BY SUZANNE KELMAN
Oct. 17, 2014
When I first got married, I bought a guinea pig.
I just couldn’t resist his sweet face with his eyes too close together and his rosettes of ginger and white fur. I was already half way home with him in his little brown box before it occurred to me he would need a cage. Enter the handsome, strapping new bridegroom we shall call “Hun.” I told “Hun” about the problem and, wanting to prove his worth, he spent the entire weekend making lots of sawing and banging noises, while Ging (the very deep meaningful name I had given to the furry pom-pom) and I watched. Ta da! Ging had a new home.
A couple of days later as I sat watching Ging chew on a dandelion leaf, it occurred to me that this little fella was probably lonely all on his own. After further thought I made a decision. Off I went again to the pet shop and bought a beautiful soft grey rabbit I called Sophie to keep him company. Pleased with myself, I popped Sophie into the cage to meet her new friend; Sophie went in and Ging came flying out on the back end of her paw. She was having none of him. Guess what Hun spent that weekend doing?
Now two cages later I still hadn’t solved the problem of Ging’s loneliness, so being extra smart this time I decided to buy a nice little boy guinea pig for him to play with. Surely that would solve the problem. It did; they seemed to get on great. Ging purred and shook all over when he met him and I was finally satisfied.
It was about a month later that we found out Ging’s new favorite friend wasn’t a boy after all…you know the end of this story, right? Let’s just say there was a lot of banging and sawing weekends that followed.
I think life can sometimes feel like that—and the creative life can for sure. Often as artists we are responding to the next need, the loudest voice, the one that calls to us hysterically that day. The need to make money, the need to serve the market, the need to further our career. Sometimes even our muse gets a look in. I often wonder if the great artists of the past ever got an inkling of what they would become to the world, of what their legacy would be. Or if they, like me, got up each day and started building the most urgent cage because that was what needed to be done.
Five years ago I wrote my first screenplay and fell in love. Many screenplays followed, and screenwriting became my passion. And even though my work has been optioned three times, and I have lots of awards to show for work well done, the film industry is a slow track. A couple of years into being a full-time screenwriter I realized that in order to keep going I needed to make money another way. It was then that I had a brainwave to write a book to subsidize my screenwriting habit.
Three weeks ago I actually got to hold that newborn book: “The Rejected Writers Book Club.” It was all sexy in its brand new glossy cover, and I couldn’t believe how proud I was of it. I had done it, finished something I hoped would help fund my screenwriting career. Off it went into the world with its knapsack on its back to earn its living.
Over the past couple of weeks the most extraordinary thing has started to happen. People writing to me to tell me they really liked it, people telling me they couldn’t put it down, people who even loved it. Then it started getting five-star ratings on Amazon. I was totally bemused. The work I thought was just another guinea pig cage—a means to an end—had started to take off and fly with a life of its own. I know this sounds odd, but I never expected people to actually like it. This isn’t some sort of vague modesty; I just wanted people in China to buy it so I could make a little money to continue my real career which is screenwriting…or is it?
As I find myself pondering this new interesting twist of circumstances—people loving and buying my work—I am thoughtful and excited. And it’s the truth that we really don’t know as we travel the road less traveled where that next bend or twist will lead, or if this guinea-pig cage is actually the one.
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