I moved to a new home a month ago, and just last night, put together a side table that was as sturdy and right-angled as the house itself. I could go on—devise a metaphor of how this wooden structure is representative of my new home, draw a parallel between the work I did with the Allen wrench tightening the bolts and the efforts I made going to showings to find the right house—but who else is sick of writers concocting overused metaphors?
I am not going to reach for metaphors, I thought, as I put on a movie while screwing the legs of the side table into its base. The movie was from the New York Times top films of the year, and if there’s anything I love as much as movies, it’s lists. The best novels of all time; the top 10 players in the NBA; the top 5 pizza joints in Brooklyn—you name it, I’ll rank it, unapologetically and with a smile.
The movie I put on was “The 40-Year old Version” (not to be confused with the Judd Apatow flick) and it ended up being relatable to me in more than one way—a teacher in a school in an urban environment who is also a writer (playwright) and finds her newfound voice in hip hop (which is actually a hobby of mine—ask me to spit next time).
The main character (and writer/director), Radha Blank, feels the pressure of having to “make it” as a writer three months shy of 40. No, I am NOT 40—WAY younger—37, in fact, and two months shy of having my first child. So when the movie started exploring the role of the artist, I found myself looking inward and ahead at the same time, realizing I had to address the question of what role writing will take in this new chapter in my life.
There’s no doubting that there will be a new (or should I say increased) challenge to my creative life ahead—time. How will I find the time to engage in the solo endeavor of writing when it doesn’t involve taking care of my child? How will I have time for a passion that doesn’t help pay the pediatrician’s bill?
As the black and white images of Harlem flashed in the background, and the beats of hip hop surrounded me, I realized I needed to capture the critical moments with my new child. That’s what I have to do: write about my child, blending my art with parenting.
The movie followed a plot that I’d seen before, but it struck a chord with me just the same. Maybe us writers can explore metaphors that have undoubtedly been used, I thought, as I tested the durability of the side table’s drawers. Who cares if people have written about their kids before? My relationship with my child has yet to be written. As long as it strikes a chord with someone somewhere, I will have done my job.
I may not have as much time to rank the best films of the year—or watch them—but writing will always be a part of me. It will draw me back to it when inspiration hits, like a New Yorker walking by a pizza parlor when the scent of a fresh pie compels them inside. And if I wish I had more time to write than I end up having? In one of the final scenes of the film, Radha Blank and her brother talk about their mother’s life as a painter. Radha says, “(Mom) came to New York to be a famous artist. What does she have to even show for it?”
“Us—you dummy,” her brother responds. “She said that we were her greatest creation.”