iamdavidbrothers said: Hey Tessa, I like when you write things, whether it's serious or humorous. I know you had a fraught relationship with writing in the past. What do you appreciate or get out of writing now that you didn't, or maybe avoided, when you were younger? What's the appeal for you?
Writing is definitely something I had a weird hang-up about when I was younger. Part of it was that it had always came easily to me, so I took it for granted. Part of it is that it was the main thing I was praised for, when I wanted attention for other things (most of which I wasn’t as skilled at), and I felt that I was being pressured into defining myself as a writer at the expense of anything else. And part of it is that my dad is a screenwriter, so there was sort of this The Family Business baggage attached to it, and I was really hell-bent on carving out my own place in the world.
I think college is the first time I really started to write for pleasure, like, outside of journals detailing my disappointing teenage life. A weird thing about me, relative to people my age, is that I grew up without a lot of access to the internet, so I had a very utilitarian relationship with the internet. And then all of a sudden I have virtually unlimited access and a lot of time to myself, and that’s when I really started reading blogs and internet writing, and it kind of opened up a whole other world for me. Mind you, at the time I still considered myself an actor first, last, and forever, so when I started blogging, it was this low stakes hobby. Like, I could write and use all of those skills I’d developed in academic writing but in a more frivolous context, so that was really exciting to me. And gradually it became something that I really came to love doing and started to take pretty seriously.
I kept up that momentum pretty well after college, and it helped that I got a lot of positive attention for it, including from people whose work I really respected (you included!). But at the same time, my life was kind of stalling. I was living with my parents, I was working a series of financially and spiritually unrewarding jobs (eventually I landed a job I loved, working at my local comic book shop, which was a lifesaver), I was in a long distance relationship. And around this time I started to put more pressure on myself with regard to my writing, and it became harder and harder to do. And after moving to New York, it got even more difficult. I was in a weird, transitional period, and nothing was really coming easily anymore.
What really ended up making a difference for me was when I started collaborating on a screenplay with Aubrey Bellamy, who I had met on Twitter and had gradually become a good friend of mine. For one thing, it helped a lot to be accountable to someone; it meant shit was getting done whether I felt inspired that day or not. There was also just a natural chemistry there, and writing and communicating with Aubrey felt effortless (still does! we’re working on another). Those kinds of collaborative relationships come once in a blue moon, and I count myself really lucky to have found that. It offers a really nice balance to writing alone, where it’s often easy for me to get stuck in my head (or up my own ass, as the case may be).
The other aspect was that, for whatever reason, I was able to be less precious about screenwriting. Essay writing for me had always been a matter of channeling these wild ideas, and I had to do it in one sitting, and it was nearly impossible for me to edit clearheadedly. Very ~emotional~ process. But screenwriting was something that I knew how to approach analytically, because I had grown up reading my dad’s screenplays and hearing his pitches, and giving him notes, and in general getting this incredible education on cinematic structure without really intending to. And being able to turn to him for guidance and mentorship was great, too. Plus, movies and TV have always been huge for me. Weirdly, I had always been afraid of “storytelling” and fiction in general, but it’s become something that I really enjoy now. It was a natural transition that I’d fought for a really long time.
So overall, there was this process of learning to take something that I was able to do kind of by the grace of god and relearning how to do it through hard work and discipline. Which was, unsurprisingly, really difficult. But man, has it ever been worth it. I get so much joy out of both the process and the result, and I spend most of my time thinking about how to do more of it. And screenwriting, even though it has taken away time from blogging and essay writing, has kind of brought the fun back into that by removing the pressure to Make My Name doing it. Although, hell! Who knows.