Updated: Mar 15
It’s not the first time I am asked this question, suspect it will not be the last.
“Hey. What made you realize you wanted to write?”
I take my eyes off the 12-Point Courier I’m typing and look her way. Her swimming pool blue eyes swell as she leans closer and smirks. She’s an actor — one filled with so much aspiration, her inspiration is downright contagious.
“You looking for motivation?”
“What?” she says, visibly miffed.
“You’re looking for insight into character. I get it. Character is motivation. Motivation is character.”
“No. I just want to get to know you. Can you please stop creating scenes in your head for one minute and just talk to me?”
I can. I do.
“My story is unique in that I graduated college, then rushed to find a job I didn’t really want. I eventually found one, which led to another, and then another. Before I knew it, I had built a career and was reaping the annual rewards of doing a mundane job very well on a daily basis. Then, one fateful morning, I was interviewing this girl for a position at the company I labored at and she answered one of my questions with, 'My father always says, you will never work a day in your life if you love what you do. And I love advertising. I always have. And I always will . . .'”
Bitch. Couldn’t tell you another thing she said because I was gone, lost in thought, suddenly having nightmares about the dreams I abandoned, diploma in hand . . .
What do you want to be when you grow up? A guidance counselor asked this of me years ago. I made him smile by responding without hesitation. “I think I want to be in advertising.”
“Why do you want to be an actor?” I inquire, biding some time, hoping to defer the spotlight that’s on me for a moment or maybe for the remainder of the night.
“I don’t want to be an actor. I am an actor. But I know what you’re asking and for me there was no other option, not since a fate-filled high-school production of Grease. Once I was bitten by the bug, there was no looking back. This is my sole intent. I’m all in.”
I smile, admiring her gumption.
“But enough about me. Back to you.” She tilts her head and her eyes go wide. “So what do you want to be when you grow up?”
What do you want to be when you grow up? In my mind’s eye, my guidance counselor is asking me this. Again. Now.
Truth told, years ago I told him what I thought he wanted to hear, something that would make everyone around me happy. Took the safe route. And I thought advertising sounded kind of cool. However, now I give the question the thought I know it deserves.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“And what makes you happy?”
“This. The act that allows us to have this conversation. Again. Years later. By writing about it. By waking up at 6 AM every day to write.” I stop and ponder my words while my counselor grins. He knows it before I realize it, before I articulate, “Writing.”
"I want to write. Holy shit,” my young self whispers, which makes my guidance counselor laugh. You know I dreamed about you for twenty-nine years before I saw you.
“I was slow to the show, but I finally saw it, and that’s what matters. For far too long, I sat in a cubical punching the ESC key day in and day out, looking for a way out, when low and behold, it was all the other keys on the keyboard that mattered.”
I want to write.
“There you have it,” he says.
“And there you have it,” she whispers. “Was that so hard?”
Hell yes. In case you weren’t paying attention, I almost failed to ESC the clutches of all that was killing me slowly. I know she means, was it so hard talking about this? I admit, “No. It was not.”
I slide my fingertips across my keyboard, fan my hands outward to reveal the QWERTY. “This is my palette,” I whisper. “A mere twenty-six deep, yet the possibilities are endless.”
“Yes! I love it. ‘Tell me more, tell me more,’” she sings. “How did you end up here?”
“Long-story-short, a few months after that fateful interview, I finally broke up with the corporate world. When asked to cite a reason for leaving, I replied, 'I’m in love with something else.'”
“Eventually, I started moving in the right direction, which for me was the left direction — west. That’s what brought me to Los Angeles, to Hollywood, smack dab in the middle of the thirty-mile zone.”
The actress hanging on my every word smiles, which makes this writer way content.
“I like this story, Writerman. Like it a whole hell of a lot.”
“Yeah, I took the long road, but I realized I wanted to write -- all day, every day.”
She grins, whispers, “Finish it.”
“Much like you, there’s no looking back. I’m resolute in playing the cards I’m dealt daily in this bankrupt town. I’m all in. And that is something I’m willing to put into writing.”
“Bravo,” she applauds. “I love a happy ending.”
“Actually hoping that’s merely the first act.”
“This is a true story. It is just Act One. Act Two awaits.”
“Also kind of hoping in the end the hero gets the girl.”
“Hmm,” she says with a contagious smile. “And the plot thickens . . .”