Reflections- Artificial Sweetener

Sometimes we know in our bones what we really need to do, but we’re afraid to do it.
Taking a chance, and stepping beyond the safety of the world we’ve always known is the only way to grow, though, and without risk there is no reward.
Thoughts like this have weighed heavily on me for the last year or so, as I look around and reassess my life.
This past year has involved more self-discovery and more change than any so far in my life. It’s been tumultuous, scary, exhilarating, depressing, thrilling, joyful.
I’ve realized recently that I have changed dramatically since I started this website. When it began just over a year ago, I was very adrift, terrified that the Internet would tear me apart.
Well, it did, and it turns out that was a great thing. The Internet kicked my ass, and it forced me to find strength within myself, and to not derive my sense of self-worth from the opinions of others.
This website has introduced me to amazing people, weird people, scary people. This website, and many people who read it, has also helped me figure out what is important to me in my life, what makes me happy.
I guess the feeling has been building for a long time, and I knew it was there, but I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it. It was –is– scary. It’s a major change in my life, but I can’t ignore it, and to ignore it is to ignore myself, and cheat myself out of what I think my real potential is.
Back in the middle of May, I was asked to do this commercial. Well, not just a commercial, more of an infomercial, really. My first reaction was, “No way. Infomercials are death to an actor’s career.”
But then I thought about the last few years of my life as an actor. The daily frustrations. Losing jobs for stupid, capricious, unfair reasons.
I looked back and saw that it really started when my friend Roger promised me a role in Rules of Attraction, then yanked it away from me without so much as a phonecall or email or anything. Then there was the roller coaster of Win Ben Stein’s Money, and missing family vacations so I could stay home and go on auditions that all ended up being a huge waste of my time.
Throughout this time, this painful, frustrating Trial, I began to write more and more. It’s all here on WWDN. I can see my writing style change, as I find my voice, and figure out what I want to say, and how I want to say it.
The emails changed, too. People stopped asking me to do interviews for them about Star Trek, and started asking me if I’d conrtibute to their magazines, or weblogs, or books.
When this phonecall came for the infomercial, I took a long walk, and assessed my life.
The bottom line was: They were offering to pay me enough to support my family for the rest of this year. I wouldn’t have to worry about bills anymore. I wouldn’t have to view each audition as This One Big Chance That I Can’t Screw Up.
Accepting it would mean some security for me and my family. It was also a really cool computer-oriented product (which I’ll get to later, don’t worry). It’s not like I would be hawking “The Ab-Master 5000″ or “Miracle Stain Transmogrifier X!”
It would also mean, to me at least, the end of any chance I had of ever being a really major actor again. That elusive chance to do a film as good as, or better than Stand By Me or a TV series as widely-watched as TNG would finally fall away.
I thought of all these things, walking Ferris through my neighborhood.
It was a long walk.
I thought of Donald Crowhurst.
I thought about why actors –and by actors I mean working, struggling actors like myself, not Big Time Celebrities like I was 15 years ago– suffer the indignities of auditions and the whims of Hollywood.
I remembered something I said to a group of Drama students just before their graduation: “If you want to be a professional actor, you have to love the acting, the performing, the thrill of creating a character and giving it life. You have to love all of that more than you hate how unfair the industry is, more than the constant rejection –and it is constant– hurts. You must have a passion within you that makes it worthwhile to struggle for years while pretty boys and pretty girls take your parts away from you again and again and again.”
I listened to my words, echoing off the linoleum floor of that High School auditorium, and realized that those words, spoken long ago were as much for me as they were for them.
I listened to my words and I realized: I don’t have that passion any more. I simply isn’t there.
I am no longer willing to miss a family vacation, or a birthday, or a recital, for an audition.
I am no longer willing to humiliate myself for some casting director who refuses to accept the fact that I’m pretty good with comedy.
I am no longer willing to ignore what I’m best at, and what I love the most, because I’ve spent the bulk of my life trying to succeed at something else.
So I walked back to my house, picked up the phone, and accepted the offer.
It was tumultuous, scary, exhilarating, depressing, thrilling, joyful.
I would spend the next three weeks wondering if I’d made the right decision. I would question and doubt it over and over again.
Was it the right decision? I don’t know.
Things have certainly changed for me, though. I have had 3 auditions since May. A year ago that would have killed me, but I’m really not bothered by it now.
I’ve made my family my top priority, and decided to focus on what I love: downloading porn.
Just kidding.
I’ve decided to focus on what I really love, what is fulfilling, maybe even what I am meant to do, in the great cosmic sense: I am writing.
I write every day, and I see the faint outlines of something really cool. I occasionally catch glimpses of an ability, unrefined, long-ignored, coming to life.
Sometimes we know in our bones what we really need to do, but we’re afraid to do it.
Taking a chance, and stepping beyond the safety of the world we’ve always known is the only way to grow, though, and without risk there is no reward.
Risk was always one of my favorite games.
Tomorrow: Why Creation Cut Me From The 15th Anniversary of TNG Convention, and Why It’s a Good Thing.

233 thoughts on “Reflections- Artificial Sweetener”

  1. Way to go, Wil! I’m personally happy that you came to find what really makes you happy at this moment in time. Go on, do the infomercial! Rock on with your bad techni-geek self! We all – your fans – think it’s a great idea. (not like you need our approval! :) )
    You’re still a better actor than most the people i see getting parts in today’s hollywood. It’s a popularity contest, and we all realize that. :)
    You do realize that it will be the only infomercial that I will ever have watched or will ever watch in my life, don’t you? :)
    peace, love, and big smiles!

  2. You really are brave Wil! You are willing to take that second leap, and I think that’s one of the many things that your fans admire about you and I’m definitley one of them. I admire your braveness, because I want to be an actress but I’m too afraid to take that second leap for fear that i may screw up. What you said really made me think and i hope i find the courage inside myself to make that second leap!!!!! Thanks WIL!!!!

  3. Wil,
    I’ve read every word you’ve written on this site and I’ve been really moved by a lot of your entries. This entry may be your best yet. I’m really happy to have been along for the ride this past year and see the changes. This may be my favorite thing you’ve ever written.
    Congratulations on realizing what’s truly important in life.

  4. I started visiting your site just a couple of weeks ago. I came to find out what you were up to. I have learnd that you have grown from that cute kid on Star Trek, into a thoughtful, funny, family loving man. I know you feel as if you are giving up on something you have given most of your life to. You are not doing that, what you are doing is giving to your family. In giving to them you are going to recieve the best gift of all their love. What award can compare to that? Give it some time you may end you in that movie or on that show that you have been waiting for. It still won’t mean as much as the love you get from your family. I do think that your writing is a way to go. If you put into a book what you have put into your site I believe, you will find a new calling that will reward more then you could ever know. Now go kiss your wife and hug the kids!

  5. Aw, Wil,
    Still the same entry as yesterday. Read it again anyhoo, so now I’m envisioning Wil hawking the benefits of Ab-Master.
    Everyone imagine with me skinny barechested Wil doing crunches on some pathetic plastic gadget. “Ab-Master made me a Man!” he hoots.
    Haw!
    Later.

  6. Wil has anyone ever told you that you look like the guy from blues clues?
    Just curious heh heh heh

  7. Hey Wil,
    I think you should host the first annual Wil Wheaton convention. And invite stars to join you that want to associate with you. Jonathan Frakes, maybe? Screw Creation, screw all of them — you don’t need them anyway. I bet if you just had a wilwheaton.net convention you’d have a huge turnout.
    Just be sure to have a beer garden!
    Chris

  8. Word, Wil. I’m trying to write, too, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be a musician. It ALSO means that I have to work with dirt during the week still, but that’s a whole other thing.
    Okay.
    First you said you were gonna download porn. Then you said you’re gonna write.
    Why not combine the two? It’s a floor wax, it’s a dessert topping… write porn!
    Lord knows the industry could use somebody with a flair for it. Tigger’s a girl? Pooh did WHAT?
    I hope I’m kidding.

  9. Irony. Irony. Irony.
    We are polar-opposties here, my brother.
    I see there are 210 comments before mine, so it is likely you will never see this one. (Plus, this is like the 3rd time I’ve seen your site in the last 6 months – I rarely look at it, so I will most-likely forget to even check if you DO respond to this.)
    But, anyway, I am a published novelist. And I love writing… but I really want to make movies. And I want to make a living doing it.
    You were in the movie/TV business and want to write. I was into writing and want to be in movies.
    The trush is, maybe karma leads us all to where we belong. If you are “meant” or “destined” to write, then you can do it and succeed. You have a good point there; maybe you have been struggling as an actor because you aren’t supposed to be one anymore.
    Maybe I was not supposed to be writing novels. I hope I’m supposed to do more… We shall see…

  10. My anxiety could not take anymore as i awaited as the next time i would be able to get online was 3:00PM becaus that is when i get home. Then i do and i have to say it was brilliant! Anyway i sit here and i read this because i didn’t get home until almost 9 and NOW i have to go to bed because it is 10:00 and i hae school tomorrow *sigh* school. So i leave you with saying goodnight and look forward to your next post.

  11. My anxiety could not take anymore as i awaited as the next time i would be able to get online was 3:00PM becaus that is when i get home. Then i do and i have to say it was brilliant! Anyway i sit here and i read this because i didn’t get home until almost 9 and NOW i have to go to bed because it is 10:00 and i hae school tomorrow *sigh* school. So i leave you with saying goodnight and look forward to your next post.

  12. I was never a big shot tv and movie star and all that, but it may surprise you to learn that your Friendly Neighborhood Anarchist was an actor when he was younger. I was in a few local theater companies in my teens and had decided thats what I wanted to do with my life.
    By the time I hit college I was sick of the industry and especially sick of most of my fellow actors egos. I also knew, because I’d been working in theater rather than just acting in my high school drama club, that almost none of us ever had a chance of making a living at acting, no matter how good we were.
    I realized exactly what you said, you have to love acting more than you hate rejection.
    I realized that I didn’t. I walked away and never looked back.
    That was about a decade ago. It’s good to hear a big shot TV star basically affirm my decision.
    You’re a teriffic writer Wil. Whether you put your hand to screenplays, columns, or a book, I’m sure you’ll put out some great work. The hardest part will probably be creating the artifical scarcity on which Capitalism depends, and not posting your writing on the internet for all of us to see.

  13. honestly, you are one of the few people in this world i truly respect and if you were to do an infomercial, i wouldn’t lose any of that respect. not that what i think really matters… but this isn’t you-can-do-no-wrong-in-my-eyes fandom, it’s just the fact that you make your decisions with grace and class.
    i think you already are a damn good writer. you’re inspiring.

  14. My goodness, Ken Prock. Such anger! Such righteous derision! Such insightful analysis!
    You really gave me what for! I have been flamed!
    I weep. Tears stream down my Cheeto-dust-encrusted face, across my Dr. Pepper-stained lips!
    People who criticize Wil Wheaton DO eat Cheetos and drink Dr. Pepper. People who eat Cheetos and Dr. Pepper are losers! I know all of them, those that are still living. For if one criticizes Wil Wheaton, then one must DIE!
    Hara-kiri here I come!
    Ken Prock, do you have a lot of time on your hands? Do you spend hours rebutting three-foot-long posts in alt.kibology? I predict you will respond, “I don’t know what alt.kibology is! That makes me superior!”
    But Wil Wheaton knows. Because he’s just a geek like you and me. Go Wil Wheaton go!

  15. Ken Prock:
    Harold Bloom wrote:
    “What matters in literature . . . is surely the idiosyncratic, the individual, the flavor or color of a particular human suffering.”
    I assume that you would say, “Hey Harold Bloom, you festering green pus-wad. Are you trying to say that human suffering can have a flavor?”
    Christopher Hitchens writes:
    “This document . . . reeks of self-pity and self-deception.”
    I assume that you would say, “hey Hitchens, self-pity doesn’t have a smell! Either you’re a third-grader with a grotesquely innacurate thesaurus, or English isn’t your primary language.”
    Both of those examples were taken from the American Heritage dictionary, where they make it pretty clear that you don’t have much of a handle on what those words mean. Yes, the American Heritage Dictionary specifically mentioned you.
    Glass houses, you [insert your favorite insult here]
    P

  16. Wil,
    I’ve been reading your site for several months now. I love your writing. I mean of course, the first time I came to the site it was because you were Wil Wheaton–who used to act as one of my favorite characters on one of my favorite shows. But I’ve kept coming back because of the quality of your writing. I’m glad you seem to enjoy it. And I hope that you keep it up.
    I can relate to the change in character that blogging brings about. I’ve been keeping my livejournal for about 11 months now. And I feel like I’ve evolved another level or something. I’m much clearer now on who I really am and what I really think and feel about things.
    So anyway, blog on. I’ll definitely be reading. :)

  17. Wil,
    Seriously, I think you need to take ANOTHER, another long look at yourself.
    I see an obvious pattern here: with the convention, the infommercial and pretty much everything else.
    You go through all this inner termoil which I think is total bullshit and in the end — always in the end — you take the money.
    Just because you argue with yourself (quite neurotically i might add) does not make your decision to do a TNG convention or whore yourself out for infommercials any more valiant.
    Every single time, the pattern is clear. It’s the money. It’s the attention — even the slightest bit of it which drives you daily.
    I work in Los Angeles. I see it everyday with friends. Once you get a taste of the fame part of celebrity, it’s a drug. Acting, the craft or any obligation to your family and yourself is superceded by that need to be famous again.
    You are acting no different than Darva Conger or anyone else from the reality TV drivel that would do anything to keep that lingering “I’m important” feeling.
    You were a whiny little precocious brat when you were a kid actor. No different from Gary Coleman. No different from anyone.
    Stop whining. Take the money and stop torturing yourself or your readers. Everyone KNOWS you’re going to take the money. YOU KNOW you’re going to take the money.
    If your decision to do an informmercial is based on the fact that your passion for acting has waned, then that is really really sad.
    What’s waned is actually your integrity.
    You are ordinary
    Scott Howard
    [email protected]

  18. You will be getting paid money to be on T.V.
    Yes, I realize it’s “only” on an infomercial that will probably play 4 times a night at 2:39 A.M. on that one channel that nobody watches.
    BUT- You will be on Television. Getting paid for it.
    Anytime anyone gives you shit for doing an infomercial, just think about what people have done in the past 20 years just to get on TELEVISION for 15 seconds. From “America’s [Un]Funniest Home Videos” to those idiots on pseudo-reality shows like “Survivor” et al.
    Then photocopy the first royalty or whatever they call the check they send you, and frame that on your wall.
    Whenever people give you shit, just look at that check, then laugh your happy ass all the way to the bank, man.

  19. “Sometimes we know in our bones what we really need to do, but we’re afraid to do it.”
    What a great truth, simply put.
    DB

  20. I am looking for any kind of role to act in I want so much to be on tv I am good looking funny,serious,sad,happy,suspensful,drama,whatever any kind of emotion in a role you can give I can act it out for you please help me get noticed thank you for your time
    Sincerly
    John Scott

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