.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

My Photo
Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Even Fun Guys Get Depressed Sometimes

It just lasts for a much shorter period of time, for us.

This morning, triggered by nothing major (or nothing I feel like talking about) I was feeling kind of depressed (don't worry Mom and Dad, if you read this -- nothing major). In general terms (though not the triggering device here), I've found that the thing in life that gives me the most agita is money. Or more specifically, the lack thereof. Which sucks to a particularly intense degree, since I think money is largely evil. But more on that some other time.

Thus, this morning, I considered chucking it all. The writing, I mean. I'm sick and tired of being poor, and though I believe in my writing abilities, I also know that I can work my ass off, and still not see anything for it down the road, in terms of my screenwriting. And I ain't getting any younger. I'd like to have a future, and my life isn't that much different than it was 10 or more years ago.

I thought about just stopping writing, and getting myself a regular job career. It would certainly make many aspects of my life a hell of a lot easier. Would I be as happy (in general)? Who knows. Of course, I also have no idea what kind of "career" I'm qualified for at this point. But that's a separate issue.

You often hear people saying that if you can do any other job, you should. I'm not someone who writes because of a burning desire to do so. I don't have big statements to make, or major works of art I feel the need to impart to the world. As I believe I've said before (and if not, I'm saying it now), I don't think of myself as an artist; I consider myself a craftsman. I write because I have a facility for it. I write because I always have.

Now, I'll say that my "depression" was over in about an hour, more or less. I was feeling happy again, perhaps despite myself. But at the same time, though my emotions had reverted to their typical form, my intellect held onto stuff a bit. I'm not giving up writing right now, and do honestly believe I can write well enough to become a professional screenwriter. But I must admit to having my doubts about whether that will matter. I'm good, but not great. And you kind of need to be great to make it in Hollywood, don't you? Who the hell knows? Not me.

Regardless, I'll keep on writing for now, hopefully constantly improving with each successive script, or pass at a prior script. I also know that my doubts are not unique to me, and that we all have such doubts from time to time. But I still need to find some way to continue while simultaneously improving my financial situation. I'd look at full-time work (instead of freelancing), but I honestly don't know a job that I could do well and would also not hate going into work each morning. I occasionally come across a job posting that appeals to me, and I apply, but not the type of thing that I can truly hit the job hunt heavily and wholeheartedly. I'd love something that utilizes my screenplay expertise, but most development type jobs aren't right for me, for one reason or another (again not something worth going into in detail at the moment).

There's always temp work and the like, and/or part time stuff. I'm open to that too. I always wanted to tend bar, but LA isn't the bar-culture town that NYC was, so not sure if it is worth it here. But at least for the immediate term, I think what I need is some kind of regular job, that has regular hours (no overtime, so I can keep writing), pays decently (though I don't need a lot), and is more a job and less a career path. Until I can find the career-type job that appeals to me and for which I'm actually qualified.

Whatever. No worries -- I'm feeling happy again, and I'll figure it all out. I always do (more or less). But I am, of course, open to suggestions!

Tags: ,


Anonymous David Anaxagoras said...

Thanks for sharing such a candid post with us, FJ. It's reassuring to know that I -- and I'm sure most writers out there -- am not alone in these kinds of struggles.

I have to say, as one who went back to his old career to earn a decent paycheck and benefits -- it feels pretty good for the moment. I'm paying down credit cards and building up savings. I have more than one pair of shoes now, too. I've temporarily traded off prime writing time and some creative energy so I can take care of myself financially, but I can still write (though the transition was tough, I'm getting back on that horse, now). I am looking forward to the day when I can quit my job, but until then, I've made peace with my paycheck.

Speaking of which, if you think money is evil, you probably will never have any no matter what job you get. I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts on this. I'm sure you have your reasons. I mean, I'm not a fan of consumerism, and I've seen how mismanaging money, especially in relationships, has caused some serious pain. But money itself is just money. I don't love money, but I respect it -- after all, I work hard for it -- and I try to be responsible with it.

If you are asking your writing to save you from poverty you are probably asking the wrong things of it. And I think you dismiss your art too easily, just because you don't think you are writing anything profound. Perhaps you are protecting yourself from disappointments ssomehow by thinking of yourself as a "craftsman", and "good but not great". Cowboy vampires can be meaningful to us if it's meaningful to you. And if it's not meaningful to you, why the hell are you writing about them?

Anyway, don't mean to preach at ya. Believe me, I've had these same doubts and troubles myself. As for the job hunt, try nearby universities and colleges. They tend to overpay for dull jobs that won't suck the life out of you, and they have really excellent benefits if you can get full time work.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

I totally wrote an eloquent response to this post and it promptly disappeared. I only hope that this reflection isn't a delayed reaction to karaoke--I mean, I knew karaoke had side effects like tingling in extremities, but mild and momentary depression? Hmm.

All I can say is that I understood and related to much of this post. I can certainly tell you what it's like to be beholden to a job you dislike because of the money, and I can certainly tell you what it's like to come home at the end of the day and know that having done that job, however abysmal, means that you'll be able to pursue what you really love...

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Leif Smart said...

I think its great you have the self confidence to be aware of where your quality of writing stands. Personally I'm in the slef doubt stage of not knowing if I'm any good, or will ever be good.

I think as long as you hold to that and keep plugging away you'll eventually make it. As for getting a job in the meantime, I'm somewhat torn here. On one hand it will significantly cut into your writing time. The other side is that it might provide more experience to draw upon in your writing. Perhaps you could also look for jobs that might relate to any story idea you have going, and use it as research as well as a paycheck.

As as a side note, have you tried much in the way of TV writing?

2:47 PM  
Blogger John David Roberts said...

I've been considering a similar decision lately and my fans, champions, non-delusional friends say, Dude, don't give up. Which is not exactly the same as saying, don't take one of those prudent, career-shaped jobs.

Work gives a guy uplifting feedback - he's competent, good company, open-minded - often in the least important ways, but in the ways that get a guy through the day. We all have needs. Including money, and the kagillion things it signifies.

I've boiled it down to John's Decision Razor: What am I building? Place any decision against this test and it clarifies the costs and potential I'm staring down.

Just yesterday over lunch with a non-writer friend I did a review of stuff I've done and stuff I'm doing right now to build this writing career. She saw real progress where I saw the precipice of the known world. When did that myopia attack?

Thanks for your confidential post. Dude, don't give up.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Jason Looney said...

Self-doubt and failure are what writing is all about, right?

Personally, when I fall into depression about writing (a weekly occurrence), I usually find that there's something deeper going on. I need to change gears. I need to remember the process; I need to make time for "free writing."

Nothing gets me out of a funk faster than writing something that surprises me.

Good luck to you, and thanks for this post.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

I've been in that boat before. We all have. My solution was to find a steady writing job while working on scripts at home. I currently write short bios (usually around 1000 words) on filmmakers and celebs, while doing various other writing assignments. It helps the confidence to know someone is willing to pay me to write—not the kind of writing I want to be paid for, but still it's nice. I’ll also grant that it’s not a high-paying job, but I do enjoy a steady salary and benefits. The only downside is routine burnout, but I'm the type who wakes up early to write before I go work, so my real work doesn't suffer much. The only thing that does suffer is blogging, as I'm sure some have noticed.

Anyway, I know you've written features for screenwriting mags and the like. Perhaps turn it into something steady? It’s worth thinking about.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous chris soth said...


It's tough. We all been there. It sucks. But you can do it. I'm with you we could all be incredibly talented writers and turn out reams and reams of excellent work and not have any effect upon the outside world. Great scripts are turned down every day and far inferior stories are made from old TV shows and it just seems like our caring about CRAFT doesn't matter. But the pursuit of excellence is its own reward. We have to find a different way to bring our product to the world is all. Some way that will not co-opted by megacorporations and perverted into 90 minute puerile commercials.


11:05 PM  
Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

You know what I think is amazing? That there's this community of people who are always going through the same thing...I don't know any of the rest of y'all, but I totally related in some way to all of your comments. Right now, I'm having serious writer's block over one stupid article I'm not even getting paid for, but which might raise my visibility in a certain sector. We all make sacrifices of a social or professional nature so that we can move through our lives pursuing what our hearts urge us to pursue...

Good luck everyone.

1:50 AM  
Anonymous Eddie said...

Hang in there, FJ! The big evil corporations of the world aren't beating down my door, but I have passed up several opportunities to further my "career" and credit rating. I work a mindless job that almost pays my bills, but at the end of the day I can forget about it and write. As long as my writing keeps improving and I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel, I can't stop digging.

Granted, we must be responsible. We must face our realities. But I don't want to be one of those "rich" people who can't sleep at night because they're wondering "what if?"

Fun Joel, Happy Joel, Writer Joel.

2:05 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Thank you all so much for your words of support (both on here and via email, etc). I really appreciate it, though I of course didn't really expect any less from our awesome Scribosphere community. :-)

David -- I wish I had an "old career" to go back to! ;-) Also, when I say money is evil, I don't mean inherently. To me it is evil because of what it does to people. It is so hard to ever feel like you have enough, though I strive to. There is, actually, a Jewish saying from Ethics of the Fathers: "Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot." I live my life that way (usually).

Esther, thanks for your comments as well. You get to see what this little screenwriting community is really like. :-)

Leif -- no TV writing here, primarily because I don't watch much TV, and thus I don't really get it. I always like to point out (as an example) that I was convinced CSI would bomb. Highest rating and two spin-offs later, who is laughing now?

John -- what do you mean by "What am I building" exactly?

Jason -- you're right. The question is how much the other things drive the doubt, and how much the doubt feeds the other things.

Shawn -- that is definitely somehting I've considered and have looked into. So who knows?

Chris -- "But the pursuit of excellence is its own reward." Tell that to my bank account! ;-)

Eddie -- I'm with you. And my writing is getting better. The question remains, however whether there is actually a light at the end of the tunnel. That's where my doubt was coming into play.

Thanks again to all of you for your support. The Dude abides.

3:19 AM  
Anonymous emily blake said...

Might I suggest substitute teaching. I teach high school, and we are always in need of subs. You have to take a test and like on eclass, and you never have to go to work unless you want to, but the money's not horrible. That leaves plenty of time for writing. And schools are prime locations for picking up story ideas. Plus, knowing how teenagers think is such a valuable commodity in a business where age is death.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i substitute taught for a while. my advice is to find a way to do it for public schools and not privates. privates only pay $12.50/hour if you go through a placement service, and it's about a 6-hour day, max. i don't know anyone who can live off of that.

public on the other hand is tough. i tried that route a while ago, and none of the school systems around here (L.A.) were taking people who didn't have either a credential or an emergency permit. and even getting an emergency permit proved impossible. SoCal has really cracked down on teacher quality. good for the students, bad for us screenwriters looking for a nice day job.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Brittney said...

As a recently minted "freelance writer" I can sympathize with your doubts and dilemmas. I don't have any burning compulsion to write every day either, at least not since I left the throes of adolescence behind. But I'm good at it. I'm good at it, and I enjoy it, and it lets me be creative and independent and self-directed, and it works my brain. And maybe, just maybe, it can have a positive impact on someone, or even lots of people.

I say, go for it. There aren't that many good writers out there, really - I've read enough absolute crap to know that. And I love an independent spirit, and hate to see one chain itself to the daily grind.

PS - To feed myself, I work part-time as a shopkeeper and write when there are no customers around.

PPS - I came to Egypt in my past life as a scuba instructor.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Vince DC said...

Geez, I just spent 30 minutes writing a comment and poof! it disappeared. So if you see two posts from me here, well, I'll try and make this one different.

Feeling depressed comes with the job. If you're human, and everything I've read so far in your blog points to that, Joel, you'll get down every so often. Problem is in this industry it's an occupational hazard.

Take me, for example, I just posted something in my blog that's pretty close to what you're talking about. I don't earn a living as a writer but I do work in the biz up here in Montreal.

I'm supposed to have a "regular" job and the bonus? It's with a feature film production company - not a very stable one right now but I'm still in the game.

I have 3 teenage kids to support and a demanding wife. Right now it smells of lay-off at work. I honestly have no freaking idea what the heck I would do if that happened. Not sure how old you are, Joel, but I'm 50. That's a scary age to be starting a new career. Anyway, you get the idea.

I also write, but I never had the guts to go out there and do it for a living. No, I need that comfy pillow to land on when it's time to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Course, looks like that pillow might not be there soon.

I have that regular job and I'm still miserable. Mainly because of the money situation. Isn't that crazy? That's what my mind is having trouble processing. That's one of the reasons why I think you're miles ahead of me, Joel. Another thing is you live in LA. Wow, man, most of us would kill to have that opportunity. And all those contacts you have? Well I think it's just a matter of time before you hit it big.

I think this business is one of the hardest to earn a living at. And "hard" is an understatment.

All I can say to you, Joel, is hang in there. You sound like a decent, talented fellow and you deserve all the success you can handle. When you're feeling down, just think of us schmucks up here in the Frozen North and you'll soon be feeling very happy indeed.

My job up here includes acting as the company development exec. I'm the guy you send your script to before it lands in the producers' hands. We're always on the lookout for good scripts. If you'd like, you're welcome to email me at the eddress on my blog and we can set something up. My bosses have about 100 productions -features and TV - between them. This little financial hiccup is not terminal. It is however a long one, so I won't bore you. Anytime, buddy.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Vince DC said...

"It is a long story and I won't bore you with it."

Man, I'm polishing my comments now! How pitiful is that?

There may be a couple of typos in there too. Should have spell-checked, eh? And punctuation might also need some work while we're on the subject. Oh, well, next time...

This comment belongs in your latest post about typos etc. I've dumped many a script in the "to file" pile after a couple of pages of sloppiness. You writers out there, heed Joel's advice: PROOF READ YOUR SCRIPTS!

12:39 AM  
Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

I hate my "day" job, it stinks, but the pay is decent, pretty good in terms of NJ money!

But I hate it, and with every contest I bomb out of or production company that turns me down, I feel further away from leaving the day job behind.


7:15 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Thanks again, everyone, and welcome to you new commenters.

4:30 PM  
Blogger TM (Jewlicious) said...

Okay, you want free advice? I've got some.

You're 34 according to your bio. If the writing becomes too challenging, or you happen to meet a Jewlicious babe and marry her, money will become a much more severe problem for you. Your age is not going to work in your favor because it will be challenging for you to take entry level jobs as you get older and especially if you hope for a family.

So what can you do? You love writing and it is something you wish to pursue. Fine. You can always write. TS Eliot was a bank clerk who wrote poetry on the side. There are no rules that say you can't write in the evenings, early mornings or lunch breaks. Laptops open the door to writing anywhere.

But in the meantime...I suggest you go back to school and get a degree in an area that could serve as backup. Are you good at math? Accounting. Are you good at language and fairly pedantic? Law. Are you excellent at physics? Engineering. And so on.

First of all, although there are costs involved, you can take loans and in some ways that may even alleviate some of your financial stress.

Second, it will give you what you lack right now, which is a way to enter a profession.

Three, you have the advantage of planning ahead and thinking your career options through. As a result, you can choose, say, law over accounting, because you know it will be a better fit and chances are lawyers will be outsourced to India long after accountants. Also, you know that somebody is going to have to replace the attorneys at Greenberg Glusker Fields and why shouldn't it be you?

Fourth, you can still write while you are a student. In fact you can also do coverage of scripts for the studios while you are a student.

Fifth, being a student can be hard work. However, being a student is also one of the most flexible "jobs" in the world. As a result, a dedicated and disciplined writer can get their two or three daily hours of writing in while performing well in school.

Sixth, as a mature student, you will be driven to succeed and have more tools to succeed than your fellow students. Can you say magna cum laude or cum laude without blushing?

Seventh, even if you don't pursue a career as a lawyer or accountant, those degrees could open the door to doing the business side of things in LA and Hollywood.

Esther knows my email and I am happy to communicate further with you about this.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Right on TM. Thanks for the candor. Not sure if or when you'll be checking back in here, but I'll respond, in case you do.

I won't argue with you at all on the sentiment, just on the specifics. You see, I already racked up a huge amount of debt in grad school, and at this point, I don't if or how I'll ever get out of that. So going back to school, I think, would likely be a step in the wrong direction, in my specific case.

However, in terms of your opening comments, re: writing while I do another job, yeah, I'm with you on it. I know you did something similar. And that is sort of what this post is about, I guess. Trying to figure out what that job is for me to do while I write. What it is that I'm both qualified for, and interested in doing.

So that's what I need to think through. But again, honestly, thanks. :-)

7:00 AM  
Blogger DDog said...


Not sure if this has already been mentioned... but would a temp job not suffice? Granted, they may not pay much, but they can be a foot in the door to an organization offering a possible career.

Regardless of what may come, keep writing, bro. You're more than a facilitator of the craft: you have a knack for it. And this judgement stands from my just reading your blog and Script Mag columns, and not your actual scripts.

Keep your head up, boss.


5:34 AM  
Blogger oneslackmartian said...

Joel Haber anagram = Job Healer

Not sure what that means, but it seems topical.

7:21 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home