Nine Drafts

Nine Drafts

Last month I wrote my first script for a television show. 

I had a week to complete it and I spent the first two days staring at a blank screen, frozen in terror. 

Most of the scripts I’d written up to now were tucked away safely in a file on my computer. Or, at best, read by Studio Executives who called my agents and said, “We loved it but can it be more murder-y?” 

This script people were going to see. Actors were going to read. Executives were going to put on television. It was the first time people were going to be able to point to their TV screens and say, “Hey, Jessica Runck wrote that. Wasn’t she the little girl who once baptized her cats?”

It was a life-changing opportunity so why, on day three, was I still staring at a white page and a blinking cursor?

Part of it was the pressure. But more than that, I realized in a state of panic, was that I was supposed to be writing a comedy and in light of everything that had been happening in our world, I just didn’t feel funny.

Lately it’s as if we’re in the middle of a fire storm. Racist rallies, global warming, North Korean threats, a president who provokes rather than pacifies, earthquakes, mudslides and terrorists attacks. 

And here I am writing jokes.

I couldn’t help but feel that my script – my whole career – didn’t it matter at all. Shouldn’t I quit my job and dedicate myself to fighting for a better, safer, less global-warming-y world? 

Why should I care about my dreams when everything seemed to be spinning with unrest?

The truth is, I don’t know. 

What I do know is that I’ve worked for this opportunity for more than a decade and I didn’t want to turn away from it now. So I turned off the Internet, left my phone in my purse, put my head down, and wrote a first draft. 

It was bad. Really, really bad. The only joke in it was the one my bosses would think I was playing on them if I turned it in. 

To make myself feel better, I read two news articles and contemplated how I could single handedly stop the rise of earth’s temperature. 

The next day, I wrote another draft. And then another and another. 

I wrote nine drafts. 

And when it was finished, when I was finally happy with it, I felt pride I’d done something that a year ago I wasn’t even sure was possible.

I wish I could tell you I found inspiration in that. I wish could say that when I sent in my script and turned the news back on, I felt somehow better or changed or different – more sure of the choices I was making in my life.

But I didn’t.

Yes, I’m proud of where I am today. I’m proud of the work I did to get here. 

But there are a lot of things in this country (and this world) that I’m not so proud of. And those things have been on my mind more and more.

Sure I volunteer and recycle and donate – but lately it hasn’t felt like enough.

I feel a little voice everyday asking, “What are you really doing to make a difference? What are you doing to effect the change you want to see?”

Is it possible to be an advocate for change and also a creative artist who sees importance in the work she’s doing? Even if that job mostly just involves figuring out what animal name sounds the funniest. (Kangaroo.) 

Maybe someday I’ll be able to hold these two parts of me with more grace – let them both exist in equal measure without any guilt.

Maybe someday, if I hear the United States has narrowly missed becoming a complete nuclear wasteland I’ll be able to think, “I did something to help. And it’s the perfect story for my next screenplay.” 


This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.

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