Patty Lin, END CREDITS: How I Broke Up with Hollywood

Patty Lin, END CREDITS: How I Broke Up with Hollywood

Zibby Books author alert!!! Zibby interviews debut author Patty Lin about End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood, a funny, fresh, and eye-opening memoir about her ten-year TV writing career–which was not what she had dreamed it to be. Patty shares what it was like to endure such a crushing work culture, manage her immigrant parents’ expectations, date a workaholic, and ultimately, walk away from the industry. She also shares what life has been like since breaking up with Hollywood (it involves sewing, supporting the writers’ strike, and writing this exceptional book).


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Patty. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood, which happens to be a Zibby Books title. Congratulations.

Patty Lin: Thank you. Thanks, Zibby.

Zibby: So exciting. Please tell listeners what your book is about.

Patty: My book is a memoir about my television writing career. I wrote for TV for about ten years. I retired when I was thirty-eight because I learned pretty quickly that the TV writing business was not what I had hoped it would be. I was burnt out in every way and felt like I just needed to get out and do something else with my life. I started writing a book. I didn’t even know it was a book at first. I just started writing about my experiences in the television business. That grew into this memoir.

Zibby: Did you ever think about writing about your experiences in the television business as a television story only? Did you ever think about writing it as a screenplay, or did you go into prose? Had you written prose before?

Patty: I had written some prose before. When I was a kid, I used to write short stories. That was kind of my first attempt at creative writing. I never thought about writing this as a script just because — I don’t know. It just didn’t occur to me. It seemed like it would be really difficult to do it as a script when what I was writing about was how devastating that whole process was for me. I had to step away from that and do it in a different form just to be able to tackle the topic.

Zibby: I don’t even know why I asked you that. It just came out.

Patty: I think I’ve gotten that question before. It makes sense.

Zibby: When you were writing prose versus the way that your brain thinks when you’re writing for TV, how do you think about things when you’re writing? Tell me the differences in approach and how you did it. I know, obviously, a lot of TV writing is collaborative. When you’re writing a memoir, it’s something you do by yourself. Even how you approach it, how your brain thinks of it, were there differences, or not so much?

Patty: It was very different. Writing a memoir was just so much more personal than any of the screenwriting that I did. I think that screenwriting is a very specific skill. When I started writing a book, I realized that my first attempt at writing a book, my prose was very sparse. It came out kind of flat. I think that was because when you write a script, you’re writing a blueprint, essentially. You know that a director is going to come in and interpret it. You know that a production designer is going to figure out what the wallpaper looks like. Actors are going to interpret the lines. You’re already sort of anticipating that it’s going to be collaborative, and so you don’t write with all the detail that you would write in a book. In fact, in screenwriting, it’s considered to be not good writing if you’re using a lot of description and stuff. I had to retrain myself when I was writing the book to really give the sensory details and to paint the scene because a director’s not going to do that. A production designer is not going to do that. It’s still something that I have to work really hard to do because I’m so trained the other way. That was a big difference, and then also, as you said, the collaborative aspect of it. Sometimes in TV, collaboration was fantastic. It’s one of the best things that can come out of it. Then other times, it’s a nightmare when there’s not a cohesive vision and people are on different wavelengths. The final product can come out kind of a mess. For me, writing a book and having that really be just mine at first was really important for myself.

Zibby: Interesting. Wow. As someone who’s never written a screenplay, that feels impossible to me. I don’t know if you were intimidated by the form. We can stop talking about form, but I’m just so fascinated with people who can go back and forth, like poetry to fiction, fiction to screenwriting, to historical fiction. It’s a huge skill set. I’m impressed. Anyway, to your experiences in this world, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back for you?

Patty: You know, it wasn’t just one thing, honestly. I like to think of it as death by a thousand cuts because it was a lot of damaging experiences over and over and over and then finally getting to the point where there was so much cumulative trauma from that that I just couldn’t take it anymore. It wasn’t one thing. If I had to point to one of the experiences towards the end of my TV career that helped push me over, it was writing a script and then having the showrunner, essentially, rewrite the whole thing. It happens all the time, all the time, but to have it happen and not be kept in the loop about it was really upsetting. There was a day where I was on set supervising the shoot of my episode. My boss had rewritten some pages, and I didn’t know. Then when I showed up, people were running around trying to figure out what was going on. They were yelling at me. I was like, I had no idea. It was just the most humiliating experience. You’re shaking your head.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. I am shaking my head to say, oh, that would be bad. That would not be fun. I feel for you. A big part of the book is not just about your experience in Hollywood. Although, that’s, of course, totally intriguing and interesting and so topical with the strike and everything like that. What I also really loved was all of your personal experience and your relationship with your parents and your romantic relationships and how everything was affected by your job and expectations and all of that. Can you talk a little bit about even your parents and what they thought you should be doing or just all the pressures you were under in all different ways?

Patty: My parents, they wanted my brother and I to be doctors. They were Taiwanese immigrants. They worked really hard to survive in America. They did that so that we would have more opportunities than them. For them, doing something that was creative as a job just didn’t make any sense. Nobody in our family did anything that was creative as a job. They saw that I had creative aspirations and that I had talent as a child and all that, but I think that for them, happiness as an adult meant financial security. They just didn’t see how I was going to be financially secure doing anything in the arts. That was always a tension with our relationship. Even though they were supportive in — they lent me money when I needed it. They never cut me off or said, if you do this, we’re not going to talk to you anymore. It wasn’t like that. I felt throughout my television writing career that they just were sort of baffled by what I was doing. They didn’t really get it. I always felt like they were kind of ashamed of me because I wasn’t doing what all their friends’ kids were doing. That was really hard. It wasn’t until I went to therapy and started working on my own feelings of self-esteem and coming to accept myself devoid of any accomplishments or external successes, when I learned to love myself just for who I was as a person, that’s when my relationship with my parents started to change because I wasn’t so desperate to prove myself to them. Then I could just be with them. At that point, I was able to take in their love for me and not see them as constantly judging me and criticizing.

Zibby: Interesting. I feel like you need to post that therapist’s phone number somewhere for other people who may need — and the therapist’s number…

Patty: I thanked her in my acknowledgements.

Zibby: In the show notes of this podcast episode will be a referral line. Oh, my goodness. That’s good. Therapy at work. Success. Talk a little bit about your relationships, and particularly, the one major relationship which comes early on and is a shaping force throughout the story.

Patty: I dated another TV writer. He wrote TV and films. I met him when I was eighteen. He was working as an NBC page. I went to get tickets to the Letterman show. I was in college. I had been a fan of the show. I wanted to go to the show. Went to NBC to get tickets, and that’s how I met him. He was the one who told me — I asked him, “How would I get an internship at the Letterman show?” He told me, “Just write a letter.” I ended up dating him after I graduated. We were together for ten years. Our relationship was very much based on that connection that we had to show business. He helped me a lot. He was the one who first told me how to get an internship. He helped me tremendously throughout my career, but he also was totally obsessed with work. I think this is pretty common in the entertainment industry because that business takes so much dedication. You just have to devote your whole life to it. He definitely did that. When I started to become disillusioned with the business and I started to expand my interests into other things, we started to drift apart. That was really difficult because his whole life was work. I just didn’t want my life to be like that anymore. Does that answer your question?

Zibby: Yes. I just like hearing about everybody else’s relationships. That’s all. I’m just completely nosey, is really what’s going on. I structure this as a podcast, but really, I’m just like, let me snoop into your private life. Tell me what’s going on.

Patty: I think that a lot of people will be able to relate to that relationship even if they haven’t worked in entertainment because so many people are in a relationship with really workaholic people. That can be so hard to navigate, especially when one person stops being a workaholic and the other one is still a workaholic. Then that’s a big problem.

Zibby: You think that’s a dealbreaker? Are there tips for the non-workaholic or the workaholic? Dear Patty, I am suffering.

Patty: I’m getting a sense that this might be a little bit more personal than I thought.

Zibby: It wasn’t until you framed it that way. I was like, oh, my god.

Patty: I don’t have any tip. My only tip was that I had to get out of that relationship. I hope that other people can learn how to make it work. It’s not that I didn’t love him. Love, it’s just one part of the relationship.

Zibby: Little did you know you were going to be put on the spot for your dating advice. You never know what you’re going to get. Moving on. Post-TV world, you have become this master seamstress. Not seamstress. That’s the wrong word. What do you call — sewer?

Patty: No, it’s a seamstress.

Zibby: It is, right?

Patty: Yeah.

Zibby: Talk about that. Where did that come from? What are you doing with that line of business? All of that. You’re so creative. Your stuff is so amazing.

Patty: Thank you. It’s not a business. It’s really not. It’s just a hobby. I started sewing, I say a few years ago, but it was really more like fifteen years ago or something. It was kind of just a whim. I was never interested in sewing before. Then I just bought this sewing machine on a whim. I got it because I was going to Burning Man, and I was going to decorate my bike. I was going to put fur on my bike to make it look like Chewbacca. This is going off on a whole other tangent. Anyway, I bought the sewing machine to decorate my bike. Then I realized, oh, my god, I can’t even thread this machine. It took me half an hour just to thread the machine. Then I realized I needed to take some lessons. I found a small independent sewing studio in LA. I started taking lessons. I fell in love with it. I had this really great teacher who was really fun. She explained it in a way that was easy. I must have made pajama pants for every person that I knew. I started taking more and more advanced classes. Now I can make dresses. I can make shirts and costumes and things like that. It’s just a joy because it uses a different part of my brain than writing. It kind of reminds me of drawing and painting, which is something that I used to do when I was a kid. Then I stopped doing it when I got to college because I was like, I need to study. I need to be serious. I never lost that drive to do creative things that were not necessarily verbal. That’s the void that sewing fills for me. It’s just fun. I tried selling some things. I sold a few things, but I really honestly feel like I don’t want to turn it into a job because for me, it’s a hobby. It’s a recreational outlet. I just don’t want to lose that feeling of fun and freedom that I have with it.

Zibby: Although, there is a huge demand for Chewbacca bike outfitting. Now you could be the person who does that.

Patty: Let me tell you, that bike was so cool. It actually got stolen. That’s how cool it was.

Zibby: Wow, oh, my gosh. When you are not outfitting bikes and teaching yourself how to make frocks and writing beautiful memoirs, what are you doing? Where do you want your life to go? Obviously, you have this book and the book marketing and all of that. What are your hopes and dreams for the next couple years?

Patty: I don’t know.

Zibby: That’s okay.

Patty: I honestly don’t know. I know that I would like to write another book. Writing is definitely going to be a part of my life forever. At this point, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not going to get rid of it. I don’t make lots of plans. I don’t have a lot of goals. I know that sounds lame.

Zibby: No one was judging. Hey microphone here, are you and I judging? We’re not judging you.

Patty: I know. Sometimes I realize what it must sound like to people. Oh, I’m just going to take life as it comes. Honestly, that’s what it is. Maybe it was because when I was growing up, I was so ambitious. I had so many goals. I remember coming up with lists of goals when I was very young. I just got tired of doing that. I got tired of putting all of that pressure on myself. Now I’ve gone kind of in the opposite direction where I’m just not ambitious at all. All I know is that whatever I do in the next few years, I just want it to be creative. I want it to feel organic.

Zibby: I think we might need the therapist back on the line to unpack this relationship with ambition. I think that’s great, as long as you’re happy. Are you happy?

Patty: Yeah, I am. I am very happy.

Zibby: There you go. That’s awesome. Plus, this book is coming out at the perfect time. Everybody in the world is talking about writing, the strike. All of these details which had been not mainstream are now in front of everyone’s face constantly. How do you feel about that coming out at the same time and just the fact that all this attention is on this industry?

Patty: I’m really glad that there is attention being put on this. I really am. So much of this stuff that the writers’ strike is about, these are issues that we were dealing with for years and years and years. The general public didn’t really know about it because all they see is the finished product. As a consumer of entertainment, you don’t necessarily want to know how the sausage is made, but there’s some gnarly stuff that’s happening in that sausage factory. I think that it’s good that people are seeing that only because everybody wants to be treated with respect in the work that they do. Hollywood writers should not be exempt from that. It used to be that when I worked in TV, a lot of people would justify the abusive culture or whatever by saying, well, at least we make a lot of money. Now they can’t even say that because they’re not. Most writers aren’t making a lot of money anymore. It’s not just about the money. It’s really more about just the general culture in which the writers’ contribution is not valued by the people at the top.

Zibby: Which is a shame because without the writers, what would you even have?

Patty: Exactly. Everybody in Hollywood thinks that they’re the hub, that they’re the ones that are creating everything. The writers think that they’re the ones. The actors think that they’re the ones. The producers think that they’re the ones. Everybody thinks that they’re the center of it. It’s a collaboration. You can’t have one without the other. Every part of it is interdependent. The writers have generally been overlooked in a lot of this. I just think that’s not fair.

Zibby: Let’s see what happens. Maybe by the time this airs it will all be resolved.

Patty: I hope so. That would be amazing.

Zibby: Any advice for aspiring authors?

Patty: Oh, boy. It’s hard to give generalized advice because advice for one writer would be the opposite advice for another writer. If I had to say one piece of advice — I’ll just say a piece of advice that I wish I had had. It’s, when you are starting out, to really be careful about sharing your work with other people too early. The reason that I say that is because even though feedback is really important and you want to get feedback at some point, I think if you do it too early in the process, it can really affect your motivation to finish the project. For me, that was definitely the case. I didn’t tell anybody I was working on this book for years, or I would just be very general about it. If somebody really wanted to get into the details of it, I just had to be like, I’m sorry, I can’t talk about it right now. I’m so glad that I did that because it was so hard to even just get that first draft on paper. I really needed the safety and the privacy to do that. A new idea, it’s like a newborn baby. You have to really coddle it before you let it out into the world. That’s the advice I would give to people starting out.

Zibby: For somebody who’s starting out in the screenwriting world and wants to be a screenwriter, what about them? What would you say to them?

Patty: Don’t do it. I’ve given that advice a lot of times, and nobody listens. People who want to do it, they will not listen if you tell them not to. I would say just be prepared. Be prepared for a lot of rejection. You’re going to have to grow a thick skin if you want to survive. That can be really hard because as a writer, you have to be vulnerable and sensitive. At the same time, to work in that business, you have to have a thick skin. It’s a really hard contradiction to live with. That’s part of the reason that I left. Pretty much everybody I’ve met who’s been successful in the business has a combination of those things.

Zibby: Interesting. I have to say, we’ve gotten a lot of résumés lately of people who are saying, I thought I wanted to be a screenwriter, but actually, I’m interested in editorial. Interesting. We’ll see if the tides end up shifting completely.

Patty: That would be cool.

Zibby: Of course, then what would we watch on TV? Patty, congratulations on End Credits. Sorry this interview took us all over the place, but whatever.

Patty: No, it was fun.

Zibby: I’m just so proud and excited to be affiliated with this book. You’re such a great writer. Your story is so interesting and so important and really awesome. Thanks for letting Zibby Books come along for the ride.

Patty: Oh, my god, thank you. Thank you for making this process so fun. It really has been amazing.

Zibby: Good. I’m so glad. Amazing. Congratulations. Have a great day.

Patty: Thanks, Zibby. Thanks. You too.

Zibby: Bye, Patty.

Patty: Bye.

END CREDITS: How I Broke Up with Hollywood by Patty Lin

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