Back in 1993 I wrote a few songs. No, that wouldn't be correct. I wrote a shitload of songs. Most of them were and are terribly bad. They will never see the light of day. But maybe 10 or 15 were and are pretty good in the right hands. Those hands aren't my hands.
I forwarded one of those songs to a very talented friend of mine, about 18 years later. It was a very bluesy type song and she is a blues singer at her core. I knew it was right for her and it was pretty much ready to go, once she put her stamp on it. Which she did.
About 3 months later, I heard her sing that song to a live audience in a bar, which loved the song. That was a rush like no other you can imagine.
Your words, your thoughts, your emotions, out there for the world to consume. That is the payoff. For me anyway, that is the payoff. That isn't my motivation to do it, but it is my motivation to keep on doing it.
When you are knee deep in the process, grinding out plot, or characters, or scenes, and of course you hit the road blocks, the bad days, the stumbling points where you just feel like you want to give it up, you have to lean on those times in your mind. You fall back on that and it helps you carry on and create a masterpiece (in your mind anyway) from a bunch of jumbled up pieces that aren't currently adding up.
Do I expect to make large sums of money from my creative work? I do. I have no doubt about that. But I already have money. A pretty nice life. So, it can't really only be about the money. And it isn't.
Do I think I will get accolades and some sort of fame? Probably. But that doesn't drive me at all.
The payoff for me is the performance of my work and others consuming it and taking something from it. Be that the simple pleasure of entertainment or the thought provoking that might alter their lives in some positive way.
That is my payoff. That is what keeps me going.What keeps me going when it isn't coming. Which lately, it is not.
Director Joel Coen described the process of film making:
"I can almost set my watch by how I'm going to feel at different stages of the process. It's always identical, whether the movie ends up working or not. I think when you watch the dailies, the film that you shoot every day, you're very excited by it and very optimistic about how it's going to work. And when you see it the first time you put
the film together, the roughest cut, is when you want to go home and open up your veins and get in a warm tub and just go away. And then it gradually, maybe, works its way back, somewhere toward that spot you were at before."
I think as writers, we also feel that way. You just have to fight through it, have confidence in your vision and remind yourself of the excitement and interest you had when you first set out on the journey of crafting the germ of your idea. And remember why you do it in the first place. That is always the place you have to go back to. Where you lean when you really have no other place to lean.