Monday, June 3, 2013

Something to Laugh About

I’m a reformed joker. My gag-telling abilities used to make me the life of the party, but sadly jokes seem to be relegated to the internet these days. Now I’m a rusty. My humor is limited to things I can write about.

The advantage of writing comedy, as opposed to performing it, is you get a chance to fix potential problems without having to worry about someone lobbing a tomato at your head. Although with the cost of fresh produce, perhaps I could save a few bucks and take a basket on stage with me instead of heading off to the local grocery store.
But I digress.

My dream for many years was to write for sitcoms. It started when I was a kid watching reruns of the Dick Van Dyke show. Although Rob Petrie, Sally Rogers and Buddy Sorrell wrote for a fictional comedy/variety show, I was thrilled to learn that comedy writing was a legitimate career.

Unfortunately, I lived in Arizona, not Los Angeles (or even Manhattan where the fictional Alan Brady Show was aired) so my dream of writing for television took a detour. Instead I took a traditional route in writing and pursued a degree in journalism. However, whether I was working my way through school as a waitress at Red Lobster or landed my first job as a public relations coordinator for the City of Mesa’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Division, I found a way to write humorous skits for special events and celebrations. Some were spoofs from Saturday Night Live, others satirized city employees, but all of the humorous productions were a big hit with the audience. Even in my spiritual life as a Buddhist with SGI-USA, I penned skits that used characters in popular television shows to satirize philosophical messages.

One day I took a trip to LA to scout out the area and see what I would need to do to pursue my television-writing career in earnest. I chatted with a successful sitcom writer and she informed me that it was nearly impossible to work as a sitcom writing in Hollywood after you reached your 40th birthday. She suggested I turn my attention to screenwriting instead. I followed her advice. I’ve written numerous screenplays, but hadn’t written a television episode for a long time. Using logic, rather than tapping into any internal sources of empowerment, I decided to discontinue my goal of writing for a sitcom. This decision took a toll on my psyche. A little piece of me died with the shelving of this dream.

Then one day a concept for an original television show crept into my sleepy, little brain. Unlike other fleeting notions, this one was persistent. I had no choice but to create characters, develop a clever plot and tap the whole thing out on my computer. I didn’t know if my script would find a home, but I was so happy to write comedy again that I didn’t care.

Ironically, I learned about a contest for original pilots and was getting ready to enter. However, while I was doing research I learned about another contest. This one called for writing a spec script for an existing show. My daughter had suggested Modern Family. I watched numerous episodes several times, examined the scripts, and came to know the characters as if they were members of my own goofy family.

The bottom line is I came up with plausible ideas for an episode, had a few friends that were familiar with the show vet it, and I mailed my creation off to be judged. I did all this in the matter of three weeks. To be honest, two months ago I wouldn’t have embarked on this expedition. However, I listened to the inspirational words of Linda Johnson, a national women’s division leader for SGI-USA, and realized I was limiting my potential.

I also reminded myself of a few helpful hints from Chapter 9 of a book written by me and my friend and co-author Jacqueline Howard. Here are a few tips I’d like to share.


•Clear your mind of negativity and imagine what you really want your life to be like. Allow yourself to feel the joy of realizing your dream.
•Write your negative beliefs on a piece of paper. Read it aloud. Burn a candle, light incense or perform some sort of ceremony, then burn the paper. As the paper burns say aloud. “These statements are no longer true. I release these lies to the universe.” Feel free to allow yourself a moment of sadness. Many individuals cry as they allow these negative thoughts to incinerate.


•Design a rough plan of what you wish to create. The universe will take care of the details, but you have to have an idea of what you want.
•Once you have your idea in place, write or draw the steps you will need to achieve it. This could be, taking a class, reading books or doing research on the internet. Visualizing is fine, but you have to take some sort of action to kick things into gear.
•No matter how rough things are, remain open to the idea that wonderful things can happen.
•Never, ever, give up on your dreams.

It would be great if this story had a fairy tale ending and I could report that I was selected in this program, but the truth is none of the applicants will know anything for several months. But it doesn’t matter because I feel that I already won. I challenged my doubt (and even common knowledge about Hollywood and ageism) quickly created something I’m proud of and I got my script in the mail before the deadline. And that is a victory in itself!

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