Friday, August 7, 2009

The Fast Forward Button

If I could achieve only two things in my life, they would be these; first, I want to be a mom. I would give up every ambition, dream and goal in my life if I could achieve that one thing. Second, I want to be a writer. I would give all other ideas of my life except motherhood if I could get my books published.

I'm sure you all know exactly how well I am doing at these goals; a single girl who is still too afraid to complete her publication submissions because a) it's scary, and b) I'm just not convinced my book is ready. And try as I might, I sometimes feel like I'm going no where.

Today I came home from another day of work where I fact-checked and spent the day harassing our advertisers for their business hours. I felt proud of myself for accomplishing as much as I did in one day, but there is something so unsatisfying about spending eight hours filling in numbers compared to writing a really excellent chapter of a novel or character description.

Janine and I had an unremarkable dinner of leftover chili (although it was very yummy), and, as two single girls on a weekend evening are sometimes prone to do, we went to a movie. The film we chose was Julie and Julia, which is the story of Julia Child and a woman named Julie Powell, who, in an attempt to make her life more interesting, decides to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's cookbook and blog about it. The movie shows both these women, as they deal with the struggles and challenges that invariably plague all of us as we strive to achieve something.

As someone trying to get over some major writer's block, I identified strongly with this movie. Although at first, I sat there and glowered with jealousy. It is pretty obvious how this story is going to end. We all know what happened to Julia Child, and if Julie Powell's life has been made into a movie, I'm pretty sure she has met with success. These women were both writers and I envied them. What were they doing right that I was doing wrong? Why can't I get off my butt and spend my evening writing instead of watching other people succeed? Why was I so perpetually stuck? Why was my novel still not what I wanted it to be?

Later on in the movie, I got my answer: I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was still just in the montage of writing and getting frustrated and feeling like I was going in circles. I hadn't even reached my climax yet. All these realizations made me start thinking of my other, higher goal; to get married and have children. I like to draw comparisons between the two.

I'm only at the beginning of my life story. And no matter how much I wish I could just fast forward to the scene where my novel becomes a smashing success or I'm holding my first baby, life has no remote control. I always want the end result, but I shudder at the time in between. I sometimes hate dating. I hate the constant nagging pressure I have to work on my writing because I want to be sending out queries by the time school starts. I'm terrified of stockpiling rejection letters and trying to make my book just right. I'm scared out my wits of going out and trying to be sociable so that one day I can meet someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. And honestly, I'm even more scared of being pregnant.

In some ways I want to be able to skip to the end of my life, look back and go "Check, check, check, I did it," but filling in those check marks is as interesting as my day of work. It was satisfying, but the content was dry and brushed over.

The great part of Julie and Julia wasn't the final scene where Julia Child receives the first copy of her cookbook in the mail, or when Julie Powell presented her final recipe of duck, it was the stuff in between. It was when Julie was too scared to cook a lobster, or burst into tears over a chicken she dropped on the floor. It was when Julia Child's Cordon Bleu teacher told her she couldn't cook and she charismatically stuck out her tongue. The great moments in my life won't be when I'm looking back and checking off my goal list, it'll be when I'm here, working my way through the trenches.

I started this post not knowing what I would say, just knowing that the movie I saw today touched me in some way I didn't understand. It's taken writing it all out here in the blogoshere for me to realize the purpose of my writing and my wandering thoughts;

I want my life to be about achieving something, an endless list of somethings that I could never attempt to name all at once, but when I'm old and grey, I want my life story to be more then a checklist. I want it to be about the journey along the way and the stories in between.


reddmummy said...

Liked this post. I too have tried to get over my "checking" compulsion- but I didn't start until I was 28. So you are way ahead of the game sweetie!

Katey said...

Always have a destination in mind, but don't forget to enjoy the journey there. The present is really all we can call our own. Keep writing, and submit. I know, it's scary, but I find I'm less likely to get blocked myself when I'm also striving for publication. Believe that it'll happen, tirve for it, and it will (albeit probably not as soon as we'd like!).