I had a candid convo with a Chinese director friend about my status quo and the next step.
It’s SOMBER. And I saw it coming.
Right now I’ve switched back to be a student, at UCLA Extension. Next year, if my current boss still likes it, he will enter me into another H-1B lottery. Plus the artist visa (O-1).
But working for a high-profile Hollywood producer doesn’t cut it. I need to show the immigration board just how bloody brilliant I am to deserve an artist visa. It has been what I have feared since last year. What if this, what if that?
At this point, my stress level isn’t as crazy as last year. How do I know? Because I’m typing. Because I’m not blocked. I know how cliche it sounds whenever people mention Writer’s Block. Seth Godin argues that there is no such thing as Writer’s Block. Plumber doesn’t get Plumber’s Block. So why should writers be any different? There is a lot of truth in it once I was unblocked. But for the better part of last year, I simply couldn’t sit down and type. I couldn’t bear the thought of my incapacity to become Stephen King from the get-go.
I know it takes time. But I don’t have time. I am on a 12-month journey to be brilliant. If I didn’t, I failed. So I chose to do nothing, like an ostrich in the sand, hoping the storm would abate on its own. A year later today, I’m in the center of the storm.
Because I didn’t want to know (that early on) that I just don’t have what it takes (whatever that means), I procrastinated and tried to deal with the Devil to get me into the lottery.
Of course, I didn’t get in. I later told my dad that maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get in. Because if I did, I might stop fighting for myself, forget why I am here in the first place, and start being mediocre by feeling content reading and critiquing other people’s work.
All the time I thought if I did a good job for the producer who pulled me out of the film school, making me an offer I can’t refuse, I would start to be introduced to the folks in the industry. I would soon become the next big shot. Months into the job, I felt I was diminished as a writer, because I was not writing. And the stuff I gave to the producers were exactly like a pin dropping into the well. I was frustrated. I wanted to prove myself. I would climb as long as they threw me a rope—with the other end tied to a tree trunk, of course. I told my screenwriting mentors that maybe I should start working on my own stuff during the office hours, because after begging for stuff to read and critique, the producers had no time for me and were always so preoccupied with their ongoing projects. “No, no, no, no, no.” They protested vehemently. I stifled myself, so willingly… “He knew people (meaning the government and what not). You would be fine.” I silenced that last thread of anxiety, trusting that the big shot producer would make my worries go away with a snap of his magical fingers.
A year later.
“You were sewing the wedding dress. But you ain’t the bride.” The director said.
But here is the thing—I don’t regret it. I don’t blame the others, or myself. I didn’t know better. But now I do. And the director is right.
“What you need to do now, is to enter tons of screenwriting competition awards and WIN. Period. Not just once. But a bunch of times so you have a long enough list of credits to showcase your artistic capacity.”
I realize that this is the ‘shortcut’ I have been dodging the whole time. I thought it was too hard. But that’s life, the life I chose in 2015 to be a writer.