I recently finished watching "Breaking Bad." (Don't worry, I'm not going to give anything away. But yes, you very much should watch this show.) While watching the final scene of the final episode, I wept. My husband did not. And after a few weeks of thought, I know why.
For those of you not familiar with this TV show, Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who, on his 50th birthday is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. His wife is about to have their second child and their high school aged son has special needs, so money is a huge issue for Walter and he wants to leave something behind so his family won't have to worry when he's gone.
Walter's brother-in-law is a DEA agent and one day talks about how much the methamphetamine business in Albuquerque, New Mexico is worth. Walter gets and idea. He reconnects with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, and they set out to make the BEST METH EVER!
Now, one would think that Walter White is the bad guy...that he's a very bad man. And, sure, that's true. But what was so magnetizing for me, and I think for anyone who dreams of the day they can support themselves being creative, was Walter's dedication to making, and controlling, his own brand of meth. Like writers and authors should, Walter created a brand for himself, kept very close watch on quality control and marketing. He set the price, he made sure the money got to him, and he reveled in the fact that this meth was good and it was something no one was going to take away from him.
There were other story arcs in the 6 short seasons (all of which are now on DVD and probably all on Netflix.) but the final, long stretching one was the one that made me weep at the end. Walter White protected his brand and his product because it was his and no one was going to take it away from him.
We writers are so very much the same way, or we should be. We need to decide who we are as writers. Not what we're going to write, that can change from project to project if we want it to. But as writers we are creating something, we are creating characters, stories, worlds and we need to put our stamp on it and no one should be allowed to take it away from us.
I'm not just talking about someone stealing our flashdrives and selling our work as their own. In fact, I'm not talking about that at all, really. I'm talking about the fact that we as creative people often do battle with those around us who want to stop our creativity or at the very least break it down and make it something far less important.
The boss that won't give you a Friday off to go to a writing conference.
The partner that keeps piling dirty laundry or bills on your desk and then leaves you to deal with the mess.
The kids who won't leave you alone for an hour on a weekend for you to work just a little.
The extended family who, when you tell them you can 't make a family function because you're working and they say, "You're not working, you're just writing."
|When I'm wearing the hat, I'm super serious.|
We all have something like that in our lives, and I'm telling you all, we need to be Walter White. We need to protect our writing time and we need to protect what we do. We need to set boundaries, mark territory, if you will, and brand what we do. We need some sort of signal to those around us that now we are the WRITER and we're serious and no one should mess with us when we are the WRITER.
(Walter White put on a hat. That's when you knew he was NOT to be messed with.)
We all have time constraints, social obligations, work, family, all of that and that's what threatens to take our writing away from us. I've struggled with this for years, decades. Now, after all this time, I think I have it down. I have to light several candles in my office, pour a glass of wine, and shut the door. In some circles this might signal a romantic evening. Not in my house. In my house this means I am writing and I am not to be disturbed until I emerge, exhausted and probably tipsy, from the office. No one is to knock, and I don't take phone calls unless fire or blood is involved. This is what I have to do to protect my precious little writing time. And the result of that time is my baby, my story, my book. And I will protect that book, that story, those characters, as much as I am able in this digital world.
So writers, authors, friends, I say this: BE WALTER WHITE. Whatever your motivation is to write, you need to protect your writing and your writing time.
Now, go forth and make meth...I mean, go forth and WRITE!