Back in August I rode cross-country with a friend of mine on her journey to bible school in Oklahoma. I had brought a few writing magazines along with me because I was taking Greyhound (that’s a whole different blog) to meet her in Atlanta and flying back, so I needed some eye-entertainment. After conversation grew short as we drove through state to state, I picked up one of the magazines I had almost finished during the bus ride. I came across a section advertising MFA programs. Since I’m a few credits shy of an Associates, I knew going for a Masters program was not in my immediate plans. I turned the page and my eyes ran across UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. I immediately noticed the absence of the word “degree.” I carefully ripped out the excerpt, placed in my journal for further perusal. Once we got to OK, after settling in for the night, we drove to her campus and also went to visit another bible college in the area. All of a sudden I noticed a slight change in my feelings in regard to school. (I went to college for one semester after graduating high school; that was not the route for me, so why was I now considering going that route?)
The rest of the trip was great, eye-opening with quite a few different revelations. One being my desire to move to Dallas had changed after we took a weekend trip there. I could now cross Dallas off my list of possibilities. Making it back to South Carolina, I tore things apart in search of the tiny piece of paper holding information on my possible next step in my journey to fulfillment. Finally finding it a couple of days later tucked safely in my journal where I placed it, I powered up the laptop and typed in the link on the paper. My eyes grew large — as if they could expand any wider — as I poured over the details of the writing program. Within five minutes I knew this would indeed be a step in the right direction. No application process. All I had to do was pay $150 to enroll and sign up for a couple of classes and be well on the way to a certificate in TV writing. Now all was left to do was find a place in Los Angeles to stay for the year it would take me to complete six classes.
Moving to L.A. wasn’t a dream of mine. Though, it was something I entertained a time or two, it wasn’t a place I felt I had to live in my lifetime. The purpose of me living out there would be for school and for school only. If after obtaining my certificate and a writing opportunity presented itself, only then would I entertain staying longer.
Then began my search for a place to stay. I pulled up Craigslist quickly realizing I wasn’t fond of the “apartments” out there. To me they looked like motels gutted out and turned into rental units. They looked shabby on the outside and totally redone on the inside, for the most part. Pressure-cleaning is out of the question, I guess. Quite a few places didn’t even come with a fridge. To have one would cost extra in rent. Crazy, right? That is not what you see when you watch shows based out of L.A. As the days moved along in my search I heard almost inaudible whispers in my gut telling me to rethink, if not change my decision to relocate to Southern California. I ignored the whispers waving them off as fear of stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ve lived on three different continents and have experienced lots of different cultures. It wasn’t change or the unfamiliar that was a problem for me. There was just something off in what I saw and felt from searching online.
Originally I had planned to begin school in fall of ’12, but decided there was no point in putting it off that long, so I began making arrangements to fly out before the new year and start school in January. Boy am I glad I did. I flew from Charlotte to Chicago to Los Angeles. The flight was awesome. Mountains, mountains, and more mountains kept taking my breath away. I even had a revelation when it came to pursuing your passion. There was a big smile plastered across my face as we flew over mountains right near the coastline of L.A. I was thinking, “This is perfect.” Once we landed I felt a tinge of anxiety sprinting through my veins. At that moment I couldn’t quite place it. But as the minutes and hours passed things slowly became clear.
Plans were to take the bus everywhere because I would not have a car when I moved out there. The neighborhood I was staying in quickly threw that option out the window. That very next morning I was calling Enterprise for a rental. They came to pick me up forty-five minutes later. My first stop was to UCLA Extension to get a “feel” for if I had the same feeling I had while perusing online. I did. Looking back now, there was hesitancy. Something in my spirit said, “Wait.” Had I listened I would’ve saved $150. I encountered three “signs” not to do it, not to rush in paying, but I felt if I didn’t that I would allow other obstacles to make me change my mind. Not knowing that I needed to change my mind anyway, or that I would three days later. Hindsight is a…
After leaving the school, I met up with a friend in Culver City for lunch. We ate a block away from Sony Pictures Studios. As we walked down the street we overheard conversations of people passing by discussing writing. She told me, “See, this is where you need to be.” I agreed. Driving down the street the next day in search of apartments, I ran into a couple of productions in action. That aspect was thrilling for me. However, it kept me distracted from the bigger picture. I had not found a place to stay yet. I only had one more day with the rental car, and not to mention two apartment managers cancelled on me. What was I to do? I ended up finding a place where I could get a huge discount due to my income being under a certain amount. The apartment was smaller than I liked, but I felt safe being I would be taking the bus. Plus, it had a leasing office like I’m used to, unlike most other places out there with no management onsite. Someone mentioned that I would get overwhelmed in the search process. Actually, that wasn’t what overwhelmed me. It was the convincing myself that that was where I needed to be which overwhelmed me. I began to feel as though I was forcing myself to make it work when everything in me was telling me to let it go.
That Friday I was invited to watch a Japanese group perform at Andre Crouch’s church. Since I lived in Japan for four years and enjoyed the culture, I figured why not? Plus, it gave me the chance to finally meet a friend from Twitter for the first time. The group was great. They sung a song that touched me so. The lyrics that got to me were, “I want to hear Your voice in the midst of all the noise.” My eyes began to well with tears. From the time I discovered the writing program to the time I flew out there, my head had been filled with so much noise. Where am I going to live? What about transportation? Will all my money just go to rent? Noise, noise, noise. In the midst of all the clutter, I failed to hear God’s voice, those whispers I kept hearing. The next morning I awoke to a decision already made. I felt an abundance of peace in my spirit, and felt like a weight had been lifted, a weight I placed on myself might I add. Deciding not to move to L.A. led me on another search, a search I had already exhausted. There were no other schools I felt compared to the program offered at UCLA Extension, especially none w/o having a degree. That search also led me to a blog. The blog’s author wrote: MANY (if not most) people who make it in this industry do not go to school for it. What’s really important is not your schooling but your script.
Her words got me to thinking. I taught myself how to write novels. I learned via reading other novels and books on writing. I learned what worked and didn’t work for me. In August, on that same road trip, we went to a Border’s that was closing down where I purchased Screenwriting for Dummies, which has yet to be cracked open. Before the idea of school entered my mind I had already planned on teaching myself how to write a script. The idea of going to school and relocating quickly became a distraction. After doing more research on the best books on screenwriting I discovered I had another great book already on my bookshelf. I then began thinking back to the Visionaries series I had watched on OWN. Most of the visionaries either dropped out of school or obtained a degree in a field different from their notoriety. They already had a gift in them that needed cultivating. They did just that by pursuing their dreams. If I adopt a good discipline technique and give screenwriting the same dedication and heart I gave to completing my first novel, I’m positive I will be just as successful in regards to writing for film & TV. I now know I am well on my way. And this lesson, though it cost me close to a grand, was definitely worth it and will be pivotal when it comes to making future decisions in my journey.
“If a storyteller has a passion, it shouldn’t matter whom it’s going to please one way or the other. If you have the passion, you should tell that story.” F. Gary Gray
Spiritual Jewel: It’s not where you are but who you are and what you are capable of that makes the difference in your success. Trust your gut.
This is Jewells signing out…