Sunday, October 30, 2005

All the cattle are standing like statues…

Lately, my world hasn’t responded to me in the usual way.

I decided to trade in my career for a job. So, I needed a job. Preferably something I could do by rote, that’s just interesting enough to keep me conscious during working hours. Hopefully, something that would pay enough to make it worth my time to dress myself and apply mascara and show up at the workplace. Cool people and part-time hours were high on the wish list, too (the better to pour my soul into my writing, rather than have it forcibly sucked out of me).

Tragically, I have more experience in legal assisting than any self-respecting holder of a baccalaureate degree ought to. No less tragic is the sad fact that it’s about the only job I’m qualified to do that would pay a half-decent salary. (Okay, it’s about the only job I’m legally qualified to do… etc.)

However, I’ve been out of that world for six years. Not so marketable. I should know, having spent those six years as a headhunter.

So, my hopes were not high when I registered with the legal placement agency, took their little typing test and jumped through their little secretarial hoops. They called my cell shortly after I left their office. They’d faxed my resume to a handful of law firms and two of them already wanted to interview me. Um… what?

I had six interviews over the next two days. Everyone who interviewed me wanted to hire me. Just… baffling.

There was one full-time (very full-time) paralegal gig that sounded juicy. The people were awesome, the work was fascinating, the money and potential were great. I left there really jazzed about it… ‘til I realized it wasn’t a job. It was a career. Not what I was looking for right now.

There are practically NO part-time legal assistant jobs in this town. The few that exist don’t pay nearly enough to cover my bills, but a 40-hour job wouldn’t give me enough time to write. Sigh

I mentally created the perfect part-time gig…

And then I got it.

8:30am - 1pm, Monday - Friday. They’re paying me about twice what the job is worth. (The way-cool attorney asked what I wanted. I highballed. He said okay. Just… baffling.)

I start tomorrow. I’m not dreading it. Hope I can say the same about Tuesday.

More on the “everything’s going my way” theme, whenever I get around to recapping the Austin Film Festival & Screenwriters’ Conference, from which I’m still recovering…

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Titles: A Parable

Remember my soul-sucking career?

As of a couple days ago, I no longer have it. Don’t know yet how the bills are gonna get paid, but I feel lighter. Wind at my back, angels singing and the Universe in harmony kind of “lighter.”

So, I got that going for me.

Anyway, it was one of my at-home-writing days and The Boss called. I’ll call him “Mr. Christian” because that’s his name -- ever since he changed it to show the world just how very Christian he is. (Swear to god, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, I’m not making that up.)

Mr. Christian asked what he and the other company Big Guys could do to help me be more successful... except, we both know where my heart and passion lie and it ain’t there. So, we amicably agreed to part ways, with his assurance that I’m welcome back anytime and thank you for everything and we support you and your writing and stay in touch.

Next morning, I excised four years’ worth of crap from my desk and computer then made the rounds of goodbyes. I sincerely like everyone there (and they claim it’s mutual), so it took a while.

Towards the end, I was in another Big Guy’s office, my favorite of the Big Guys, in fact. I’ll call him “Tom, the Deeply Devout Christian Who Nonetheless Drinks and Cusses and Openly Wishes his Wife Would Put Out More and/or Let Him Smoke Pot.” He asked a lot of questions about my writing and what’s the next step for me, etc. And Ed the Hovering New Guy, who I really don’t know because he’s only been there like two days, jumped in. He wanted to know the title of my script so he can keep an eye out at the multiplex.

I explained that it hasn’t been optioned or bought – or even marketed, yet – so there’s no need to do that. (Actually, I just didn’t want to tell them the title, as it sounds a tad racy…)

Ed the Hovering New Guy pushed. He really wanted to know the title. I really didn’t want to tell them. Especially since Pastor Bill (a real Pastor-cum-Headhunter) had wandered in and was now standing with the others, watching me expectantly.

I struggled to change the subject, while they clung to it like freakishly-overt-Christian headhunters who don’t get out much. Then Mr. Christian joined the group.

I was backed against a wall – literally – by Ed the Hovering New Guy and the three most pious mid-life crisis sufferers I’ve ever known. Given no choice, I fired my last round:

“Even if this script were bought and made, studios usually change the titles. It probably wouldn’t have the same title if it ever--”

“Well, what’s the title right now?” Ed the Hovering New Guy probed (tenacious bastard).

“Yeah! What’s the title? What do you call it? Just tell us what it is…” sang the Gospel choir.

Fine!” I blurted, desperate now to get away from this wall and this office and Ed the Hovering New Guy and Mr. Christian and Pastor Bill and even Tom, the Deeply Devout Christian Who Nonetheless Drinks and Cusses and Openly Wishes his Wife Would Put Out More and/or Let Him Smoke Pot. So, I grudgingly confessed,


Four pairs of bushy eyebrows shot up.

Then Mr. Christian giggled, “Oh, I’d read that!”

Yeah... It's always nice to know you’ve found a compelling title.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hello. My name is Julie... and I am a Writer.

I used to love my day job. “Headhunter.” It was fun to say.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a headhunter.”

The money was great, that didn’t hurt, either. I had Something to Prove and I was proving it.

Then one day, I noticed that writing wasn’t just something I did, it was something I Am…

Today, I was talking to the only friend at my day job who really seems to “get” me. I was complaining about the soul-suckingness of coming here and going through the motions, etc. And he asked why I didn’t explore some writing opportunities at the newspaper or something, to elevate my hobby to something I could make a living at.

Huh. Guess he didn’t really get me after all.

So, I endeavored to explain that screenwriting isn’t a hobby, at least, not to me.

Stamp collecting is a hobby. Origami is a hobby. Writing… well, that’s an addiction. A disease at the cellular level, every bit as destructive as alcoholism. It threatens jobs, lifestyles, marriages…

And I heard myself saying -- and as I spoke the words, I knew they were true -- that if I had to, I’d live in a hole somewhere eating Ramen noodles every meal, as long as I could write. I’d live in a box under an overpass, as long as I could write.

I used to think, as he does, that my writing somehow didn’t “count” unless I was getting paid for it. But, today I realized... it doesn’t matter if I ever make a living at this, as long as I get to DO THIS. The money (shrug) well, that’s just to keep the roof up there and the electricity on and the food on the table. I can earn enough to do all that without having An Impressive (and Soul-Sucking, Live-it-Eat-It-and-Breathe-It) Career.

There’s something deeply liberating in knowing I’m not A Total Failure if I never sell a script and never get that titular promotion from Writer to Screenwriter. It’s all about the Stories. I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m writing for love of the craft (despite how much it hurts and makes me hate it, sometimes). And somehow, ironically, that makes me feel a wee bit closer to actually getting paid for it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


“Done” is a meaningless and rather ironic word, sometimes.

My mom called as I was reading my last rewritten scene and determining it was (for now, anyway) “done.”

Mom: You don’t sound good, what’s the matter?

She always thinks I don’t sound good when I’m happy. Conversely, I apparently sound peachy when I’m ready to jump in front of a bus.

Me: I’m fine. Just finished my rewrite.

Mom: I thought you finished that a month ago. Which one is this?

Me: Yeah, it’s the same one. I finished it, then I rewrote it.

Mom: Oh.

(An interminably long beat as the generation gap expands with a jaw-cracking yawn.)

Mom (cont’d): I wish you’d do something with that children’s book. That was really great…

I’m sure things are different when you’re not writing on spec, ‘cause you get to go to that “it’s out of my hands” place. But at this juncture in my writing career, “done” is kinda anticlimactic.