Sunday, June 21, 2009
Are You A Big Deal?
i am not a big deal. my friend Augusten Burroughs is a big deal. I am a medium deal. i am the product of persistence and an education that i lucked into. Berkeley made me. most of my writing professors went on to win Pulitzer prizes. they were astonishing. they gave me encouragement and told me: you will be a writer, you may experience fame. i have no idea how they knew this -- looking back on the poetry i wrote at Cal i wince, mostly. yet they gave me that gift; i was not too crazy for them, because they were all crazier than i was and had permission, as erudite white men, to be that crazy. Phillip Levine. Thom Gunn. Robert Pinsky. Peter Dale Scott. i will always be grateful for these men.
i left college in the eighties, Gordon Gekko was a hero, i had no idea what to do with an English major. it honestly didn't occur to me what i would do after college. and so i waitressed, secretaried, cleaned houses... oh my, the shitty jobs. then i realized most of my funny interesting friends had gone into Advertising, and were well compensated. i decided i would do this as well. it took me 5 years of rejections and constant, humilating self-promotion with various ad agencies to get my first job as an advertising creative/copywriter in SF. again - persistence, mistakes, luck. eventually the money came, and the dubious advertising quasifame. i worked on Levis at FCB/SF for 8 years - glorious, posh, crazy, fun. traveled the world shooting tv campaigns. all of my art director partners were brilliant, all were men, and all 3 are like brothers to me, still. it's beautiful. i still do free lance ad gigs, my dirty little secret (they continue to save me. writing books isn't a get rich quick scheme. not the way i do it). these literary-free jobs saved my house when my husband ran off with another woman. pablo was 15 months old.
i wanted to die. instead i wrote a book. i thought SPLIT would be savaged my the reviewers, instead it was praised. shocking. i get heartfelt, grateful emails and letters from women who were abandoned, they say the book saved them -- and that is so gratifying and good. i ended up giving back to the world in that odd way. so i'm a medium deal with an odd way. it suits me. if i were a big deal, i would be expected to be on time for things, i would be taken away from my writing and fucking around routine, my son would see little of me, i would miss him terribly, and i would feel an enormous pressure to top every book i write. when really, there is no predicting these things. like a violinist, i just want to play my violin, barefoot, in my own house: a medium deal with an odd way.