Let’s Start Here

Let’s start here. 

I saw the movie ‘La La Land’ yesterday. As I watched it, I thought, this is the movie that writers should see.

‘La La Land’ is a song and dance musical staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone about a jazz musician and a struggling actress, Seb and Mia. I thought I was going to be seeing ‘Manchester by the Sea’ but my wife called an audible. We met friends, went to the movies and had drinks and nibbles afterward.

Let’s start here.

I discovered the dream of writing when I was in my early twenties, and young and arrogant. By then, I’d served four years in the military, and had tried and failed as a restaurant owner. Needing an income, I returned to the military. I ended up retiring after serving twenty years on active duty.

Let’s start here.

It had been my dream and plan to use my military pension to fund my writing career. I was thirty-nine years old so there was plenty of time. But the SF Bay Area where we were stationed and where I retired is expensive. I wanted to move to somewhere affordable.

But…my wife convinced me she wanted to stay in the SF Bay Area and Silicon Valley to pursue her career. Her career with advertising had started just a few years before but now she thought it could go places. It was making her happy. I agreed to put my writing dreams ‘on hold’. Note that the writing dreams were never really ‘on hold’; I was always learning and writing, first short stories, having a few published, and then pursuing novels.

Meanwhile, that region was an expensive area and my wife worried about finances. I sought employment. By the time six years had passed, a chronic disease, the dot com implosion and advertising companies consolidating and merging had snuffed her dreams.

But I flourished. Starting with medical device start-up companies and moving to Internet security companies, I went from success to success before spending my final years with IBM and electing to bail on all that jazz when I turned sixty last year.

So let’s start here.

As any aspiring/struggling/dreaming writer can attest, keeping the balance between marital harmony, life and family requirements, while working and sustaining the energy needed to pursue your dreams is daunting. It’s a candle aflame on both ends and the middle. Support is required. We make compromises and choices and withstand challenges. Our energies are taxed to breaking. We endure fears, setbacks and doubts. Sometimes we break, and sometimes, we try hiding. We often struggle and suffer in solitude, misunderstood and underappreciated, striving to remain hopeful.

Which is essentially what ‘La La Land’ is about.

As Mia sings in an audition, and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact words, here’s to the dreamers and the messes we make, foolish as we often seem.

The other point in the movie that seems powerful to me is made by Seb’s friend, Keith. Seb is the jazz musician played by Ryan Gosling; Keith is played by John Legend.

So let’s start here.

Seb loves jazz music but he is enamored with the traditional musical styles. Jazz is dying, he laments. Yes, Keith agrees, and you’re killing it by playing those old styles. In order to keep jazz alive, it needs to change and adapt to attract new audiences.

It’s a telling point to me. To keep literature, reading and writing alive, change is required. We may love the literature that we read as we grew up but we need to face the new morning in the world. That’s what self-publishing and e-publishing is about.

Pursuing the dream, no matter what talent, skill or education is required, is about being strong and making the sacrifices required to achieve. Some of us are not strong enough to make them. We put others first.

Some of us are more foolish. We believe we can do it all, that we can sacrifice and compromise, and still achieve our dreams.

So let’s start here.

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