The hardest part about writing is writing. That is according to Nora Ephron, who is best known for her work in When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle and, in more recent memory, her last film Julie & Julia which she wrote and directed. It is, in my opinion, one of the best films of the 21st century. It was based on two things–Julie Powell’s memoir about her experience cooking every single recipe (all 524 of them) from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and a child’s autobiography by Alex Prud’homme entitled My Life in France (1). It chronicles the lives of Julie Powell as an office worker by day and blogger by night and Julia Child during her early years before she became a celebrity chef, and it offers a contrasting perspective drawing similarities and differences in both women’s careers as they figure out their true passions in life.
It was an exceptional screenplay, and it had a huge impact and influence on me, among many other things, to write more…to feel more…to discover myself more…to get inspired more. But most of all, to cook a little more…with butter. You can never have too much of that! Trust me.
She was a journalist, an essayist, a playwright, a screenwriter, a novelist as well as a producer, director, and blogger. Her writing voice is unparalleled. But, more importantly, she was an artist and an accomplished one. She had done so many things. And, like many of us, she valued her most cherished craft–writing. I am sure she herself encountered many challenges in her writing career just like the rest of us, but it didn’t deter her from achieving her goals.
The hardest part about writing is actually doing the actual work. It is a combination of the following: sitting down (or standing up), getting yourself to do a little self-reflection, thinking what it is that you want to talk about (there are many I am sure), finding an inspiration (very important), and putting your thoughts into words and start typing.
But there are times when the words just don’t come out. There are so many things on your mind. You’re stressed out. You have a day job that you just can’t take for granted. You have children who need to be taken care of. You have other obligations. You need to go to the gym. You work long hours. You need to bake 200 cookies or cook for a party. There are just so many deterrents.
You search for your own voice. Or even begin to question it. Your mind fills with what-ifs, and then you have a writer’s block. You get very scared because you don’t want to disappoint. You consider yourself first as an artist. You want to create the best work of art and not just put anything out there with no real creative sense or value. You want an audience and you want to get recognized someday for your work. You want to get published.
I can just imagine how new writers would feel about this. They (we) are still very fragile. After all, they (we) are considered the young ones in the world of writing. But they (we) are also full of hope and ideas. Seasoned writers and published authors, on the other hand, are a different story, although I am sure many of them struggle with varying frustrations as well. One thing is for sure. They have more experience, more knowledgeable, and (I assume) are able to handle the challenges of writing much more efficiently.
I did not start writing seriously until three years ago. And even then I did not consider myself a writer. I thought I was just “writing” for fun. And I was. It was a pastime, something that I did for enjoyment. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized, “Wait a minute. I love doing this and I want to keep doing this. This is my craft.” Or at least one of them. Aside from cooking, a little baking, taking pictures, and singing at a cabaret every now and then, writing has been my best friend, my love, my escape. It will never go away. But one needs to stick with it. And the earlier you begin to embrace yourself as a writer, the better.
Julie Powell’s blog, her Julie/Julia project, allowed her to express herself and find her true calling. Sure, there were frustrating moments. In the movie, she ended up falling asleep and burning her masterpiece, her boeuf bourguignon. Thank God she didn’t burn her apartment! But she did not give up. I especially remember a scene where she was having brunch with her girlfriends, all talking on their flip cellphones and talking about their promotions and newly hired assistants at work. Ms. Powell just sat there, insecure, and although happy for her friends’ accomplishments, one couldn’t help but realize how desperate she was to find her own success in life. Risking her day job and marriage and almost setting fire to her apartment, she braved through all 524 recipes in one year and finished her work. And the result was an astounding piece of art. A book deal that also led to a fantastic and unforgettable movie.
When she found her voice, she also found success. But not everyone will have the same success as her. Not everyone will get a movie deal out of their blog or book. But the one true thing that stays (and is true for everything) is that when you write with passion, whether or not it’s for a small or huge audience or whether you’re writing on a deadline, when you write from your heart, there is a sense of pride that you get from it that no one can take away from you. It’s yours and yours alone.
Your computer screen, your white blank document page is your canvas. And you are the artist. Every letter, every word that you type represents a color from your palette. You create a multilayered form, a picture, a painting. It is a work of art. There’s always something to talk about. There’s always something to paint, whether big or small.