Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Julies and Julias

I saw the movie Julie and Julia last night, with my mom. It was a good movie, I enjoyed it, so why, when I got home, did I burst into tears? Well, it’s been a tough week for a few reasons, but mostly it was the green-eyed monster. Why were things so easy for that bitch Julie Powell? In the movie, which is based on a true story, she starts a blog, with an admittedly great idea—-in one year, she would make all the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and write about it. I haven’t read her blog, so I don’t know, but let’s say that it’s smart and funny and well-written. Fine. But then, with apparently no effort at marketing or self-promotion, within MONTHS she becomes the number three blog on salon.com? And then reporters start calling her, she gets a front page article written about her in the New York Times Food Section, and then hundreds of agents and publishers call her asking her to write a book? While her fairy tale story unfolded all I could think was “Fuck you Julie Powell.”

Interestingly, I did not resent Julia Child’s success. The movie showed her early years, when she learned how to cook French food, then stumbled into a cookbook project which consumed eight years of her life, which was then rejected by publishers before finding a home at Knopf, and going on to worldwide acclaim.

Going in, I knew that both Julie and Julia had happy endings of tremendous success, so why did I feel happy for Julia and resentful of Julie? I, like each of them, embarked on a quixotic, uncertain quest. Like Julie with her blog and Julia with her cookbook, I couldn’t say why I had to write the novel, I just knew that I did. Maybe I resented Julie because her success seemed to happen so quickly and easily, with so little effort on her part. Sure, she cooked a lot and wrote a daily blog, but I’ve been working my tail off on this novel for two and a half years and no one is banging on my door to publish it. Where is my happy ending?

As I sat in my kitchen, crying, I realized that I also have a Julia--Julia Cameron. So I took out one of her books and flipped at random. In the section about artistic integrity she writes that artists have an inner meter that tells us if our work is good or not, and that we need to listen to that voice within, and not the marketplace. This thought comforted me. What matters most is that I created something of worth, in my own estimation, and I have. Maybe that’s my happy ending. Or if not an ending, it is at least something that should make me happy.

I’m sorry, Julie Powell, I’m sure you’re a lovely person who worked very hard for your success. I will try to be happy for you, to believe that whatever is best for me and my work is what will happen, and to remember that I can choose to be happy, right here, right now, with or without a published book.

4 comments:

Greg said...

All artists have their own development cycle with different time frames. The best you can do is keep working on your craft and trying to improve. I spent the better part of 15 years working at music and eventually became frustrated with the process.

You have to do the work for the work's sake while at the same time patiently waiting for your break.

When I look at some of the drummers that I admire they all had different time frames to their careers.

Tony Williams was playing with Miles Davis and already a genius at 16. Steve Gadd never came into his own until after a stint in the army. Carter Beuford didn't get his break with Dave Matthews until he was in his late 30's.

Part of me wishes I had this perspective when I was younger and just kept plugging away.

Sure there are plenty of stories of overnight success. Some deserved, some just dumb luck with no real talent to back it up.

Just keep plugging away and develop your craft.

Blithe Spirit said...

HI, Julie. I'm reading your manuscript and loving it! Hard to put down. I thought you'd be glad to hear that about now. Thanks for letting me be a reader.
Love, Claire

sulu-design said...

Wow... nice little connection there.

I read the book and saw the movie, and honestly I didn't like either. I found Julie to be a bit obnoxious and self-centered. And her tantrums were too much for me. Okay... I also took offense at negative portrayals of Queens. I get defensive about the borough.

However, the Julie that I know has her head on her shoulders, is good to her friends and husband, and isn't going to be a flash-in-the-pan author. All in due time, my dear.

Kooky Carl said...

This is so cliche, but "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." I wasn't consciously aware of this when I began the Cape Cod Marathon on Sunday, but often when I run long distance I try to just focus on the mile I am in - if I can finish this mile, I can finish the next mile. During the marathon, I found myself saying at the 13th mile, "Great! Let's go for another 13 mile run." At mile 20 I said, "Hey just a nice five mile jog ahead of me." Before I knew it, the marathon was over.

Writing your book has definitely been a marathon - ultra / super / uber marathon.

By focusing on today - what can I do today - you'll soon find you've accomplished a lot. You've written a book! I read it. I really liked it. You started with three readers. The first three steps. Just like the first three pages. Soon you'll have many more!