Yesterday I got some bad news about a podcast I’ve been developing—it’s not going to work for this one podcast network.
Last week I got disappointing news about a TV staffing writing job that I was up for—they didn’t have a budget for a writer at my level.
The week before that the other TV show I was interviewing on didn’t go forward at the network.
Two weeks prior, a venue where I host my storytelling series decided they no longer want to host my storytelling series.
Earlier that same month I found out that the offer we had to turn my novel into a movie isn’t going to pan out.
That same week the network decided not to pick up the digital show I wrote on last season, and I didn’t get a different writing job on another digital show.
This is the life of a writer clawing up to the goal of a successful career in Los Angeles. I’m several rungs up the ladder.
I’m represented by a management company and have worked with an agent. I have pitched television shows to every broadcast television network. I have sold an original series to a digital network. I know many of the people that make decisions about who gets a shot at success in this town, and they know me.
But I am not there yet. I still face far more losses than wins. As of today, my annual writing earnings place me below the poverty line. I live off my husband’s salary.
“I don’t know how you do it,” my mom often says to me when I’m willing to share the bad news, and she is right to wonder.
It is staggering to write down and re-read my list of recent rejections. After I did it just now, a pang of what the hell am I doing? hit my heart and then settled into my stomach. I know the feeling well.
Next comes the karmic thought: is this the universe’s way of telling me to give up? Then the anger thought: fuck this business for being so unfair and impossible! Then the blame thought: you asked for this; if you can’t stand the heat get out of the business. Next the big life value thought: is this even worth it?
Then, I always remember that someone said, “It’s easier to become a professional athlete than a successful writer in Los Angeles,” and one final questions lands in my throat: what if I never make it?
And then comes my response, and it’s exactly the same every single time.
I’m sorry. I will? I just…will?
Will you make it happen despite all the signs pointing to, maybe not?
Why yes, no thank you for asking. I will.
What the fuck is that?
The answer, I’ve come to believe is hope. But what the fuck is hope??
I’m not a God person so it’s not faith hope. It’s not God has a plan hope. There’s some logic to it—I’ve come this far hope—but spend enough years in this town and you’ll know logic doesn’t get much play. I’ve always thought there’s the chance it’s a psychiatric deficiency—delusional hope. But I’ve been complaining about this career thing to a therapist for years and she’s never said, “give up…and take these pills.”
And so I’ve come to the only remaining option. It is a superpower—my superpower.
I guess when I was a little girl I huffed just enough glue from the binding of old books at the Freehold Boro Public Library to create a tiny magic spot in my brain that fights the villain Doubt whenever I put on my superhero cape, which is a giant old denim dress shirt of my father’s. It’s tricky because Doubt is a real bitch of a villain. Worse than anything Bat or Spider or Super or Ant or Iron or Aqua or all the ones not called Name-plus-Man have had to deal with (but not worse than Superwoman because Misogyny trumps Doubt in the Rochambeau of evil). Doubt is the villain that lives inside you like what I think happens in Twin Peaks, but none of us will ever know. Luckily I know how to fight it because of my powers, duh.
To fight Doubt I change into superhero outfit (my shirt), go to the place where he lives (my brain) and fight him with my secret weapon (writing and sometimes a martini). See, hope is my power but writing is my weapon. Hope is I can climb walls but writing is spidey string.
So I write and I write and I write and I love it and I love it and I love it and I send it to people to read and they say yes, keep going and I think holy shit I think this is maybe what I was meant to do with my whole life! And then something positive happens and I’m charged for all the hours I need to get the next big task done and—poof!—the doubt shrivels up and crawls in a rock… for at least a few days.
This is not a foolproof plan. Sometimes I have to add in things like cry to my husband and go on a vacation and pet my dog and eat cheese into the mix, but those are just things I do to get my words back. Like if Spider-Man had to take a cardio dance class to un-gunk his web shooter. The weapon is the writing.
Sometimes I try to shoot rays of hope from my magic brain out my mouth and onto people who need it, but I’ve found that mine is more of a personal power. Maybe that’s why it pisses people off? How can you have so much hope? they ask, as if to suggest that I shouldn’t, or at least not so close to them.
I do feel it’s necessary to point out that my superpower is being put to somewhat insignificant use. I could have hope in my work toward a cure for cancer or an end to racism or really anything other than a successful writing career for me! But if I tried to do those things I would do them very poorly because all I’d be thinking about is the fact that I’d rather be a writer, so the best I can offer is a promise that I’ll write about those things when I’m successful.
Is this all starting to sound a little audacious? My power has been called that. One guy wrote a whole book about it. But audacity implies a certain degree of control that we superheroes lack. That’s why we get so many movies. We just can’t stop.
Or we won’t stop?
Or we don’t know how?
Unclear. Must be part of the powers.
Of course, there is one thing that doesn’t come with my cape and that’s a million and one lives (told you Super had it easier). I have one. I’m 33 years into it. I know because Doubt tells me all the time. There may come a day further down the road when he shows up and—after his long, annoying monologue—lands his what if I never make it? sucker punch again. A time close to the end. That’s a dark thought, but we supers live in a dark world.
What will I feel in that future? And what will I say?
The only answer my brain will allow for is I will.
Part of the deal, I guess. I’d overthink it, but what’s the point? I’ll just end up right where I always land.
Seems like my time would be better spent bedazzling that on my denim shirt.
Captain Hope? Mrs. Hope? The Hope? Human Hope? Fuck it.