An anonymous reader1 writes in:
I’ve been an appreciative reader of the APA blog for several years, throughout which I also worked in television and film development and production as a production assistant. I originally went into the industry because I was in love with the idea of doing something for a living that was grounded but involved creative decision-making.
I left the industry about a year ago because I didn’t even see my bosses making any creative decisions; they were coordinating logistics and playing to the lowest common denominator audience desired by advertisers – basically what I was doing, but for more money and under more pressure. The long hours didn’t leave me time to do any of my own creative work (I’m a writer and photographer), or to have any kind of social life, for that matter. For the last almost-year, I’ve been doing some teaching and soul-searching (aka the ultimate pastime/disease of our generation). I’m not happy teaching, and can’t quite shake my vague tv/film dreams as I watch former coworkers move up and become “accomplished.”
Do you know anyone who left the industry with similar frustrations? How did they find creative fulfillment and pay their bills? As a Hollywood insider, have you heard any solid advice on grappling with this? As I see it, I have three options: 1) Kill the dream, find something else to do with my life and continue to write email stories for my friends. 2) Stay in the industry, keep paying my dues, and hope the right opportunity comes along someday, while loathing the mind-numbing day-to-day. 3) Find a flexible day job and do as much creative work of my own on the side as I possibly can.
Thanks for reading this book of first-world angst.
Let’s all take a moment to thank the Lord for our first-world problems, and the fact that we’re not being chased by lions.
This is the worst part about being in this Industry. You just want someone to tell you, “Everything’s going to be okay.” Hell, I’d settle for, “It’s not going to be okay. Quit wasting your time.”
There is a very good chance that you’ll never end up doing anything creatively fulfilling, especially if you want to become a writer. Besides requiring innate talent and hard work, landing your first writing assignment requires a lot of luck, and an agreeable personality, too.2
If you quit, you’ll probably always wonder if you could have made it, if you’d only stuck with it just a little longer. If you tough it out, but never get that career break, you’ll find yourself in middle age, wonder why you spent so much time for so little money on a pointless career.
It’s completely unknowable.
Well, not completely. Take an honest look at yourself and your career. Are you advancing, at all, towards where you want to be? Are there people reading your scripts besides your friends and family? Is your writing really good enough?
If the writing thing doesn’t happen, will you be happy in your current job? Will you be content being promoted to uncreative positions?
Then look at your life. Do you really feel your social life is lacking? Do you need that? That’s not something that’s really going to change over time.
Also, look at your options. You were obviously able to get a teaching position. You have assistant experience; maybe you could be an assistant in another industry. Or you could go back to school and study something else entirely.
In short, calculate your odds for success; decide whether you’ll be happy (or content) if you’re not successful. Weigh that against your potential happiness in other fields.
But of course, we’re terrible at predicting whether we’ll be happy or not. Which is why it’s so hard to know if you’ve made the right decision.
Basically, what I’m saying is, I know tons of people in your position, and I have no good way of resolving it.
Being a grown up sucks.