As medical researchers fought hard and long to produce a vaccine against Covid 19, all of us encountered cynics who sneered at the speed it took to develop. Many also voiced concerns whether there is an ulterior motive in its development, citing the insertion of a tracking chip enabling people such as Bill Gates to know the intricacies of our largely humdrum lives.
Personally if Bill (yes, I like to pretend we’re on first name terms) is so keen to know which days I shop at Aldi he only needs to ask. It’s a Saturday by the way, so now you all know. Jab me someone, please.
THE CYNIC WITHIN
Cynics are everywhere, and always ready with an opinion, bless their little hearts. A little cynicism is a good thing, I confess to indulging myself now and then. I’m cynical about energy companies who have burned fossil fuels happily for years but suddenly see a more profitable bottom line in renewables; thus reprogramming their PR machines to paint themselves as saviours of a planet they helped to disfigure for decades.
I’m cynical of the sudden boom in plant based foods, pop-ups on Facebook that coincidentally match a search I’ve just done to a website, people suddenly and fleetingly embracing the zeitgeist of a social injustice they’d previously ignored, and of course, organic banana’s (okay, I made that last one up). Hell, I’m even cynical of myself sometimes.
But when cynicism becomes the go-to, default approach to everything it becomes a joyless, suffocating monster that achieves nothing. So when I saw a recent Twitter post by a writer; a naturally cynical breed if ever there was one, that completely sidestepped the path of cynicism it was a welcoming change. Lets, for the sake of avoiding his embarrassment, call this writer Kevin.
THE RISE OF THE KEVIN
Kevin is, well, more of an acquaintance really, whose online presence makes it quite clear that he is a scriptwriter. Of plays, tv scripts and radio scripts. His Twitter handle gives the impression he jettisons scripts out at an enormous rate and at a continuous upwards trajectory.
His Twitter following is considerable – well way, way bigger than my own which is, admittedly, quite puny – and he uses it regularly to retweet and update on his and other peoples projects.
However, despite the scriptwriting machine persona he has created, this writer friend/acquaintance has never had a script commissioned for radio, television, theatre or film. Not a line on a radio show, nor a final placing on any scriptwriting competition of note.
So is he being deceitful or misleading when he projects himself positively as a writer? He does write scripts and his efforts are considerable in trying to progress. He attends scriptwriting festivals and goes on writing retreats and enters competitions. And despite rejections and knock-backs, he tries again and again, and has been doing so for several years. So, in real terms, he is a writer.
Recently he tweeted, after entering a big writing bursary competition, that even if he doesn’t win, he is proud of his efforts and just wants to improve.
I found this tweet both humbling, and inspirational. It is easy for any writer, or anyone trying to achieve in a creative field, to feel downhearted when receiving regular rejections and just as easy to get cynical about the fairness of it all. We’ve all been there, “what is the point?”, “they obviously mustn’t have read it”, or the absurd “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
Like the saying goes, you can make progress, or you can make excuses.
CHOOSING THE OPTIMISTS PATH
I did a Screenwriting Masters Degree several years ago and in one session a story-liner from Coronation Street came to talk to us about the process of how each episode was mapped out and gave us a document that each commissioned writer on the show receives. This document gave us an outline of story lines A, B and C, basically a bible that each writer on any soap or Continuing Drama works to.
It was an interesting and informative session from someone who gave up her free time to give us an insight to how the process works on the UK’s longest running TV soap. I was shocked therefore that after the class almost everyone who attended was dismissive of the visit, the process, and soaps in general. All believed film was the Holy Grail and that was where their gloriously creative future lay.
Ironically enough however, none of them have reached that Holy Grail, nor have received payments or commissions for anything they have written.
Which, some would argue, puts them in exactly in the same position of upbeat Kevin on Twitter. The key difference in this case is that Kevin possesses a fundamental quality needed for a writer that those cynics do not, and that is the humility and desire to learn.
He doesn’t believe the industry owes him anything, and will go for it again and again. He is complimentary and pleased when other writers progress and sees them as a benchmark to aspire to. And armed with this approach, he has far more chance of breaking through and staying there. At the very least he will enjoy the journey.
A little cynicism is healthy and can help protect against the whims and the hard-nosed brutalities a writer almost inevitably will face. However, as in life generally, too much cynicism can become a choice for not doing anything at all.