Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Hate Diablo Cody

For the two of you who haven’t heard of her, Diablo Cody wrote the movie Juno, and just won the Oscar for best original screenplay. And I don’t really hate her, but I am seething with jealousy. Not because of the million dollar shoes she supposedly wore to the Oscars (which apparently was just a publicity stunt by the shoemaker), but because she has the success I want. I know that’s petty and awful. But Julia Cameron says jealousy can help us figure out where we want to go by pinpointing what we envy, and planning a step we can take toward having that for ourselves.

So what do I envy about Diablo? Her success, her deal to work with Steven Spielberg, and her Oscar, certainly, but most of all, her ability to say her work is good enough, to let it go, and to promote herself. Juno may not have been perfect, was not the best screenplay ever written, but she finished it, and got it made into a movie, a movie that I must admit (begrudgingly) was really good, funny, and yes, well-written.

In other words, I am jealous that Diablo overcame her perfectionism. How can I do that? One step is this blog. If I can finish one little blog entry each week, let it go, and share it with others, then maybe someday I’ll be able to do the same with poems, articles, and the novel.

Paul Gardner said, “A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places.” Julia Cameron, my fairy godmother, writes in The Artist’s Way, “Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead.” And then, “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough—that we should try again.” I just laughed out loud at myself as I struggled for five minutes over how to use ellipses in the above quote. Ah, perfectionism, my constant companion.

Just yesterday I thought about re-reading my novel from the beginning again, rather than continuing to move forward in writing and editing. Thank God I read Julia’s words about perfectionism, which convinced me to keep moving forward in faith. Because right now, I need to get through the second draft. I hope and believe that once I do, the beginning will sort itself out.

So thanks, Diablo. I might not be a stripper, an Oscar winner, or even a paid artist (yet), but I’m doing the best I can, learning and growing and getting better every day. Is a screenplay my next project? Maybe. Who wouldn’t want to wear million dollar shoes?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Anything for Material

Seven months ago I left a prestigious, high-paying attorney job to write my first novel. This blog will document my journey in creating both a novel and a writer’s life. So far I've completed a draft of my book, and a handful of essays and poems. Along the way I’ve collected adventures, lessons, friends and teachers.

One great discovery: writing is an excuse to do things I otherwise wouldn’t do. Like take a surf class, work at a florist for a day, study Italian, make collages, take swimming lessons from an Albanian champion swimmer, swing on the swings by myself in the middle of the day, and befriend all kinds of unlikely characters, from the Colombian beauticians who wax my eyebrows, to Tony, the Sicilian chef who promised to teach me how to make pasta. In the service of getting material, it seems I’ll do just about anything. (Hence the title.)

And while I’m using material as an excuse to try new things, I’m learning all kind of lessons. Like how to be more open to the flow of life, when to push through barriers and when to stop, and the importance of accepting gifts, especially when they are unexpected. I have become more gentle with myself and am discovering what this self wants, what she loves, what she hates. I’m learning that the perfect really is the enemy of the good and finding the joy in doing, creating, participating in the process.

I look forward to the surprises, efforts, and failures that are sure to follow. Because if we're not making mistakes, we're not doing a good enough job of living. You hear that, Oprah? That's what I know for sure.