Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Next Big Thing

This weekend I watched “The TV Set” starring one of my favorite guys, David Duchovney. A writer struggles to shepherd his semi-autobiographical sitcom into development, his vision--of a guy who's brought back to his home town by his brother's suicide and rediscovers his joy in life--is slowly eroded by a domineering network executive who favors trashy reality programming like Slut Wars.

As Homer Simpson would say… “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.”

How many times have I heard that writers need to stay true to their own voice, yet in the same breath the advice tumbles out that This Genre Is Hot now? What’s the dividing line between writing what makes your heart sing and lip-synching your next novel?

I remember attending an acting class way back when (you DON’T want to know) and witnessing two actors discussing the Elusive Opportunity. One guy, in his twenties, a handsome hunk with gorgeous, thick blond hair confided that he’d been offered a spot in something that paid a few thousand bucks (for starving actors struggling by on tips and minimum wage this is the mother lode), except They Wanted Him To Cut His Hair. He snorted and said, “Forget that.”

A classmate, a woman in her thirties stared at him in shock. With one swift motion, she flipped her head, grabbed the hair dangling down in one fist and said, “Shave it off.”

That pretty much summed it up.

You see, for some people, the roles just fall in their laps. And often enough, those folks are the same crappy actors who land moronic sitcoms that survive endlessly like cockroaches in a nuclear winter. The “Cool Kids” who fit into the clique and are scooped up by the equally cool agents. The outsiders press their noses to the glass wondering if they’ll ever make it inside.

I believe there is some balance required. You can’t just pound out crappy books over and over, ignoring feedback and refusing to compromise your vision by incorporating some common sense and expect to get published (though I have to say, reading Bestsellers where the POV changes six times in one paragraph puts that theory to the test).

Still… if your greatest love is researching and writing historicals and what’s really popular NOW is time-travel vampires who discover ancient tomes filled with Cheerios, don’t toss aside your passion to chase the market.

I know that compromise is inevitable, but if you don’t love what you write, what’s the point? On the other hand, I hear that self-loathing writers are very much the Next Big Thing…

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