This Is Me

Happy Valentine’s Day (and Ash Wednesday)!

If you’ve seen the movie, The Greatest Showman (starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Michael Gracey), you might know that the title of the post is the title of a song from the movie, which was sung by Keala Settle and other members of the ensemble cast. Yeah, I’d never heard of Keala Settle either before seeing the movie, though she’d starred on Broadway for years. Yet there she was in the movie, singing one of the most memorable songs from it.

A friend and I saw the movie this weekend. Afterward, we walked back through the frozen tundra to the car, processing what we’d seen.

Some of the lines of the song ran through my mind:

I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me. (Written by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek)

This post is not meant to be a review of the movie, though I thought it was fabulous. (Guess that statement is a mini-review of a sort.) I won’t give any spoilers about why the song was sung, though it came at a very appropriate point in the movie. And this post is not a commentary on the life of P. T. Barnum, the subject of the movie. I was struck, however, by the song and how long it took to get the movie made—seven and a half years, according to Hugh Jackman. Studios were reluctant to back an original musical. But this project was a passion for him. In an interview I found on the internet (sorry, I didn’t copy the link to the interview) he said this project was more like who he was than other projects.

Maybe you can relate to the lyrics I quoted above. I certainly can. And I can relate to a seven-year journey of working to get something made. I began my elf novel seven years ago. I’ve written many books and other things since then. Some were published, some weren’t. But the elf book is my passion project, which has its antecedents in a story I wrote twenty years ago—you read that right—back when I wrote parodies.

I grew up watching a little cartoon called Fractured Fairy Tales, which were parodies of fairy tales.

I thought I’d try my hand writing at those. But instead of using existing fairy tales, I wanted to write original fairy tales. I came up with some characters who rescued princesses. Only, they weren’t very good at it.

This is not the story I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I can’t find that one for some reason. This is another fairy tale I wrote back in the day. But I wrote all of my fairy tales on yellow paper like this.

I worked on that story off and on for six years for my own amusement, considering it a hobby like crocheting, while trying to finish a science fiction novel for adults. But around 2004, an astute friend asked me, “Why don’t you write fairy tales instead?” She meant for publication, instead of the science fiction novel for which I struggled to find a good ending. “They seem more you,” she added.

Honestly, the notion of getting that story published had never crossed my mind until she spoke those words. Well, I polished it, submitted it to publishers and agents, but got nowhere. Only one agent asked to see the full manuscript. He mentioned that he liked some of it. Now, let’s flash forward seven years. I’m in grad school at this point. An advisor read my fairy tale, which had been rejected probably twenty-five times. Ironically, I had submitted chapters of this book as part of my application to get into the graduate school.

She said, “I liked some of it.” Familiar words. And then she said (and I’m just paraphrasing here, since we had numerous conversations on this subject), “You’ve got to take writing more seriously. These characters deserve better.” Meaning, stop writing parodies, making fun of the fairy tales you claim to love. Write from a sincere heart.

So, I lifted several characters out of that book and gave them a new home and a new plot, which became the book I started seven years ago.

That’s why I was encouraged by The Greatest Showman. It’s nice to know that projects made with love can find an audience of people who love them too.

What’s the longest you’ve ever worked on a project?

If you want more information on the movie, check out this
HBO Interview, which involves Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, and Zac Efron talking about the movie:

The Greatest Showman movie poster from cinematerial.com. Fractured Fairy Tales still from avxhome.se. Other photos by L. Marie. The Valentine owl crochet pattern can be found here.

42 thoughts on “This Is Me

  1. I got this a lot with Legends of Windemere. People liked some of it and suggested rewriting with only that. Honestly, most times I wondered if the suggestion was made due to the theory that everything needs to be rewritten after the first draft. Polishing was one thing, but removing 90% of the material meant an entirely different story.

    For some reason, I’m not surprised that studios shied away from an original musical. Why bother when Broadway and old Disney movie adaptations were working?

    • Everyone has an opinion! Eight people will have eight different opinions. Sometimes it all comes down to taking a chance and going with your gut.

      I’m glad the studio took a chance. And now, I heard that the movie will become a play on Broadway at some point.

      • I also thought it was a show when I first heard about it. It looked exactly like a Broadway play. One critic complained about that aspect. She thought the movie needed to be bigger in scope.

      • She complained that the movie looked exactly like a staged play–like the director set the camera on the second row of a theater and started the filming. I sort of see what she means. There were no 360 degree shots of vast plains. But the movie did its job. It presented a story. Still her comment gave me a lot to think about concerning the scope of a story. Her comment and your series. You have such a vast world full of different people groups and animals. I tend to stay in one area and barely mention animals. But I’m trying to change.

      • I really like first person present tense, though I didn’t choose that for the book I’m currently working on. I chose it for a different book.

  2. I’m happy you were encouraged by the movie, L. Marie. Until you mentioned it in a recent email, I hadn’t heard of it. Is that lame? 🙂
    I can’t linger too long on a project since I enjoy creating new characters and making their life miserable…until it’s not. LOL!
    Happy Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday! I hope you have a great day.

    • Happy Valentine’s Day, Jill! I think a lot of people didn’t know about the movie. The only reason why I’d heard of it is because of the movie reviewers I follow on YouTube.

      Ha ha! Yes, I understand. Plus, you have deadlines to meet and don’t have a ton of time to write during the week.

  3. Sometimes, especially lately, I feel as if my whole life is a project I keep working on. 🙂
    It’s rewarding when a movie touches us in unexpected ways and gives us validation. Now, I want to see The Greatest Showman – and I enjoyed Fractured Fairy Tales. Though very much a grown-up they were fun to watch.
    Happy Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday – and happy sun! It is out as I write.

  4. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been on the fence about seeing this movie, but now I know I need to. Thanks also for sharing your journey in persistence. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

    • I hope you’ll see it! It’s been out for months and people are still going to see it. There were many people in the theater the day I saw it. And we’d just had a huge snowstorm.

  5. I’d watch Hugh Jackman in anything. 😉 Haven’t seen Greatest Showman yet though. I worked on my first novel for something like 5 years. The WIP I’ve been stuck on, I started writing two years ago, but I’ve had notes for the story for 25 years. I really don’t think it’ll have an audience, so I can’t motivate myself. I know I should write what I like, and what is me, but surely I like to write for others to read as well. This WIP is very unusual. Nothing like what’s out there. I wouldn’t even know what genre to put it in other than contemporary fiction. It has a tiny bit of magical realism, but so little that it can’t be called fantasy. I might call it spiritual, but it’s not Christian or any other religion for that matter. Well, you asked. LOL And, I went on as usual. Thanks for sharing those lyrics for a bit of inspiration, L.

      • Hi L. I checked out Water for Chocolate. My WIP is not like that. It’s about a modern day (20th century) prophet who performs miracles like Jesus. Except, it’s not told by the prophet, but rather, his followers. So, it’s very difficult to get inside these followers heads and share their very different perspectives of a miracle man.

        I’m not sure I’m enjoying writing it. I love the idea of it, but it’s really a struggle getting it out onto “paper” from inside the eyes of the prophet’s “disciples,” in addition to getting the history correct for when he lived during the 1940’s through 1960’s.

      • Who is your main character–the prophet or the follower(s)? If it’s a struggle to get it down, I wonder if you’re telling it from a perspective that in the long run you might not see as the most compelling for the book. If you’re not excited about writing it, what can you change to make the book more enjoyable?

      • Well, the point of the story is that each individual understands from their own perspective and tells a different story about the prophet through their eyes. Does that make sense? As you know, I like to go deep on occasion on my blog, and this is a deep plot line. The two followers (apostles) are the main characters. It’s because of their own stories (life experiences) that they understand the prophet differently.

      • I’m really not sure why, L. Perhaps it’s because it is so deep that it takes complete and utter closure of the total world around me so that I can dive in. I’m not good at shutting out the world.

  6. Happy Valentine’s Day, Linda! The longest I ever worked on a project was 22 years, on the novel that eventually became Gringolandia. And among the changes I made was rewriting the story from third to first person. Oh, and I threw out everything from the first few drafts except for the first chapter and half of the sixth chapter.

  7. ‘dinkadinka dink dink-dink-dink-dink dink diiink diiink dink. Dink. (that’s the FFT tune running through my mind!)
    In this digital age, it’s easy for non-creatives to expect ‘instant’ music/art/stories…but we know they take time and the time it takes varies for each project.
    🙂

    • Laura, these projects certainly take time and a ton of effort. But that’s where the love comes in. You have to love what you do in order to invest so much time and effort! 😀

  8. My daughter has seen that movie and said she loved it! Her favourite film of the year so far. Mine is the Three Billboards film.
    As for longest projects, though it didn’t take too long to put my poetry collection together it did include some material written over twenty years before. The one I’m working on now is mostly new writing, but there is one piece that relates back to the time of 9/11 and a short one a little earlier than that.

  9. I love Hugh Jackman, and I love musicals. I’ve gotta find this movie.

    When people ask me how long I’ve been working in this novel or how long it took me to write my first novel, I usually say, “A long, long time.” Really, I don’t like to count. It’s embarrassing. Still, it feels good to keep making progress.

    • I hope you’ll see it, Nicki. I would love to see it again at the theater!

      I know what you mean. There are some novels I work on for ages. I think of it like a restoration project. Some guys tinker on cars they love. I tinker on novels I love.

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