So this August, about five times in the same week, people in my neighborhood asked me, "So how's it going" as if asking about something specific. I answered, "It's tough with twins! I've cleaned up so much pee this week, but I think they're kind of getting it. Sort of."
I began to notice a slightly bewildered expression in response and it occurred to me that maybe "how's it going?" wasn't in reference to potty training my twins. The fifth time, the woman said, "No I meant the movie." You know, that movie that was made from my book that was currently in theaters. I know that should have been such a big deal that it was constantly in the forefront of my mind, but honestly, the potty training was so much huger in my life than the movie I was barely thinking about the latter.
Maybe that's disappointing. Maybe people would be happier if the truth was that my life was transformed and all was glamour and riches and excitement now. At a Q&A after one screening of Austenland, someone asked me, "How has having a movie made from your book changed your life?" And I couldn't think of any ways.
It's a legitimate question, and it reminded me that before all this, I would have assumed that such a thing would be life changing.
Things having a movie made from my book has not done:
Not made me rich
Not changed my career
Not changed my daily life
Not changed how the people in my life see or relate to me
Not changed how I write
Not opened doors to me that were previously closed
What has it changed? Well, it was an experience. I had a fantastic experience. And life is all about experiences. Living, seeing things, meeting people. That's cool. In the way that a great time at summer camp is cool. I got to co-write a script with Jerusha Hess, who has become a friend, and meet other cool people who are now friends, and friendship is something precious to me. I got to be on set and watch a movie get made. I got to attend screenings and hear people laugh and sigh at lines I wrote and characters I created. That was really, really amazing and something I will always treasure. But it hasn't changed my daily life. I'm still stressed about a writing deadline, I never seem to have enough time to clean my house and it gets dirty and cluttered again 10 minutes after I do clean it, my kids have struggles that I ache to see them go through, I don't workout enough/cook enough/clean enough, etc., it seems like someone in the family is always upset, and I'm constantly trying to find that writer/mother balance and do my best and not feel like I'm failing in everything. Normal life.
Please know I'm not complaining. I LOVE my life. As crazy and chaotic and unchanged as it is.
I say all this because a decade ago I read an article that changed my perspective. One writer was lamenting always being a mid-lister. Her friend writer hit the New York Times best seller list, and she told her something like, "My mom's still disappointed in me, I haven't lost any weight, my rent is still going up, I don't have a boyfriend. Don't waste your life pining for bestsellerdom. It doesn't change anything real." I read that and went--Oh! 'Cause I'd had this weird, magical idea that becoming a best selling writer would somehow change everything.
Having a movie made from my book hasn't transformed me fundamentally as a person or changed my life. I'm a mom and a wife and a sister and a daughter and a friend and I write books. And I saw a movie based on one of those books. That was very cool, but nothing really important has changed.
It makes me realize that this is life--what I have right now. Not wishing for something huge and marvelous and magical that might or might not happen in the future. Now. Scraping together spaghetti for dinner, cleaning more pee off the floor, snuggling in a chair and reading to my kids, almost managing to clean off the kitchen counter before I collapse into bed. This is it. This is the magic.
Thank you all for supporting the movie. 11 weeks later it's still in some theaters! I believe it's done really well for a small, indie movie, and I know that's due to so many of you making an effort to go see it. It doesn't matter that it's not life changing. I'm so proud of what we made and had a lot of cool experiences doing it, and hopefully as it continues to do better than expected, maybe the Hollywood number crunchers will give another female filmmaker a break in the future. Now if they could just do something about all this peeing...