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Jewish Journal

“If I “wore” not a writer….”

by Chava Tombosky

May 3, 2010 | 2:22 pm

My relationship with writing is a tumultuous one filled with love, hate, conflict, and an urge to purge with words on a daily basis. I first knew I was a writer when I was five and I wrote this poem (with the help of my father):

There was a red rose that bloomed in the garden
Its leaves wore its clothes
But the frost made it harden
Then one day,
The rose fell away.
No one saw its beauty
No one saw its day.

Notice the word “wore” in the second line is a pun. 

When I was 12, I wrote an essay entitled “Why I like Shabbos”.  I wanted it to be “Why I like Shabbat”, but it was my father’s suggestion to keep it Jewish-y and authentic for more impact. The essay was written for a county contest entitled “The meaning of Prejudice”.  I won first place- in the county.  When I was a teenager I wrote short stories. For six years I kept my stories in a notebook and on the eve of my high school graduation, I gave the book filled with my stories from the time I was 12 to my dad, my gesture to him, for encouraging me to write my first poem. 

When I was in my twenties and raising my babies, I wrote children’s stories with a Seussical quality that never did get published. I sent them to several different publishers and got lovely responses but they were not looking to publish stories that rhymed at the time.  I guess back in the nineties, rhyming was out.

By the time I had reached my thirty’s I began writing screenplays, my blog, songs, webisodes, musicals and finally my memoir.  My husband thought it was silly to write a memoir at the age of 34. “Who writes a memoir in their thirty’s,” he said.  “Isn’t a memoir your life story? You haven’t lived it in full yet.” Funny how everyone in their thirty’s are writing memoirs from Sara Silverman, to Augusten Burroughs, to Shalom Auslander. It’s become an epidemic. I of course, have read ALL of them.  According to the dictionary, a memoir is an account of the personal experiences of an author. So with that definition, pretty much anyone writing a Facebook status or tweeting their experiences are writing their memoir on a daily basis. 

I believe that in your life you have to look at the experiences and people that have surrounded you to figure out your life’s mission.  I have frequently struggled to admit that I am a writer.  It’s a solitary life.  It’s not glamorous at all.  Getting paid to do it is really hard. And although I like coffee shops, until a few years ago when Coffee Bean got it in their head to get comfy chairs, I was pretty annoyed by them.  Plus what do you do when you have to pee and your laptop is not being watched by anyone?  Do you stop your work and go home, interrupting the perfect momentum, or do you go to the bathroom and ask a perfect stranger to watch your $1000 piece of equipment that has every thought you’ve ever had in it?  I guess I could work at home, but the quiet is painful. 

For most writers, writing chooses them. Ask any writer, and they’ll tell you, I never would have chosen this, it chose me!  So last week, I was thinking, maybe I’m not a writer after all. For the past six months I haven’t been writing as often as I should. I let things go, I haven’t been regimented. Planning my son’s Bar Mitzvah and helping my sister through home school got me so invested that my writing went to the way side. Okay those are just my excuses; maybe I was just burnt out.  Another thing writers like to do, make up LOTS of excuses. Facebook, excuse.  Email, excuse.  Phone call, great excuse.  Having to pee in Coffee Bean with no one to watch your laptop….the best excuse.

I got it in my head that I needed a job.  A job away from writing, something different that I could use my gift of gab, and my whimsical persuasion for. Suddenly sitting in an office seemed really appealing.  I was beginning to envy my friends who do this responsible sort of work.  I could get paid for my efforts. I could afford stuff. Who doesn’t want more stuff? Basically I just wanted to get dressed every day in heels.

So my friend suggested I take a job interview for an up and coming manufacturing company as a salesperson. I was really excited about the thought of convincing people to buy face products. It was an easy sell. All I had to do was schmooze a bunch of Dermatologists to buy a regimen of skin care that they could put their own private labels on. I’m picturing myself sauntering into a Doctor’s office and chilling with the receptionist. I’m picturing lunch dates. I’m picturing free moisturizer! Plus I get to go to the shows and try hundreds of samples.  This seemed like a great gig. 

I drive down to the warehouse, which is deep in the valley. No one was wearing heels there.  Let’s just say that the “Office” on TV was more dressed up than this one.  It wasn’t a tall building on Wilshire Blvd or Century City. It was a warehouse. In the Valley. Near other warehouses.  The sales manager who was interviewing me asked for a resume, which I did not bring. Mostly because, I don’t do résumé’s, and I don’t do work. Well not conventional work at least.  I’m a writer! (Was a writer)?  So I put my best sales person thing on. I can do sales. I’ve done sales.  I’ve sold tons of stuff. I’ve sold diamonds, costume jewelry, Amway, (don’t judge me), Hairpieces, I even once sold hats and Styrofoam heads for wig wearers.  I can do this job. Easy as pie. Then they ask me, “Can you use a computer? What about making websites?” Sure I can use a computer, I can’t make websites, but I can use Final Cut, oh and I-movie. Do you guys need a movie?  I can do that. Not exactly what they were looking for.  Final Draft? 

Despite the fact that I didn’t pass the regional sales manager’s test because I didn’t touch, smell or feel the product he subtly left on his desk, they offered me the job. I was ecstatic, despite my inability to have a track record of working in corporate America for Neutrogena, Bristol Meyers, or Dove for umpteen years. What was this awesome job? Turned out it was a telemarketing position. It required me to sit in a chair for 8 hours with a headset making calls to Dermatologists. There would be no lunch dates, no chilling with the receptionist, just me in my flats sitting in a cubicle while calling people with a script (that I didn’t even write!). 

I drove home and pondered this position. The money was decent. The people were so nice.  I so wanted to want to do this. I so wanted to be able to do this. I so wanted to picture myself doing this. But all I kept thinking was, maybe if I took this position it would give me great material for a really decent pilot. 

Then I remembered “The Office”.  Damn Greg Daniels, who already had the audacity to create that show.

And so, I’m sitting in Coffee Bean writing this article, with my journal opened, my memoir awaiting, and my script half written with yet another scene listening to some guy sitting next to me who is pitching his book idea to a publisher. 

I just hope I won’t have to pee. 


**I do want to thank my friend for the referral, and for the company taking the time to interview me.  I really wanted to want this. I really really wanted to want this. But writing chooses you.  Like a sick life sentence, it chooses you.

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