Photograph by Christopher Payne
On Monday I took the dog for an early walk and babbled to myself like a lunatic the whole time. It was five am and we were out for over an hour. Construction workers are plentiful at that time, but they’re yelling with each other or half asleep in their cars waiting to get a legal parking spot.
I wasn’t yelling or screaming, just quietly blasting profanity onto the sidewalk. I don’t even know what I was falling apart about: the non-stop noise from one construction site that pours concrete at three am and another that grinds garbage at two, that my go to restaurant for meetings closed, the way it feels like the whole world is at the edge of no return.
The day before I had finished writing Joyville. It’s the project I took to The Writers Lab last September. Since then I’ve written and rewritten it, put it down to work on something else then picked it up to try again. It had so many moving parts I wasn’t sure I could get them all facing the same direction.
The story is set in the near future and is about a scientist and her ass of a neighbor who she develops a strange, psychic connection to. This leads her to discover an even more spectacular connection to a trio of wildlife that live in the woods nearby. There’s an ecological and moral collapse occurring the whole while, and the script fundamentally questions whether humans are worth saving.
As I wrote my way through drafts I got closer and closer to the finish, but something was missing. As a woman from the Lab put it, the script wasn’t fully cooked. I did another draft, another woman from the Lab read it and she described it as a beautiful tragedy. That’s what I was going for, but there was still something missing. She casually asked how it was personal, and I surprisingly burst into tears. In that second I knew I was writing about grief.
In the past I’ve felt rage, loss, emptiness, resentment, but all of it was a cover for something deeper. I’d glimpse the grief of finality, I’d have a passing bone-deep sadness, but I never had hopelessness.
It started creeping in a few weeks ago. A hopelessness for not just my future but the squandered potential of humanity. Are we worth saving?
I went back to the Joyville rewrite and knew I had to answer that vs leave it hanging. I let myself really feel the hopelessness, the absolute tragedy of it all. A few days later I came out the other side in a simmering babbling fury. I finally had a fully cooked draft.
Earlier this week I had a breakfast with a good friend and told him about my dog walk rant, how I can’t fully shake this rage. He had an interesting take on it, since he’s been here in the past. He equated it to a fighter in the ring waiting on the bell. It’s exactly how I feel.
This is the year the fight woke in me. I’m bringing it into the new year with me.
With work, I’m done waiting. I’ve always been proactive, but the urgency I have about getting Joyville made is new. Instead of picking off contacts, I’m going wide.
We’re buying a place out of the city this year. We haven’t found a house yet, we have no plans to go see any particular house yet, but I’m making that declaration. I need to feel grass under my feet. No sleep has been brutal, and it’s now within our means to change this.
I want to meditate more this year, develop a practice. When I meditate regularly I’m more grateful, and when I’m more grateful I’m not a lunatic ranting on dog walks. Looked at another way, I’m hopeful.
This last year I’ve rewritten a ton of projects, wrote a new pilot, was invited to Stowe Labs in May with a pilot, and had my short film play all over the festival circuit. It was a great year in terms of expanding my network and making work. I got quite a few gigs consulting and coaching on pilots and a feature being created by really good writers. This year I want to keep the momentum going and write a musical. But I also want to focus more on life. I want to take a class, maybe ceramics or dance. Get back to going to galleries regularly. Try a less rushed rhythm, live a little less hurried.
Joe got a great job this year. Ginger is still the king of her domain, but she’s sleeping less at night. Which means we are, too. Please let this change.
What I’m bringing with me front and center is my community, which includes all of you. I was on Instagram a lot more this year because it’s faster.
Lastly, faith not fear. Bringing the former in, leaving the latter behind.
Thank you all for reading this year. The happiest New Year and holiday to you.