Why I Don’t Like Stuck in Love

I took this photo right after residency, during a trip we took to Montana (for book research, of course! And to see lots of our good Montana friends).

I took this photo right after residency, during a trip we took to Montana (for book research, of course! And to see lots of our good Montana friends).

I sat down a few months ago to watch Stuck in Love, which I thought I’d like because it’s about writers and I like romantic comedies. Well. I enjoyed some of the actors’ performances, but one particular aspect of the film made me wish I hadn’t watched it, because I don’t like to get mad.

So what was it? First, the novelist dad in the movie is so successful that he lives in a beautiful, fancy home by the sea. Okay, fine. I’m sure Stephen King and other authors with his type of success have oodles of money with which to live ritzy celebrity lives. But this man has two children: a daughter and a son, both of whom are in their late teens. And the daughter’s first novel has been accepted for publication, maybe because of her dad’s name, maybe not. That smells like lies to me, but it gets worse when we see her champagne-filled book-launching party, and it gets horrid when her book sells well and she looks like she’s on the path to richness and glory, too.

And then, at the end of the book, the seventeen-year-old son writes a story that somehow gets to Stephen King, who calls him and tells him how awesome a writer he is. Gaggy McGaggerton.

This movie makes writing look easy. This movie makes writing look like anyone can sit and write a million-dollar book in a couple afternoons.

I’ve been waking up at 4 a.m. every day this week. I start my day with coffee and three hours of Vermont College of Fine Arts-related work—writing and revising essays; listening to faculty lectures on objective correlative, ways to convey emotion, and exposition, all on the wonderful VCFA database; reading chapters on point of view and exposition in craft books; and revising my experimental (for me) new novel that I’m writing this semester under my advisor’s guidance.

I squeeze a T25 (great workout program, by the way) workout in there, walk Bella and feed her, and eat breakfast, and then I hit the laptop keys for two more hours. I spend those hours revising AND THE BLACKBIRDS MOCK, which I thought was perfect two months ago. But because I workshopped it during my first residency and received another important nudge-and-critique on it, I now see all the ways in which I can improve it. It’s hard to sit down every day and re-think my manuscript yet again, but once I get going, it’s the most absorbing, exhilarating, and rewarding thing I do. I love that I’m learning the art of revision.

After lunch, I read. I’m usually reading three books at a time: ten books every four weeks for VCFA, plus books that I hope help me with my BLACKBIRD revisions, plus a book that I choose for myself. Always a book I choose for myself. This amounts to about five books a week. (I have 47 books on my roll-top desk alone, plus a whole wall-to-floor bookcase full of them.)

After that, I write some more, whether it’s new work for the new novel, BETWEEN PRIMROSE AND FOXTAIL, or more revisions for BLACKBIRD. One of the best things about VCFA is that I have this large, amazing class, and five of them have agreed to critique BLACKBIRD as I revise it in the next few months. This means that I revise a chapter and send it off to them, wait for a response, and then revise again according to the response. I’m also helping them by critiquing their work, so I set aside time for that.

And of course, I have a husband, so I leave my desk to spend time with him before he starts school next week. And I have friends and family to call, and Bella to pet and try to pick up. But I’m this busy and I haven’t even started my job yet—I’ll start part-time work in late September and pray that I can make myself wake up at 3 a.m. so I can work on my writing and leave the house by 7 a.m.

And guess what? I love what I do. I have times where I feel like I write crap. I have times where I know what I’ve written is strong. And every single day, I realize how much I have to learn, and that energizes me more than anything. I used to think that writing wasn’t too hard and that it would make me rich like the characters are in Stuck in Love.

It won’t make me rich. I’m not J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. But it will, and it does, make me say to myself every day, “I love this. I will do this for as long as I am alive.”
I hope that everyone I know and love finds work that makes them say the same thing, even if they have to hold other jobs and wake up hours before the sun in order to do that work and live that dream.



13 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Like Stuck in Love

  1. Bravo! Life is hard work–the bonus is when you love what you do for a living–even if you never become a bestseller like Stephen King and never live in a ritzy celebrity house. “Gaggy McGaggerton!?” I love that! Keep on writing your beautiful quirky words. One day, you WILL be a published author and the world will be a richer place because of it :).

    • Yes, life is hard work, and I love that about it (which hasn’t always been true). Thank you, Mommy! I considered just saying, “Gag,” but I say things like Gaggy McGaggerton, so I will write them, too. ;). I love you, and when YOU get published the world will be a better place, too.

  2. Perhaps a League with the Devil would get you J.K Rowling or Stephen King notoriety, since it’s mostly devilish things that they write about.
    No, don’t worry about the fading glory of someone else. Keep it sweet and pure where there is more need.

  3. You’re inspiring me…4 a.m.?!?! You put my writing schedule to shame. I’ve always thought people who were successful writers were basically people with talent who just wouldn’t quit. Looks like you’re on the way!

    • That’s inspiring to hear, Beth! It takes a lot of “I can do this” repetitions in my mind for me to drag myself out of bed sometimes, but other times, like when I go to bed at eight, it’s a lot easier. πŸ™‚ I used to write only when inspiration struck, but that rarely happens until I actually sit and start writing. πŸ˜‰

  4. Love this. And so inspired by how hard you’re working. I’m trying to figure out this fall how to keep blogging (and making money at it), finish my nonfiction parenting ebook, finish my fiction manuscript, and juggle the four kids. Oh, and return to roller derby. How little can I sleep? is really the question. You’re inspiring me with your discipline!!

    • Thank you, Kiki! I don’t even know how I’d do this with four kids, two of which are especially little, so kudos to you for having so many projects going at once! I still need seven hours of sleep, ideally, so I’ve been going to bed around 8. Haha! You got this, even if 8 is not a bedtime option. πŸ˜‰

  5. I think I’m gonna need to watch this movie again. I already forgot how it went. I agree. Writing is never easy, or at least it’s never easy to get readers like that. It’s hard work and many backache inducing long moments of sitting and brain wracking. Thanks for writing a review about it.

    • You put it so well! “Hard work and many backache inducing long moments of sitting and brain wracking”–exactly. I see you understand the struggle–the ultimately very rewarding struggle. πŸ˜‰

  6. I suppose it wouldn’t be a very compelling movie if they actually showed all the work that went into writing any of the manuscripts in question. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Eddie Cantor: “It takes 20 years to be an overnight success”.

    You are indeed rich in that you have a lovely doggie, a loving family, and a budding profession that you love. I am impressed that you are remaining so focused.

    Enjoy the days with a minimum of distractions while you can!

  7. That’s a great quote, Aunt Donne! But I have to disagree–I think it’d be a very interesting movie if they showed all the labor behind the words. In a good story format, of course. The film on Beatrix Potter (“Miss Potter”) is a favorite of mine because it shows the story of her life and portrays her path to success honestly and engagingly. It’s nice to hear from you! I hope you and the family are doing well! πŸ™‚ ❀

  8. We are doing well, thank you. πŸ™‚ We’re all settled down nicely in our cozy new house. Really enjoying the nifty features like a heat pump and vent fans that actually vent. Miss Potter was a great movie.

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