Yesterday I went to a “practice pitch” session with the production company I’m working with. Normally, I wouldn’t consider it play, but it was so energizing, so enjoyable, that I’m counting it.
I ditched earlier versions of the pitch and just talked. I just had a conversation with the people sitting across from me. Even though I’d rehearsed it dozens and dozens of times before, I ditched all my outlines and talking points and just made it completely conversational. I didn’t try to sound smart, or funny, or fast (as a rule, you only get an unofficial 20 minutes before you lose people). I just told a story.
Most importantly, I was just me. Stripped down. No frills. No one else. I didn’t try to be that brilliant writer I’d love to be. I was simply authentic.
And it was so much better.
Here was the journey…
I’d come up with this pitch toward the end of January at a self-fashioned writer’s retreat in Bolinas, Ca with two friends. I knew I wanted to do a story about a gay son who asks his father, the head of a megachurch, to perform his wedding. This story is extremely personal to me as I attend a megachurch and I have a gay son. I wanted to do a television show about the schism between the church and the gay community. I wanted to do something that created a dialogue between these two often opposing camps, but I had no idea what the story was.
Well, on my way up the I-5 to the retreat, the story just sort of fell out of the sky. It was the kind of experience that writers dream of — a purely intuitive passion project that knocks on your brain and announces its characters and plot lines almost fully formed. A project that writes itself.
During the four days of the retreat I couldn’t write fast enough. By the end of the retreat I had outlined the entire pilot. And I really liked it.
When I got home I pitched this idea to Paulist Productions and they loved it. Everything was rolling along…
Bottom line, I worked it. And then I worked it some more. Before I knew it, I felt like I was trying too hard. The words started coming out of my mouth sounding and feeling rehearsed. I felt like a dancing monkey. A performing panda. I felt fake.
Right around then I started this project. This 10,000 hours. I pushed the “work” to the side and played. I painted. I drew. I doodled. I cut up magazines and made collages. I walked on the beach and listened to Sufjan Stevens. I turned up Nirvana and Alt-J and danced in my room.
And something happened… I was finally able to recapture my love for this project and felt free to be the no frills me.
I’m not entirely sure how this all works. I’m in process. But this project, this giving myself permission to play, has been an incredible relief. It’s been a confidence builder. It’s given me hope. I’ve smiled more. Slept better.
I find I’m waking up each day earlier and earlier… today it was 5:30 am… and it’s because I’m excited to start the day. I’m excited to create.
Now I get to play every day!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the phenomena of start up companies. From what I can tell, these are mostly started by people who love what they do. They’re passionate about it. And a lot of times they do it as a form of play. They often do it for a long time with no financial reward. They do it because they love it.
How much better off would we all be if we stopped striving so hard to be something, to make something happen, to force something, to be someone we are not because we think that’s what other people want? How much better off would we be if we returned to the kind of attitude we had when we were little kids? No one told us how to play make believe. No one told us to do things we enjoyed. We just did it. No one told us to do play. We played because we loved it. And wasn’t it amazing?
Tomorrow my daughter’s birthday. Thursday two pitches to two production companies.
I plan to have fun. I hope you have some fun of your own too. It might be a lot more important than you might think.
And btw… check out my favorite place to center myself… Ah… the beach…