Teaching Writing

Kelvin Yu: Why I Write


Insight from writer, actor, and NWP Writers Council member Kelvin Yu on the creative freedom that writing provides, compared to acting, within the TV and film industry. Originally published on March 10, 2016
Screenshot of front page of article

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I began writing later in life. The day-to-day existence of a film and television actor in Los Angeles is inherently at the mercy of the written material being produced. There came a time when I began writing as an evolution of necessity. It dawned on me that, in my dreams, I could not only be the protagonist of great stories—I could be the author. At that time, the choice to write was born of a hunger for material. I was like a slimy primordial fish crawling out of the sea in a desperate search for food.

Since then, writing has become much more to me. It has become the primary focus of my creative energies. I realize now that in the multi-media, collaborative, nuanced endeavor that is film and TV, most people must work in reference to something else. That is to say, the actors take their cue from the director. The director takes his or her cue from the producers. The producers take their cue from studios or financiers or audiences. The writer, on the other hand, is the only piece of the puzzle whose sole reference point is himself, his own mind, his own experience (unless it’s an adaptation of a mega-successful series of Young Adult novels featuring a love triangle and hot zombies).

The work of a writer is unique, sacred, and terrifying in that way. In this industry, being a writer is the closest you might come to real, creative freedom. That’s why I write.