I’ve started a mentoring program for writers. Not as the teacher, but as the student. The program is designed to help aspiring writers like myself create a plan for getting published and continuing to get published. I thought that sounded like a good idea.
I know that I have writing talent, because of the feedback I’ve received from numerous readers, most of them from professional publishing circles.
But talent alone is useless if it’s not applied, and my efforts have always run into dead ends. I try to do the right things, make the right contacts, and do whatever else I need to do to establish an ongoing writing career. But after all these years, I remain stuck in the mud. So what gives?
So I’m starting a mentoring program to find out exactly what’s wrong with me. By the end of it, I hope to be cured of my malady of remaining unpublished (or at least, very rarely published).
The only problem with this foolproof cure is that my mentor is asking me to do things that are outside of my comfort zone. I had expected this, of course. I just didn’t expect, once again, to face a challenge for which I find myself moving straight into another dead end. My mentor has advised me to contact a newspaper to ask for a writing assignment. He suggested having a few ideas for articles when I approach the newspaper, to help ensure my success in getting an assignment. I am realizing, more than ever, that I have zero interest in writing a news article. More to the point, I don’t know anything newsworthy to write about. And yet, I recognize the wisdom of taking this basic step toward establishing a writing career, and I know I have to try it, even if I bomb completely.
I have to try something.
My dilemma is shared by Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a struggling government worker and amateur cook, in the film, “Julie and Julia”. Julie wants to find something that will take her out of the frustration of her high-pressure day job. Like me, she wants to become a writer. Learning that one woman from her circle of snobbish “friends” has started her own blog pushes Julie to start her own blog. She embarks on a unique project, to cook all of the 524 unique recipes from Julia Childs’ cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a single year.
She struggles through the challenges, when her soufflés fall apart and make a gooey mess on her kitchen floor. She has one breakdown after another when she burns a meal, and questions why she started this crazy journey in the first place. Her ever-supportive, longsuffering husband, Eric, argues, “Julia Childs wasn’t always Julia Childs.”
In fact, she wasn’t. While we see Julie Powell struggling through one recipe and blog after another, we also see Julia Childs (Meryl Streep) before she gained international notoriety. Like Julie, Julia started out searching for something to do with her life, while her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci) was stationed in Paris for his government job.
Realizing that she loves to eat more than anything else, the bubbly and eccentric Julia decides to enter a professional cooking school, populated entirely by men and managed by a disenchanting woman who regularly attempts to dash Julia’s hopes for success.
Finally meeting two other women who are trying to publish a French cookbook for American homemakers, Julia discovers an opportunity she can sink her teeth into.
And spends the next several years attempting to finish – after which she also must find a willing publisher – for their monumental project.
Julie, likewise, wonders if anyone is even reading her blog, or if she’s simply talking to herself online.
It’s easy to feel discouraged when you’re attempting something that takes great courage. And great perseverance. There were no guarantees that either Julie Powell or Julia Childs would ever succeed in their efforts. But they pursued their passion to the end, and beyond. They believed enough in what they were doing to give it their best efforts, no matter how much disappointment they faced along the way.
When Julia Childs decides that she’s probably wasting her time, her husband, Paul, is adamant that she keep at it. “Someone is going to publish your book,” he assures her. “Someone is going to read your book and realize what you’ve done, because your book is amazing. Your book is a work of genius. Your book is going to change the world.” (Everyone should have that kind of family support. Personally, knowing how much my wife supports me makes all the difference in the world.)
What matters is that you try, and don’t give up when the going gets tough. Find something you’re interested in, something you love, something you want to achieve – and just try. You won’t succeed every time. Every successful person fails at some point. But they get back up and try again. So can you.
So can I.
Ultimately, Julia Childs went on to become a world-famous chef and author of a cookbook that – as her husband predicted – changed the world.
Julie Powell didn’t meet with that same level of success. But she did achieve her own goals of completing the recipes of her heroine, Julia Childs, in a single year’s time. She did garner the attention of newspapers, talk shows, and publishers from New York and beyond. And she did become a writer. The film, “Julie and Julia”, is based on Julie Powell’s book of the same title, and on Julia Childs’ book, My Life in France.
On her final year-long blog, Julie writes:
Julia Childs began learning to cook because she loved her husband and she loved food, and she didn’t know what else to do with herself. And in the process, she found joy. I didn’t understand this for a long time, but I do now.
So do I. Great joy comes with success, but that soon wears off, and won’t return again until another victorious goal is met.
The joy that lasts is in the struggle. In striving for something greater, while hoping and expecting to do something that’s never been done before. At least, not by you. Clinging to a goal and refusing to let go, no matter who discourages you, and no matter how many times you humiliate yourself with another failed attempt. When you know it’s worth the effort, and you know that you’re pushing forward to accomplish something brand new, you will find that same joy.
The real joy is in the trying.
Find more reviews of “Julie and Julia” at amazon.com!