Making It

About this business: What do you love? What do you hate? What would make you quit? How will you know when you’ve made it?

An actor asked those questions to the dozen or so who made it to his class. A small class, with the other dozen off making movies or for other good actorly reasons to go missing. Every one of them, there or gone, chasing the dream.

“Chasing.” More like a dogged, daily bee’s dance. That’s me and screenwriting and lurking in the back of an actors’ class. A disembodied lesson in watching other people say and do what has only existed in my head. A far cry from having it seen on the big screen or on small screens by people I’ve never met. But a full roar starts with a faint growl in the stomach.

An actor in class once asked me to deliver one line in a scene I wrote. No. I don’t want to be on stage or in front of a camera. But I want my avatars to be – messy and glimmering. I want to be seen without being looked at.

So I woke at 4:30 a.m. leaking those questions. A seep in my eyes, and I remembered my Dad straddling the headgate of a dam he built for the irrigation ditch that brings snow melt from the Rockies into the Bitterroot Valley, each rancher taking an allotted share as the water moves by. I admired his engineering – a specific, hand built answer (both sturdy and elegant) to the summer problem of water and how it moves.

And it does move. Deliberately. Not rushing until it’s diverted into a too-small channel at the edge of a field. A design meant to flood the field while the rest of the water keeps on and keeps on and on down to the valley floor.

Upstream at the headgate and downstream at every diversion, there is seep and there are leaks. That’s in the nature of water. That’s in the nature of what moves. That’s in the nature of what passes from hand to hand.

What do you love? What do you hate? What would make you quit? How will you know when you’ve made it?

I find myself on the phone catching up with a colleague from more than half my lifetime ago. He is deeply creative, a wide ranging mind with body rooted in the same city all these years. Meanwhile, I’ve pried myself open by moving my feet. New cities. New states. Different jobs. Reinvention. Redefinition. Re-. Re-. Re-. Re- and re-. I am my own Tower of Babel, straining for what I really mean through all those half-constructed stories.

I say to this Creative, “I still don’t know who I am.” And I don’t know if he hears what I really mean: By now, for God’s sake, I should know who I am.

“It sounds like you’re deciding every day,” he says. And I surprise myself by hearing that as a compliment.

At 4:30 a.m., it seems the crux of every question. That is the business. Deciding every day.

In spite of myself, I have not yet quit. In spite of my cowardice and dark doubts, having arranged myself in the luxury of such questions, the damned luxury of pursuing my own dreams. Making. Making it.

One thought on “Making It

  1. I love it, Jana. I swear to whatever god there is that you DESERVE fame and fortune. You write so beautifully and think so clearly. Thank you. (I hope you don’t mind that I posted a link to this on Facebook–I think. I’m never sure about new technology.)

    Love, Lana

    Lana Denison

    Are you having any fun?


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