Dispatch #10: What I Want
December is always a time for reflection. What was this year like, and what will the new one bring?
I recently wrote on The Millions that 2021 has felt like a non-year. It feels liminal: Covid persists but at least we weren’t in lockdown for all of it; I was vaccinated by April but my kids weren’t; I spent most of my writing time revising which means my novel remains this private world I alone know deeply. Wearing masks everywhere makes life feel furtive and hurried, the senses at once on high alert and muted.
My cherished memories from 2021? The relief I felt, the exhilaration, as I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Having family over my house this summer after so long apart. Disneyland with the kids (scream-laughing on Space Mountain with Bean, and witnessing Ginger dance and sing along to It’s a Small World, and holding Mickey as he lost his mind over Pirates of the Caribbean). Laughing with Patrick in Santa Barbara wine country, where we went for our first getaway without kids since 2018. Watching movies with him in the living room. Writing for a week in Temecula, where I got to return to my book, puzzling it out and living inside those paragraphs for hours.
Speaking of writing, what did I do this year, professionally speaking?
To be honest, I just erased a paragraph listing (with links) my various publications. I deleted it because it struck me as obnoxious and unnecessary. Come on! What matters most is that I sold my novel. Really, truly—it happened, it finally happened! It took a while and the process was, at times, painful. But it happened! Fuck yes! Careers are hard, man. I can’t wait to share this book with you, and you, and you. (And even YOU.)
One fun professional thing I did this year, which I haven’t really talked about, was adapt my Audible Original short story, “People in Hell Want Ice Water” into a screenplay. It’s fun because I’m doing it with Patrick and our friend Laura. What a joy to bounce ideas off of them, and to give my story another life, and to do only one-third of the writing work. I guess the thing to say is that the script is “in development.” We will see what happens, if anything. I know, from personal experience and from talking to writer-friends, and, I guess from living in LA my whole life, that hardly anything actually gets made. But—you never know! I’m doing the writing and then crossing my fingers because I would very much like 2022 to be more glamorous than 2021 was, and probably only Hollywood can make that happen.
Another good memory from 2021: Earlier this month I went to Musso & Frank, the iconic Hollywood restaurant. It’s been open since 1919, and the waiters wear bowties and red suit jackets, and the cocktails are extra cold and served with an extra little side car of overflow liquor. There are celery sticks stuffed with roquefort with black olives on top, and big juicy steaks, and creamed spinach. I went there with a group of LA women writers—six of us. We started getting together this spring, once we were vaccinated, and each time we meet we have such fun: laughing and gossiping and sharing and supporting one another. And, let me just say, this is a power group—a who’s who of LA writers. And then me. Ha. Anyway, this evening was so incredibly fun; this little group can be counted on for real talk, especially about making art and building a career. I love how everyone is ambitious; as an ambitious person, I feel at home with them. Sometimes, with other people, I am not so open about my ambitions because they can come off as arrogant or ugly. I feel sheepish. But not with these successful, smart, and talented writers.
At one point during this perfect, martini-soaked dinner, someone asked us our goals for 2022.
I said, “Finally tackle the soap scum in my pebble shower floor!”
That wasn’t the kind of answer they were looking for. And, it was true, I did have other goals.
It’s always been important to me to state my goals and plans. My ambitions. To have the courage to want what I want requires that I put these wants into words—spoken aloud or written down somewhere. Proof of desire. 2020 required many of us—or all of us—to fold these little wants and plans until they were just a little matchbook-sized square small enough to fit in your bra and forget about until life resumed. But, for me, it meant 2021 happened without my unfolding that piece of paper and taking stock of what I was after. What was important to me.
It’s nothing monumental, really, but these wants and goals matter. Proof of desire, proof of life.
So, in 2022:
I want to finish the revision of this book. For me, nothing—not getting a book deal, or going a book tour, or even, I swear, being on the bestseller list—ever compares to the deep, difficult, rewarding, mystical work of writing well. Of making connections, of landing that sentence, of finally, finally, understanding why your character is the way she is. My goal is to keep to that in order to make the best book I can make. To take risks with this work, and to also hone in on what's pleasurable about this story, so that it feels good to read it, even as it grapples with pretty dark subject matter.
I also want to write an essay I’ve been thinking about since the summer. Just one. Even if it never gets read by anyone, even friends, I need to write it. To exorcise it.
I’d like to write another film script with Patrick and Laura. I actually don’t like writing script scenes but I do like the story building aspect a lot, and I think it’s helped in my other work.
And, if I finish my book revision and the year hasn’t yet ended, I’m going to start day dreaming about the next novel in a serious way. Right now it’s just a few fragments flying by in the wind, but if I reach out, I’ll catch some of them.
I wonder if I’ll get the fire under me to pitch some other work, to send stories out, to be “out there” in the writing world. Not sure. It feels like all that might be about ego, ugh, and paranoia about my own relevance. Ugh, again. Does it matter—does it matter to me?
(Writing these goals here, I feel that word again—sheepish. But why? That’s for another newsletter.)
What else do I want in 2022?
To be more patient with my kids. To enjoy them. I want to take the two older ones to high tea. And maybe show all three of them the Grand Canyon. To nag less and let things roll off of me. And to kiss them all a billion times.
To read Lonesome Dove with Patrick in our two-person book club. To finish Toni Morrison’s six other novels I didn’t get to in 2021.
To do some act of service, some community work.
To, my god, get that fucking soap scum off my shower floor!
And maybe this will also be the year I finally learn how to do my make-up…but, hey, slow down, let’s not get too ambitious, Lepucki!
Who knows if 2022 will feel any less liminal than 2021. At least I’ve decided that I won’t be liminal anymore.
What was your best memory of 2021? What do you want in 2022? Unfold that piece of paper and tell me.
Happy holidays. See you next year. Thanks for reading.