In telling her story in It Happened on Broadway, however, she includes the detail that:
I was in my early thirties, and you know when you’re in your early thirties, you think your life is over.
I’m 32. It feels like my life is over. It’s awkward to be aspiring to anything other than a wife, four kids, and a 401K at the age of 32. I was aspiring to be a published and produced writer in my 20s, and by 32, I was to have arrived, to have had my “this is my now” moment.
Instead, I’m at the state where I’m supposed to throw in the towel, to pat myself on the back for a good effort, and to have moved on. But I can’t. I want to want to, but I can’t.
And that brings me to my novel.
As my readers are aware, I revived older columns for several months while I focused on revising a novel I had originally written five years ago in my evenings when I was substitute teaching. And I’m happy to report that things are progressing well. Between January and May, I read all 356 pages of my novel three times and made revisions ranging from minute word changes to overhauling characters.
I thought I was done and ready to start courting agents, but I decided to ask a few people to read it first (which is not to say that no one had read it prior). So far, one friend has read it since, and I’m now on Revision #4, incorporating her observations.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m working on writing a smasheroo query letter, which is the magic key to getting an agent to read your work. I’m learning from my past mistakes by taking it slow and steady. When I have time, I’m also researching agents and the publishing industry to make sure I’m targeting my novel perfectly and doing things the right way.
Yet, I can’t help but remember that I’ve been on this journey before. It’s so disheartening to fall in love with a project and characters, only to see them come to nothing. Yes, some of those projects in the past, looking back, were prematurely born, and some of them simply miscarried because there was no one there to read them and, because of my lack of connections, there was no avenue to do anything with them. But I still can’t help but look back fondly and wish those characters could someday come to life to someone other than me.
I recently picked up the OBCR to A Class Act and talk about disheartening. Was there anyone as dedicated as Ed Kleban? I mean, that man wrote and wrote and wrote. He also had the connections—after all, he had a mega-hit on Broadway once. Actor Lonny Price’s desperation as Kleban in the “Light on My Feet” reprise is heart-wrenching. It’s heart-wrenching because I know what it’s like to work so hard but to always fall so short.
I have a friend who always reminds me that “The ones who succeed are the ones who fail the most.”
I recently saw the steroids documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, and two stories in there particularly spoke to me. One was of a 50-something body builder living in his van in order to have time to lift weights, to reach the glory of being able to lift more than anyone else. It makes him happy. Living in a van to face constant discontent in a lifetime of extending but never reaching makes him happy. Another story was the director’s brother, a man in his mid-thirties with a wife who couldn’t stop chasing his dream of becoming a professional wrestler, still holding onto the dream in the face of multiple rejections. I looked at him and thought, “You’re too old. Move on to something else.” But to him, it was within his grasp.
The ones who succeed are the ones who fail the most. But I can’t help but wonder if there are millions of people out there who try the most but still fail, people who we just never hear about because eating pavement doesn’t make for a great A&E Biography.
But Betty Buckley gives us hope! She interprets that:
After all those years of paying dues and learning and dedication, it was my turn. Eight is Enough had built my muscles, helped make me so strong, so fierce in my commitment. Without the training of Eight is Enough and without studying voice for thirteen years, I wouldn’t have had the strength to undertake the pressure presented by Cats . . . I was now thirty-five years old; it had taken me twenty-two years to develop into the artist I had known I would become.
But this novel is the last stop on this journey for me, the last stop before taking another route. I must make it as good as I possibly can, then pursue publication unrelentingly. I have grown as a writer and creator—all these failed experiments (namely another unpublished novel, two musicals without music, two sitcom pilots, a television drama pilot, an unfinished movie script, several television spec scripts) have prepared me to write this project at a level I was incapable of reaching two years ago.
But I need to start making some money with my energy. I am reaching my breaking point of being the struggling artist, the intensely frustrating life of working very hard on my writing, counting my pennies and hoping for success, daily regretting extraordinarily bad choices from my youth (deciding to become a teacher, realizing I had gone severely into debt for a degree doing a job I didn’t want, among others—wait for the memoir). I spent my twenties working like a dog as a teacher, just making ends meet. Now I’m working a reasonable number of hours at work and writing a lot in my off time. Now it’s time for me to see some fruit for my labor.
So what is the other route?—pursuing my MBA. I really want my MFA from USC in film production, but unless I win the lottery (or play the lottery, for that matter), that’s not going to happen. I have no desire to get an MBA just to leave my wonderful current job to pursue a position in a soul-sucking, money-hungry corporation. Instead, I would use the knowledge I would gain from an MBA as an entrée into the creative world (possibly producing an independent film). I figure that I seem to excel at pretty much everything I try (within my personality limitations, of course) as long as I have mentorship and training, so I have a fair chance of making it. If anyone has any insights from their experiences, I’d love to know!
But first, back to the novel.
the Broadway Mouth
July 14, 2009