Tag Archives: A Chorus Line

The Road Not Taken: What I Learned From Watching Mamma Mia

“Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.”

–Frank Sinatra, My Way.

What a great quote that is.

I’ve been thinking about regret lately. It all began with this touching piece by David Sedaris in The New Yorker a few weeks back. Sedaris writes movingly about a near-hook up he almost had in his early 20’s with a Lebanese guy whom he met on a train in Italy. Although the guy invites Sedaris to get off the train and join him, Sedaris passes on the opportunity. But he still thinks about that guy – and what might have been – all these years later. The essay is a giant homage to that great question of adulthood: What if?

The Road not Taken is also the subject of Mamma Mia, which – for my sins – I watched with my kids last weekend at their behest. (I fully own up to my abiding love of musical theatre, but even I balk at Abba.)

Mamma Mia – and I’m not spoiling anything here – is about a young woman on the brink of getting married who doesn’t know who her father is. So (unbeknown to her mother) she invites the three likely candidates to her wedding. Passion, longing, anger, resentment (and far too many Abba songs) ensue. The movie is all-out camp, but nestled within all the cheese are a few touching moments that actually work (Meryl Streep singing The Winner Takes It All to a love-struck Pierce Brosnan was my own personal favorite).

What Sedaris’ essay and Mamma Mia have in common is wistfulness, which is a huge part of adulthood. In Sedaris’ case, it’s not that he regrets whom he ended up with. (He makes a subtle nod to his long-time partner, Hugh, at the end of the essay.) It’s just that he’s wondering if –  in turning down that handsome Lebanese guy all those many years ago – he missed the boat. Not necessarily the boat, but a boat nonetheless. And in so doing, he articulates that great fear of adulthood:  which is that once we make a choice, everything else becomes path dependent.  Which in turn forces us to come to grips with the fact that we may never go round again.

This can be a fear about your personal life, as it was in these two instances. But it’s also a fear that we bring to career choices and to where we live and to the schools we attend (or don’t). What I find moving about wistfulness is that you can’t really escape it. You need to just live with it and perhaps, even, embrace it by – say – writing a short story in the New Yorker.

On a lighter note, midway through the movie – which is shot on the Greek islands – I commented that I’d like to go to Greece. To which my daughter replied: “OK, but let’s not go to Latin.” No, indeed. Let’s not.

Please tell me that you, too, are now singing “The Winner Takes It All”…

*****

Speaking of musical theatre, is anyone else as excited as I am that they’re making a movie about the making of A Chorus Line? OK, anyone who isn’t my sister?

Image: Two Roads Diverged in a Non-Yellow Wood by Msmail via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks: Ghostwriting

I just got back from yet another trip to the United States and as I trolled through my ever-burgeoning pile of unread RSS feeds, I came across the following post about ghostwriting on the blog Lisa Romeo Writes.

I regularly subscribe to a bunch of different blogs about freelance writing and I’ve probably seen at least twenty if not hundreds of job listings for ghost writers over the past twelve months alone. But until today, I never thought much about ghost writing as a possible supplemental source of income for myself.

The main reason – as Romeo notes in her introduction to the post with respect to her own experience – is that I’ve always been so preoccupied with finding and expanding my own voice that I never wanted to deviate any of that energy into someone else’s work. Perhaps because I’m feeling just a tiny bit more confident about my own voice lately or maybe it’s just the pinch of these credit-crunched times, but when I read this post I suddenly thought: Hey! I can do that! (Sorry, but you must indulge my less-than-closeted love of Broadway musicals while I quickly link to famous A Chorus Line number of same title…ah, to spend the afternoon singing lyrics from A Chorus Line…but I digress.)

Why do I mention this here?

Because when I read this writer’s account of how she got started ghost writing and why she enjoys it – i.e. finding a way to tell someone else’s story in a way that respects their unique voice- I realized that I’d not only be very good at this kind of thing, I’d actually enjoy it. I strongly believe that the two keys to a successful career are a. finding things that you like and b. finding things you are good at and then identifying where these two intersect (much harder than it sounds). And so, it suddenly occurred to me that I ought to give ghost writing a second chance.

Which I’ve been doing…all day long.

And it’s something we all should be doing – i.e., thinking about our talents and interests and where these intersect. It seems like every day now, I get another email from a friend whose company has just folded or who’s been let go or who’s just had a baby and is going to try and make it on her own, and a lot of them ask me for advice about how to get started on a new career path. And while I have loads to say on this topic, the main thing I always tell people is: figure out what you like and what you’re good at and that’s where you need to begin.

Because if this economy is going to continue on its current trajectory, we’re all going to need to be a heckuva lot more creative in thinking about our skill sets and the many possible directions in which we can take them while still being true to who we are. Myself included.

So if you’ve got that burning life story you’re just itching to tell and don’t trust yourself to tell it, drop me a line…I’m listening.

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