Living the Dream :: Cleaning Part II

(Continued from Living the Dream: Cleaning Part I…)

Material, or intellectual property, is your trump card in Hollywood, especially for a director. (Ahem, female director). If the script is good, the writing top notch – a page turner – and fills the hole in the marketplace, then that script becomes a girls’ best friend.

Now let me pause for a moment and also say, 15 years ago I was grossly aware of the “lack of female directors” thing. (Read my entry on Pre-visualization for more) Throughout film school it was always a topic of discussion … but the thing that got me, the thing I analyzed more than anything else is, why? Why do we not have a bigger bucket of talent to choose from on the vagina side of things? This was my true thesis at film school, to find an answer.

And the answer I found was: an economic one.

At the end of the day, it costs more to be a woman. Yep, you heard me. Biologically speaking, relationship speaking, motherly speaking, etc. (And if you want to debate this, bring it on.) On top of that, women are really good at cleaning up other people’s messes, I mean they’re really good at being “the assistant” or “the producer” because we have a disposition to fix things, problem solve, and mother. Disagree with me all you want, but this is absolutely the case. There’s nothing sexy about it. And to be a director, you need to be sexy. Simple as that.

Take for example my friends. All guys. It used to be I had a few girl friends with me, on the front lines, but now its mostly dudes, all of us scraping by just to maintain living out here. They can afford it though. Their health can, their biological clock can, their relationships can. They don’t need to go shopping, get their hair colored, etc, just to keep up. They can pull it off with the “dark and mysterious starving artist” look. (Case in point, Project Greenlight. I was a finalist last year – don’t even get me started). You’d be insane to stay out here, especially if you’re a woman who yearns to be a mother someday. Which, many of my friends secretly want, even though none of them admit it. (Says the girl with four kids.)

Not only this, but every female guest speaker who came into those golden gates at USC; showrunners, producers, agents, executive, a couple directors, etc. all said one thing in common: “Whatever you do, don’t let go of your vision of who you want to be in this town.”

Bam.

Enough said.

So back to my discovery of this app called Airbnb. In short, the game-changer. I did whatever I had to do, to pay the bills and keep writing.

10,000 hours right? That’s what they say is the minimum amount required to be an expert at something. I needed to put in a lot more hours if I ever wanted to get into this club. I knew that and still know it. I have to be quicker, better, and more clever than the competition.

Back then, if it meant staying at my parent’s homes for long periods, I would do it, if it meant staying at a hotel in Utah to be with my kids and have lower cost of living, I would do it. If it meant sleeping in my car and showering at the community pool, I would do it. I would do whatever it took to keep my kids the number one priority as well as my writing.

I decided to hold onto this mantra and never let go.

And thank goodness I did.

Because the most extraordinary thing happened; I became a cleaning lady. Ha

I soon realized I could average more money per day if I kept the cleanings rather than farm them out. So commit to the cleanings I did, and continue to do so. Humbling for sure. But there is a gift in cleaning, something so brilliant you’d never see it coming – the work you’re doing is in auto-pilot – it’s a mindless, non-emotionally exhausting money maker, the best kind of job ever for a writer/creator.

Your mind gets lost in the worlds you’re creating, for hours. So much of writing is working things out, chewing on things. Committing those ideas to the page is definitely an obstacle, but if you know where your story is going, its much easier. I can make money and work on my craft.

Win, win baby!

And hey, breaking a little sweat while cleaning never hurt a writer either. Being sedentary is a no-go, so cleaning forces me to get off my bootie and kick it into physical gear.

I will write more on my airbnb adventures as we go along, but for now know this:

• Being in control of your time is the key to succeeding as an artist.

• Having residual income (even if its not a lot) is still better than nothing, and allows the tortoise part of you brain, the creative side, to expand and create. (Stress is the number one killer to creativity, so lack of consistent income is a doozy for us writers.)

• Focusing on your personal relationships, my kids, is stimulating and life fulfilling. I don’t know how anyone can create without strong relationships surrounding you, feeding you, reminding you why you chose this life path.

I now have an adorable 1950’s home in Utah, truly a dream come true, which is less than a mile from my kids’ schools, and two more airbnb’s here in LA, all of which are booked nearly every day I’m not in them. My older kids clean The Utah Bungalow, teaching them work ethic, saving, and to remain focused on their studies. (Not to mention, building a nice stash for college and/or a car.)

Someday I hope to have a dozen of homes I own that I can host from. Home sharing isn’t going away anytime soon, despite the negative chatter. If you think about it, it’s always been around. Until then, I’ll continue cleaning and hosting, affording myself the time to write and keep creating.

Do you have any other ideas or solutions on how to create residual income? Please share! I think it’s important we artists ban together, keeping our village strong.

More on this in other posts!

x and tales,

AEJ

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