Friday, November 27, 2009

Julie and Julia and Elizabeth and...

I went to see Julie and Julia a few days ago, a break in the middle of a busy and productive day. I’ve wanted to see it since it first came out however many moons ago, but only now got around to it. It didn’t hurt that it finally made it to “the cheapie theater” since I love a bargain. Double bonus for me, it was half price day, so I got to see Meryl Streep and Amy Adams for under a buck. Quite a deal.

Earlier in the day I’d made cornbread in preparation for Thanksgiving dressing, plus a mincemeat pie to delight my father-in-law for his birthday, and I roasted a passel of sweet potatoes since I had a hot oven anyway. I threw a load of darks in the washing machine, ran the dishwasher, grabbed a shower. I confirmed the kids’ dentist appointments, considered my afternoon commute from school to dentist and on to Tae Kwan Do with the last stop, a BBQ restaurant for dinner.

Oh, and I wrote.

I’m still plugging away on my NaNo (as it has come to be called, a nickname equally endearment and invective). As I stumbled bleary-eyed into my bedroom late one recent night, I announced to my husband that I’d reached the really terrible stage: To succeed, I’d need to squeeze out 2000 words every remaining day of November. More than seemed easy, little enough to be possible. The perfect storm.

The next morning, though, inspiration struck hard and brilliant. I not only added over 3700 words to the work, I also unearthed the story that had begun to elude me. (There are many words that won’t land in the final manuscript, but this is NaNo—they survive! At least until the end of the month. Word count, baby.) I’d whittled my obligation to 1600-something words a day. The next afternoon more words flowed, and now just over 1500 daily words would carry me to winner status. Today, in the final stretch, I really think I might make word count before the Monday-at-midnight deadline. I don’t know whether I’m more awed or flabbergasted at that turn of events.

Julie and Julia helped. In the movie, Julie Powell sets out to make every recipe in Julia Child’s exhaustive cookbook, and she gives herself a year to do it. Julia Child, some 50 years earlier, sets out to write that very cookbook, and she toils for a decade before seeing her efforts in print. Both of their challenges felt personal to me, both felt like what I am going through in my writing life, and this month.

But ultimately, both women succeeded. They met their goals, and the rewards were great—and I don’t even mean the publication both found. More poignantly, they found their their self-worth, their cores and their callings, and they learned (or relearned, for don’t we all?) that persistence and dedication are worth it. That even when it seems like a long hard slog up a rocky hill in the midst of winter’s dirtiest slush wearing last year’s tractless boots (this is beginning to sound like my mother’s description of her daily walk to school), it can be done. Keep at it, plug away, keep on cooking whatever you’ve decided to cook, write what you’ve committed to, and you will succeed.

So I’m keeping it up, and I hope that come Monday, just a scant few days from now, I’ll upload my 50,000 words panting for revision and get to say: I did it. Just like Julie. Just like Julia. Just like so many writers who keep on trudging word after day after word after day after... Bon Appétit.

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