I figure it would be great to have another social networking thing that I don't update on a regular basis. But seriously, I think the Tumblr is more my speed so I have high hopes for it. You can see it (and follow me) by clicking here
Okay, fine, there's probably a bunch of secrets, but I've been thinking about one in particular. It's not even like it's a secret, as it's one of those things that you hear over and over and say "Yeah, yeah, I know" before completely disregarding it and going back to doing what you've always been doing and then wonder why you keep having the same experience over and over.
The particular secret I'm talking about here is the idea of expectations. Specifically, that when you have them - whether they be about a person or a place or a meal - you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Because, unfortunately, a lot of the time life (or people or places or meals) doesn't end up unfolding in the manner in which you wrote the script....So what happens is that not only are you upset because people aren't saying the right lines, but you're so CONFUSED about what's actually happening vs. what you've planned that you end up missing the whole experience. Which, a lot of the time, can sometimes prove to be even better than the script you wrote. With less typos.
The reason I've been thinking about this is because I recently bought my first house. Even though I'm already 42 years old and a lot of people I know bought their first houses like 10 years ago which was around the time I was walking away from my TV job and giving up a steady paycheck in order to write. And even though I was doing this really brave thing, it didn't feel like that at the time. What it felt like was that I HAD TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY LOST MY MIND and that not only was I not following the herd and moving closer to being a card-carrying responsible adult but that it would only be a matter of time before I couldn't pay my rent and I'd end up living in the alley behind my apartment with all my other homeless neighbors. (And even though I lived near very fancy Vogue-approve boutiques, there were a lot of them.)
If I were to be totally honest, the truth is that even after I started making money writing and stopped worrying about where I was going to get the shopping cart I'd be pushing around town after I lost my apartment, I had kind of given up on the idea of buying a house. Not just because I didn't think I'd ever be able to come up with a down payment, or even know how to begin the mortgage process (my mortgage broker Seth who has now become a friend once complimented me for being highly organized which I found hysterical because that's ridiculously far from the truth), but also because I was under the mistaken impression that houses were things you waited to buy with a husband or a wife or a partner or a significant other or whatever PC term one likes to use nowadays. So even though I wanted a house, there was this voice in the back of my mind that said "yeah, okay, but you can't do it alone - we'll talk about it when The-Guy-capital-T-capital-G comes along."
But the voice didn't say that I couldn't RENT one by myself, which is what I did. In the Hudson Valley, two hours north of the city, where I went every Friday-Sunday. And before I knew it, the area felt like home in a way that nowhere else ever had - not even Lost Angeles, which is a place I lived for seventeen years. And when that dreadful winter was over and spring arrived, I loved it even more, to the point where there was no question that when my lease was up at the end of August, I was going to renew it.
But then one day, in one of my attempts to avoid doing what I was supposed to be doing (ie. writing), I was perusing real estate listings. There's a lot of beautiful homes up there - homes that look like they belong in Pottery Barn catalogs or in movies directed by Nancy Meyers who did It's Complicated and Something's Gotta Give (and, who, incidentally wrote the movie Baby Boom which, when I tell people my story about going upstate, they all say "It sounds like Baby Boom. Maybe you'll end up with a vet who looks like Sam Shepard." Which, you know, wouldn't be the worst thing in the world seeing that I have two cats and will probably get a dog down the road.) And while those houses are all beautiful, they're not really me. They're too neat and perfectly put together and everything matches and while the owners say things like "Please--make yourself comfortable" you KNOW that the first thing they're going to do when you leave is rush over and fluff the pillows and wipe up the tiny drop of condensation that fell from your glass onto their coffee table as you took it off the coaster.
But as I perused (okay, fine--as I AVOIDED WRITING) I came across this converted barn which happened to be located in the same town I had been renting. In fact, it was pretty much down the street. And although the pictures weren't great, and it was hard to get a sense of the place, that voice - not the screaming one in my head but the soft, ladylike one in my gut--said "You need to go look at this house."
So I emailed my realtor-slash-friend Mary Mullane and asked her if she knew the house, and she did, and we made an appointment to see it and when we got there it turned out it was this big pink barn thing. But I didn't know it was pink because I'm colorblind. I just thought it was...I don't know...beige-y looking. And not a very attractive barn. I kind of thought we'd walk in and do the polite thing and walk around and then leave but as soon as we walked through the door, it was like that moment in fairy tales when the heroine eats a magic bean or whatever the hell they do that makes them wake up in an enchanted castle. And that voice -- the ladylike one--whispered "This is my house." And then -- no joke -- Mary leaned over and said "This is your house."
Long story short, as of this month, it is indeed my house. Well, mine and Wells Fargo Bank. Maybe at one point The Guy will join me and the cats, but at this particular moment because he has yet to make his identity known, it's just the three of us.
I love my house, but it's not for everyone. It's a quirky pink barn with 30 foot ceilings and tons of light and a pond and a see-saw and a clawfoot tub and a sauna and a washer and dryer in the bathroom and a pond full of alga. It most definitely won't be featured in a Pottery Barn catalog, even after I spend my life savings furnishing it. But my favorite part about it is that the day I went to look at it, I didn't have any expectations. Meaning I wasn't DYING to be a homeowner, and I wasn't DYING for this to be the house that ended up being mine. And when I was negotiating for it and it looked like it might not work out, I was okay with that. Because as much as I loved the place, I trusted that if it were meant to be mine, it would be..
And because I didn't have any expectations, it made that first afternoon I went back there after I had signed my life away at the closing, and used MY key to open MY front door and sat down in the middle of MY living room floor that much more special. I guess because it all felt like the product of some sort of grace versus me making it all happen.
For the last few weeks, whenever someone asks me what I've been working on, my answer is always the same: the TV pilot for Lucy B. Parker, and writing out a neverending stream of checks because I'm in the process of BUYING MY FIRST HOUSE EVER (cue applause and a marching band) and, apparently, when you're a homeowner -- or just a homeowner-to-be-- all you do is spend money.
But back to the pilot...
Although before we do that, let me just say that this is not just any house -- this is A PINK BARN that I am moving into. WITH A POND. AND A SEE-SAW. I can't tell you how much I love this place.
But back to the pilot...
(this may be WHY it's taking me so long to write the pilot...because I keep talking about the barn.)
Anyway, so in talking to people about the pilot, a lot of people ask me "So what exactly happens with that?"...and I decided since enough people seem interested, why not write a blog entry about it? Mostly because it's a little more exciting than reading about the mortgage process.
So this is how it all goes down...
When you set up a project at a network, after jumping around with joy about the fact that maybe you'll make enough money to re-do your bathroom in your new house and/or buy nice patio furniture, the first step in the process is to write a detailed outline of the scenes that will make up the script. The reason for this is because if you're the kind of person who doesn't like writing outlines (ie. me) and likes to say things like "I like to find my way into the story as I'm writing the script" (ie. me), what often happens is you end up with a 150 page script when it's supposed to be 50 because that "finding your way into the story" thing can often take a long time. (ie. me. Except I'm exaggerating about the 150 pages, obviously. It's more like 142.)
So once you're done with the outline and have gone over it 23 times to make sure you got all the typos, you send it to your producer(s) for their feedback. The moment you press "send' you immediately feel sick to your stomach and attempt to figure out how to recall it from cyber space because obviously it's the worst thing ever written...in fact, it may not even be written in english...and you can't believe you actually sent it out. After quelling your anxiety with some sort of carb, you calm down and start working on whatever got pushed aside so you could write this treatment that you didn't even want to write because you like to find your way into the story as you're writing the script.
Finally you hear back from the producer(s), with an email that usually begins "FANTASTIC job...just a few notes..." which, when you print the email out, usually ends up being three or four pages of notes. Including a list of all the typos. After you scrape yourself up from off the floor and recover from the fact that you didn't write something that was perfect the first time out of the gate, you revise the outline per their notes and send it back to them. This process can go on for a while. In my case, it went on for a very, very long while. Partly because when you're writing a pilot, you have to set up the characters and the dynamic between them and the premise of show. In like 49 pages which, when you're not the one writing it, seems relatively easy. But when you are the one writing it? Not so much.
Finally it goes to the network and you repeat the process. Except, this time, when you crumple into the fetal position on the floor after you hear their notes, it takes even longer to get up. But you do, because hopefully you have good producers who remind you that it's called the DEVELOPMENT PROCESS for a reason and who suggest you go eat something sugary and give yourself some time to take everything in before getting back to work.
Then, finally, when the network signs off on the story, you write the script. And because you've taken all this time to outline the scenes, the actual writing of the script comes really easy. Like so easy that you're sure you're doing it wrong...and then, when your first draft is almost 70 pages, you realize you ARE doing it wrong. Or rather, that's a very long first draft which means in the second draft you have to, as Dorothy Parker said, "kill your little darlings" and look at all those lines you think are brilliant and hilarious and start slashing away. Finally, after how many drafts it takes to get it to a place where the pacing is working, and the characters are clear, and there are (minimal) typos, you send it to the producers and go through the process you went through on the outline. The good news is that with each round of notes, the time on the floor and the amount of carbs consumed lessens.
Once you hand the script into the network, a few things can happen...either they love it and have minimal notes, or, in some cases, what becomes clear is that the story you've chosen isn't exactly working so you come up with a new one. (When that's the case, you're allowed a lot more carbs and time in the fetal position on the floor). At any rate, if you're lucky enough to write a script that the network loves, then they decide to shoot the pilot episode. Which means they hire a director, and cast it, and then you do even more work on the script and finally finally finally they shoot it. Then, after that, if it comes out well, and the head honchos like it, then it gets ordered to series.
So right now I'm in the script stage with Lucy. Which has been interesting because a lot of the time stuff that works in books doesn't work for TV. It's been a very educational process (read: many carbs consumed and much time spent on floor).
Let's not talk about the fact that I haven't blogged since Christmas. That's just unacceptable. I'm hoping what makes it more acceptable is the fact that I've been busy writing--both the pilot for Yours Truly, Lucy B. Parker for Nickelodeon as well as my new YA Fairy Tale retelling based on Snow White. (Obviously I don't have a title yet.)
BUT that's not the big news. The big news is that Disney Channel started shooting Geek Charming this week and I'm really excited about the casting -- Sarah Hyland from Modern Family as Dylan, and her real life BF Matt Prokop from High School Musical 3 as Josh. I have to admit bc I've never seen any of the HSMs (I've also never seen an episode of American Idol, Survivor, or Law & Order SUV or SVU or whatever it's called, either) I didn't know who Matt was, but I LOVE Sarah Hyland so I'm very excited about that.
It will be strange to see it. I said to someone last week that it's like giving your child up for adoption and hoping that her adoptive parents don't feed her cereal for dinner every night. I'm sure it'll be great.
It's funny -this morning I was thinking about when I was writing Geek Charming. It was spring, and I was still living in L.A., and I remember all the coffee shops I'd go to. And then I finished the book in NY. I remember being in the middle of it and being so unsure about it - ie. did the alternating chapters work, etc. - et voila - soon it will be on television.
...which, with all the books I've written over the last 5 years, would be often (I've written 8.5. And a screenplay. But who's counting.), I find that getting away from the computer and taking photos really helps me to re-fill the well.
And now that it's the week between Christmas and New Years, and now that I'm snowed in for the day, I decided to do something that I've always meant to do but have never had the time to do -- organize some of those photos on Flickr.
....whatever you celebrate, and whenever you celebrate it, I hope it's a joyful, peaceful time and that the new year brings all good things.
As for me, it's Christmas Eve and I'm curled up on my couch upstate with a cat on either side listening to Patty Griffin and thinking about everything that's transpired this year, and how, yet again, although I like to think I'm psychic and know what's going to happen next or that certain things will NEVER EVER EVER change, I was wrong.
And yet...even as I write that, there are certain things that I'm sure about. Like, say, that I'll NEVER EVER EVER get this Lucy B. pilot outline right for the half-hour sitcom that Nickelodeon is developing based on the book series. Or that I won't get all my writing projects done. And a host of other things.
And yet...if what I said in the second paragraph is right, then I'm probably wrong about those things.
It's been a crazy year. Crazy bad with my mom and her brain aneurysm (she's doing great now, thank God). Crazy good with my new house upstate that I get to escape to on weekends and life I'm creating here with amazing new friends. And as I sit here, I think about how next year will bring a host of other things that I won't be able to plan for. People I will meet who I don't even know exist at the moment.
If I could give everyone reading this a holiday gift, I would take away their ability to worry. I would wish them an entire day spent in the mindset that everything is perfect as it is at the moment; that all is as it's supposed to be...