Here I am, in my guest starring role as a chair rental delivery guy in the series finale of “Home Improvement.” I’m not really an actor, and based on the look I’m getting from Tim, he seems to agree. It’s a look many Executive Producers have witnessed from their stars, the studio, the network, or any number of entities whose bottom line is at all dependent on our talents. Producing is a high-pressure gig, no doubt about it. Most of us started out as writers, only to find ourselves becoming business people as our responsibilities increased. It’s perfectly natural to fantasize: “What if I could just be a writer again?”
I didn’t know whether or not I was capable of penning a novel, but getting back to the written word in its pure, unadulterated form seemed like a challenge worth exploring. Once I actually finished my first book (without the “benefit” of network notes), I felt elated… that is, until I realized I had to become a businessman all over again. Since there were zillions of books published each year, both traditionally and independently, I had to ask myself: “How are people going to become aware of mine?” I was ready to share on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, tumble on Tumbler — whatever it took to spread the word. The one thing for which I was totally unprepared was PUBLIC SPEAKING. Wasn’t I supposed to be holed up in my garret, creating evocative flights of fancy for lucky readers to embrace unconditionally? Apparently not. The mandate was to get out in the world and do speaking engagements — reading from the book… and sometimes not. Turns out, certain venues do not want to hear authors read. They simply want us to talk about ourselves. Isn’t that what actors are for? Good actors?
It didn’t seem fair, but I sucked it up and forced myself to learn how to be the center of attention. It never does feel completely natural, but you do whatever it takes to honor the work. And sometimes the results aren’t so bad…
In April, I was given the honor of delivering the closing keynote speech at the Erma Bombeck Workshop in Dayton, Ohio. Over the weekend, I got to hear stories from working writers who had traveled from all over the country. On Saturday night, I got to add my own. Here are the unexpurgated ramblings of a man who went from working behind the camera to being alone in a room, complaining about the company.