Pacific Coast Highway

So I’m a writer now, right?

by Chris Erric Maddox

When do you feel like you’ve arrived at being a bonafide writer? I took a while to come to terms with this, because I didn’t want to feel like I hijacked the title. For example, you can only say you are a doctor when you’re literally performing medical procedures, not when you diagnose a friend who may or may not have a contagious disease just because you read the symptoms online somewhere. (Cough. Ebola.) The same thing goes with acting.

I moved to Los Angeles eight years ago in pursuit of starring in my own television sitcom. The only time, however, when I feel confident in saying that I’m an actor is when I am actually performing in something. Makes sense, right? So, does that mean I’m only a writer when I’m staffed on a television show? Hmm… maybe, yes. But I venture to say no!

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. Even when I misspelled everything in second grade, which still occasionally happens. (Thank goodness for my editor!) I was writing when I placed third in a poetry contest in the fourth grade. I was even writing when I decided not to major in English at Tufts University because none of the course study classes interested me enough. I ended up of having three majors: Drama, Spanish Literature, and Child Development — I say this as I proudly wave my classic overachiever and consummate multitasker flag!

It wasn’t until after I finished Columbia University’s MFA program, after moving to Los Angeles, and being between acting gigs, that I found myself owning the idea that maybe I really was a writer. How did this happen? I began to write. Daily. I began taking classes to immerse myself around other writers. I joined writing groups to learn how to give notes on colleagues’ scripts, screenplays, and teleplays. I signed up for online writing groups to be in touch with other writers virtually. I was writing more and more, and then I finished two manuscripts and developed a couple of pilots. Finally I found my awesome writing partner and after completing several scripts together, we landed our extraordinary management team at Echo Lake. Most recently, my partner-in-prose and I were accepted into the CBS Writers Mentoring Program. (Thank you!)

For me, it’s not about shying away from what I love to do daily; it’s about leaning into it, standing in the light (as a character from one of my favorite TV shows says). It’s about standing up and saying, “I am a writer” even if I’ve not had a script aired on television (yet) and even if I’m not a member of the WGA (yet). Because the truth is, I am a writer because I am. I own it every time I stare at the keys on my laptop or drive down the Pacific Coast Highway trying to solve a storyline.

So the question I ask you is, when will you claim who you are? Today is never too late.

Chris Erric Maddox

About Chris Erric Maddox

Chris is an actor/writer whose roots in drama grew out of his own experiences. At age fourteen, he left a lower-middle-class black neighborhood in Ohio to attend a boarding school program in an affluent white community in Massachusetts. He draws his “fish-out-of-water” stories from these two diverse worlds. He is currently a participant in the CBS Diversity Institute’s Writers Mentoring Program. Please follow on Twitter: @ChrisErric

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