Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why Our Words Are More Powerful Than We Realize

I feel gutted this morning. I lost a friend. Someone who made me laugh until my sides hurt. Someone who taught me about life and love and how to walk in the world through the body of work he left behind as his legacy. Someone who made me realize you can seemingly have everything: fame, fortune and family, but that it's meaningless if you can't find the light in the darkness.

The funniest part is, I only met this person once and for about two whole minutes, but it left a lifetime impression. I was a teenager, and my friends and I would often spend our Friday nights at The Improv on Melrose in Hollywood, and often the bouncer would tell us we had just missed seeing my favorite comedian, Robin Williams. But one night, as we arrived, the bouncer told me I was in luck and pointed to a man standing on the staircase landing talking to someone. There he was, and I excitedly ran to the base of the stairs and called his name. He looked down in surprise and when I curled my finger, summoning him to come down, he was amused and obliged. I gushed, "I've come here every week hoping to meet you and I'm so excited you're finally here." He said, "That's so nice. What's your name?" I told him "Robin" and as he shook my hand he smiled and said, with classic Robin Williams delivery, "Really? Mine too."

I would see him one other time in my life. I worked in development at Hollywood Pictures on the Disney lot. One day we heard that Robin Williams was coming on the lot to have a meeting that afternoon with Michael Eisner. My office faced out from the Team Disney building onto the walkway leading up to the building, and from there I could see Robin walking down the path. My friend and I grabbed Sharpies and copy paper and wrote in huge letters "WE LOVE YOU ROBIN!!" and held up the sign in the window where he could see us. He laughed and gave a thumbs up. If Eisner wanted my head to roll over it, so be it, but this was Robin Williams. And there are few people like that in this world that touch us to the core of our souls in the way that he did, to the point where the lines are blurred that we don't actually know them because they feel so deeply embedded in our hearts and our lives.

Which brings me back to the real point of this post: that our words are more powerful than we realize. When we write a story, particularly one rich with painful experiences and imperfect characters, one never knows who is going to read those words and carry them in his/her heart forever. And it's not just the deep, dramatic, issue-driven stories I'm talking about here - laughter is a powerful a form of medicine too. It could be words of empathy and understanding lifted from the pages that may help someone through another day. A belly laugh when someone needed it most, or a ray of light in a time of personal darkness. A sense that someone understands us. Because at the end of the day, we are all human. Our collective universal life experience is one filled with highs and lows, tragedy and comedy. Despite what we share, it's not difficult to feel alone or overwhelmed. The great irony is that someone like Robin Williams, who made so many laugh and feel things deeply through his words and actions, was light for so many as he quietly battled the demons of darkness. The legacy he leaves behind is pure gold, which is why a nation, if not the whole world, grieves so deeply and aches at his loss. Let your words be the light. You never know how much they may resonate to someone.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes

If there's one thing I've learned in life it's that change is inevitable. Except, of course, from a vending machine. Sometimes it happens to us: we get fired, our best friend moves away, our favorite pair of jeans somehow shrinks in the wash and we're forced to go up a size. Sometimes we initiate it: we decide something is no longer working, no longer fits or feels right, and maybe we want something different.

Every now and then it's good to shake up the snow globe. When we give it a good shake, the pieces redistribute and resettle. For awhile there's sheer chaos in the globe - bits of sparkle madly swirling, trying to figure out where to land. Life can be like that too. When you cut bait with what is familiar and comfortable and safe it is only then that you truly get to see what you're capable of. Because nothing big can happen without taking a few risks. They may not always work in your favor, but you'll never know unless you dig in deep, have a little faith and go for it.

I've worked really hard these last few years at my writing. I've learned about my craft through workshops, conferences and reading great (and bad) books. I've met incredible writers, agents and editors who have offered me brilliant advice and feedback along the way. I've written three novels and have several others in progress or in zygote idea form waiting to germinate. And best of all, winning second runner-up at this year's SCBWI LA Spring Writers Day in the category of Best Young Adult Novel for my new manuscript, REBEL WITHOUT A CLUE (formerly titled HANK KIRBY) feels like validation that I'm on the right path.

As in all aspects of life, at different stages we need different things. I've learned a lot about who I am as a writer, what I need and want from this experience, and I've decided to shake up my personal snow globe a little and see where the pieces land. Right now everything is indeed sparkly chaos, but it's also very exciting.

Stay tuned. :)