Friday, March 11, 2011

Life Happens

Once upon a time, shortly after dinosaurs ruled the earth, I was a television news producer at a CBS station in San Antonio, Texas. It was one of the most frustrating jobs I have ever taken on. The problem was I am a task oriented, accomplishment driven personality type. In the odd way my brain works, my self worth is measured by how many things I got done in a day. I probably need deliverance. Nonetheless, not only must I get things going, I must get them finished. Neatly. With a bow where appropriate. I do not like loose ends and I do not like do-overs. Just prior to taking the job of producing a six o'clock newscast, I was a promotion director, meaning I produced commercials to market the television station. I was good at that job. There was a script, everyone followed his/her lines and no one argued with me, and at the end of the day I and all the directors, technicians and actors had produced a work of art.

The world of television news is nothing like that. For one thing, there is no script. A producer goes to work every day with no idea what is going to happen. But the more challenging thing for me was there was no way to know when you were done. Life kept happening. After my show was wrapped and ready to air, news continued to break, daring me to ignore it and go to broadcast without it. Believe me, I tried.

The first day I soloed as a producer was in my mind to be an Emmy worthy production of timing, topic, and flow. Everything was ready. Then ten minutes before going live on the air, Elvis Presley died. Yes, I know how old that must make me. When the news director came tearing into the control booth with the wire about Elvis and how we were going to be the first in our city to break the story, my reaction was "Sorry, it will have to wait till ten o'clock. My show is done." Needless to say, if I had not adjusted by attitude, my first solo newscast would have been my last.

Writing fiction is a lot like producing news. As the characters come to life, they tend to insist on going their own way regardless of how I imagined it in the beginning. Against my personality bent, I have learned to set them free to take the story wherever they will. Sometimes, I cannot wait to see how it ends.

What about you? What things in your past make you a writer today?


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Very interesting post, Linda.

One of the strongest influences on me as a writer of novels is my background in drama. I have a degree and graduate work in drama. I've been a director, an actress, a playwrite, and worked on PSAs and a TV movie. This background has helped me visualize what's happening in my story, and I know how to move my characters around the stage, how to costume them, and how to set the stage, all of which produces a book rich in authentic details

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Linda,
I'd have to say that one influence would be my mental health expertise. I've been a social worker for 30 years and you can't work in this field and not be strongly effected by what happens in others lives.
You have a fascinating history. I can't imagine how you felt when your news director arrived with the announcement about Elvis. I guess that's one way to learn flexiblity. :)