On Being a Nobody

It was about the middle of the 1930s, when I first read about Zen, that I began to perceive the delicious efficacity of being a nobody. Not that I had ever longed to be a somebody. No, all I had ever begged of the Creator was to permit me to become a writer. Not a sensational writer, or a celebrated one, either. Just a writer.
— from "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird" by Henry Miller

Writing as Visual Art

I can’t get a thread to go through to the end and make a straightforward novel. I can’t keep everything in my lap, or stop rising flurries of blind meaning. But perhaps if the details are all put together, a certain pulse and sense of place will emerge, and the integrity of empty space with occasional figures in the landscape can be understood at leisure and in full...
— from "Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh and L.A." by Eve Babitz

The Stories We Tell

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I decided to manifest my childhood dream of becoming an author this year. This re-ignition was sort of fueled when I attended Cindy Chupack's book reading at Book Soup in L.A. at the beginning of January. (She's an author and a screenwriter. Most notably, many of her dating experiences have been written into Sex and the City.) Somehow, chatting with her made me feel like I can do this. That I could, quite possibly, have it in me to write a book. I mean, I have good stories and I'm now living in the most ideal place to write–isolated in the mountains–so it'd be stupid for me not to do something about it. 

After taking a few stabs at some sample chapters on my own, I decided to work with an editor. In addition to guiding me through story development, having an editor helps me mentally commit to this "project." Prior to our call, I had sent her a synopsis and two sample chapters which took me a couple of months to produce. I had mined through a personal collection of experiences and did my best to weave all of the key events together in a meaningful way. It was a lot like throwing spaghetti against the wall. I knew that it needed more work, but the gist of it was there. Based on what she read, she told me that I had good instincts and that she can sense an overarching journey–we'll just need to work together in the next upcoming weeks to uncover it. 

Our phone call reminded me of a therapy session, except my editor would refer to me as the character. She asked me questions like: What is her identity at the beginning of this journey? and What is she after? What does she want to be? How is her perspective changing? She wanted me to peel back the layers of the onion. "It's not about what happened," she said, "The reader wants to know how it affected you." 

I think the reason why I've been having such writer's block is because I am still, at this very moment, trying to figure out how my experiences have affected me. I want to go "there" with my writing and I want to go "there" in my life... To really kind of float out of my own body and see everything holistically and as purely as possible.

In the meantime, I'm looking at different ways people or characters deal with themselves honestly by: flipping through The Andy Warhol Diaries, watching Louis C.K.'s stand-up comedy, re-reading Bridget Jones' Diary, watching Sex and the City re-runs, and ordering films like Frances Ha and Tiny Furniture from Criterion Collection, which explore the burgeoning anxieties of young women. 

Here are a few words from the verbal mood board that I've scribbled down in my notebook as inspiration:

REVELATION
AUTHENTICITY
BRAVADO
INDEPENDENCE
FREEDOM
HOPEFUL
EARNEST
AWKWARD
CELEBRATION
PROFOUND
WHIMSICAL
CHARMING
INCANDESCENT
FOIBLES
TRANSITIONS
MORTIFICATION
GRAND
ROMANTIC

Writing is just as expressive as painting and, conversely, just as mechanical as mathematics (or anything else that involves problem-solving). Sometimes it comes easily to me and, at other times, it's completely challenging. But whatever it is, I want to get it right. I can feel the story brewing inside of me. I just need to find a way to pour it out... 

 

 

 

 

Just Like Diane

"So... We play an ice-breaker game every time we have a first-time visitor," said a friend of mine, pulling out a seat for me when I stopped by her office to say hello, "You have to pose a question to the group and everyone takes their turn to answer it."

I looked around at the smiling faces at the table. What a way to put a girl on the spot! 

"OK!" I said, clasping my hands together, "I've got the question."

I cheated a little because I had already played this game back in college. The question was: "If there was a movie made about your life, who would you pick to play you?" 

The only difference, then, was that, instead of answering it myself, my college roommate answered for me: Parker Posey. (At the time, we were all obsessed with two Parkers: Parker Posey and Sarah Jessica Parker.) I was honored. Parker Posey was an unexpected and non-obvious choice. She has a wicked sense of humor and, despite being supremely talented and cool, she has always flown under the mainstream radar.

Therefore, when it was my turn, I knew exactly what I was going to say: "Parker Posey."

"Really?" asked my friend, "I'm surprised. You know who you remind me of? Diane Keaton."  

"Diane Keaton?!" 

"Yes! Especially in that movie Something's Gotta Give." 

"Really?! Why?" I wasn't sure how I felt that a 50+-year old actress could play me. (And I'm not talking about looks because Ms. Keaton looks damn fine.) Did I act twenty years older than my own age???

"Well, she's a writer... And she always wears sweaters,"  she said, thoughtfully.

I looked down at what I was wearing. Hm. A cashmere sweater in the middle of the summer. Well, what can I say, I am definitely a sweater girl, through and through. She might be be onto something.

When I randomly bumped into an ex-boyfriend from high school, he also brought up the same connection. He mentioned that Something's Gotta Give was one of his favorite movies and Diane Keaton's character always reminded him of me. It was interesting coming from someone whose #1 favorite movie is American Psycho, to say the least.

Diane Keaton plays Erica Barry, an accomplished playwright and divorcée who lives in a gorgeous house in the Hamptons and finds herself caught in a love triangle between a man of her own age who is the ultimate modelizer (Jack Nicholson) and a younger hot doctor who is completely enamored with her (Keanu Reeves). Nancy Meyers, the writer and director of the film, didn't make it difficult to see why these two polar opposites were clamoring for her attention.

Erica Barry possesses a sparkly independent spirit, but is also a creature of comfort. She's complex but not complicated. And she's nurturing but not in a trite way. She also makes things like blueberry pancakes at midnight and eats scrambled eggs straight out of the pan on rainy evenings.

I recently watched Something's Gotta Give again the other night. OK, so there are some similarities. There's the writing thing and the sweater thing, for one. But, geez, her hairstyle and my hairstyle? (I swear, I feel perpetually stuck in this mid-length layered haircut.) Then, there's her easy-going nature that makes her so approachable. And the fact that she has no problem spending time alone. Oh, and how she romances Paris... Although what woman doesn't?

I adore Diane Keaton in general, so I'm very pleased to know that there are at least two people in this world who associate me with her character in this movie. I hope I live up to it. Like Erica Barry, I hope I produce some great piece of writing, find someone who gets me, and own a fabulous home in the Hamptons.