We’re not knitting here

I’ve been taking Kenpo karate for over four years now. The dojo where I train is a special place. When new students begin, movements are very slow and no one’s getting hit. As the years progress, the “gradient” increases. Gradient can mean both speed and the amount of force you can take. I’m a green belt now, and that is when things get serious. We’re moving at “combat speed” and we’re learning to take real hits. We have several drills where we’re not supposed to make contact, but every once in a while, you take a hit from a fellow student when you weren’t expecting one. When this happens, our Sensei often says:

“We’re not knitting here.”

Which brings me to screenwriting and the entertainment industry in general. In the beginning, you’re working on your craft, doing little indie projects or student films. But eventually, you get that first opportunity and you enter the professional world. And here’s the truth: in Hollywood, there are no gradient checks. There’s no Sensei looking over you, making sure things aren’t moving too fast, or the hits are ones you can take. The constant rejection, the terrible notes, the people who lead with their ego instead of their creative selves…the hits start coming and really, never stop. Even if you’re a proven screenwriter, even when there’s money in the bank, being a professional is never easy.

The difference is that in martial arts, you’re given tools to deal with getting hit. You learn how to dig deep inside yourself and face things you never thought you could handle before.

In the entertainment industry, no one teaches you how to defend yourself against the hits that come at you full speed, whether you’re ready or not. When a studio says they love your script, then have it rewritten into mediocrity? There is no block for that. These kinds of hits make people jaded. It makes people leave the business.

What are the defenses? Generally, it’s experience, a toughening of the skin. But that is a very difficult way to do it. I get hit in the chest a lot, but that’s not a place you build up callouses. So how do you take care of yourself in such a crazy business?

That’s a lot of what I want to start talking about in this blog. I think a lot of people defend themselves by building walls, lashing out, becoming jerks. I think there’s a better way.  Living a creatively fulfilling life that’s also financially rewarding is not easy, not at all. But it’s worth it. As long as we remember:

“We’re not knitting here.”

5 thoughts on “We’re not knitting here

  1. Vivi Anna

    I think you hit on something here Bob. There are no tips or tricks or insight to handling the crap in the business. Yeah, everyone says like you did, develop thick skin, but how can one go about doing that?

  2. Geri Elsasser

    Bob, this is a great analogy. One, I dare say, having been around the block, can be said of many, no most, professions/jobs out there. The entertainment industry, unfortunately, does not hold the patent on how people are treated at various levels of employment. Perhaps that’s why I’m trying so hard now. Fighting for a space in scriptwriting is at least fighting for a space in a field in which I’ve always wanted to work. The slings and arrows for most of my life were painful more because I was stuck someplace I didn’t want to be anyway, and so the darts to the chest were just another shot at someone who felt unfulfilled to begin with. Believe me, especially as a woman, I know what it’s like to be treated badly. As an aside, right now, there’s an old episode of “King of Queens” on. This one includes several embarrassing and sickening scenes involving the mother of one of Doug’s friends. She is this over-the-top woman, obviously hungry for attention, and were it not for a pre-recorded laugh-track, I think a real audience would be more mortified than amused at the scene. I have to wonder who writes this stuff? I can guarantee that no older woman was in on this. I know: “We’re not knitting here.” The slings and arrows will continue. But since we work so hard not to offend different races, religions, sexual orientations, can I just suggest that we extend the same courtesy to older people? We are still the same people that we were 30 years ago, but with more wrinkles and just–possibly–more common sense and interesting stories to tell. Believe me, my friend, no one can throw anything at me at this point that I haven’t already been through. I am as tough as nails.

  3. Pingback: We’re not knitting here | alvamoore

  4. lights camera women

    Bob, I look very much forward to more from you. I figured after half a century of living I’d developed tough skin and could do anything. Yeah, right. I think I’m still a knitter. I wonder what I really even know.


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