1. Do I have a movie for you! The Artist is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in a long time, and there are no explosions, no special effects, no fisticuffs. Oh, and no color or words either. It’s a black and white, silent move. I know. You’re thinking, I don’t do those movies. Okay, but give this one a chance and I’d bet you’ll be enchanted just like I was. It wasn’t just me: the folks in my theater actually clapped at the end of the movie.
Set in Hollywood 1927, just as the film industry was changing over to “talkies,” George Valentin (played with panache by French actor Jean Dujardin who looks uncannily like Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain) finds himself obsolete. Valentin is a bit of an egomaniac, but a lovable one. He was the biggest star of his day and now can’t get even a bit part. He ends up in a shabby apartment with only his dog Uggie for company. Valentin is befriended by Peppy Miller, a background dancer turned marquee headliner. But his pride won’t allow him to accept Peppy’s help.
The Artist isn’t cynical, trying to send a message or using the silent, black and white format as a gimmick. But it has a big heart. It’s been a few days since I’ve seen it and I find myself wanting to see it again.
2. Last week, I mentioned that I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. In the past, the ones I made were so vague: eat healthier (see below), watch less television, exercise more. (Probably purposely vague, now that I think about it.) Then by January 10th, I’d forgotten all about it. (Probably purposely forgotten…) I have a feeling I’m not alone in this.
I read a suggestion that instead of a resolution, make a theme for 2012 – a word or two that describes how you’d like to structure your life this year. Then when you’re making a decision or if you’re presented with an opportunity, you can put it into context of how it will be in service of your theme. There’s nothing to give up or beat yourself up over.
I’m going to give it a whirl. For the past year or two or three, I’ve not been focused on my main goal of finishing my novel and finding a new agent. I get distracted by many unimportant things like how many Kardashians there are now or how many M&M’s I can eat in one sitting. So my theme this year is FOCUS. Does it sound a little corny? I’m hoping FOCUS will be my mini mantra and help keep me on track. From time to time, I’ll report on how that’s working out.
If you created a theme for 2012, what would it be?
3. If you’ve watched any television in the past week, you’ve probably seen no fewer than 592 ads for weight loss programs. The favorite buzz word when it comes to eating healthier is “moderation,” but I found Gretchen Rubin’s blog post saying that may not be the way to go. The idea of eating in moderation, she says, means that you limit yourself to small amounts of your favorite foods so you don’t feel deprived. Clearly the person who came up with this concept has never seen me next to a bowl of tortilla chips and guacamole. Eat only one or two chips? That will happen right after Snooki from Jersey Shore cancels her tanning salon appointments.
With that in mind, Gretchen says people can fall into two categories: moderators and abstainers. Obviously, I need to stay far, far away from guacamole.
You’re a moderator if you…
— find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure—and strengthens your resolve
— get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you…
— have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
— aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits
Which one are you? Moderator or abstainer?
4. Mortgage Refinance Saga, Day 109.
Me: So the hundreds of documents you’ve requested are now in. Can we schedule the closing next week?
Bank: We need a verbal verification of your employment.
Me: My pay stubs aren’t verification enough?
Bank: We need a verbal verification of your employment within 10 days of closing.
Me: Why didn’t you mention this before now?
Bank: We need a verbal verification of your employment. Please have your employer call the bank not more than 10 days before closing.
Me: But you haven’t given me a closing date. How do I know when 10 days in advance is?
Me: Hello? Hello?
5. A Great Read for Writers. Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, has some wonderful words of wisdom about the writing life, titled The Getaway Car. I learned about it from Alex George. (He’s the author of the much-anticipated novel The Good American which, by the way, is going to be the # 1 pick on the IndieBound list for February.) Like Alex, I found Patchett’s essay to be filled with useful suggestions and words of encouragement. I will definitely be referring to it again and again.
On making writing a priority:
I could see the genius in not having given 100 percent of myself over to writing before. It had kept me from ever having to come to terms with how good I was—or wasn’t. As long as something got in the way of writing, I could always look at a finished story and think it could have been a little better if only I hadn’t spent so much time on XYZ. How much better I never knew, because I never knew how much of myself I was holding back.
It is the key to making art and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.
I believe that, more than anything else, this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.
On being your own worst critic:
The part of my brain that makes art and the part that judges that art had to be separated. While I was writing, I was not allowed to judge. That was the law.
The essay is only available in downloadable format to your e-reader or computer ($2.99). Check it out on Byliner to read an excerpt and then order from your usual retailer.
Do you have any books or essays that have served as your writing bible?
Have a great weekend, everyone!