Saturday, October 22, 2011

Being Lisa...

Fans of CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) may recognize the blatant riff of the title for this post.  For those of you who have not had the pleasure of watching "Being Erica" you may want to check it out.  (Hulu.com has seasons 1-3 currently.)  It may not be something you enjoy - you must be open to the concept that therapy can change you, but only if you are open to revisiting your regrets in a very, very literal way.  I won't bore you with the pitch for the show, let's just say that in this case time travel is actually a positive literary device.

So, in the spirit of the show that has gobbled quite a bit of my time recently (love that you can watch full series without that pesky week long break) I must at this point take a look at something I regret in life, revisit it and then see how that lesson can help me today.

I have always taken the safe route.  Most of you who read this may disagree with me, but believe me when I say that I feel as though I have.  Or rather that when presented with the high risk option I have tended to back away for a safer, more secure option.  By doing this I have lost out on being involved in a Tony Award winning musical (Jelly's Last Jam with Gregory Hines), a multi-award winning, long running television show (ER) and potentially having my own literary agent with a writing partner at the age of 24.

So the question is why?

Why did I turn down being a Production Assistant on Jelly's Last Jam?  I was offered the position but no salary.  I would have been paid in bus tokens.  That's how early in the production I was offered the job.  To move to New York City with no where to live, no salary and no savings was more than daunting - it was unfathomable.  So I had to turn down the position.  Watching the Tony's the next year broke my heart, but also firmed my resolve to move to LA less than a year after that.

LA, where I was offered a chance to be a writer's assistant on Steven Spielberg's new television show about a Chicago ER that was still in pilot at $500 a week.  Why did I turn that down?  It seems unreal now, but at the time Mr. Spielberg had not had much success in TV.  His successes were all in the movies whereas his TV shows had pretty much not made it far into their first seasons or into a second season at all.  With $5000 in debt (1994 dollars, folks), a dying grandmother, no job and more frustration at this town that was supposed to be a fresh start but wasn't, I could not see taking a job that might not last more than 3 weeks that had no health insurance, LONG hours and lots of stress.  In other words - I ran.

Which leads me to #3 leaving LA just when I had the opportunity to have a literary agent at a renowned agency with a writing partner...please see the above.  She wouldn't represent us without both of us in town - regardless of the fact that I was more than willing to come back if she would only have a meeting with us.  Turns out, it didn't work that way.

When you string all three of these particular regrets together you will see that there is one thing in common - fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of the loss of the safety net - be it money or health insurance, fear of letting myself live my dream.  But deep down there is another fear - fear of success.  Believe it or not, you can be afraid of succeeding and on some levels I am.  I mean, what if my first success is my only one?

Now, for what I've learned in all the years since 1994 and how it applies to today without flashbacks and cool soundtrack.  Success is never guaranteed but unless you try, I mean really give it your all and take that chance when offered, failure is.

So why am I thinking about this now, tonight?  Because in 9 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes it will be November 1st - the first day of National Novel Writing Month 2011.

NaNoWriMo has taught me a great deal over the past 5 years.  Participating in NaNoWriMo made me face that fear of success and showed me that I could indeed write a 56K word novel with a beginning, a middle and an end.  That the novel could be good - maybe not fantastic or even something that is worthy of agents (yet) - but good enough to have all my alpha readers tell me they liked it.  It also taught me that I could write a 100K novel that will never see the outside of a drawer, that I have more ideas for stories and books than I know what to do with and that I can do the same thing more than once.  What it hasn't taught me yet is how to focus my time and energy into writing - a dream I have had since I was in 3rd grade - outside of November.

Don't get me wrong, I've been writing this year.  I am so excited about the dystopian trilogy I have started, even 12K words into it...but I am only 12K into it.  I am also excited beyond belief to be pulling out an old friend - that pilot script that got my writing partner at the time and I in front of an agent - revising it and looking into podcasting it, but all I have done so far is scan in the old script and a bit of world building.  Oh, and then there is the third project that I have on a burner - a fun, silly, somewhat satirical look at science and funding, but I am just still playing with the idea.  Note all the times I have written "but."

This is not meant to be a post where I trash myself or my resolve, although I will admit that it probably appears to be that way.  Rather, this is a promise to myself and to you, my friends and readers, that I will learn the lesson from my past and face my fear.  You see, I have already lived through it many times over and learned that I can't really fail unless I never try.

Oh - and that fear of success?  If I just stay true to myself and don't focus on what other people think of me, I just may find that they like me better than I thought they did.  It took my 20th college reunion for me to realize that one.  Thank you, Randolph-Macon, for teaching me yet one more lesson in life.  And for all my friends who I saw for the first time in 20 years last weekend - it was wonderful, I loved it and I am so glad we came down.  It took just 3 hours reconnecting with you for me to learn that lesson that someone had been trying to teach me for years and I am grateful.

So, in 9 days, 22 hours and 6 minutes - please cheer me on, kick me in the tail and tell me I can do it again.  Then on December 1, ask me how many words I wrote that day because I really can't stop on November 30 if I want to succeed.

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