Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Linda, from Starbucks

A while ago, John August posted a link to this very cool site, where you can find out how popular names are throughout time. It can be quite useful for picking character names. Even beyond the practicality of finding out what’s popular in your script's time period, it can be very poetic to give someone a common name, a unique name, a name that’s before its time, or a name that sings of the past.

My name was the 3rd most popular female name in the 1980s, when I was born. It kind of sucked always being Amanda P amidst all the other Amandas, but when I took Latin and found out what my name literally translated to (“must be loved”), I found a new appreciation for it. What strikes me about the website's graph, though, is the huge downslope my name takes after the 80s. Amanda gave way to Emily and Madison, and those names will surely hand over the tiara to others. It got me thinking. When I was a kid, practically all of my friends’ mothers were named Linda. Seriously, LOTS of Lindas - but I didn’t know any Lindas my age. It was a mom name. And someday that’s going to happen to me; I’m going to be a Linda.

Moving onto a blog lesson I've been thinking about: LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR MONEY. Or, at least don’t spend it, so that you actually have money to manage.

Hollywood lesson #1: There is a lot of money to be made here.
Hollywood lesson #1B: You will not see any of it for a very long time.
Hollywood lesson #1C: (You’d better really want this.)
Hollywood lesson #1D: (And if you’re in it for the money, I don’t think you’ll last. Go work in investment banking or something, where being 23 might mean a BMW and an expense account, not a job as a secretary, I mean assistant.)

I got a scholarship to college, which was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. Okay, mostly best. Without the scholarship, I never would have gone there. I never would have studied TV. I never would have studied abroad, never spent a summer in NY or a semester in LA. I never would have moved here. If my life were told a la Sliding Doors there would be two very different stories indeed.

But it was the worst thing because it let me live without worrying about money. Each semester I’d get more money for books, housing, etc. When I moved off-campus and stopped munching my way through all-you-can-eat meal plans, I got even more money. I didn’t save anything. Essentially, I had an allowance until I was 21 years old.

And now I am poor. I am poor and sitting in Starbucks, my ass getting numb from this hard wooden chair, using a tmobile account that a generous blog reader shared, drinking Diet Coke (from one of those cost-effective 12-packs) from a plastic Starbucks cup that I’m reusing in the hopes that it looks like iced coffee. In reality I’m sure none of the other patrons care that I'm a mooch, and I’m sure the employees probably have other things on their minds, like how being a barista is giving them lots of material for their pilot but that it’s also driving them crazy. Still, it puts me at ease; I can sit here, free to ignore my writing and instead eavesdrop on the high schoolers I’ve come to realize are regulars here.

It dawns on me that Sherman Oaks is a lot like Clarence, the suburban town I grew up in. We had dirty snowbanks instead of palm trees, but Transit Road was a lot like Ventura Blvd, and in high school (or on those strange breaks from college) we didn’t have many other places to go than Starbucks. In fact, after about sophomore year, I started avoiding the place since I didn’t really want to run into those sort-of-friends you stalk on facebook but haven’t actually talked to in years. If I really needed a green tea frappucino I’d drive a few miles down Transit to some other high school’s Starbucks where no one knew me.

And I’m doing the same thing now. 3,000 miles away, I'm sitting in some other high school’s Starbucks. The scruffy boys and leggy girls get up and go outside to greet more of their own. But I’ll be here ‘til close, my ass getting number, my Diet Coke running out.

In a few years I'll be their Linda.

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? said...

Yes, but your life is full of opportunity and potential, AND this is all a great experience.

What did Linda do? She got hitched after college and spent the best part of her twenties chasing kids around the house dreaming about the time she wanted to be _____.

You're doing it.

dementia13 said...

Amanda, that's one of the best blog postings you've ever done. Why? Because Jane Espenson wouldn't have written it. Because John August wouldn't have written it. Becuase neither of them COULD have written it.

I've been reading your blog since Ms. Espenson linked to it (and I created an account just to post this - boo no anon-posting! ;p) and my favourite posts of yours have always been the personal ones. With all due respect, while I appreciate the industry advice you offer, what has always interested me the most have been your personal stories. You tales of struggle, success, and getting through the day. That's what I come here to read, and the picture you painted there - the high school callback (I grew up in Ontario, but I GET what you mean), the name thing, and the Starbucks-poor story were great. (I originally had "resonated", but then changed it because I didn't want to sound lingoese).

Again, great stuff, and keep it up. I think the real-world relatability you offer means more to many people than you'd think.

Thanks for the "Billion-Dollar Kiss" suggestion - just finished it and thought it was great!

Robbin said...

I also enjoyed this post.

I do have to slightly disagree about doing it for the money though. I don't think only doing it for money is good but I'm sure that when you're actually working it's a great motivator and helps to get through those endless hours of rewrites and notes.

I believe Ellen Sandler said the right answer to her is "to make money." Earl Pomerantz once complained to someone that there had to be a better way to make $300,000 (he was a showrunner years ago). He realized that was the stupidest thing he's ever said.

I think writing for some folks can be like buying that lottery ticket every week. They keep going because they KNOW they'll hit the big time some day and it will be all good then.

One more thing. My name. I hate it. Two "b's" doesn't make it better. Seriously thinking of changing it legally. Then I think maybe I should just use another as my writing name. But then when I get famous no one will know it's me! Except my mother who'll be crushed I didn't want to use the name she also has. She's one "b" though...hahaha

The Hateful Writer said...

Getting old isn't *that* big of a deal, Amanda. There's an expression that I think is apt - "Youth is wasted on the young."

By the way, I'm a 34 year old broke, unemployed wannabe writer also sitting at starbucks and also using t-mobile for access.

Your thoughts about money are spot on.

adam ___________________ said...

The looking back won't change. Being broke hopefully will.

I myself never had that run-in problem, as my parents moved when I was in college. So I've always been moving around, looking for the next step. I don't see pieces of the past in Los Angeles, I just keep hoping that eventually it'll start to feel like home, somewhere that I'll fit.

As for the $, you're right. But $ in general doesn't tend to make people happy if this is what they want to do. Otherwise how can you explain all former lawyers/doctors/engineers/etc. who've jumped ship and moved out here to break into the business? I've run into more former lawyers than I can shake a stick at, all of whom have given up sizable salaries to come out here.

So it's not about the $ in the long run. That's what I keep telling myself anyway as I figure out how much money I have for food after each payday...

sandofsky said...

There really are easier ways to get rich. Become a plumber and you'll pull in six figures. Ask my cousins.

The best quote I've heard about acting is, "I think many people are in love with the *idea* of being an actor, but not actually being it." Same goes for writing.

The people in it for the money or fame are weeded out until all that's left are the people with genuine skill. Real writers are paid so much because it's hard to find someone who stuck it out, building their skills without financial incentive.

wcdixon said...

nice post

Dan Williams said...

First, Amanda is a great name. It has clout:

1st Speaker: "Amanda wants this done right away."

2nd: "Yes, ma'am!"

Second, you are getting to know the real you. You are a writer. You observe. You wonder about fate. You sit and watch. You have a pen and notebook. You will do this all of your life, but you WILL get better at it. Remember Carrie Bradshow wondering about stuff.

Third, once you can do it, and you know you can do it, the act of writing will give you incredible inner riches -- and no job like banking can do that.

Last, figure out a writing process. Ask yourself how your everyday experience can be worked into a scene or scenes, into themes you can build a TV show around. Remember the "Soup Nazi" on Seinfeld? Larry David was just describing a guy he met serving at a deli. So can you. And Sherman Oaks ain't bad!

JayTee said...

Great post! Guess it's just up to you to determine who "Linda" will be. Stay the course!!

Derek said...

When your Tmobile internet runs out - Free Wifi, in Sherman Oaks at Cafe 50's on Van Nuys and in Burbank, at the Empire mall, in the Starbucks that's inside the Great Indoors.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with "the hateful writer"--there's no reason to dread growing old. I'm way past 34 and, if anything, better off for the years of experience and additional perspective its given me.

I was once as you are now--except, back then, they didn't even have Starbucks, so you had to settle for a park bench or the public library. ("And we loved it!" as Dana Carvey would say.) :)

George said...

I love this post, you ARE a writer. Your post has heart, engages the reader and most of all you have that elusive individual voice. If your scripts are as good as your blog then - "you've got a shot kid!"

John August has blogged about his ramen days, writing scripts on the floor of his unfurnished apartment. Maybe crappy food and uncomfortable seating are prerequisites for a career in Hollywood?

Charles Jurries said...

The part about all the moms being named Linda reminded me of my own workplace (family restaurant) a few years ago. There have always been Sara's and Sarah's, never have we gone without one person named Sarah. At one point, there were six Sarah's working at once, all on the same night. We HAD to learn their last names, and call them by that, if you ever wanted to get one's attention easily.