This time last year I was battling through illness to write my episode for an upcoming TV series. I worked all through Christmas and then they changed so much of the series that I had to rewrite my episode (I sensed that they weren’t that pleased with the script I’d written, but they didn’t really give me any notes on what was wrong, so it was hard to improve it) and then my first draft of the second script was so far off what they wanted that they took it away from me. Which would constitute a sacking.
After all the years of struggling to get a script on TV (it’s been over a decade since my last success) and the slightly hard-edged way it was done to me (if I’d been the producer I would just have said - “Yup, that’s all we need - we might do a few rewrites on it, but thanks for that” and hoped that I never watched the final thing) it was enough to make me think I wouldn’t bother writing scripts again. I’d been knocked back, in a similarly cruel way, for my “Everything Happens (for no reason)” scripts, which I thought were about as good as I can get and though I concur that this script they didn’t like wasn’t quite on the money (and I felt a bit out of my depth, though partly, I think in hindsight, because communication about what was required had not been great - I actually think I did a decent job of delivering what the producer had asked for). But writing is so hard and not enjoyable until it’s nearly finished and podcasting and stand up are relatively easy and more lucrative and after all this time of trying, maybe I had to accept that it was me that was the problem and not everyone else failing to spot my genius.
But Relativity has kept me in the game, even though many times over the last five months I’ve wished it hadn’t.
I had been employed on that show I got sacked from because it was about the trials of being a parent and I was one, but ironically the trials of being a parent had made it hard for me to work within the time frame they needed. I am not sure how some people in showbiz manage to make the demands of the job work alongside their parenting commitments. I suspect for some, it’s by not really worrying about their parental commitments. Or maybe they are just super efficient. We have a fair amount of help with our kids and yet it’s still very hard to get work done. Today I had the morning to write and then in the afternoon I had the kids (whilst Catie by no means took it easy, taking on the arduous task of tidying up the kids’ bedrooms). So I nudged closer to finishing the fifth of my six scripts. But how awful would it be if I was writing a sitcom about the ups and downs of family life (though ultimately a celebration of family) if I wasn’t spending at least part of my Sunday with my family.
It gives me five to seven days (though it will be pretty inconvenient for everyone else if the scripts aren’t ready by Friday) to write my last episode. It’s not ideal, but it’s enough time. As long as I don’t succumb to the illnesses that seem to be laying the rest of my family low.
The euphoria of finishing will make me forget all that I’ve been through I am sure and I’ll never read this blog back. But I keep threatening to end the series with the whole family being killed by an asteroid strike so that I don’t have to do any more.
I don’t know what the point is here. I suspect it’s that as a writer you have to be able to take a lot of punches and then just get up and carry on. But maybe it’s that you are unhappy when you don’t get a job and unhappy when you do get one. To be on my third radio series is a massive privilege. Maybe the message is that life is much easier for a performer than a writer, even more so if you become so successful that someone else writes all your stuff for you too.
Maybe the message is that somehow, in the face of apathy, procrastination, resentment and the difficulty of putting something together you still somehow get it done (or the person in charge of the telepathic projection does). Maybe there’s no message and I am just an old man complaining about his supremely fortunate lot.
Whether I get the work/life balance quite right, it’s still way better than things were for me twenty years ago, when work was everything and there was nothing particularly meaningful waiting for me when I’d finished. So yes, it’s great that I’m edging towards completing this job, but I won’t remember it for as long as I’ll remember bath time tonight, where we finally used a bag of blue crystals that someone gave Phoebe as a present last year, that turn your bath water into slime.
I hadn’t had time for a bath today so I joined the kids (and in this day and age I suspect a dad bathing with his children is akin to bludgeoning a fox whilst wearing a kimono) and it was truly one of the most horrible and hilarious experiences of my life. I had assumed that it would be the kind of thing that would be slimy, but still clean you, but nope - we all needed a shower to get the stuff off us. But not before we’d sploshed around and Ernie had used me like a water slide to propel himself down into the gloop. Thanks, whoever it was who gifted us this. You are at once the best and worst of human beings. The stuff got on the bathroom floor and was almost impossible to clean off properly, like the people who make this literally don’t give a fuck. It probably gave us all some life-shortening disease. But sometimes it is worth dying to create memories. And sometimes it’s worth creating children so that you have an excuse to play in a bath of slime even though you are 52.
So yeah. The scripts aren’t all that important.
Maybe my time has more or less passed as a scriptwriter - it’s a shame really that I lost my bottle for it in the noughties when I had the time and talent to work fast, but felt that the pain of rejection and lack of recognition was too great to push onwards.
I’m going to have a crack at “Everything Happens” under my own steam as an audio sitcom for the internet (once I’ve had a little break after Relativity) but that might be my last chance saloon.
Or maybe I’m at the start of a thirty year period where I churn out scripts and books and accept that I've been a writer all along.
I guess the message is never give up (unless you accept you're actually shit). Jury still out.