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Purpose (or What I Wrote That Got Me Accepted to USC)

August 9, 2009

Picture, if you will, a twenty-three year old girl. No, a twenty-three year old woman. A woman with short brown hair, blue-grey-green-brown-yellow eyes, and hereditary multiple osteochondromatosis, a genetic condition which has left her with eleven different scars from seven different surgeries. She has a dog, a German shepherd mix, and named him after a character from her favorite science fiction show.

She is a writer.

The problem, you see, is that while she knows she’s a writer, she’s not sure what kind of writer she is. Is she a humor writer? Often, though some of her best work isn’t very funny at all, and, occasionally, her dry, sarcastic wit and fondness for hyperbole get her in trouble with people who think there is a Time and a Place for such things, but this isn’t it.

She’s not a ‘literary’ writer, despite the best efforts of college professors to turn her into one. They despair over her inability to dig deeper. She can’t help if she prefers plot to poetry, substance over style, Agatha Christie to Cormac McCarthy. In short, she likes to entertain, which is not to say she’s below moving people to tears.

Her fondness for witty banter has her longing to bring back the breakneck pace of screenplays from the forties, and entering the adult world as an asexual atheist has given her plenty of material. She’s already written her acceptance speech for the moment when she steps up to the podium in the Kodak Theater to collect her Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s just the structure that she has some difficulty with, still learning to operate inside the box rather than simply thinking outside it.

Growing up in West Hollywood and a lifetime of television consumption made writing for TV an inevitability, and she took to the five-act structure with glee. She longs to write characters who earn their own devoted fan bases, wants to hear people quote her words over lunch in a crowded restaurant. There is nothing she loves more than playing in someone else’s playground, ever since her high school days spent writing Harry Potter fan fiction on the internet.

She blogs about her trials and errors in Hollywood, hoping that someone else will learn from her mistakes, and secretly imagines she will be discovered, that a mysterious champion will stumble over her journal and take her away from all this. If columns weren’t on the front lines of the newspaper genocide, she would apply to be the next John Grogan or Steve Lopez. As it stands, she is content to write about life without receiving anything in return.

Then there is her young adult novel, completed at age eighteen, stuck in a constant state of revision. The first novel in a series, no less. One she is convinced will fly off the shelves at Barnes and Noble one day, snatched up by Warner Brothers for Abigail Breslin to star in, though she’s still not sure if she’ll give up the rights so easily.

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you the same thing: she said she didn’t want to go to graduate school. It would limit her interests to just one genre, confine her, cage her. Then she changed her mind. She has plenty of justifications, if you ask her. You can’t teach creative writing at a college level without at least a master’s degree. There are no deadlines for an unemployed writer. She misses the college bubble and wants to stay out of the Real World for a few more years, particularly while the job market is so poor.

Most of all she longs for a community, a place to belong. She thought she was starting to find that at UC Riverside, but ran out of time before the bonds could be cemented. Writing is a lonely, solitary adventure, so she delights in finding other people who understand when she says that a character in her screenplay decided he had an obsession with John Wayne and there was nothing she could do to stop him. She wants to be part of a group whose work and judgment she respects and admires.

This program offers her a chance to find others like her, writers with their fingers in multiple pies. Instead of limiting herself, she’ll be allowed to explore, to discover what kind of writer she is.

She’s still looking for her purpose. She’ll know it when she finds it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2009 1:22 am

    Mind if I steal a variation of this for my phd applications?

  2. August 22, 2009 7:18 am

    This is fantastic. Not surprised it got your foot in the door.

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