Last July I was sitting in a tent on the central coast, overlooking the ocean, wrapped head to toe in fleece and alpaca wool. There were eight adults, nine children, five tents, one latrine, untold packs of fearless coyotes, a pioneering spirit and a phone signal.
An email rolled in from Kim Tracy Prince, informing me that CA’12 is a good one, that if I was going to go to a conference, I should go to that one, but I’d better sign up quickly because it was filling up fast.
Kim and I hadn’t known each other long, but we shared two friends who’s advice I would take without question and, by extension, I took her advice as well. Inside my tent, in a jumble of sleeping bags and pillow pets, I signed up for Creative Alliance ’12.
Then I pulled my hat over my ears and went outside to teach the kids how to do macrame.
The day I was set to leave was the same day the school newsletter was due. Actually, the school newsletter was due the day before, but the template and the Korean translation and the picture files were all messy and uncooperative, so I opted for the drop-dead deadline, rather than just the deadline.
For the weekend I took my husband’s car, a little Volvo with big speakers, and left the minivan at home. After clearing LA traffic, the ride to Ojai was fast. I parked, check in, and knew no one.
Fourteen seconds later I made a friend. Eleven seconds after that I made another.
I have a tiny blog, a minuscule internet presence. I don’t even like the word blogger.
This is what you would hear if we were strangers at a holiday party, both attending as wives, making small talk:
I’m a freelancer. Mostly kids shows. Blah, blah, blah, credits, producing, corporate, etc, etc.
If we were around the same age and connected on some level, I might admit, I also have a little website.
I love my job. I love seeing my words come to life, first by actors, then by animators. I love that a monkey wrench and a dump truck have such completely different approaches to life.
But work-for-hire is work-for-hire. Even, sometimes especially, when it’s plentiful you lose sight of the real thrill of writing: your own character.
I’ve said that writer’s block is for amateurs. We do a job, just like everyone else. Do engineers get engineer’s block? Do cab drivers get cab driver’s block? Some days we may not like it, some days it’s harder than others, but we shouldn’t have insubstantial obstructions while trying to complete a concrete task.
That said, writing to the tune of your own character is a whole different ballgame.
So there I was, in a circle with 49 other women, each embracing the tune of our own character. If I had walked into a room filled with all that character embracing emotion, I would have hightailed it out of there, straight to anything that had order.
But the chairs were set up, the light was right, and we were committed for the entire weekend.
On Sunday morning I pulled into my driveway. The day went on and I couldn’t explain anything. Finally:
Husband: Tell me one thing you learned.
Me: If I’m serious about my business, I can’t get pedicures in the middle of the day.
Also, I have a little website.
It’s a good start. The rest will have to wait.