Being an emerging fantasy screenwriter is hard. Fantasy films require bigger budgets than social dramas and when you're new few people are brave enough to make that kind of investment. It can get you really down. You put in all that hard work only to feel like you've wasted your whole life. You sit in your nice warm house with a full stomach and clean clothes feeling rejected and useless and like the whole world is ending. It's so easy to put everything out of perspective.
A month ago I donated the majority of my old story books, toys and stationery to a charity to help orphans in India. It felt weird parting with so many items from my childhood however mum needed the space and I knew that others would enjoy and appreciate them much more than I, who am far too old to keep them (and far to single to pretend I need them for my own non-existent family). I sent them off, felt that I had done my good deed for the day then returned to trying desperately to get someone to invest in me or even reply to my email.
At the beginning of today all that had changed was that along with still being unemployed I had got sunburnt and my laptop had broken. I was pretty miserable. Then I received this:
I swear I have never felt so touched. Just looking at his beaming face makes me smile back. I've never been more pleased to hear that someone likes eating chicken. Prasanna's letter is taking pride of place on my mantelpiece.
When times are rough and it seems like impassible mountains are between you and your ambitions it is easy to forget how lucky we are. But I can also promise you that when times are rough and you feel like you've wandered from the path there is no greater feeling than to know that out of all the efforts you've felt have been wasted, rejected and ignored, one has actually improved the life of someone much worse off that yourself.
And I can appreciate that the 21st century version of 'charity' can be off-putting. How many times have you walked down a high street only to be accosted by someone with a clipboard trying to get you to sign up to something they've been paid to believe in? You feel guilty and invaded and put off the whole concept. I can't think of much worse than to be made to give your hard earned money to something you don't believe in because someone has intimidated you into doing it. Charity comes from the heart not the purse.
Times are tough (boy do I know) but there is so much more to 'charity' than giving over your pin number:
- First of all pick a charity you believe in. If you're uncertain about a charity's eithics look them up online. Charities range from my orphans in India to animal protection to medical research to funding new talent. It doesn't matter what you choose to support as long as you believe in it. Like I said: charity comes from the heart.
- Charity websites such as kickstarter allow you to make single donations of as little or as much as you like and often offer rewards (though it's about the giving, not the getting - right?)
- Support your local charity shop. Don't be a snob. You won't get rabies from going into one and you honestly never know what you might find (and it's usually amazingly cheap). Depending on the area a charity shop can be just as good as a vintage shop or market. If someone does rip the piss about you shopping in one it's really their problem not yours. Also, a great tip about charity shopping is that the stock varies from shop to shop depending on the area that the shop is based in - wealthier areas stock more originally expensive items - if you want a cheap fur coat I recommend the charity shops in Knightsbridge!
- If you don't want to buy from a charity shop you can always give. Charity shops are always looking for news stock and often send bags in the post which they will pick up themselves meaning you don't even have to leave your house to donate something! If you are worried that postal bags are a scam you can hand deliver your donation to the shop of your choice. Just remember that donating to a charity shop is not the same as visiting the dump. Never donate items or clothing of a quality you would not wish to use or wear yourself. Also never leave donations outside of a closed shop. You're not eating into your budget, are recycling items to someone who will appreciate them more and providing a means to raise money.
- If you don't have money or items to give then give your time. It can be anything from an hour to a hundred hours. Every second counts. Don't be put off by those people with clipboards - they may seem holier than thou but they are being paid to harangue you - donating your time does not mean you have to be the same! Perhaps there is a small, local charity or community project that needs volunteers. Perhaps you have a skill that you can teach to others at a community centre or school club. Perhaps your elderly neighbour need someone to mow her lawn.
So please, the next time something has gone wrong, you've been rejected or you're generally feeling a shade of blue, don't spend the day locked away wallowing in self-pity: go out and give some joy to someone else. It's the best pick-me-up in the world.