Recently, when I was taking inventory of my life, I realized that there were several activities that I have always had a passion for in life. The first I wrote about last week: my love for martial arts. Another passion is books. I love all kinds of books, on a broad spectrum of subjects. In the old days, when there were bookstores all over Los Angeles, I would go inside a used bookstore or a chain bookstore and spend hours looking through the shelves, discovering new subjects and new authors.
There is no way to replace the lost environment of a good bookstore. Sure, Amazon will still sell you just about any book. The problem is, you have to know the title or the author ahead of time. Publishers pay for advertising on Amazon, and so you are in their algorithms viewing the books they want you to buy. When I used to frequent book stores I enjoyed the fact that many of the employees were avid readers and they would recommend their favorite authors or set aside books for me. I could browse the aisles and subject matters until I saw a book spine or a title that caught my eye. I would find wonderful obscure books that might lead me to others. I was never big on following the New York Times Bestseller list.
I would find an author I enjoyed and then I would read everything they put out. I’d be sad if it turned out that they had been dead for twenty years and would not put out any new books. I would research their lives, read their interviews, etc. I wanted to find out where they got their ideas from, find out what helped them put words to paper.
Today, researching an author is much easier. Thanks to Youtube I can see many authors speak on many subjects. In all of the available interviews and talks, I found a few things that all authors seemed to have in common. They are passionate story tellers, most never attended special writing programs. They never gave up, they did not listen to the doubters around them.
I wanted to be a writer. The problem I faced was that even after all of my research, I still had no idea what it took to write a book. I never paid much attention to writing or grammar in school.
To begin, I found books on writing and started reading them. This didn’t get me fired up to write. So I tried another approach. I started seeking out authors. Many told me to emulate the writers whose style I liked. I was also told I had to put in the time it would take to learn to write. This is where most people would give up, because the task seems daunting. I had no college education and no background in writing, but what I did have was the desire to write.
I started by writing a blog, which was a relatively new thing at the time. It was bad: lots of typos and technical errors. Yet my content was finding an audience and it became popular. I had a tremendous amount of traffic. I had just as much negative feedback on my blog as I had positive feedback, and I would respond to it all. The blog served two purposes for me: it got me noticed and it helped me gain experience writing stories.
As a result of the blog, I was able to get an agent for my writing and a co-author who was willing to work with me and help me with the storytelling and the editing. Our agent sent the finished manuscript out to over fifty publishers. They all rejected it, most answering with, “Whoever heard of a Japanese mob guy?” It finally found a home by accident, a young woman who was running a publishing house and heard the story mentioned by a friend read the manuscript and wanted it.
Being a published author was an awesome experience. I quickly let go to my head. I started getting contacted by Hollywood producers and directors. Some took me out for meals, others just had me over to hang out. I sold the book rights to Fox Studios and I was soon writing the screenplay with an Oscar winning screenwriter. Through that experience I learned that anything in Hollywood labeled “based on a true story” means that there is only a very vague resemblance to something real.
The end product was not something I was proud of. In fact, I was relieved when Fox passed on it two years later and it didn’t get made into a movie after all. I learned some valuable lessons, but I still wanted to be a screenwriter.
I decided to write something in a different genre. Another screenwriting partner and I wrote a story about a former Confederate Cavalry soldier named Clay Allison who became a successful cattleman in Texas. Clay Allison referred to himself as a “Shootist” because he was a known gunfighter.
We went to History Channel with the script and we sold the idea of the show. We then spent the next year working on it, until they decided to pass on actually taking it to the production stage.
I was pretty devastated at that point. I had been given two bites at the screenwriting apple and failed to have either make it to the screen. I kept thinking about it. Then one day it dawned on me. I had lost my passion for the story. I was writing for money, for the fame and success that would come with the money. I had compromised myself as a writer for the sake of the paycheck. I knew that I needed to return to my passion for writing stories that would connect with the reader, inspire them, the way I had been inspired by so many important authors in my life.
That is the point that I decided to move away from Hollywood. I still pursue writing, but not for the same reasons. If you keep at something and work hard at it, learning the attributes you need to succeed at that endeavor, you will be successful. God will provide opportunities to open up where you never thought they existed. It is easy to quit, to give up when you realize you have hit a dead end in one part of your journey. It is important to keep learning and moving forward after a defeat. Keep in mind that after your worst defeat many times your greatest victory is just ahead.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Bravo, Ken Bravo!