Last night Aaron and I watched one of those movies where every few scenes someone in the audience (us, because it was a DVD) looks at the other person and goes, “They have got to be kidding.” And by “They” we mean the literally hundreds of people who take part in the making and approval of the making of a movie. Like seriously, someone had to have an idea, then that person had to spend hours and hours writing down that idea (in the case of this movie, I’m going with minutes and minutes). Then someone has to read or hear about that idea and go, “That’s a really great idea! Let me tell my dad who has a lot of money!” Then that dad has to be all, “I’ll front three million but you’ll have to find investors for the rest of the fifteen million your great idea requires.” Then another fifteen rich guys have to get suckered out of a million dollars a piece. Then you have to cast the thing…
So you see where I’m going with this. It takes a village. And sometimes, because that village maybe got too big – or maybe the idea was sort of craparific from the start because it was about a group of teenage boys getting a super power (flying) and then not really having anything happen – but anyhow, that movie just got away from you.
Working in a creative field I am often shocked by the mediocrity so many people let slip past. In a world where time is money, most people don’t have time to care (I hope you read that in the voice of Don Lefontaine). I have been hired for several projects with such impossible deadlines as “in three days.” Not for articles but for complete manuscripts. The reasoning I am usually given is that we need to strike while the iron is hot.
I have written the majority of my books in a matter of weeks. It’s my fault. I agreed to the projects under the guise that I wanted to write, that I would write anything so that I could get my name out there, so that I could say “I wrote that!” no matter how steaming the pile of crap…
Then last month I was hired to write “50 Shades of Sex.” I was given approximately 35 seconds to write it. The reasoning, it was explained, was that we had to strike while the iron was hot (and pressed in an erotic way against the pretty-young skin of a 22 year-old, if we want to stay within the theme of that 50 Shades of Gray book- we don’t.) The book was to be some kind of sex guide for Midwestern housewives who wanted to experiment with a little light sadomasochism in the bedroom. My qualifications were this: I could write fast and I would do so for very little money.
You might read into that last sentence that I went into the whole project already bitter. I figured that in all the times I had speed written and then put my name on projects I wasn’t entirely sure reflected my real ability (imagined or not) to craft a masterwork – or even, as was more often the case, sucked – at least I was writing. However, this publisher had already landed me in a position where I was being asked to take my name off of projects because a few of their earlier projects to which I had (willingly, I know) attached myself, had done so poorly.
So I went in feeling a little bit owed, like if I pulled off this book in 30 seconds someone needed to say a really big thank you and throw me a parade.
Instead I got into a really big fight with the editor on day two. (I was exaggerating when I said 30 seconds. I meant 5 days, but who’s counting?)
I believe that both of us were fighting a lot of other people during that fight. I imagine as a woman working for a publisher that demands projects with deadlines that include 5 day deadlines must run into a lot of pissed off writers. As writer who has agreed to work on a series of projects with said 5 day deadlines, I don’t think I’m being coy about coming into this thing pissed off.
So we fight and I say a lot of things including, “Seriously? You think it’s okay to kill trees for this?” And she says, “We really need to strike while the iron’s hot.” And I say, “Won’t the iron still at least be lukewarm if we give it say, a week?” And she says, “Maybe you’re not the writer for this job.” (See qualifications for “writer for the job” at the end of paragraph 5, above.)
After I quit/got fired (tough to say which since I started the fight with the line, “I’m not sure I’m the writer for this job” and she ended the fight with the very same line…) I sat for a minute, sort of flushed, a little bit surprised. Not that I should have been. The job wasn’t about me. I wasn’t hired because I have any skills beyond a willingness to lower (bottom out) my expectations. And yet, I was already three chapters in. I’d gone from getting a few dollars for them to no dollars.
That’s what made me the angriest, at least initially. Then I was mostly mad at myself. I was frustrated that I had burned the bridge. I was mad that I had done all these jobs so that I would have this contact, get hired every now and then to write a book, crappy or not, and be that girl who could write fast, no matter how poorly…
Then it hit me…I don’t actually want to write poorly. I don’t want to write the movie about the kids with the cool super power who don’t do anything with it. I want to write the movie about the kids with the cool super power who do something amazing and memorable and totally worth the time of the hundreds of people who helped you make the movie. (That’s a metaphor. I don’t -necessarily- want to write a movie.)
So maybe I had to burn that bridge with that publisher so that I wouldn’t be distracted. Maybe this was the start of something more important. Or maybe I just totally destroyed my career. Whatever. At least I got a blog out of it. That’s something, right?