Like many writers fresh out of college, I moved to Los Angeles, unpacked my suitcase, sat on my bed and said, “… Okay what do I do now?” And like many writers before me, I didn’t really have a “plan” mapped out for my career at the ripe age of 22. My priorities at the time were finding out which family member would give me their Netflix login and avoiding Tinder at all costs. I told everyone I met, “I’m going to be famous!” and believed it. I also stupidly believed that an amazing opportunity would just fall into my lap like it did in the movies, and I’d be writing the next Big Bang Theory in a week’s time.
Well. After taking a thankless assistant gig in a distant facet of the industry, it soon dawned on me that maybe these writing opportunities were pretty hard to come by. And as I met more and more industry folk, I realized there were actually quite a few writers in Los Angeles. Some may even say a “shit-load” of writers, and most of them were not working. How did they get by? How was this all okay? And most importantly, how was I ever expected to pay for my own Netflix?! The thought of staying at some dead-end job that didn’t stimulate me at all creatively was soul-crushing and unimaginable. I couldn’t work at an office! Don’t they know I’m a writer, gosh darn it?!
I trudged on at my corporate 9-to-5 and accepted that maybe this would just never happen for me. I didn’t understand how it felt like everyone I met told me they were a writer but no one worked in anything remotely close to writing. And all of them had these ridiculous “prescriptions” for getting closer to that dream gig: join a writing group, take a class, do improv, do stand-up, write something and shoot it yourself, travel the state, get a PA job, and I wondered… why there were so many steps involved with just being able to write what you want? Up until then, the thought of being a writer seemed so simple and second-nature to me: you open your laptop and go. But the road to becoming a writer, well that just seemed completely unattainable now.
But then someone very wise told me that being a writer isn’t like having a 9 to 5 job; our job doesn’t end on Fridays and is more of a way of life than a title. They told me every day and everything that I do should starts and ends with; “how does this make me a better creative force?” Suddenly, the clouds cleared, and of all the giant messes in my life, only this made total sense to me.
It took me four years in Los Angeles to realize that creatives are not measured by where they were raised, or what college they went to, or what rooftop bars they could get into on a Saturday. They are measured by what they are doing to advance their careers, whatever that means to them. Since that fateful advice, I opened a production company that utilizes the clients I met at that same “dead-end job” to create comedic branding materials for them, I started doing standup, I joined a theater company, I created a writing group, I shot my own short film and, probably most importantly, I wrote 10 new scripts in one year. Coincidence? I think not.
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but that advice I received was my saving grace when it came to fostering my creative voice and personal motivation. No one is going to create for you; you must be responsible for that. Our job as writers is to meet new people and find new experiences; our duty is to figure out how we feel about them. And if you’re stuck twiddling your thumbs at a corporate job with lots of free time alone at your desk, complaining about how you’ll never be a writer, well then yeah, you probably won’t be. But when you learn to embrace that this life we chose will never be ordinary and never be predictable, you can start to find lots of moments where your creativity will suddenly get a kick in the ass, and all you can think to do is find a pencil and start brainstorming your next idea.
Now, you must be wondering: “Well that’s all great, but once it’s written, what I am supposed to do with it?” Enter ISA.
I was introduced to the International Screenwriters’ Association by a friend who read my script and encouraged me to submit it to one of the ISA’s notable writing gigs. When I logged on for the first time, I couldn’t believe they were posting opportunities for writers like me: “Producer Seeks Male-Buddy Comedy Set in Boston”, “Prod House Seeks Young Adult Streaming Show Concepts”, “Looking to Hire Young Writer to Adapt Children’s Books”… was this real?!
Since joining the ISA, I have been lucky enough to be contacted for a writing interview, enter their infamous Table Read My Screenplay contest and place as a finalist, apply for a job as a Community Outreach Manager and then get the job. As a team, we discuss areas where we can bring even more writers together, such as creating an online writers group forum, and how we can incorporate more panels and mixers for new transplants. Where I once felt so alone and so helpless in this industry, the ISA has given me structure, community, and many opportunities. They say that being a writer is a solo path, but I’ve seen firsthand that I’m a stronger writer when surrounded by other artists. And as long as I am finding my creative voice in the world, and the ISA is giving me opportunities to use it, then maybe working in Los Angeles doesn’t need to seem so unimaginable anymore.
Amy Sullivan is a Boston University graduate with degrees in Film & Television Writing as well as Acting. She is a writer, actor, and playwright as well as the founder of Little Mischief Productions, a full-service creative agency that includes a sketch comedy company.
Born in Wilton, Connecticut, Amy grew up on the stage. She took to theater performance early on which led to pursuing acting as a collegiate degree and moved to Los Angeles the second she could. After working for many prolific comedy minds such as Judd Apatow and Andrew Panay, she found a love for playwrighting, screenwriting and of course, television writing.
Amy dreams of being the next Tina Fey, Amy Poehler or Mindy Kaling; a full-fledged writer, actor & producer just kicking ass and taking names.