...but hold on, I'll explain.
I'm sure most of you did it Sunday night at some point in the evening (if you watched the Academy Awards). You imagined what you would say if you were up on that stage accepting your Oscar. I've done it. I've done it probably every year since I first watched in the mid-80's with my sister, sitting on the living room floor, eating popcorn and thinking that categories like editing, cinematography, and even writing, were the boring categories.
If you're a dreamer like me, it's nearly impossible not to imagine how you would respond or react if and when your name is called, and no matter the category. And like I said, I too imagine what it would be like to stand on that stage with Denzel, Meryl, and so many others looking up...looking up at ME!
But let's just hold on for a second. The only way I can keep my head out of the clouds, since I so often reside within them, is to force a reality check on myself as often as I can. "Stop imagining yourself winning a dumb Oscar, and start imagining yourself writing. And writing. And writing." That isn't very glamorous, of course. Not nearly as glamorous as the image of yourself walking through the Governor's Ball with Oscar in hand, touching cheeks with legends and A-Listers and being the center of attention. Of course not. But this is why I'm writing this email today - this job isn't glamorous. This job isn't about parties, or rubbing elbows, or being famous. That's the illusion of Hollywood. This job - and no matter what your job is, be it a writer, actor, director, cinematographer - is fucking hard.
And it should be.
I'm talking about how hard it is to be the best at something, and how sometimes striving to be the best (which is a good thing) doesn't even give you the damn trophy. We live and work in an industry where "best" is completely relative, subjective, and always arguable. That's the point of art, really, but unlike other trades such as sports where "the best" is clearly defined by a woman or man who ran 400 meters faster than anyone else ever has. There is no arguing that - the best is the best. "If you think you're better, than beat me."
There is no room for mediocrity.
I love the simplicity of athletics, but I equally love the arts for how complicated, undefined, and open-ended it is and always will be. There is no "best", there is only hard work. And if your hard work is rewarded in some way (which it always is), then that is your trophy. Who cares if you can't give a speech in front of a billion people? While obviously the people who won Oscars last night are grateful, they're going back to work today. And this is what woke me up last night when my head was in the clouds.
I was reminded that there are people who are more talented, better connected, and have more money than I do, and they're working harder than I am. The only part of that sentence that I can change right now is "working harder than I am". I have control over that...and so do you.
No one wakes up one morning and suddenly wins an Oscar. They wake up, after the awards and party craziness, and look at Oscar sitting on their mantle as a reminder that success can be temporary. And the only way to continue such success is to get your head out of the damn clouds and make the decision to work harder than anyone else. Yes, they reached a pinnacle in their career by winning an Academy Award, but now what? It's just ONE pinnacle. They have to go out and do it all over again...and they're more than happy to try.
So you're not going to win an Oscar...if the award itself is the only goal you have. There is no end point in the arts. There is no one single achievement that marks the end of your career. There is no arriving. You arrive when you put your ass in that chair and your fingers on the keyboard...and work.
So write something that fills up your heart so fully that it will burst if you don't send it out into the world. Write something that offers your perspective on universal truths. Write something that squeezes every last tear out of the eyes the viewers, and then hit them with joy. Write something that changes you just by writing it. Most of all, though, write something. Just fuckin' write something.
A constant vigilance toward education, perfecting your voice, craft, style, ability, and creating as much of your best work as possible - this is how you MIGHT win an Oscar. In the end, though, if you did all of the things I just mentioned and you continue to, every day, who cares if you don't win? You've already won by finding success within a field you love more than anything.
I believe in you. I believe in you because I know how much you love this craft. Now show me.
Go get it,
--Max Timm and www.TheStoryFarm.org
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