Recent Musings

February 4, 2014:

Leap and the Net Shall Appear

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Ah, Los Angeles. It’s such a wonderful city. Vast and wide, each little nook a jewel unto itself. I live in West L.A., the west side. Each area is very specific to the people that live there. Los Feliz and Toluca Lake each appeal to a specific crowd – one that is artsy, intellectual and from what I’m told, those from the east coast tend to love those areas. The landscape, they tell me, reminds them of home but they get the glorious California weather. Hollywood, West Hollywood, Burbank, Downtown, The San Fernando Valley, each of these has its own unique character and personality that attract a specific demographic.

I’m not sure how to best describe the west side, other than to say it’s stunningly beautiful here. This particular section includes Westwood, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu and Marina del Rey. We have the ocean, the mountains, the sunshine and blue skies. It’s a wonderful place to live. It’s a place that attracts a multitude of people from varying backgrounds. One type in particular that flock to this vast city, no matter where they might hail from originally, are the artists of this world.

Los Angeles is the honey and creatives, well we are the bees that flock here in the hopes of making our dreams of success a reality. Though born and raised in Southern CA, I too found myself drawn to this marvelous, and oftentimes frustrating city. My dream? To be a successful writer. Blah blah blah. My story is a dime a dozen around these parts so why blog about it?

Well, because I’m at this strangely wonderful and yet at the same time, daunting, juncture in my writing career. I’ve written a book – a mystery/thriller – and I’ve just signed with a reputable agent! Ok, so that’s the wonderful part of things. The daunting part you ask? Well, the wondering if the book will sell. Will a publisher find the book as great as the few people who’ve read it?

My Mom, a few friends, and now an agent like it. But will the masses ever have the chance to read it? I really don’t know. Yet. I’ve done, and continue to do, the hard work that it takes. Whether you’re a writer, an actor, filmmaker, painter, poet, musician, singer, songwriter, this blog is for you. It’s an oftentimes uphill journey, a battle of within and out there, a struggle of survival, it’s many things to be an artist of any kind. There are also moments of pure joy and excitement, those times when you’ve created something wonderful to share with the world. It’s waves that go up, and come crashing down. It’s a whole lot of work, as well. I thought that writing the book would be the hard part but guess what? That was just the beginning!

I interviewed a musician a few years ago and when I asked him how he made the decision to really pursue his music full time, he told me of a quote that someone said to him that inspired him to make the jump into art: Leap and the net shall appear.

These six words echoed in my skull for weeks until I, too, was forced to make my leap and quit my dead-end-coordinator-slash-assistant job and pray for guidance into the world of writing. Let me clarify that, I wanted to be a PAID writer. So this is my story of breaking free from the boring but safe and into unknown but exciting.

I hope it inspires you to follow your gut, your heart, and go wherever it may lead you. I don’t care if your dream is to make boxes at a box factory. I want you to love making those boxes, take pride in them, and make the best damn boxes anyone has ever seen! And maybe you’re not an artist. Maybe you want to be a lawyer, a dentist, whatever it is that you want. If you’re not there insert the word “yet” and perhaps over the next several months you’ll read my blog and it will push you up and over that wall that you insist is holding you back…

February 6, 2014:

Red Stapler

I was dying a slow death under fluorescent lights and I needed to act expeditiously to save myself. I was chained to a desk and an earpiece. I could answer the phone from the bathroom stall. It was no way to live. And the mere fact that I was no longer in my twenties wasn’t lost on me. My resiliency to these things was quickly dwindling.

I felt stifled, like I was slowly suffocating between the hours of nine to seven Monday through Friday. Sundays were spent with my stomach in knots knowing of the five brutal days I had ahead of me. Nothing I did in my day to day meant a damn thing. It was simply a paycheck and a measly one at that. After paying rent and bills, I was lucky if I could go see a movie.

I kept thinking that there had to be another way, a much better one. I kept asking myself: What can I do? What am I good at? Writing came to mind. Then I was forced to figure out a way — as someone who talked about and wanted to be a writer, yet who’d never been published — to actually make this new venture a career. So I submitted an article to The Examiner and they liked it. I soon became the LA Arts & Entertainment writer for the Los Angeles area. I loved it. But I needed to be able to support myself financially so that I could leave the desk, and my beloved red stapler, behind. The stapler was a purchase made in honor of the cult classic film “Office Space”. When I saw that movie I knew that I wasn’t alone and that gave me a smidgen of solace.

Ok, so my name was starting to get out there but how could I start to get paid for this thing that I love to do? Not quite time to quit my day job but I knew the time was coming slowly but surely. After freelancing for several magazines and websites, I eventually got a break when an editor, SC (I am only going to use initials here) at Variety, threw me an opportunity. I wrote up Disney’s hit show Shake It Up and the article landed on the cover. On top of that, I was paid for my work! Like paid per word paid! I have a framed copy of that article on my wall and it serves as a constant reminder that if you work hard and work smart, you’ll find your way.

ImageI liked this whole idea of doing something that I enjoyed for work and making good money doing it. Light bulbs were going off all over the place! There was this moment of epiphany where I realized that work could be enjoyable. Life as I knew it, would never be the same. There was finally a sliver of light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. I knew if I just focused, a good opportunity would come my way.

Then I went to San Francisco for a wedding. I made a long weekend of it and stayed with friends in the suburbs the first few nights. And then I took the BART into the city for Irina and Len’s wedding. That was a gorgeous affair! Anyway, I got onto the BART and as I travelled across the city, I chatted with a lovely man, JR, and his son through dark tunnels under the bay, and over train tracks as they carried us from the outlying suburbs into the city. I had no idea that this kind man was a successful journalist at a newswire as we spoke. I just thought he was nice and I welcomed the company. When we exited the train, he gave me his card and my eyes bulged. I felt it was a sign. My life was soon to change in a wonderful way. To sum it up in one word: Reuters…

February 10, 2014:

The Wire

Maybe not 1000 feet but...

Maybe not 1000 feet but…

The life of a freelance journalist is a tricky balancing act. Covering breaking news is exciting and thrilling. And it requires that you’re always available and ready to go – anywhere, at any time. I’ve learned to be up and ready every morning just in case something happens. You can plan for court coverage most of the time. But spot news, there’s just no telling when a man is going to open fire at LAX or when an American citizen will be released from North Korea.

This is also a career of juggling your finances. One week can see you running from one story to the next and the following week can find you hustling to find a story, any story. It’s not stable or for those who like to know that they have a certain amount of money coming in every week.

On those days that I’m not out reporting news, I’m home in front of my computer writing fiction. I have these characters running around in my skull and I love to get them out onto the page. I know their names and I know how I imagine them to look, act, and how they speak. I put them into some very tricky situations. Sometimes I help them to get out of them, other times not.

Their lives are far more interesting than mine, that’s for sure. I live vicariously through them. I sit down and as much as I might plan what a particular chapter will entail, I really never know until I write. They come alive and they show me where they want to go and what they want to do.

Working freelance in any field guarantees that no two days are ever the same. It’s like walking on a wire at a thousand feet over a shallow, rocky stream…

February 12, 2014:

L.A. Hustle

I risked life and limb on the 405 to get this shot...

I risked life and limb on the 405 to get this shot…

The “Rat Race” is an unavoidable part of life in Los Angeles. Everyone is trying to keep up with it. And it’s a thing that never, ever stops. Not for a second. There’s always so much to do and the fact that we have cell phones attached to us at all times doesn’t help much.

There is always an email, a text, instant message and/or phone call to return. You could attend to these things 24/7 and not keep up with any of it. New York may never sleep, but L.A. never seems to rest. People are always on their way somewhere or on their way back from somewhere. And in L.A., you’re usually stuck in traffic and running late.

So when does one actually fit the time in to pursue their creative goals? That’s the tricky part of things. It’s not easy and a lot has to be sacrificed. I haven’t “made it” yet, not by a long shot. I’m simply on my way. But I have to say that there are those days when I feel like throwing my hands up in the air and saying, “Forget it! It’s too much!”

This is how I feel today. Every time I move forward three steps, I fall five backwards. But something always pulls me back up on my feet. There’s a voice telling me that I’ve worked too hard, come this far, and that I cannot give up! This is exactly the point where I stop my whining and get back to work.

You have to be willing to work harder than you ever thought possible. There is no nine-to-five in this world. There is no quitting. We all have “these days” and we have to just get through them.

This is the L.A. Hustle, after all…

February 14,2014

“So, you’re saying the answer is no? Yes, no.”

It's unavoidable and it's an ok word to hear.

It’s unavoidable and it’s an ok word to hear.

There are many occasions that I can think of off the top of my head that I want to hear the word “No” but for the most part, I much prefer the word “Yes”. Unfortunately, in this life “No” is inevitable and you’ll hear it nine times out of ten, especially if you’re trying to do something creative. I can’t speak to all of the ventures people explore, only to writing because that’s what I do.

But I’ll bet that the lessons here are universal. Across the spectrum, “No” might just be the most important word that you do hear. Sometimes your work is not ready. You’re not ready. It’s not your time just quite yet.

Sometimes the best favor a person can do for you, for your personal benefit, is to tell you “No”. No one wants to hear it but it’s an important word to hear.

For example, eight months ago I really thought that my book was finally done. I sent it to a friend and awaited her response. I waited for her praise and congratulations. That’s not what I got. What I received was a document with notes.

At the time the book was just shy of three hundred pages and I counted over three hundred comments, corrections and remarks. I didn’t cry, exactly. I sat on it for two months and felt completely overwhelmed.

And then I got to work. I spent two weeks not doing much other than starting from page one, word one, and I went through and completely reworked the entire book. She was right. The book wasn’t ready. I wasn’t finished. It wasn’t my time just yet.

I also know that wherever your work falls on the spectrum between total genius and complete crap, someone somewhere is going to love it, and someone is going to hate it.

But because I listened to that word “No” I made positive changes that I’d never have made otherwise. I was then able to send the book out and get representation.

There isn’t one of us that will ever reach high in life and get anywhere without hearing that word. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the very word that you need to hear.

Rejection is God’s protection. Wherever and whoever you are, if you’re hearing that word today, listen to it. Befriend it. You’ll look back one day and be grateful that someone cared enough to say it to you.

February 19, 2014

The Social Network(s)

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This post today is based on many hours of research, conversations and emails that I’ve had with professionals in the worlds of literary management as well as publishing. If you have plans of being a published book writer there are a few things that you need to know.

Mind you, I’ve yet to be published but I have finished my first book (other than whatever rewrites I still have ahead of me and it never stops until the book goes to print) and signed with a great manager. I’m now working on my second book. So why listen to this girl, who hasn’t even had her book published yet? Because I’ve done all the homework! I’ve wasted years not listening to people who’ve given me this very advice, and I can only imagine how much farther along I’d be if I had! You don’t have to listen to me of course. I’m just trying to help because I love writers!

An incredibly talented literary agent gave me the wisest advice just yesterday. She told me to immediately start working on my next book, and continue to get my name out there. As soon as the first is finished (other than those inevitable rewrites) and you’ve signed with an agent/manager, get busy on the next project.

First of all, it takes time for your representative to sell your book and during this time, you’re much better off being busy with your next creative endeavor. Not only will it take your mind off the last one, but the more you write, the better a writer you are sure to become.

Second, and this is where Social Media comes into play. You MUST, and I do mean MUST, have a “Platform”. What is a platform, you ask? I look at this as an insurance policy for a publisher. Publishing is a business, and who wants to invest in a brand (if you’re a writer, you’re a brand) that no one knows or cares about?

If you guessed “no one”, you’re correct. So, get yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn. Ok, so maybe not all of them but at least a few. And blog!!! This is your Platform and it’s a must-have.

Yes, it’s all very time consuming and I get it, all you want to do is write! I understand, trust me. But if you want to write, and be published, get to it!

February 25, 2014

Film Composer Alexandre Desplat talks “Philomena”, Oscar noms and bad reviews

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It was at The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel this past Sunday night that French film composer, Alexandre Desplat, spoke at a Q&A. “I always wanted to be a film composer and nothing else,” he told journalists.

“What I like is when a composer can capture the soul of a film.” Using Philomena as a reference, he explained that Judi Dench’s performance is the most important aspect of the film. Of the real-life Philomena, “In both the movie and in life, she is very strong but she doesn’t show it. You can feel it. There’s also a lot of dignity. She’s kept this pain for so many years.”

For a woman with such strength and humility, Desplat created a melody that was both joyful and melancholic. “I tend to think that great music is not sad or happy.”

He’s nominated for an Oscar this Sunday for Philomena, his sixth nomination. He’s also been nominated for a half dozen BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards, as well as five Grammy nominations. Desplat is at the top of his game.

His impressive resume includes: The King’s Speech, Argo, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Zero Dark Thirty, to name just a few of the films he’s worked on.

And yet, even he gets the occasional bad review. He spoke of reading reviews for the recent Monuments Men, and with a smile on his face, talked about reading a review where it was stated that the worst part of the film was the music. “The music was meant to be a tribute,” he said.

My hand went up and I asked him how he feels about getting bad reviews at this point in his career. “There’s always something to learn from them,” he said. “You can’t please everyone, that’s a fact.” Laughing, he added, “Sometimes I cry for days.” He was teasing, of course, but it was interesting to note that even someone with such a talent can be criticized. I mean, I know this is a reality but it still intrigued me.

I went up to him afterwards and thanked him for his candor. His response, a kind smile, a shrug of the shoulders, and a laugh, “It is life.”

And it is. As I said in an earlier post, no matter where your work falls on the spectrum between total crap and genius, someone somewhere will love it, and someone will not.

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One thought on “Recent Musings

  1. Hi Dana Sue! I’m a new Peter Millerite, also with my first fiction novel under his guiding hand. Perhaps we can be pen pals as we climb this mountain. Please feel free to call upon me, should I have anything you might need. Even if it’s just another set of eyes. best, steve

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