For those who follow me on Twitter, you know I’m reading a biography of legendary actress Bette Davis, The Girl Who Walked Home Alone by Charlotte Chandler. You also know I love it, that it’s the first biography I can recall reading, ever. I think I never got into biographies not because it’s uninteresting to learn about certain people, but because too often when I picked them up in the store, they were as much about the biographer as the famous or influential soul depicted.
Not so here. So far – meaning 44 pages in – there’s only been one writer intrusion. A hilarious line I’ve shared with at least one other person today at work: Bette Davis asked the author:
“Do you ever have writer’s block?”
“No, never,” I answered. “Only publishing block.”
Tell me that isn’t perfect!
Pleasurably, Bette comes across in this mostly dialogue driven piece – is that how most biographies are? I shall have to read a few more to compare – just as she does in the movies: strong, hilariously witty, full of opinions and sure of herself with just a hint of vulnerability. One that seems to enhance her chutzpah, not detract from it.
I’m in the section on Becoming An Actress, and she’s talking about how she always knew she wanted to be Somebody, that even when she was Nobody, she was an independent little Nobody. Strength, I increasingly find, is the true measure of a successful writer. Do you have the fortitude – though by all accounts Bette also had wonderful support in her mother Ruthie; something too few writers have even in this age of connectedness and ‘friends’ – to keep going? Can you find the time to make the sacrifices between making a living and making your dreams come true? Do you want it enough, believe in yourself enough to keep writing even when no one cares about your story?