I’m producing a feature film. When I speak to people outside of Los Angeles, they always talk about how glamorous it must be to work in the film industry. It has its moments, but really, It’s a hustle – as you can see from this video. If you feel so inclined, please support. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/quiet-as-kept-2/x/480313
A couple of days ago I went to brunch for my birthday with a dear friend that I have known since college. As we were walking back to her house, she says, “If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I know exactly when I’d go.” This is probably something that we have all thought about. I know exactly what time I would go back to, and I know exactly what I’d tell myself. For many years, I had only one time. I made a huge mistake in 2001 that jeopardized my relationship with my friends and family and ruptured my faith in myself. If I could go back and correct it, I would jump at the opportunity.
Since 2001, my list of regrettable events has slowly grown. I haven’t made the same mistake, nor any quite as severe, but gradually, the blunders have stacked up. They have become blemishes on my life that I sincerely wished to erase.
Later that evening, as I was driving from Los Angeles back to San Diego, I listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast. Low and behold, it was about regret: what is regret; why we regret; the effect of regret on the psyche, etc. So much of the talk was about learning from our past and forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. It rang with the hope that one day the pangs of guilt and the aches of sadness will subside.
One thing I hadn’t really considered, though, was using my own regretful situations as inspiration for my writing. Sure, we all make mistakes and we mostly write from our own experiences. But what about writing about the doozies. The huge mistakes. The life-changing, fear-inspiring, heart-aching foul ups? What about telling stories about the things that we really never want to think about, let alone speak about? Could I potentially immortalize an event that has taken years of therapy to process?
It seems a daunting task, and if I’m honest, I’m not sure that I will. However, writing about it, even fictionally, may be rewarding in some way. This thing that took over my life for a while could actually serve some positive, productive purpose. It may bring usefulness and meaning to a time that feels hollow. It could erase, or at the very least, ease my regret. Somehow facing my gloomy past could turn me into a better writer – a courageous storyteller.
Now that is something to consider.
Most days end with me stomping away, frustrated, vowing never to write again. Now I know why.
This is how my day usually starts.
Yesterday I went to the library to pick up a couple of books. I stumbled upon Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As soon as I got home, I began to devour the novella. It had the same delicate prose I fell in love with in One Hundred Years of Solitude without the density (or similarly named characters). I was intrigued by the story of a 90 year old philandering man who had escaped the infirmities of his age.
I was not, however, intrigued by the need for the man to bed a virgin. That, I found disturbing. On his 90th birthday, the man calls a brothel and insists that the Madam find him a virgin. She does, and he goes to see the 14 year old girl that night. She’s exhausted from working at a button factory all day and is asleep. He is unable to wake her, and instead spends the night in the room with her. This is the launching point for his delusional love story and the fork in the road for me as a reader.
There is no question that Garcia Marquez is a wonderful and talented writer. He weaves stories with such detail and finesse that you are almost coerced into reading more. His writing is seductive, and this novella is no different. However, he creates the character’s delusion of love so adeptly (in fact, the girl sleeps through every visit to the brothel. He doesn’t even know her name and is forced to make one up) that, as a reader, I have to ask is the author complicit in this love affair. Does he approve of a 90 year old man lusting and longing for a poor 14 year old girl? I finished the book, but it was not a pleasurable read. It was arduous and uncomfortable.
I went to Amazon and read a few reviews of the book. I wanted the opinion of a lay person, not a literary critic. How did they feel when they read the book? Clearly, I was in the minority. People went on and on about how wonderful the book was. How beautifully written. Another feather in the cap of a well-decorated author. Finally, I ran across a few reviews that held similar reservations to mine. I wasn’t the only one put off by the blatant male privilege and entitlement and pedophilia. It’s not as if these topics have never been explored in books before. It’s not that I feel that they shouldn’t be explored either. I think the hard part for me is that the behavior is not only condoned by Marquez, but possibly celebrated.
I feel like Heidi Klum has stepped into my book and started eliminating characters and plotlines as if they were contestants on Project Runway.
63 pages into Chapter 5, I have decided to change the story completely.
As Heidi would say, “Chapter 5, you are out.”
It’s a little scary to think that I am throwing an entire chapter out and starting from scratch, especially since it’s the last chapter of the book, but I think it’s the right thing to do. The chapter just wasn’t sexy. I was up last night trying to create an outline and it started to unfold a little, but I realized that it wasn’t a story that I wanted to read. No wonder I didn’t want to write it. So this morning, as I was making chicken taquitoes for breakfast (the breakfast of champions by the way), a new storyline came to me. This was a story that I wanted to read – a story I found interesting. I could write this.
And so I shall.
I really should stop resisting the outlining process. It’s helpful, even if the outline simply tells me what I don’t want to write about.
In my best Heidi Klum voice, “Outlining, you are in. You may leave the runway.”
A few weeks ago I finished Chapter 2. I have bitched and moaned about this chapter for as long as I have been working on this book, and then one day, it just wrapped itself up. Admittedly, it was a little anticlimactic, given the hell I went through. Maybe that’s why I didn’t post this blog until now. But today, I feel like it was worth it.
I’m now working on the final chapter of the book. It feels a lot like chapter 2, but I know it’s just because I don’t have a clear picture of where I want to take my characters. When in doubt, return to the basics. I have relented and decided to outline the chapter in full. It’s what I should have done from the beginning, but alas…
Wish me luck.