Boatload of Dreamers


Today is my eldest son, Nathan’s birthday and this year, we have a lot to celebrate. He just sold his first screenplay out in Los Angeles. Yep, Hollywood, the real deal — writer, director, agents, lawyers, “my people will call your people,” that kind of screenplay. Sounds glamorous, right? Of course it does.

And while it touched off a flurry of coast-to-coast woo-hoo texts among our little family that could, with every imaginable emoji following behind it, (my three sons refrain from using such trite conventions, but my daughter and I use them freely, maybe it’s a gender thing) there is no emoticon to illustrate how thrilled I am over Nathan’s accomplishment. Far be it for me to hide behind the facade of Facebook humble-bragging “I feel so blessed….blah, blah, blah,” hell no, I am engaging in full-on, bustin’ my buttons, shoutin’ from the rooftops maternal pride. I understand that boasting like this is gauche, but I know how long and how hard he has worked for this day. Rather that tell you exactly how long, because he feels like it’s taken an inordinate amount of time, suffice to say it’s been several years since I stood in the driveway and waved goodbye until I could no longer see Nate in his  blue Jeep Wrangler heading off to California. Now, he’s finally got enough money to get it fixed.

It’s a long, hard road being a writer. Anybody who has ever slaved over a keyboard will tell you there’s nobody standing behind you in the middle of the night, with a neck massage and promises of a big paycheck once you’ve birthed your baby. Literary labor is a singular experience. There is only the slightest chance, the immobilizing, terrifying narrowest sliver of a chance that the words that flow from our hearts and minds through the cool, indifferent plastic keys of conductivity will ever actually connect with another human being, much less, a significant population of humans. And yet, we pound away.

We pound away. I can not even begin to estimate the number of hours I have spent in libraries, coffee shops and my dining room, pounding away at stories. One of the longest relationships I’ve ever had with a man occurred between me and a Chinese gentleman at the Webster University library where I wrote Off the Leash. Night after night I’d see him up on the 4th floor, where we’d smile and nod at each other at the beginning and end of our respective shifts. Perseverance knows no language barrier.  Many a midnight we closed the joint down.

All the while, like the air conditioning in the summer and the heat in the winter that flowed through the vents high up on the library walls, (which frequently I would be staring at, as if the words I was searching for lay behind the register) through all these nights and weekends, I felt the steady flow of encouragement and support from my children.

Always have been, always will be, in this together.  

In May of 2010, I wrote an essay called, Dreamers, We. If you click on the story, I think you’ll laugh at some of my ridiculousness, but it talks about my family going after things like writing books, selling screenplays, making movies in New York, finishing college, pursuing new careers, losing weight!  Fast forward to 2014, and everything has been accomplished, well except for the last thing on the list. Dreamer, me.

But here’s to all us dreamers!!!  Even though Nate labored in solitude, his brothers, his sister, plus his adorable wife, and I have been right there with him. When he sells a script, his rising tide lifts all our boats. It makes the rest of us feel like we can do it too, whatever it is we’re striving for. We are nothing if not a ship of foolish optimists, happy that Nate’s ship has come in.

Okay, I had a fro, but Nate has a spit curl!

Okay, I had a fro, but Nate has a spit curl!

And on it goes. I’ve neglected my missives for a few weeks because I’ve been working on a screenplay treatment for Off the Leash, oh, and a novel. So, these little bulletins will be less frequent as I endeavor to push that new rock up a hill. Last week, I did get a nice little pat on the head, I was interviewed for The Daily Travel Podcast. Listen if you’ve got the time — might need to take it in chunks, as it’s kind of long, you can download it to iTunes and start and stop when you like. Or you don’t have to listen at all, I’ll understand. The host of the show, Nathaniel Boyle was super nice and his website is very inspiring. I was very, very flattered to be on his show. Now I’m genuinely being humble.


About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Oh, congratulations to Nate! That is so totally awesome. And keep pounding at that typewriter.

  2. And Nathan’s west coast family is just as proud! Another brother and sister, dad and stepmom who have cheered him on from the stands! Writing indeed is hard, and we are thrilled that he has had this success. I myself can hardly wait for the movie!

  3. Okay, the first thing I should mention is either the screenplay treatment or the novel you’re working on, but I can’t help myself…I can’t lead with that.

    Your ‘fro. I had to laugh because my ‘fro was bigger than yours (1978, I think) and it was red.

    Now that I’ve stopped chuckling, congratulations on the new paths you’re taking and to your son. And the weight? Well, if you find a sure-fire way that doesn’t involve too much exercise and too little tasty food (and the food has to be cheap too), let me know…