As a development executive & producer, I am often asked by writers: What kind of projects are you looking for? A valid query.
Usually my reply is a phrase I borrowed from a wise producer I used to intern for: “Good ones.”
He did not mean it condescendingly and neither do I. What then constitutes a “good” piece writing? The answer really hit me yesterday. And while it's not a new revelation per se, I want to elaborate on it.
Ready for it?
Good writing comes from a real place. Good writing comes from the inner depths of the writer. The old adage that a person “writes what they know” is really true...and, trust me, it shows. Good writing comes from a real place inside of whomever is doing the writing.
The mechanisms of the story, including the characters, the world & the plot minutia? None of that matters so much as the authenticity of the voice, the Creator behind them. If there is a false note in the script, we not only read it - I would dare say we feel it as well.
While preparing some documents for the production company on Saturday, I listened to 3 seemingly random podcasts, two from directors (David Yates and Ron Howard respectively) and the last with an actor (Michael Keaton). I then went to a film screening where the writer/director (Tom Ford) was in audience for a post-film Q and A. Only afterwards did I realize what the through-line is between all of these engagements: to the person, all of these A-list talents said over and over that their path to success in this oftentimes crazy business was through being themselves. Being themselves in spite at times what others who are paid huge swathes of money told them to do or not do.
We have an obligation as creators to be true to what we know, to our point of view, and to our unique place & voice in the world. The moment you stray from that to create what you believe at the time the “marketplace” wants...or what you think might get you attention or money, you fail to live up to the only standard that really matters: Yours.
Your true authentic self. That means living life, listening to people, reading. To really paying attention to what is going on around you and being in the moment. Then running all of that information through the filter of your singular and special lens.
The etymology of the process of writing and the word writing itself is related to the term for excavation. How beautiful is that; how perfect. The next time you're working through writer's block (just look at all the metaphoric puns there are in that phrase now!) or staring at a blank page, dig deeply in the vast well that is your life and your self. You can never go wrong.
I leave you today with this: In the forecourt of the infamous Temple of Apollo at Delphi were written the words, “Know Thyself.”
Make this your life mission. Let it inform your work. I look forward to reading you.