by Maria Schulz
The other day, I was sitting at my desk when I overheard a conversation between two co-workers. They were discussing the author, Stephanie Meyer, and her Twilight series.
Neither of them were big fans, so they were talking about what a stupid story line the books had, how ridiculous they seemed, the fact that all that glitters is not vampires, and more. This lead one of them to finally ask:
“If you could write a series of novels that made you MILLIONS, but they would be ridiculed and mocked by many…WOULD YOU DO IT?”
I immediately jumped out of my chair and said, “I’M IN!”
Another writer chimed in, “Me too. I’m too old for art!”
The fact is, I’ve lived in penniless obscurity for way too long. Bring on the book tours! Bring on the movie offers! Let me hold GIANT royalty checks in my hot little hands!
Please, please dear God, let me argue with the movie producers over casting choices. George Clooney or Jon Hamm? Sandra Bullock or Cate Blanchett? If Robert Pattinson says he absolutely refuses to play the lead in my movie if Kristin Stewart is cast as the leading lady, sorry babe—but you’re out. Oh, I can’t wait until all of Hollywood is fighting to get a part in my book-turned-movie.
Just wait until the Academy Awards! I’ll get my own stylist and wear a stunning red dress by Prada that makes me look 100 pounds lighter as I sashay down the red carpet. Joan Rivers will try to make fun of me and I will come back with a witty remark on the spot (instead of the next day, while I’m crying in my Chunky Monkey ice cream) that will simultaneously cut her to bits and make her my BFF. Every reporter there will say things like: “Writers don’t usually get invited to these things, but that’s MARIA SCHULZ!”
Oh, but there I go again. Dreamers gonna dream.
The writer’s life can be frustrating. You spend years in college learning how to write, reading the classics, and contemplating the world’s beauty and all of its compelling ideas. Then you graduate…and you learn that the workplace doesn’t care about the classics (Homer? You mean Homer Simpson?), or that you were President of the Great Reads Society. So what if you are a creative problem solver and big thinker? What were your grades in Math and Science?
You go out there and search, search, search for any job that will let you write. In the process, you get a lot of jobs that teach you the joys of filing and typing.
When you go to cocktail parties, people first ask, “What did you major in?’ and later the question will change to, “What do you do?” When you answer, “English,” or “I’m a writer,” they look like they’ve got GI distress. Most people will let it just pass, like gas pains. But some people will ultimately say:
“What? Why be a writer? You’ll never get a decent job!”
But to a writer like me, you might as well say: “Why do you keep breathing?”
This kind of interaction happens early and often, until you can’t imagine writing like Dorothy Parker or Ernest Hemingway. Why not settle for Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey)? Why not take the BIG money, trips to Cannes, share cocktails with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival, and score millions of dollars when your characters become immortalized as Barbie dolls?
I can see myself now: absorbing all the criticism, playing with my new Barbie dolls, and happily cashing the checks.
I did learn a long time ago that “success” as defined by others isn’t really what drives me. It’s the need to create that drives artistic types forward, even when criticism is probably waiting on the other side. That fundamental need is something I live with, and something I noticed in my mother when she was afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
To keep Mom busy, we signed her up for an Alzheimer’s program that let her pal around with others who were in the same boat. They sat in a circle and: talked about current events (always heartbreaking, since these once bright, intelligent people couldn’t remember any president past Ronald Reagan), their favorite TV shows (The Golden Girls was always the right answer), and ate a snack of cookies and milk. The day was long but enjoyable, in my mother’s words, because no one would get angry with her for forgetting anything since they were just like her.
By far, my mother’s favorite activity was arts and crafts. Most of the projects that she attempted were not good. It takes a certain amount of skill to throw a vase, pitcher, or statue, fire it up, and then paint it.
But somehow, even though my mother couldn’t remember who we were all the time, or who she was some times, she always remembered the artistic streak that lived inside of her. That streak drove her to create little treasures that she would bring home for us.
I still have the blue vase she made, as well as the white milk jug with the blue and green polka dots. My daughter has a blue glass slipper and some statues of a little boy and a little girl who, when placed right next to each other, look like they’re kissing.
When Mom first brought those treasures home, I hated them. At that moment, I looked at them as examples of how far she had fallen. But my mother, in her Alzheimer’s wisdom, saw it as an expression of what she could still do, and not an expression of all that she never would.
I can still learn a lot from her.
Spring is a time of hope, and this recipe is just the fuel you need to keep those creative juices flowing.
So Hungry Lifers…is cashing in on your dreams a sell-out? Would you be IN? What’s your favorite springtime recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks.