"Do you hear that?" someone said.
I looked around. Countless fir trees towered over us, swaying in the wind. Silence.
"No, what is it?" I asked.
"Nothing... and isn't it wonderful?"
This past week wasn't very "writerly" at first glance. I had a blast at my 5-Year College Reunion. As if no time passed at all, my friends and I fell into our usual shenanigans, and although we're all grown-ups now, it was a refreshing dose of reality to find no posturing about our careers. Just about everyone I talked to was in the midst of a Quarter-Life Crisis, between grad school and work, between jobs, or between careers, asking "Who Am I?"
And that's okay.
For the next few weeks, I'll be away from the Hollywood Hub-bub on important family trips -- 3,000 miles away from making connections at the production company day job, going for coffee with writer buddies, scheduling meetings with managers, writing pages all night...
And that's okay.
Instead of seeing these next few weeks as exile in Siberia, the best thing this writer can do is stop worrying about the scripts, the spec market, the mixers, the bills -- just stop and listen.
I'm writing to you now in the quiet, serene hill country of Orford, New Hampshire. The loudest sound I hear all day is a lonely car cruising down the town's only road.
Here I can put aside all the anxieties of working in Hollywood for a moment and reconnect with the important questions that got me writing in the first place:
Who am I? What stories have I seen? What stories do I want to tell? Why? No, really -- Why?
All the stories have been told before, but they have never been told by you with your unique perspective, your unique experiences, and your unique voice as a writer.
If you really stop and listen, immersing yourself in your writing by listening with every ounce of your imagination to everything you see, hear, and read -- every image, every sound, every interaction -- then you will tap a wellspring of creativity for new ideas that is just as crucial for building a writer's career as churning out pages for that next big script.
My college reunion reminded me of my old alma mater's motto: Vox Clamantis in Deserto or The Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness.
Whether that wilderness is your grandma's house or your couch, find your place of solitude, listen closely, find your stories -- and then cry out for the whole world to hear.