And We Were All Jessica (Thoughts from The Incredible Jessica James)


PHOTO CREDIT: @bluestlove


I’m a sucker for movies about writers. It is my guilty pleasure. [Though I make myself feel better by calling it research]. It’s like eating warm oatmeal on a rainy day, comfort food in the form of witty one-liners and quirky yet effective fashion statements. They make me feel like I’m not alone in this mercy-awful world of “art” because, at times, it can feel like I’m spending countless hours bleeding my soul onto a paper for nothing. Not even a pat on the back. But then I watch movies like The Incredible Jessica James, and it all seems worth it.


Hilarious, heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring. Those are just a few words to describe the experience. Jessica is a witty, confident, brutally honest playwright who is trying to get over her recent breakup while also striving to finally make it in the theater biz.


Now, before you scoff at this overused trope and close your browser, just put on the brakes for a minute and hear me out. Jessica James (not to be confused with a certain superhero) is one of the most unique characters I’ve ever seen. Her freedom with herself is so inspiring. From the first five minutes, I loved her so much I had to keep watching. But besides having a main character with a great personality, this movie had an important message. One that I think all of us creatives could use. There’s a scene where Jessica fangirls over Tony-award winning playwright, Sarah Jones, and she asks the infamous question: “when did you know you were gonna make it?” Jones considers Jessica, waiting on her heels for the answer, and hums in thought. After a beat, she says, “I’ll let you know when I get the memo.”


But wait! What does this mean? Is this woman not a Tony-award winning playwright? Does she not have accolades to her name to convince everyone else-- and herself--that she is in indeed, what we call, “a big shot”? Poor Jess is confused. But, in a little time, she realizes something. Something that many of us creatives struggle to accept in our die-hard efforts to succeed.


What does it even mean to “make it”? And how do we know when we are there? Writing and creating art is like trying to climb a mountain in flip-flops. It goes well for a while and you think you’ve succeeded, but then your flip-flops break and your feet are bleeding and it’s a big whole mess. For writers, you may publish a book or produce a play but never get signed with a professional agent again. Or you may publish a gazillion books or have your plays winning awards like clockwork, and yet that one special project keeps getting rejected. Chances like these make knowing when you’ve “made it” damn near impossible. And when you’ve hit roadblock after another finding the willpower to keep creating is hard.


In this swirl of confusion, the famous  Tony playwright went on to tell Jess: “It’s really about what theater means to you.”


And amid all the toils of Jess’ creative midlife crisis, she has a stark epiphany. That’s it! That’s what keeps you going. It’s about the pressure that bubbles up in your chest and soul when you have a story to tell and about the exhilaration you feel when you finally put that pen to paper and tell it. It’s about the words and smiles you receive from that one friend who read that one dusty piece you wrote, saw that one random sketch, and just “freakin’ loved it”. It’s about the personal connection to the world and the lives touched along the way. Accolades and professional recognition are just a plus.


If you’ve found what you love and you’re doing it. Then you’ve made it. And as I’m writing this, I know that I’m also doing what I love, so I guess I’ve made it too.