Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Big C- A Masterclass in Living

Three years ago I sat down to watch the premiere of a new Showtime original series, The Big C, with Laura Linney. I fell in love with both.  Last night I watched the final episode.

The story follows Cathy Jamison, a Minneapolis teacher, wife and mother who gets diagnosed with stage four melanoma. She's terminal. We watch as she moves through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Cathy begins doing the things she's always wanted to do. Not just a bucket list;  a new way of living. A more honest way. A way in which she truly appreciates the gift we all take for granted at one time or another:  life.
I won't give anything away, because if you haven't seen it, you should.

Last night's episode was the series finale.  This fourth season was a mini-season. Four hour-long episodes--each which tore my heart out of my chest. I won't spoil the ending, but you've probably figured it out.

So, I have often asked myself, why are you watching this show?  Haven't you dealt with enough cancer and death in your life? I could never really answer the question. Yes, the writing is amazing. The acting is out of this world, and well....I do love Laura Linney, but there was more.  It wasn't until last night when Cathy asked a Hospice nurse why she did the work she did and the nurse replied, "When people are close to dying, they open up like a flower."  I immediately began sobbing. That was the answer.

There is something beautiful in death. Something that strips us of all our worries, pressures, expectations. There is only that moment and that moment alone. It's the ultimate letting go. It's the one moment we will all share--regardless of the circumstances, the time, or the place.  We will all have that final moment when we let go.

Why do I call The Big C a masterclass in living? Because if we can remember what it all comes down to, maybe we can live a little lighter, worry a little less, love a little more and do what we were intended to do. Live life to it's fullest.

For this life, that's all there is.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Great Time for Entrepreneurs

I read somewhere a few years ago that during a bad economy is the best time to start a new business. The risk is high and the stakes are higher, but the pay off is worth it. For some, working for oneself is the only viable option. If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that the American worker is undervalued and the illusion of job security went by way of the Y2K bug.

When one usually thinks of opening a business, it's a brick and mortar type business--selling products or services. But now that entrepreneurial spirit is also alive and encouraged with artists.  When I say artists, I mean anyone creating something, be it a song, a piece of fiction, a photograph, a painting or a film.  That in large part is due to the advances in technology and showcases such as YouTube and Amazon.com.

This past week, something was done that was pretty groundbreaking. Two cancelled thirty year old television shows were brought back to life and have a new home online. I'm talking about the daytime dramas, All My Children and One Life to Live.

When ABC Television cancelled the two longtime sudsers about a year and a half ago, it looked like that was it.  The lights were going out in Pine Valley and Llanview. But no!  A new production company called Prospect Park bought the rights to the two shows and after an agonizing year or so, finally were able to bring the shows back together for presentation on the internet--where many are already viewing their favorite shows.  If this is successful, television networks better watch out. There's new competition in town and they don't have to play by the FCC rules.

This week when All My Children re-premiered, I had to watch.  I'll admit that I didn't have very high expectations. I envisioned choppy camera work, subpar writing, bad lighting--all the things that usually come from doing something on a low budget. Boy, was I surprised. Prospect Park was able to capture the look that was All My Children.  The sets are great. The actors are great. The writing is crisp and it has a faster, more edgy pace. And guess what? They aren't playing by the same FCC rules. Several characters said words they can't say on tv.  The most shocking was Angie Hubbard, played expertly by Debbie Morgan, saying "shit."   Now when she drops the F-bomb, I'll piss my pants (and they can say that now too).

Aside from the new life for AMC, independent film makers, and musicians, are finding YouTube to be a great place to produce a web series, show their films, or get their music heard.  Just as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble are giving writers the tools to produce their work in ebook, or standard print form, and the opportunity to sell their work.  Sure, some of it might not be good, but the rules have all changed. Finally, the little guy can put something out without the big publishers censorship or marketing analysis telling us what we want to read. We know what we want to read, and finally we're able to get that sent right to our Kindles.

I have to say I like this new era.  It kindles that entrepreneurial spirit in me. That one that invokes the original American dream--if you work hard, you can enjoy the fruits of your success. I've never been afraid of hard work, but I want to control my destiny, not some corporate big wig who only sees me as a number.   Why should I be making him rich when I could be doing the same for me?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Making the Write Decisions

Writing fiction, like life, is in the choices we make. We want to make the "right" decisions and hopefully things will play out in a manner we find pleasing and comfortable, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes we make the "wrong" decisions, but we end up with a better story. Making the decisions is the first step.

If you've been reading this for any amount of time, you'll know I've been working on a novel. I finished the first draft a few years ago now, and I've been working on revising and editing ever since. I've done draft after draft. Cutting characters. Adding characters. Changing timelines. Upping the stakes. More description; less description. More dialogue; less dialogue. I've had beta readers read it. I've solicited feedback and got it. I've done more revising.  I've done everything except finish the damned thing. Why? Because a voice inside my head tells me it's not perfect.

What if I publish it and not everyone loves it?  What if it doesn't become a runaway best seller and outsell The Fifty Shades of Grey, or Harry Potter?  What if a reviewer says, "it's okay for a first novel."  These are all things I'm very likely going to have to face. The odds are not in my favor that I will outsell those hits. Odds are a reviewer won't think it's the next great american novel, but maybe someone will.

The point is, as some of my non-writer friends have pointed out, I'll never know if I don't put it out there. Flaws and all.

I can sit here and continue editing it until I'm dead. There will always be another way of telling the story.  Another author, or even me in three months, will always have an idea how this scene could have gone, or that character should have been. The story will continue changing as the writer's life changes, day by day.  At some point we (I) have to stop procrastinating in the name of perfection, and let it go.

There's always a chance the second novel will be the new great american novel.  I'll never know until I stop tinkering with the first.