As another year comes to an end I find myself reflecting on so many things; the highs, the lows, the milestones, the meltdowns, the surprises, the disappointments and most of all… the gross income.
Gross is definitely an appropriate word to describe what this mama made in 2010. Yuck, disgusting, ick, repulsive—all equally fantastic adjectives.
It’s shocking. I have a calendar that is filled with meetings, pitches, follow-up meetings, more pitches. I have a desk covered with books, screenplays, television scripts, treatments, outlines, character breakdowns. I have cell phone records of conference calls with studios, networks, producers, directors, actors. I have lunch receipts from pow-wows with agents, managers, lawyers,and publishers.
I have had the busiest, most productive year as a writer and the brokest, most desperate year as a writer. It’s one thing to be struggling when you’re young and single and without child. In fact, it’s down right sexy. But when you’re older, divorced and you have a child to take care of… it’s downright unattractive. No laughing matter (although, laughing, at times, is the only way to get through it).
I came close to quitting this business about 85 times this year, sobbing my eyes out to my therapist, best friends, lovers, landlords, even the mailman got an earful one day.
I remember when I was on the phone after getting yet another “pass” on a project that I had spent months on, poured my heart and soul into, and everyone was sure was a “slam dunk.” My daughter overheard me crying on the phone to my best friend telling her I wasn’t going to write anymore. That I couldn’t do it another day. When I got off the phone I came downstairs and realized Hannah heard my conversation. She looked at me with such concern,
“Mommy, you can’t quit being a writer. You love it. It’s what you do.”
I held her in my arms, sat down, wiped the tears from my face and told her,
“Oh, baby, I’m not going to quit. It’s just really hard sometimes being an artist.”
She looked at me with those big blue eyes of hers, full of love and replied,
“Mommy, you’re not an artist. You’re a writer.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Catch me on any given day you might hear me on the verge of throwing in the towel or basking in the delight of the one thing in my life I have always known I’ve wanted to do. But my career has been like a basketball game. One minute I’m up and scoring and all shots are going in and two minutes later somehow I’m down by 10, four fouls on me, and there are only three seconds left on the clock.
And I can’t believe I just gave a sports analogy to describe my career.
There are times I wish I could truly give it all up, move to a farm, get fat on butter and learn how to needlepoint and milk cows. But the pull to create, to tell stories, and to keep my ass as tight and firm as possible is far greater.
Passion truly is a blessing and a curse. And I was raised in a home where following your dream was a must. Whatever the cost. But the cost is great. I’ve done many side gigs to support my writing career, but nowadays even side gigs are hard to come by. For everyone. The world is looking for side gigs.
I remember a few months ago scrambling to a network meeting where I was pitching an hour show. An hour show with an Oscar-winning director attached. An hour show with an Oscar-winning director attached and a format that had already proved itself as a hit in another country.
Yes, folks, this is what I’m talking about. Not easy to throw in the towel when you’re in the rooms with top folks working on an idea that you absolutely would love to write the crap out of.
So, I’m getting dressed, gearing up, talking to myself like I do when I realize I’m out of makeup. The mascara dry, the foundation thick and I had worn my lipstick down to the point where I was digging into it with my pinky desperate to scrape just a nib of color to spread on my lips.
In a desperate move I resorted to Barbie. Or rather, her makeup. Hannah had some pink palate of colors that she never used and were shoved away in some closet. I grabbed that stash of happiness and picked the most mature pink Barbie had – the color was called, Happy birthday, Barbie. My lips looked like a cupcake, but at least they had sparkle.
I remember lunches with producers where I took their leftovers home. I remember meetings where I was given a bottle of water and I stored it away for the drive home. Yes, I remember it all. That awful feeling of need. That feeling that nothing is waste. That feeling that everyone in the room was getting a paycheck but me.
It’s a kooky business and yet, if by chance you make that sale, get that gig, set up that script, see your stories come to life—the rewards are ridiculously lavish. Obscene. Feast or famine, people.
But, somehow, through the help of friends, strangers, family and miracles, I have a roof over my daughter’s head, food on the table, clothes on her back, health insurance… and hope.
Out of the blue the other day my daughter said,
“Mommy, is a glass half full or half empty?”
It took me by surprise to hear her ask this. I’m always taken aback at what goes on inside a child’s mind. So many thoughts tumbling around. Trying to make sense of their world, trying to find their own passion, looking for their own beliefs.
“Baby, it depends. You can look at that same glass of half liquid and if you feel positive you see it as half full. Or, if you only feel negative, only see what’s not there, you see it half empty.”
“But it’s the same glass.”
“That’s right. So it’s up to you how you want to look at the glass.”
“How do you see it, mommy?”
Looking at my daughter in the rear view mirror, seeing her beautiful face, her curious eyes, her pure heart, I didn’t even need to think.
“Baby, the glass is most definitely half full.”
She smiled. And I smiled. And we turned up the music on the radio and sang to the holiday tunes.
So, I raise my half full glass to all of you. Happy New Year. Here’s to passion, possibilities, and positive thinking.