To Thy Own Self be True

Posted by on Dec 31, 2018 in Catherine Ann Jones, Catherine's Blog

     Inspired Writers at the Esalen Institute

Annually, I present The Way of Story workshops at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA and other places. The above photo is a group of inspired writers writing in various narrative forms including novels, plays, screenplays, non-fiction including memoir.

For some years, I taught graduate screenwriting at U.S.C. Film Dept. in Los Angeles. Eager to become a working writer in Hollywood, most of the students would try and copy the latest trend in popular movies – usually thrillers.  They were in their twenties and their screenplays were derivative of what they believed would sell. During this time, I was invited by the actor, Ed Asner (Mary Tyler Moore Show and others) to sit on a panel and discuss the theme of creative censorship. Others on the panel spoke of censorship in communist countries. I surprised myself and others when spontaniously I spoke of being a working screenwriter in Hollywood, and that in America, screenwriters censored themselves due to commercial pressures. They would write to sell and to earn their living.  After I raised this issue, no one spoke for a while yet afterwards, Ed Asner thanked me for raising this vital point, as it reminded all of us of what is true.

So, when I observed my film graduate students doing the same, it made me sad. I also reminded them that when they wrote what sold today, this might change in two years when they had completed their scripts and were trying to sell them. Trends change. And when an original film comes out, wins awards, and is popular, Hollywood – as publishers – look for more of the same.

There’s a saying in Hollywood, “We want something like what has worked before – only a little bit different.” However, at twenty-something, if you’re not writing original stories, where will you be at forty-something? To be true to yourself, if not at twenty, then when?

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

                       – Oscar Wilde

I began my writing life, writing for myself. Luckily, others responded to the stories, plays, screenplays, and books. And many awards confirmed this for me, encouraging me to continue. It is my experience that when I write with integrity from myself, the work finds its audience. And, more importantly, I have kept faith with my soul.

The only journey is the one within.

                                                 – Rainer Maria Rilke

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