How La La Land Inspires Writers and Artists

Have you seen La La Land? You should. It will inspire you. Here’s why:

Writers and artists can be sensitive people, right? We tack our work up on the wall for everyone to judge and hope someone, anyone, even if they’re in the back of the room, gets what we were trying to do. It’s hard when we hear whispers and a few giggles. It’s all the H words; humbling, humiliating, horrifying and hell. So why do we keep doing it? Because of all the P words. It’s our passion. The potential to reach the precipitous peak of all our pleasurable dreams by perseverance would be pure paradise. Okay, so I’m pushing it.

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La La Land is a vibrant musical film. It shows how Hollywood can suck hope from a person unless they’re willing to take a risk and persevere through all those H words.

The following paragraph includes SPOILERS: I watched Mia, played by Emma Stone, appear in front of stoney-faced production heads while she auditioned her heart out. Time after time, she faced rejections. Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, sells out to play his piano just about anywhere, even though his heart belongs to jazz. The odds are against them.

Three things really hit me:

A teacher at Icon Collective Music Production School recently told my son, Kelly, all artists face horrible rejection at some point. Most give up. Successful artists persevere, take risks, and follow their passion no matter what happens.

The second takeaway? Support. Surrounding yourself with people who “get what you’re trying to do,” is imperative. We have to make the effort to find them. All it takes is one.

The last message I got from the movie was about sacrifice and choices.  Sometimes we have to choose what’s uncomfortable in order to grow as an artist. Following a passion may not be convenient and can be isolating. Most of us won’t be faced with the choices Mia and Sebastian had to make, but I think the message in the ending was clear.

SPOILER ALERT! They chose their passion over passion. Watch the movie and you’ll see what I mean.

End of spoilers.

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The irony of La La Land? It took all those P words and six years in order to make this film, according to writer and director, Damian Chazelle. No one believed a musical would make any money. He said this while accepting awards on stage at the Golden Globes. His film took seven of them, including Best Picture. He embodied his film’s message. He dedicated his first award “to all the musical theater geeks out there.”

Watching this movie after posting about my failed resolutions really hit me.

As a writer, rejections pile up. Writing books, screenplays, and blog posts take most of my free time. I’ve already faced cancer and freaked out over how short life can be. I asked myself point blank. “Is this really how I want to spend the rest of it?”

In that moment, I wondered what life would have been like if I hadn’t started writing almost six years ago. No books. No screenplays. No blogging communities or conferences or writer friends. There are other ways I could create, after all, I graduated in art, but it comes down to passion. I couldn’t imagine that alternate universe. I love writing. I can’t give it up.

So bring it on, H words! I will continue to ignore the whispers and giggles. It’s part of the process of following my passion. I’ll reach that precipitous peak, someday.

Have you seen La La Land? What’s your passion? Do you eat popcorn with or without butter?

Discovering the Past to Understand the Future

Sometimes discoveries from our past can help us understand our journey to the present and the road between. No matter how we envision our future, it never turns out like we imagined.

When retrieving my daughter’s birthday presents, I discovered a long ago forgotten and deteriorating cardboard box hidden in the dark corner of my art room closet. It was filled with Badger Herald Newspapers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I had illustrated the top stories for a few issues when I was an art student. I pulled out the first three.

Badger Herald

Nostalgia washed over me with a glimpse into my college days and memories associated with some of my drawings. At that time, I imagined illustrating for an advertising agency after graduation. I hadn’t dreamed of becoming a medical illustrator. Like the golden hue of the old newsprint, I remembered popcorn for dinner, skip-and-go-nakeds (beer, vodka and lemonade), and all-nighters spent in creating art projects and cramming for blue book exams. I found them too.

I thought about how much my life has changed in those thirty-five years. I worked as a professional illustrator, married, moved to Colorado, have two amazing kids and only recently found my passion in writing. Talk about wildest dreams.

It’s funny how ironic life can be. I gasped when this flash from my past peeked out from the box. I had totally forgotten that I had drawn it. Back then The Empire Strikes Back was the newest movie in the Star Wars franchise. Finding my old illustration coincided with the new release. The two movies echoed my life with changes of their own. Continue reading

Elfish Holiday Survival Tips

If you are a little behind in your holiday shopping, decorating, and baking, don’t get down on yourself. You can always regift, dim the lights and order from the bakery.

This is the time of year when everyone believes in Santa and Christmas miracles. If you don’t, keep it to yourself.

Embrace your inner elf. You’ll burn extra calories from the overwhelming anticipation of Christmas, so you won’t gain any weight from the dozens of cookies you’ll consume. Continue reading

Is it safe to go back in the water?

When I read in the newspaper that Jaws would be shown at a local pool, I had to go. The last time I saw it in its entirety was in a Madison, Wisconsin theater in 1975. When a bloated dead guy floated out of a capsized boat’s window, I kicked the seat ahead of me so hard, I bruised my leg. I didn’t want to take a bath for a week.

The idea of allowing people to swim while watching a film that terrified me forty years ago was too much. This was an adventure I didn’t want to miss.

When we arrived, we staked out our turf across the pool from the big screen. The showing was free so I expected a mob. A surfing music band played poolside to get us in the mood.

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There were about as many people in the water as out of the water.

Continue reading

Tales from Denver Comic Con 2015

Courtney's doppelganger

I was a Comic Con virgin. It has always evoked images of nerdy Treky fans and comic book geeks. Neither tickled my happy parts. I haven’t kept up with Star Trek since the television series ended and the one and only comic book I bought back in the seventh grade was Archie. So when my daughter, Courtney, called and expressed interest in going to Denver Comic Con 2015, I hesitated. Continue reading

It Was A-Maizing!

corn maze

My obsession with mazes began as a child. I remember trying to find my way through them on paper and having a difficult time. I’ve always been directionally challenged.

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When I discovered a great corn maze was located down the road from our house, my husband, Danny, and I had to go. Continue reading