Sunday, June 19, 2011

One Life To Lose

Of all the despicable acts of betrayal, ABC network has cancelled my favorite soap, One Life To Live. The only soap I've watched for the last two years, it offered everything to keep me entertained. It had great acting, dialog and story-lines. Just one episode sucked me in making it the epitome of every writer's goal: Keep the audience in your clutches.

Alas, daytime television isn't like the good old days when the majority of moms were housewives and soap operas had a captive audience. With the changing times and culture, fewer viewers plummeted ratings, and if a show can't sell the soap, well then honey, you're out.

Sadly the show's writing staff winds down, and with that it appears they have thrown up their hands and said, "Let's just get it over with." The writing has diminished, story-lines rushed like a meal made in a microwave. In a sense they've lost an integral part of an artist's soul - they've become lackadaisical, they've lost all...

Integrity. It's as if the writers no longer feel commitment to the art; they're phoning in the pages in order to get the job done. Doesn't matter if it's well done just so long as it's over with.

And it made me think about how I've proceeded with writing. My current work-in-progress is something I've had an on-again off-again relationship with for the past six years. After several starts and stalls I finally said to myself, "Just finish the damn thing. It's not going to get published anyway."

Is it any wonder that I stray from my work? Why show up at all when I've already proclaimed its end result? And when I do show up to the pages I write stream-of-consciousness; whatever pops into my head I barf to the pages, not because the words come from the heart but because I'm just getting it done. I've set up a self fulfilled prophecy and lost the main part of the writer's equation: Integrity.

To show up at the page with complete disregard for the craft is like learning you've got six months to live. Choices develop. Choose to live; choose to die. Make every day count; make every day the countdown. I pity the writing staff of One Life To Live. Surely it sucks to receive a pink-slip, but it sucks more to finish out their stay like they're choosing to die without honor. Yes, the writing world can be cruel. The real world can be, too. But life is what we make of it. To choose an ending inappropriate to the life lived diminishes an already withered soul. It stamps out integrity, the blood coursing through every GREAT writer's veins.

I like to think I have developed standards (when it comes to writing). I like to believe that the pages I write are works of art even if not everyone else will view them that way. My standard is to do the best job I can - to maintain my integrity and not let myself down. As I reflected on the shoddy end-of-days writing of One Life to Live I realized that I stopped living up to my standards and in doing so, stopped living up to my fullest potential.

Through the cancellation of a soap I've learned a valuable lesson and for that I'm grateful, no matter the bittersweet feeling I have over the end. So whether I've chosen to write with or without the goal of publication, I'll remain true in honoring the craft and produce with excellence.

Integrity: Is it an important cog in your writing wheel or not?


Amy Sue Nathan said...

I like to think I have integrity in my writing. I don't quite have the energy to bother with something I'm not planning to do well, hence, many unfinished pieces!

I think that a post like this reveals a lot of integrity. Also, you don't post for the sake of seeing your own words on the screen. That's something to be proud of in this "everyone's an epic writer" culture.

I'm also in line for mourning OLTL as well as AMC. Thank God for The Bachelor/ette and General Hospital.

Kath Calarco said...

Amy, love the logic in referring to unfinished stuff as things you're already planning on not doing well. :-)

I've often wondered if the reason my current WIP is slogging along is because I've viewed my writing in a dim light. It has always been near and dear to my heart, so one would think I'd be all over it.

Regarding OLTL and AMC, I still can't believe ABC is canning them due to ratings. Seriously, I think the network has been in negotiations with Katie Couric for a while now and are just making room for her daytime talk show. Not that I follow ratings , but I wonder how well the CBS Evening News' ratings fared with her in the seat. (Never really cared for her - too homogenized for me.)