had passed? No more.) I would always have the perfect one-liner, the most romantic proposal, the most devastating comeback. Well, maybe not PERFECT, but a damn sight closer than in real life. Best of all, I could experience all of this from the comfort of my own house. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s just a damn cool job. And fun. Okay, fun as in painful. Often, like getting root canal. Like writing this essay, which given that I’m on strike, is all I’ve written in over two months, and I’m convinced is pure crap. Honestly, I hate every word and will regret having written it the moment I send it out for public viewing. But that is the life I’ve chosen. I’m one of the few, incredibly fortunate, deeply pathological people who actually gets to make stuff up for a living. And once we get a fair deal and everyone goes back to work, maybe I’ll create a character whose brilliant observations and impeccable comedic timing change the world. Then I’ll get to inhabit that guy’s skin for a little while. Which isn’t all bad.
And if I’m lucky – on a good day – people will laugh.
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 email@example.com.