I am naturally drawn to the microgenre of memoirs about people’s jobs/careers – I love digging in on the challenges and joys of what people do for a living, whether it’s acting, working in tech, medicine, or finance. Patty Lin’s memoir End Credits is about her almost two decades spent as a TV screenwriter, taking readers through how she got into the industry and why she eventually left. Like many of the memoirs I’ve read in this category, it’s also about the challenges of being a woman, this time a woman of color, in an industry dominated by men.
Why I picked it up: Job memoir microgenre.
Lin grew up with traditional Taiwanese parents who wanted her to follow a traditional career path like law or medicine. Yet her childhood obsession with TV and her affinity for creative writing – and a fortuitous meeting with an NBC page working for Late Night With David Letterman – propelled her towards a career in writing for television. Lin toiled away as a researcher for Letterman for a few years before moving to LA and lucking into writing for Freaks and Geeks, a job that gave her a relatively pleasant but short-lived entry into the business. After Freaks and Geeks, she found her way toward shows like Friends, Breaking Bad, and Desperate Housewives, often with long breaks in between.
TV writing is a highly competitive and stressful business, and Lin endured its ups and downs and the impact it had on her personal life, her mental health and her self-confidence. She was often the only woman in the writer’s room, and always the only woman of color, and she often felt marginalized, overlooked and unappreciated. Lin is very honest about her feelings of insecurity, anxiety and exhaustion as she cycles from show to show, trying to figure out the quirks and pressure points of each showrunner and writing team and often being let go before she felt that she had arrived. Finally, after realizing that she wasn’t enjoying the job anymore (did she ever?), she walked away, leaving the dysfunction and chaos behind.
I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at TV writing, and like most books in this category, got quickly immersed in Lin’s life and the intensity of her job. Sh’e a funny, acerbic writer (and narrator) and it was an entertaining read. In the end, Lin’s complaints about her job didn’t seem all that… bad? unusual? unique? It’s not surprising that TV writing is competitive and stressful. Many jobs are full of bad bosses and microaggression. Perhaps she was too kind to those who had aggrieved her. Overall, though, I liked the glimpse into the reality of another person’s job experience and the exposure to an interesting yet fraught industry.
I listened to End Credits on audio. Like most memoirs, it’s great to hear it in the author’s voice. I definitely recommend the audio version.
End Credits was the 43rd book of 2023 and satisfies the memoir category of the 2023 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.