I went and saw Julie and Julia with my now on sabbatical wife yesterday. We biked up to the theater and got in about two minutes into the movie, thus possibly missing something. Overall it was a fun sweet movie.
The thing I liked the most about it was it got the little moments of publishing exactly right: The hit in the gut as you prepare to open what you’re sure is going to be the umpteenth rejection for something you love. The sheer jubilation of an acceptance or seeing that first book. The little happy spurt from fan response.
Yay for all that.
The thing I liked the least about it was the perpetuation of the stereotypes of the neurotic, self-absorbed, and/or clueless writer: It had the “I’m not a writer if I’m not published” freakout. The complete clueless wild-ass-guess about typical advances. The complete lack of clue on figuring out how to deal with publishers ahead of time. Etc.
Now, those stereotypes work because an awful lot of writers are subject to one or another of them, and a lot of writers do learn about business the hard way by signing bad contracts or doing stupid things with their careers, or totally relying on the Cinderella faerie godmother mode of success to whack them upside the head with the publishing stick. At the same time it has never been easier to learn how not to do those things. There are a million and one resources on the web for learning about the business of writing and understanding what is and is not likely to happen.
Someday I would like to see an aspiring writer who has done their homework and who understands what they’re getting into portrayed on the big screen. I think it would be simply lovely to see some story about the writing life that didn’t rely on the same old conflicts and stresses.
Which is not to say that I didn’t like the movie—I did, quite a lot, actually—just that it didn’t cover a lot of new ground.
(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog Aug 29 2009, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)