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Wednesday, October 28th, 2020
By Jonathan Salmon
If you asked me a few years ago why I started writing, I’d probably give you a blank stare, a warm smile then say, “You know what, that’s a damn good question”. Telling stories have always been apart of me, ever since I was tasked with writing my first fictional tale way back in elementary school. If I had any experience, big or small, you bet your ass I was going to tell you about it, the whole lot of it filled with excitement and embellishment. I was always the kid talking about what I did over the weekend like it was a grand adventure, when really it was usually just a mildly boring one.
I used to be an Assistant Underwriter for insurance, which has nothing to do with actual writing for anyone wondering. It was a miserable job that provided me with a few things. First, some great friends and second motivation. Motivation to write is perhaps the most important thing to not only writing the first page of a book or screenplay. Being in a job I hated gave me plenty of that. But it’s not the only reason I write. You have to have something else driving you, something that’s going to keep you writing everyday if you want to complete your story.
Motivation is what got me to leave a job I hated and risk all the marbles on a writing internship. It was ballsy to say the least, but ever since I was a kid all I wanted to do was tell stories. Me as an adult realized it wouldn’t be so simple. We all have to pay the bills, right. But I knew I could write and it’s something that’s as natural as breathing to me, so I jumped at the chance to utilize my skills.
Now that internship has become a full time position in an industry I had no particular love for in the beginning but grew to respect over time. Yet, despite being a professional writer for the first time in my life, I’m still not satisfied. Something was missing from the equation. I still yearned to tell a story that would make people feel something, just like that little kid in elementary school.
Now, I’ve been writing fiction for a long time now, my whole life in fact. None of it has seen the light of day, simply because I thought they weren’t good enough. But something I changed since turning my internship into a paid position. I realized that my writing was not only readable, but that people actually enjoy it. It was the spark that started it all. I promised myself that I’d follow through on writing a book, a short story, a script, anything that I was passionate about. But going it alone had gotten me nowhere so far. I needed the right people around me if I meant to take this seriously.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in the right place at the right time, but if you’re not prepared for it the moment can just pass you by. Timing and preparation make great partners. When one meets the other, sometimes magic can happen.
At my new job I found myself surrounded by people with a passion for fiction with abilities that supplemented my own. Their willingness to bring a great story to life is what gave me the drive, the responsibility, the passion to write the first short film script of my life. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing screenplays, but always found myself to be more of a short story and novel writer at heart. But to me, a great story can transcend any limitations. So I got to work.
Writing the screenplay turned out to be a brand new experience than any of my prior fictional works. When you’re writing for the screen, everything is happening right, this, second. Sure you can set things up nicely just like with prose, but the pace is less deliberate. I found that writing in the here and now made the experience exhilarating, made everything feel that much more dire. For me it seemed that screenplay writing felt more like a sprint than the marathon of prose writing. By the time I realized it I had a first draft that was rough and raw, but very much complete. But since writing is re-writing, I realized that this was the first hurdle.
Maybe it’s my experience as a kickboxer and karate fighter, but it seemed as if I was getting my best work done under the pressure to provide a story that wouldn’t just speak to me, but speak to the people who had put their faith in my abilities. I wanted validation that I’d created something that not only spoke to them, but kept them turning the page.
The first piece of feedback validated a few things. First that people actually got all the way through the script and second that those same people enjoyed it. Despite what many people would say, that validation allows you to see the merit of hard work. It’s not just in your head you daft bastard, you can actually do this! That little kid embellishing about his “weekend adventures” could tell some stories people actually enjoy.
As my first screenplay went from nonexistent to going into production it ensured one thing: this wouldn’t be the last. Once you get the ball rolling it’s on you to keep pushing it along. Stalling out is not an option. I’ve got enough lovely memories of hating my life during my days in insurance to remind me where I never want to be again. You get a chance to do something you love, something that comes natural, you jump all over it. Nothing worse than being granted the opportunity and not being ready for it. Like I said before, timing and preparation are a match made in heaven.
So if someone were to ask me why I write now, I’d stare at them, give them my patented warm smile, and say, “You know what, that’s a good question. I guess it’s the same reason an outdoorsman loves hunting, a scientist loves to explain the unexplainable. It’s what I’m good at. But even more than that, it’s what I was made to do.”