Sunday, January 07, 2007

Two Carry-ons per person

(NOTE TO PARENTS: I am fine. Yes, I am spewing forth in a public forum about my ups and downs this year. At this present time, I consider myself in good mental health. Now, don't call me all worried. Yes, I really do have to post these kinds of disclaimers or I'll be on the phone for an hour with my mother. I love you mom, but truly, I'm fine.)

So, I talked about my writing journey this year. In the grand scheme, it was a good year for that. Sometimes it feels like the wheels of progress just don't move fast enough. I want to have an agent NOW. I want to be on staff NOW. The wheels, however, only move as fast as you can turn them.

I have a day job. It isn't a glamorous job, and in fact, right now I find myself wondering what it is I do most days. Still, it keeps me fed, clothed and sheltered, and helped me buy my swank TV. It also allows me to even consider writing in my spare time.

One thing I relearned this year -- I need goals and deadlines. It may seem like a waste of time and money to some to keep taking UCLA Extension classes each semester, but let me tell you -- I'm not sure I could have reached my goals without them. Knowing I have pages to submit to classmates, knowing I have deadlines, it's a motivator. I've tried to impose my own deadlines, and it is nearly impossible. I slow down without this motivation. I will definitely be back in the classroom come spring.

A friend of mine showed me a video called The Secret. Basically, it posits that we attract good and bad occurences to ourselves by our thoughts. I tend to be skeptical of this kind of baseless stuff, but I do believe in the power of positive thinking.

Some of you may know about my pilgrimage to Birmingham this year. Most people I told about it looked at me like I had sprouted another set of arms out of the top of my head. Rewind.

May 2006. Taylor Hicks wins American Idol. I cannot explain to you what it was that posessed me to follow this guy on the show and after. It was like I fell under some mass hypnosis, but for three months, other than some writing because I had a class, I thought of NOTHING but Taylor Hicks. I met a lot of interesting, good people online suffering the same obsession. Word came that the American Idol tour was stopping in Birmingham, and that Taylor's band was performing a show the night before. Rumors flew that Taylor would appear onstage with his old band. A wave of giddy excitement overtook the mostly middle aged housewives who wanted nothing more than to converge on Birmingham and see him in concert with the rest of their new online friends. I got caught up in the tidal wave, and before I knew it, I had bought my tickets to the show and booked a flight to Birmingham.

The next three months were happy prosperous months. I lost ten pounds. I had a regular gym schedule. I was writing, and I had this new network of funny, strange friends. I had only one goal in mind for those three months. MEET TAYLOR HICKS.

I don't know why the desire, the need to meet him was so overwhelming. It wasn't like I thought the man would drop everything and, like in bad romance novels, sweep me into his arms and declare his undying love for me. In fact, that wasn't even what I wanted. It's hard to explain, but... Music. Music was this force in my life when I was young. My mother sang in a band when I was a wee tot, and through some osmosis I developed this need to sing. Over the years, music wasn't the glorious creative fountain it had been when I was young. And then Taylor comes along. And I'm suddenly listening, really listening to music once again. And not just him -- I'm buying CDs of blues, jazz, r&b, rock, soul music. I'm dipping back into my own collection. I'm discovering new artists, and seeking out new music. It was like being reborn. I think I needed to meet him to validate all that was good in my life, that it wasn't some dream. And I wanted to thank him for bringing music back to me.

But how do you thank somebody who doesn't know you? I'm sure pro-screenwriters get it all the time from us wannabes -- the 'thank you for being brilliant' kind of thank yous...what do you do with that? And Taylor had given me so much. Music is a gift that is beyond measure, like being given the sun or air to breathe. Still, I felt a need to give something to him.

As I said, those were happy months filled with happy thoughts. The happiness radiated around me. I was more positive about my future than I had ever been. It was like this giant snowball effect. The positive feeling in one area of my life, cascaded and reverberated all around me. It was scary. I had never felt so free or happy.

Of course, there were the naysayers. The friends who shook their heads and laughed at my folly. My sister griped that I was online chatting with my new friends too much and all I could think about was Taylor. She called it obsession. I called it focus.

So I wanted to give him something. I figured, he's on the road...if I were on the road, visiting new places, I'd want a good journal around to scribble thoughts, maybe a poem or two, story ideas...so I bought a masculine looking journal. Leather with a wrap around tie. But I wanted to inspire him the way he had inspired me.

I sought out a notebook of mine which contained quotations I keep for my own inspiration. If I am inspired by the wisdom (and humor) of others, perhaps he would be too? Every night for a month I copied by hand my favorite inspiration quotations onto post-it notes, which I stuck on random pages in the journal. When I ran out of my own quotations, I went online and looked for more. Quotes about music, the road, the soul, goals, passion, creativity...I had copied almost 100 quotations. And in a cheeky and bold moment, I stuck my phone number on the back page. Hey, a girl can dream right? We are both artists, I reasoned, if he liked his gift, perhaps he'd want to chat about artistic expression...or ask me on a date.

You're laughing. That's okay, I'm laughing too. I know how crazy it all was. But I went to Birmingham. I met Taylor Hicks. I gave him my gift. The next night I was singing karaoke in a bar with 30 of my new crazy friends. And I cried. I was overwhelmed with joy. I hadn't felt pure joy like this in...well, the last time I can recall this kind of joy was when I was in high school and we had finished performing the musical 'L'il Abner'. I was a senior, and performing on stage is a heady experience. I remember standing on the stage after the performance, trying to soak up those last few moments of utter bliss. This joy I felt in Birmingham was more powerful than that old half-forgotten memory.

I had another event to keep my going for the two months following that trip -- Austin Film Festival. I was going to meet some of my online writer friends in person for the first time and be in a total environment of writing creativity and appreciation.

After Austin, I started to drift. I was still writing, but I felt myself slipping. There was nothing big on the horizon for me now. What would I work toward?

Then, I got the call. ABC Fellowship. Semi-finalist. It was as if someone had flipped the light switch back on in my soul. This was PERFECT. It was exactly what I wanted and needed, and if I got it, the timing would be sublime. And then I didn't get to the Finalist round. I didn't get to make my case in an interview. Of course, I did my best to stay strong, think positive, look at the bright side. But inside, I crumbled. I fell into a spiral of self-doubt and negativity. I started gaining more weight. I had been at near ideal weight in August, but by the end of the year, I had put on 25 pounds. I became apathetic about everything, including my writing.

I'm just now coming out of it. Funny thing about depression. Most of the time you don't know you are depressed until you aren't. You have to look backward on it to see what it is. Now I know what I experienced for about six weeks was soul sucking.

And I went on vacation. I'm writing again. It's slow going, but I'm making progress every day.

Keeping this blog has been a struggle the last month or so, as I had no desire to write anything. Somehow, I got through it. I have some good friends. Most of them don't know how depressed I was, but the nature of good friends is that it doesn't matter. They were there, supporting me, encouraging me. You know who you are. I thank you with all my heart for keeping me going during my troubled times.

And now, I really am thinking positive, looking on the bright side. I'm setting new goals. And yes, I'm going back to Birmingham in a few months, to see my friends and share good music. I've got some weight to lose. Good incentive.

This is my year. I know this because I believe in the power of positive thinking. If I feel it in my bones, that this is the year I will get my wheels of progress turning faster, it will happen. No negative thoughts. No doubts. Make it happen.

Don't carry on too much baggage. Don't weigh your progress down with doubt. Let the wheels fly.

8 comments:

Brett said...

Well, I don't know nuthin 'bout no recent depression, but dammit I was sure seeing that Taylor Hicks obsession as a cry for help.

I think the problem with writers (and other creatives) is that they (and of course I exclude myself from this corwd, as I'm just that coolly self-actualizing) are just too damned good at making up stuff, most especially lame baseless reasons and justifications for their own misery and unhappiness.

Do you have a dream? Good. Chase it down and make it yours. Everything else is just excuses.

Find a way. Make a way.
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.
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B

christina said...

Wow. What a trip you took during 2006. For Xmas, a cousin gave me the book The Secret that was written in conjunction with video. I do believe in positive thinking and having a vision of where you want to go.

Good luck in 2007 - this is your year!

wcdixon said...

good story...maybe turn it into something

Spoonie said...

You have a great site here. I actually came across it, while searching for Taylor Hicks right before the Idol Finale. Glad to know there is someone more into television than I am. Your pursuing a career in it though, I have no excuse. I've watched "The Secret" too, interesting stuff. Doc Brown said it best "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." If you got that close with ABC, your definitely on the right track. You can't keep talent like that a secret for very long! Thanks for all the news on your watch list, and have a great year!

Eric said...

Shawna,

I've been reading your blog for going on two years, and I can say that for me, you've served as a virtual kick in the pants to either get serious about my writing, or forget about it. You've made great strides from what you've shared with us here. Keep it up. You're going to get there.

- E.

babynco said...

I am one of those Boogie Board people that just wondered over here by chance, and I must say that reading your post was as if the words were coming out of my mouth. This has been a crazy year...with ups and downs.... all starting with a gray haired dude on American Idol. What you have written here is inspiring and should be read by all. Thank you for this little piece of yourself.

anotherfilmmaker said...

Shawna,

Keep going girl! It's no easy feat to place in the ABC contest. In fact, I bet you can hustle your way into the hands of a smart and saavy agent. Just work those connections and keep writing!

Chesher Cat said...

I knew something was up (or should I say 'down') with you.

Sorry I didn't recognize what it was...glad to hear you're back on track.