When my friend P heard that I wrote a post called Poverty, she tried to argue me out of it.
“You didn’t really grow up in poverty,” she said. “You may have felt that way — but no one who knows you now would say, oh yeah, she grew up in terrible poverty. People in India, that’s poverty. What you’re describing is the way you felt. Shame. The feeling that you couldn’t show people the way you lived.”
There is truth to what she said — and I think I spoke to that in the last post when I talked about poverty of the heart.
Then she said — “Now you need to write a post about how rich you are.”
This was a few weeks ago now, and the reason I haven’t posted since then is because I went into my writing jail to finish my pilot. But I also wondered if I was resisting because it’s hard for me to identify with being rich — so much of my identity is about being poor.
I got the pilot done. And it was really really hard. Migraines every single day. (I have a migraine right now.) Eating over-the-counter painkillers like food. Not enough money. But I finally got it done, turned it in to my agents, only to find out the next day that NBC is developing a show on the same exact subject.
I got upset and posted my feelings on Twitter (as some of you know). Now I feel self-conscious about that — like I showed you guys the wizard behind the curtain.
But you know what? I am fucking emotional. That is the most valuable quality I have to offer as a writer. When I show you guys that, I am showing you what I do, how this machine operates. My expertise is my ability to tap this molten river of feeling that surges beneath my surface at all times. I used to resist that, afraid people would think I’m crazy. Now I fucking embrace it. I am crazy. That’s what makes me good.
I am rich in feeling.
I am rich in ideas.
I am rich in anger. Anger is good when it’s on the side of justice and it inspires you to make things better. Anger is a storyteller’s friend.
I am rich in compassion — both that I feel for others and that which is felt for me.
I am rich in opportunities.
I am rich in friendship. Yesterday was an upsetting day for me. And so many people reached out to me to help me — both people I know and people I don’t.
I am rich in love. My parents love me. My friends love me. The world loves me. I love myself.
Yesterday I was busy feeling upset and afraid because this pilot that I had worked so hard on and thought had a good chance of selling suddenly seemed to have been pre-empted. I felt sick and so disappointed, because I really believe in my piece — believe in its artistry and think it deserves a chance to live. And then this girl I follow on twitter posted that she had $-0.18 in her account and that she wouldn’t admit that to anyone in real life but that she would post that on there for some reason. Instantly I messaged her and told her to let me know if she needed to borrow money. Why? Because I am fucking rich. Not that I have enough money myself, but all day long I had had all these people — both on twitter and in real life — supporting me and telling me my career was going to be okay. And because I am rich in opportunities and ideas and compassion and friendship. And anger. Because no artist should have to have $-0.18 in her account — I don’t want her to feel like that’s okay for herself. I want her to know that even though I don’t particularly have enough — I want her to know that someone cares about what she’s doing, that it’s important. I was doing it for myself.
When I was still back home in Georgia writing my novel at my parents house, miserable and depressed and lonely and broke, I had made friends on the internet with this successful screenwriter here in L.A. I had told him that I didn’t have enough money — to pay my health insurance or student loan or something — and without even asking me he looked up my address online and sent me $300 cash. I was embarrassed, but grateful — and now I know why he did that. He did that for himself, and for artists — to tell himself and the world that artists are important, and that what I was doing was important, and that what he was doing was important.
Within six months of him sending me that money, I had moved to L.A. and paid him back. He tried not to accept it, but I would have felt weird not paying him back. I didn’t know then that I was going to become a screenwriter, but with $300 cash, that guy turned me into one. When I offered to lend money to that girl on twitter (whom I’ve never met), I wouldn’t have wanted her to pay it back. But I would have wanted her to keep going. She didn’t accept, but she did post about it on her blog, which I’m glad for. I want her and everyone to know that artists are important. And there are a lot of people out there who want to help you.
Maybe some day she’ll write a story like this. That guy turned me from a novelist to a screenwriter, like a pimp turning a girl out. Maybe without knowing it, I just turned her out.
It’s the opposite of how my dad makes me feel. I am rich in spirit, not poor.