The Swings

In Alice Springs (Australia), where we lived for four years, there was a large hotel and casino at the edge of town. Paul went through a phase where he read a bunch of books on casino games, and met a friend’s mother who’s made her living as a professional gambler for over a decade, and decided he could make some cash at the the blackjack table.

He was pretty dedicated for awhile. He’d go and splay his system. And the system wasn’t bad. He had some profitable nights. But eventually he realized that even with dedication and a good system, the odds aren’t really in your favor, and you have to be able to sustain pretty extended losses to hit your winning streaks. The highs were nice. The lows were scary and brutal. Ultimately he decided that gaming for a living was not for him. As he put is “I can’t take the swings.”

A little ironic, I guess, that we are both in Los Angeles now, and life feels like a big game of craps.

And to hone in a little, beyond riding the economic losses, there’s the long creative losing streaks. I go for weeks, if not months on end, feeling like what I’m writing is awful, and not knowing how to fix it. It is my obsession, the knowledge that hits me when I wake up in the morning. Like you wake and remember some awful thing you said at a party the night before, that you broke up with your boyfriend, or that you have cancer, I most frequently wake up thinking “Shit, I still have to solve the third act.”

But, my money’s already on the table, in a manner of speaking–and it’s not just a manner of speaking, my money really is on the table.

And I’ll be honest. I know there are a million screenwriting books out there. Many of them are good. But I couldn’t understand them before I went to school. There are workshops and seminars. They’re good too, when I hear t the advice in the context of what I’ve learned. I can honestly say I would not have learned to write without my education. And I wouldn’t have even realized it. And I am grateful to my core for the ability to see things more clearly now. I watched my father, who was very talented in many ways, spend years rather than money trying to figure these things out on his own. He never got there, and he never had the tools to understand how he was falling short. I do. And for me, there’s nothing cooler than that.

But on the other side of it is the lifestyle of it all.

And I sometimes really wonder if I can take the swings.

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