Julie, Julia, and Gertrude Stein

A book project that takes four times as long as you expect.

A book collaborator who drags her feet; another who carries the day.

The strain on your marriage because your book has become an obsession.

The phone call from your mother because she is trying to figure out exactly what it is that you do.

The juggling act of living your life while you are simultaneously typing book pages in your living room.

Those weird conversations withthat publisher who tells you your book is perfect and then tells you to do the whole thing over again.

That official-looking envelope and, inside, a letter saying your book has been accepted for publication.

The key interview that gets cancelled at the last minute.

The giggly thrill of seeing your picture in the paper.

 

Sounds like the story of my life. Or the tried-and-true plot of an inspirational movie. As it happens, it is both, only the movie isn’t the one I expected. It’s Julie & Julia.

My friend had raved about it. “Meryl Streep is amazing.” That’s a sure bet (as long as she isn’t trying to sing. Then, well, I have issues.). “It’s funny and moving.” Sounds good. ‘Well-written and thoughtful.” Okay, now you’ve got me.

The reviews were good, the subject interesting. I went expecting luscious food, historical texture, biographical insight. I got all that. I did love the movie.

But I got something more. What I didn’t expect to see up on the screen was the shock of recognition and this stratling discoery: Julie & Julia is as much a movie about being a writer as it is about being a cook. Or being Julia Child.

The real thread that circles the two main characters isn’t so much what cooking does as it is what writing does. And while I’ve seen quibbles about the film’s depiction of how to chop an onion or how to use a French tapered rolling pin or how to prepare bread for bruschetta, I can tell you that when it comes to what it looks like feels like smells like tastes like to be a writer, the film is perfect down to the last detail. The tremble when you hold that envelope. The hard little chair you sit in when you meet with your publisher. The triumphant fist in the air when you connect with a reader. The way you hold your breath through everything else you have to do in a day until the moment you can run free and write.

 There is another element that I found deeply honest and deeply moving. For both Julie and Julia, the element that makes the biggest difference is they have people in their lives who believe in their project—and their abilities—long before they do. They live with resonators who tell them with emphasis,  “You are a writer. You will finish. Your book will get published. This work will change the world.”

 Resonators. Encouragers. As Gertrude Stein said, “When you write a book, you need someone to say yes to it.” Not just at the end of the day. In the gray dawn of morning when you can hardly see straight and you sure don’t have the strength to do more than put one sentence in front of another.

Take away? In writing, as in cooking, there is often one, critical, irreplaceable ingredient. In writing, it is someone who understands what you are trying to do and says yes.

1 Comment
  1. I just found your blog! I loved that movie and I loved your insights. Good to hear the things you think again...

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