My grandfather wrote screenplays. Stacks and stacks of them, all written on his trusty typewriter. He was a traffic cop by trade, probably the least likely screenwriter you’d ever expect. But my family had leanings towards the creative arts — my aunt was a child actress as well, so that may have also fed my grandfather’s dreams of moviemaking.
Here’s the thing, though: he never did submit those screenplays anywhere. He never shared them with anyone outside his family, and as far as I know, they remained stacked in his home office, even after he passed away. And I used to wonder why it was he’d never shared what he wrote.
Was he scared of rejection? Did he not like the system? Or did he simply write just for the pure joy of it, and he didn’t need, nor want to find an audience for his work?
When I first started writing, I did it mostly for myself. The concept of novels was foreign to me at 5, 6 years old, and I just reveled in getting to see where my imagination took me. Later, as an adult, when I picked up writing again, I was reminded of the joy of getting to play in this vast mental playground, of getting to take characters to places only you could take them, make them do things for your own amusement and entertainment.
I came back to writing as an adult via fan fiction, and it was a way for me to see my favorite characters in the storylines I wanted to see. I didn’t care about finding an audience or appealing to others; I just wanted to bring to life what I imagined these characters would do if I ran the show.
But find an audience, I did. To my surprise, I got a bit of a following for my fan fiction, and the immediate feedback quickly became addicting. I wanted to produce more to get more feedback–and whenever I was able to connect with people, it felt like the biggest triumph I could take on as a writer.
Now as I write my original fiction, there’s no question in my mind that my ultimate goal for it is to find an audience for my stories. In many ways, that piece is out of my control; I can’t predict how people will react to my characters and what I choose to do with them. I can only write the story that gives me passion and hope that comes through in the writing, that infusing my story with authenticity will give it that intangible something that makes it stand out from stories that were written by simply going through the motion.
And when I’m at my most frustrated, when I’m banging my head against the wall because it’s just not coming out the way I think it should–the way I think will make others love it–I have to remember that I need to love it first. Everything else will fall into place after that.
My grandfather may not have shared his stories with the outside world, but he did love them. He nurtured them and breathed life into them, and at the end of the day, that is all I can do.
And as corny as it may seem, I think a reader will always be able to tell when a story was written with love. That kind of love may even be transferred by osmosis. I sure hope so.
So as I fight my way through this grueling revision process, I’ll keep this in mind. Write it for myself first. Pour myself into it, make sure I’m proud of it. The rest will take care of itself.