Saturday, February 06, 2010

Julie, Julia, and me

When I read Julie & Julia as my in-air entertainment last October, it resonated with me in a way I hadn't expected. I thought it would be fun to learn more about The Julie/Julia Project, but I didn't think I'd necessarily take anything away from it. Though I love to eat, French cuisine is not my thing, and while I do enjoy cooking, I prefer the 30-minute style a la Rachael Ray. So I was surprised when I was still thinking about the book weeks later.

Tonight, we watched the movie (Meryl Streep did such a great job, I forgot that I wasn't watching Julia Child), and I finally realized why Julie Powell's story spoke to me. It's what connected Julie and Julia beyond the cooking: writing, communicating with an audience, and their quest to find their place in the world.

What blogger can't relate to Julie's excitement when she receives her first comment from a stranger? Though arguably narcissistic, that realization that someone is reading encourages you to write more. Having an audience also brings with it a sense of accountability. When Julie doesn't follow through on something she's blogged about, she feels like she has to answer to her readers for it. It's what causes us guilt when we go a week without blogging; it's what causes us to deliberate whether or not to push the publish button on a questionable post. Once we finally get an audience, we feel a responsibility to them and don't want to alienate anyone.

Both Julie and Julia had dreams of publishing. Julie had a "novel in the drawer," and Julia worked on her cookbook for something like eight years before it was finally picked up by a publisher. The scenes where Julia receives the acceptance letter for her cookbook and Julie's answering machine is full with publishing offers is enough to fill any aspiring writer's head with daydreams of the same good fortune, but the two women pose interesting questions about writing before their dreams become reality. Julie wonders what makes a writer. Do you have to be published to be considered a writer, or does simply the act of writing give you this title? (I tend to lean toward the latter definition.) Which leads me to ponder another question: what constitutes a published writer? Technically, aren't all bloggers published writers? What about when the intended publication isn't published, as Julia thought would be her case? When Julia's cookbook is first rejected after dedicating almost a decade to it, she asks, what now? That got me thinking about Julie's novel in the drawer and writing that isn't widely read.

With the exception of some writing like journaling, we write for an audience. But if that audience never reads it, it doesn't necessarily mean that those words are wasted. I think about my work in progress. Of course I'm writing it with the hopes that it will one day be published, but I'm fully aware that might not happen. If the novel ultimately becomes nothing but a file on my computer, will I feel as though I wasted the two years or whatever that it took me to write it? I don't think so, because like I told Marla Beck in a recent teleclass when she asked us why our writing project was important, it's a personal goal I've had for as long as I can remember. Even if it never gets published, it's important to me that I'm able to say, "I went after my dream and tried to make it a reality." Moreover, how could time spent doing something I enjoy be a waste? And besides, you never know where that novel in the drawer might one day lead.

So while Julie & Julia was entertaining to read and watch, it really got me thinking about writing, audience, and how both of those things connect us with others in the blogosphere. And of course, you know what I'm going to say next: I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. ☺

4 comments:

Cheri said...

A thought-provoking post. I believe that as soon as your blog has a reader, you become a "published" writer. Maybe not in the most technical sense of the word as in a publishing house is putting your words in print on paper, but your words are out there, your thoughts are being shared. And I guess that is why we bloggers are so gaga over comments. It is nice to be acknowledged too.

Jenny said...

First of all, excellent, intelligent post! One of your best posts ever! :) I loved reading it and - before I was even finished reading - I put Julie & Julia in my Netflix queue. (I've been wanting to see it, but it's been on the back burner - no pun intended. Now, I feel a much more urgent desire to watch it.)
As far as writing and publishing - amen. You said nothing I have not said to myself (or others) before. In fact, I've been talking to my little writers A LOT lately about feedback and how important it is to know your writing is read and hear what others think of it. Writing is a form of communication. We don't want to feel like we're shouting into thin air, with no one out there listening...well, we don't want to feel that way FOREVER. :)
As far as the novel, I'm with you there too. Writing is a personal goal. It's between me, myself and I - for now.
Loved the post - can't rave on it enough. :) And I'm so glad to see you in my Google Reader today!

MeadowC said...

So,
1. This is totally in my list of movies to see.
2. Your writing is awesome and even though you do it for YOU, I hope someday it'll be shared with all of US.
3. Thank you for encouraging me in MY personal journey every day. You are awesome.
xoxo
Me ;)

Sian said...

Great post. I hadn't done any writing for years until I started blogging 3 months ago; and now I'm fascinated by the whole idea of an audience, accountability and so on. Interesting stuff!