I’ve been living for tomorrow since I was eight years old, when I wrote my first short story, Sammy the Dinosaur (Copyright 1972 All Rights Reserved No Persons Shall Use Any Portion of Sammy the Dinosaur Without Permission of Author or Author’s Estate. Sammy the Dinosaur is a Fictional Character and as such is not Liable for the Reckless or Irrational Behavior of his Creator).
Maybe I figured Sammy would lead to greater things. My mother sent the three-page story filled with typos and drawings of lopsided dinosaurs to Readers Digest where it was promptly rejected.
I started making Regular 8mm movies when I was in fourth grade, graduating to Super 8mm films after my bar mitzvah money bought me the new Chinon XL555 movie camera complete with slo mo, fast-mo, stop-frame, and various other special effects. In those days you could either get a camera that had sound, or a silent camera with effects. I went for the effects, since my friends and I had been shooting our own version of the James Bond films, and slow motion was essential for those scenes where Bond shot me with a plastic machine gun and I tumbled from a snowy mountain-top to my death. I always liked being the bad guy, the one who skied off a mogul and into a tree.
I figured those Super 8 movies would lead to a better tomorrow. They simply led me to more expensive movies that I made in 16mm or 35mm, after spending my future credit rating on the loans that would get me through film school.
In school I wrote screenplays that were sure to bring me millions. I felt comfortable maxing out my credit cards and taking out more student loans – it was all an investment into my future life, the great “tomorrow” I would soon be living. I mean, geez, ONE screenplay sale would wipe out my entire debt and put me in the black for years, right? One after the other, each “million dollar” screenplay became a door-stop. Became garden mulch.
I’ve suffered the American Dream a long time, friend.
When my agent went out with BOULEVARD he was certain we’d make a bundle. After a number of publishers rejected the book, my agent made that wonderful call to tell me it had sold. Before telling me the offer, he warned, “Listen, it ain’t life-changing money. Maybe we’ll sell Book Three for a million.”
It was a two-book deal, and fifteen years ago I could have lived on the advance for a year. But now I’ve got overhead and past-due bills and a family and all those student loans to pay back, with interest, with collection fees.
They say the economy needs to “adjust” before we can begin to see any improvement. Before banks begin to loan again, before new houses are built. We first need to work through our inventory of foreclosed properties. As I wait for my own house to foreclose or short-sell, the house I put all that refi money into when the prevailing thought was, “buy, remodel, add equity,” I think about this tomorrow I’ve been waiting for. I realize that I’ll have to “adjust,” I’ll have to lose all the overhead and settle into a realistic standard of living that I can afford.
In many ways “tomorrow” has arrived. My first book has been published and my career as a novelist has begun. But I still have that day job and come Monday morning I don’t feel so much like the hot-shot writer.
I imagine a tomorrow where I might wake up late with nowhere to go, with nothing to do but write the things I want to write, with plenty of time to do it in, without worrying about bills, or losing my home.
What were your dreams growing up, Murderati? Have they changed over the years? What have you sacrificed to get them? What are your dreams yet to come? And…can “tomorrow” really be attained?