You ever have one of those blog post ideas where you’ve got the subject matter, even know the story you want to tell, but honestly have no idea what the point of it is? Welcome to today’s post. I’m not saying it isn’t interesting, just that I always feel that any blog I put on here should serve a purpose. Advice, information, even a warning to stay away from a new kind of liquor (Yup. Still bitter about that.), there’s usually a method to my madness, a reason for tossing things on here. This one… I really don’t know what anyone else will get from it, except maybe feel a little less silly about things that have impacted their lives. Yeah, yeah I can work with that, seems like a good enough reason. So, without further ado:
How an Objectively Crappy Movie Changed My Life
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. Overall, not great. It had some funny moments (Will Ferrel falling to his death dressed as Abe Lincoln still cracks me up) and a pretty decent cast, but the story was weak and the protagonist unlikeable. Anyway, none of that is really important. The movie is about a group of people who specialize in selling cars, helping out failing businesses. Lots of fast-talking, sales pitchy stuff going on.
Going to take a step back to tell you about Younger Drew at the time he walked into the theatre. I’d just lost a job I kind of liked and was working one that bored me senseless. No More Ramen was wrapping up and I didn’t know if I was going to have another project to follow it. I was lonely for the friends and fun I’d left behind when I graduated college. Life was okay. Not great, but pretty flavorless. It was tofu. It was getting by.
Back to the movie, there’s a part in it where the protagonist, Jeremy Piven’s character, is selling a car to someone, and he uses a quote from Henry David Thoreau to get him to go for it: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It isn’t a huge piece of the movie, just a throwaway scene meant to show the wide range of skill and resources this man could employ to move cars. Plenty more just like it. So the movie keeps rolling and I go home wondering what I’ll do for dinner and dreading work in the morning. Life goes on.
Except it didn’t, not entirely. For the next few days I couldn’t get that quote out of my head. It was always there, dancing behind my usual thoughts, ready to pop out without warning. I found myself saying it to myself without intending to. That quote haunted me more effectively than the most determined poltergeist, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Then, one day, sitting at my desk filling out forms, I knew why I couldn’t stop thinking about that line.
I was a piece of that mass. I was quietly, fervently desperate for something, anything to come along and change my life.
I was absolutely miserable. I just hadn’t noticed it until then.
As you might recall from my article about being fat, I have a knack for recognizing moments in life that represent conscious choices. This was one of them. I was unhappy with the way my life was going, and if I did nothing then that was still a choice. Trust me on this guys, inaction is unquestionably you making a choice. So, I could do nothing, let the fire of my life keep sputtering down until it was nothing more than a candle’s fart, or I could start trying to make things better. I could try to be a blaze. But how? What did I love? That answer, at least, was an easy one. I loved writing. And even if my site was viewed by almost no one back then, the rush I’d gotten from creating a book and interacting with people who actually enjoyed reading was something I was hungering for more of.
I quit my job two days later, the only time in my life I’ve ever purposely left a job without having a new one secured. The day after that, I sat down and started outline work for my next book, which ultimately grew into the series still running today, Super Powereds. Looking back, I think I might have picked the idea of super-heroes finding their place in the world because I was doing the same, and because super-heroes are freaking sweet.
I had to find a new job, of course. Life isn’t a movie and success doesn’t manifest because you decide it should. It was a better job, though, and one I could write at when I had downtime. Four years later I’m scheduling book releases and, while not to independent author status yet, I’ve gotten a lot closer than I ever was before. All of it thanks, in no small part, to you guys and your awesome support. Thanks to people who helped keep me afloat when times were rough. Thanks to fellow web-authors who’ve given me advice and encouragement.
And thanks to a throwaway line in a crappy movie about selling cars. Sure, you could argue I might have read that somewhere on my own eventually, but I haven’t noticed seeing or hearing it since that movie. Even if I did, who knows if I’d be in the right mind frame to realize its significance in regard to my life. No, credit where it’s due, I owe a lot to that film. You never know what piece of art, good or bad, will have an impact on someone. Maybe that’s the takeaway from this story, in the end. To all you writers, directors, painters, and every other kind of artist still struggling to make the leap from amateur to pro, never forget that the impact of what you create isn’t measured in sales or star reviews. It’s possible you’re touching more lives than you ever imagined. So keep at it.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
I no longer count myself in that mass. If you do, then maybe it’s time for a change.