Why We Write

April 20, 2008

Why We Write – Number 53: Curtis Kheel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Charlie Craig @ 11:34 am
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Number 53

Today’s piece is written by Curtis Kheel, Writer/Producer on “EUREKA,” and former Writer/Producer on “CHARMED.”


I’m not like other writers.  I don’t “gotta write.”   Yeah, you know who you are.  You’re the ones who have a writing day job, but also always have a screenplay, pilot, play, novel, short story, journal, or epic grocery list going on the side that you just can’t stop writing on your own.   I know all about you.  You’re everywhere.

I call you the “gotta writers.”  Because you “gotta write” all the time, even when you have free time that I would be using for anything but writing.

To me, writing is hard work.  Painful sometimes.  It’s a job like any other job, and unless I’m getting paid for it, I don’t want to do it,.  I really don’t get why people would do it for free on their own.  You don’t see accountants running home on the weekends and gleefully locking themselves away to crunch numbers just because they’ve “gotta account,” do you?

The truth is — and I know this won’t be inspirational even if it is truthful — I have no wonderful stories that I absolutely must share.  No moral messages I’m desperate to impart.  No colorful characters that simply MUST be given a voice.   Sure, I can come up with wonderful stories, moral messages, and colorful characters… but that’s work!  (And please don’t get me started on ‘spec scripts’, which in my world are an unfortunate but apparently necessary means-to-an-end).

I am writer for hire, pure and simple.  A “gotta pay-me” writer, if you will.  The applause and laughter in response to my work is a nice reward, but the paycheck is even nicer.

Still, I know I’m also in the minority in this respect, even though I am certain there are others out there like me.  Writers who remain silent when the “gotta writers” rattle on about their passion projects, making us feel like we should apologize for not having one ourselves.  Writers who inwardly roll their eyes when the “gotta writers” prescribe creative writing as some sort of magical cure for all of life’s ills. Writers who simply choose to write because it’s a decent-enough way to make money, not out of some deep, soulful commitment to the craft.

Sound familiar?  It’s okay.  You’re not alone.  I’m one of you.

If there was a world in which I could make the same living yet not write, I’d do that in a heartbeat.   Maybe the “gotta writers” can’t possibly fathom such a notion, but believe me, I can and I have.  Maybe it’s because I don’t “gotta write” that I often wonder about other paths.  In fact, every time I end up out of a work for a few months, usually around the time I start to worry that I’ll never work again, the same questions run through my head:  Isn’t there SOMETHING else I can do for a living? Something easier maybe?

Could I be a doctor?  No.  I feel sick at the sight of blood.

Lawyer?   No.  I feel sick at the sight of enormous law books that I’d have to read.

Indian Chief?  I suspect that I don’t meet the eligibility requirements.

Policeman?  I might get shot.

Soldier?  I might get shot

Teacher?  I might get shot.

Postman?  Either I might get shot or I might actually do the shooting myself.

Pilot?  I might crash.

Fireman?  I might burn.

Psychiatrist?  I hate listening to people whine about their problems.

Bartender?  Also involves listening to whining.  No.

Salesman?  Only if the product sells itself.  Literally. Cause that seems hard.

Handyman?  I can barely change a light bulb.

Mechanic?  I can barely change a tire.  Aw, hell, I can’t even do that.

Do-Gooder?  Yeah, right. 

Wizard?  Requires seven years’ study at Hogwarts, and I’d never get in.

Career after career, I can always find reasons why the other options are more objectionable than being a writer.  But maybe that’s the beauty of being a writer. I can try all of those professions, be all of those people, just by sitting at my computer and engaging in the fine art of storytelling.  Maybe that’s what the “gotta writers” have been trying to tell me all along.  Hmm, maybe that’s why I write…?

Nah.  It’s about the money.



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 whywewrite@gmail.com.

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