In the past two years, I can count the number of days I’ve taken off on one hand. One hand. I plow through each day with an overfull pile of work and constant requests for help as if I am Wonder Woman. Believe me, she’s got nothing on this pimp… well, except a really hot outfit.
But after seven hundred and twenty five 12-hour days, I finally lost it. Totally and completely. All while on a professional phone call.
I don’t do anything half-ass, even falling apart.
My day started on a high note. I had stayed up late the night before doing the final polishes of Slavery by Another Name (SBAN) in preparation for our LA trip. I had that baby printed and ready to read upon my return from the morning hour-long-teen-taxi-school run.
But first came a preproduction meeting for a film I’m producing, gone Elvis, with writer/director David Newhoff. If anyone but David had asked me to produce, I probably would have said “no.” I love his writing and his passion for filmmaking so much that I had to be a part of this project, but that’s a whole other story. Plus, he buys me breakfast. I’m a cheap date.
Finally time to read SBAN.
I curled on the couch, red pen in hand. As I flipped each page, I wordsmithed, marking little typos I had missed, and tweaked the dialogue one more time. But as the pages went on, I started remembering each moment of writing it. Each keystroke. Each word. Each decision. Each character’s birth.
But the one who really was born in the writing of SBAN was I – the true Jeanne.
I’ve written often of my passion for this project and my intense need to see this produced. I felt it more than ever as I read the final pages through tears. But it wasn’t just the horrific truth of our nation’s history that made me cry. It was my battle scars all over the pages, like the stretch marks of pregnancy.
I hadn’t read the script in several months, and when I finally did, those scars popped. It was like reading my baby book. I could see my transformation from fearful to fearless in each word.
My life changed the day I picked up that phone and called the author. In doing so, I stopped being a disease-to-pleaser and started pursuing my dreams. I took the first step to living an authentic life.
So how does this revelation make someone crack? Good question. I’m still not sure myself. But by the time I read “FADE OUT”, I was a worthless bawling mess. I managed to pull myself together and made the changes to send to my writing partner.
Not five minutes after hitting “send,” the phone rang. Uh oh. It was the professional call I had on my calendar long before I ever thought I’d be reading SBAN that day. Oops.
In our discussion of my current comedy script, I lost it. Just lost it. The caller was challenging me on my concept and the marketability of it, and while I know he was only trying to help, all I could see was one more Herculean task ahead of me to fix it, a task I was already well aware of. Frankly, if I could write SBAN, I could fix this script, of that, I was sure. But at that very moment, I didn’t have an ounce of energy left in me. I just didn’t give a shit.
I’m getting ready for meetings in LA in a few weeks, I’m in the middle of writing a TV episode for an incredible showrunner and friend, another friend called with a fantastic TV series idea I’m dying to create with her, my teens were buzzing about waiting for dinner, karate class was in 15 minutes, and there chirping in my ear was another problem I needed to fix.
Why at that moment, did I lose it? Why with this person? Timing? Maybe. Being tired? Maybe.
But what puzzles me is I’m normally so open to feedback and brainstorming, yet that night, I wasn’t. I was done. Shut down. A blank wall.
He stated, “I can’t figure out if you’re protecting the script or protecting yourself.”
Excellent question that I couldn’t answer at the time, but I can now.
Instinctively, I don’t protect my work. I welcome feedback. I crave it – the more challenging, the better. Last night, I was protecting myself, not my work. I shut down.
It was a matter of survival.
I’m not even sure why I’m sharing this. Maybe one of my readers has had a similar experience and can provide insight. Or maybe one of you is on the brink of losing it, and works insane hours too. Maybe the purpose of this post is to try to find an explanation for a situation that has none. Maybe I’m just tired and I need a day off.
Funny how that very morning as I walked up the stairs to my office to print SBAN at 6:30AM, I saw my reflection in the mirror. I stopped, noticed the exhaustion and thought, “It would be so easy to quit right now… but not for me.” I opened my laptop and the day began.
I do know one thing. I work at an insane pace, and I cannot keep this up forever. But the momentum of my career is moving me forward every day. I’m going to hang on for my life on this wild ride. But I’m also going to try very hard to slow down. I need it. My children need it. My writing needs it. My sanity needs it.
So yeah, I had a little breakdown. I think it was a good thing.