No doubt one of the reasons Being John Malkovich was successful is because he’s a famous actor and people allowed themselves to believe they were entering his actual mind.
The fact I’m not yet famous might make this less compelling, but I can offer a peek into my brain. Being Aviva Rubin.
Monday October, 17, 2011, 5:00 pm was the Ontario Arts Council deadline for the Works in Progress grants. I’d known about it for months. I’d been preparing for it while doing other things, important things like holding the light bulb while my girlfriend stood on the ladder to change it, trying to figure out Facebook changes and giving up, picking apples, taking inventory of what’s on my desk, noting how long a well-done pedicure lasts, watching Dexter, getting rejected, blogging, writing clever e-mails, repenting for my sins, and figuring out the secret to happy, long-lasting relationships.
I have a bad habit of reading submission guidelines at the last minute. Prior disappointments ought to drive change but I seem to hold to the belief that learning lessons and changing accordingly, makes life less interesting, less fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-ish. Or, maybe it’s pathological.
In my defense, I didn’t leave everything to the last minute this time. I checked with Arts Council staff person Helen Floros. I thought we understood each other about what was required in the 40-page submission. Working on the assumption that the horse’s mouth is superior to its master's paper, I prepared accordingly.
When I read the instructions three days before the deadline it turned out all 40 pages had to come from the manuscript. No sample filler allowed.
I called the horse back .
I badly wanted it to be Helen’s fault. But it was, as usual, mine. I got off the phone and attempted to finish my ¾-baked piece, thinking people write entire novels in a weekend. But I gave up, and reconciled myself to the next deadline, in February.
So where’s the John Malkovich part, you’re wondering? Well that comes when I wake up Monday morning. Turns out the reconciling I did with myself on Friday was no longer binding:
9:10 – back from dropping Ari at School
Glance at the application form on the desk, look away, look back. Fuck why did I do this? Why didn’t I read directions two weeks ago? What if this is my jury, the one that loves memoir? What if this was the one grant I was going to ever get? Maybe there’s time. What about lunch with Bridget and Ann at 1:00? Forget that. No, forget the grant. It’s not going to happen. It’s ok.
9:37 Hey Tracey posted a short piece for comments. I’ll edit that quickly and send it back. Am I being too critical? Will she be hurt?
10:03 This piece isn’t bad (my piece, I’ve switched back). I’ll fill out the application form. I’ll keep editing. I can do this. I can totally do this.
12:05 It all needs to be one document – blind jury, no names…need a fake name, a new Jewish name Shoshana Blumberg – no good. Cover sheets, font, spacing, edit, edit, edit, print. It’s good. It sucks. It’s good. It sucks. There’s time. There’s no time. E-mail Bridget “sorry can’t make lunch.”
12:46 Send the piece to girlfriend. Can you read please? Just tell me, yes or no. Why doesn’t she want to make the decision? I think it’s ready. Print cover page. Edit, edit.
1:12: Pull girlfriend’s response out of girlfriend. “Not ready”. Better to do it well, better to do it better. Change clothes. Maybe Bridget and Ann are still eating.
1:37 Catch ass-end of lunch. I could have had a nice sandwich. I should do this more often. Lunch out is nice. Drive Ann home, tour of new kitchen drawer knobs. I could be writing, I shouldn’t have left home.
3:14 Back at desk. I should have, I should have. I could have. Maybe there’s still time. Sarah Finklestein – no. There’s no time.
5:00 Deadline. End of discussion
8:30 Conversation with Ingrid. “So did you do it?” Noooooooo. I should have tried. Maybe if I’d just changed the font I could have stretched my 33 pages to 40. Arial instead of Times New Roman. I should have. I could have. Shut up. February is my jury. February is MY jury. This is all good.
And don’t think it ended there...