A Proper Job

Congratulations to all the Oscar winners, and in particular, to Spike Jonze, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Her, and to John Ridley who won in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for Twelve Years A Slave. In the course of presenting the awards, Robert de Niro commented that, “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing – isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.” Anyone who’s attempted to write a screenplay will know exactly what he’s talking about. Some of us are lucky enough to have the support of a loving family. All the same, there’s only so much friends and relatives can do; every dream is different and whether and how we choose to pursue our own particular nirvana is up to us alone.
Earlier in the week, I took our daughter to her singing exam. She has a lovely voice – husky, soulful with a sweet thread of melancholy running through it. In other words, she has a real talent. How wonderful, you might think. For me, however, it poses a problem because she herself is not convinced. As her mother, I want her to shine. I want her to be every bit as good as she could be. I want her to nurture her talent, work as hard as she can, make the very most of it.
That probably makes me sound like some sort of pushy gorgon of a parent. I have to remind myself that my role is to open the door and provide the opportunities for our daughter that will let her develop her talent herself, if that’s what she chooses to do. I can’t force her to practise more and nor can I do it on her behalf. At times, it can be maddening. On the morning of the exam, she insisted that I write in the note excusing her from classes that it was for a dental appointment, rather than a music exam. She refuses even to mention it all but her closest friends and doesn’t want me to tell my friends either. Hard as it is, I have to accept that her voice is her gift, not mine. All I can do is respect her wishes; I have no right to bathe in her reflected glory.
All the same, as she continues with her lessons, she’s becoming more willing to acknowledge what she is capable of. She likes music, she likes singing. And perhaps she deserves credit for recognising that a great talent brings with it a great burden of expectation that can be hard to meet, especially when you’re very young. In addition, she’s never wanted to step ahead of her friends or do anything as vulgar as seek the limelight for herself. Whatever I might feel, that’s the person she is.
I have to confess that I too find it almost impossible to tell people I’m a writer (or trying to be one). Like my daughter, it took me a long time to admit it, even to my own mother. Usually, if I mention it at all, I tell people writing is only a hobby and that I’m still looking for a “proper job” ie one that results in a pay-check at the end of the month. I too am not quite ready to expose myself to the full glare of public opinion.

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