Like millions of other viewers, I watched the Academy Awards. Admittedly, my interest focused more on the celebrities strolling the red carpet than who won the gold statue but that’s irrelevant. I watched. I listened to acceptance speeches. I scanned the crowd for expressions of delight and/or disappointment. For one night, I became an unrepentant voyeur.
Until an award recipient uttered a few sentences that resonated so loudly within me, I’m still thinking about them a week later. My apologies to the person responsible for this blog topic. I do not remember your name or even what category you won. I do remember you were male and responsible for the “guts” of the film. A director, perhaps?
What you said mirrored perfectly with what I was feeling that night about my writing. I’ll have to paraphrase, and blend a bit of my own experiences with the emotions you evoked. You said most people go to the movies to be entertained. They have no idea of the struggles behind the scene, putting the film together, the endless nights of angst before the release date where you wonder if you hit the mark or failed miserably. They can’t possibly know how the project consumed your life, interrupted your relationships and riddled your self-confidence with doubt.
Movie goers, the fans, only know if they like it or not. And what you endured to produce the film is secondary. So an achievement of recognition is even sweeter when one considers the sacrifices made to get it there.
Authors are like that. We emote, we wail, we pace the room – mentally revising each chapter, each sentence until the finished manuscript is published. We then begin the nervous process of watching the numbers and rankings, awaiting judgment by the readers. Our fans. Our detractors. Our judge and jury.
They don’t care about our emotional investment, the hours of writing and re-writing, the sleepless nights plotting a scene because our brains simply would not shut off. They want entertainment. And we either pass or fail. It’s that simple.
Films and novels are blood sucking leeches. They drain their creators of every ounce of strength, pride and sanity. They test our endurance. They scoff at our tears. Ridicule our efforts and force us to try harder. Again and again, until we get it right. Or in some cases, wrong. Films and novels are cruel, unforgiving taskmasters. Sometimes fans are, too.
And then sometimes, they lift us up and carry us off the field like a hero, chanting our name, allowing us a moment of glory to soak up like a sponge. A memory that will live on and on long after the sales deteriorate.
Steven Spielberg: As a jockey of words and a creative soul, I feel the same pain. And I embrace the same joy. We’re both held accountable by the masses for our projects. I guess deep inside, we’re not so different.