Filmmaker, artist, and author Miranda July wrote an excellent new book exploring the creative process, the disjointedness of Los Angeles living, and the growing divide between the digital haves and have nots. Technically It Chooses You came out last November, but I recently finished it and feel compelled to recommend it here for any one who has ever struggled to finish a project. July recounts her studies in procrastination while she avoids finishing the screenplay for her latest film, The Future. Her procrastination propels her on a journalistic adventure across Los Angeles interviewing individuals who list items for sale in the weekly PennySaver ads.
So…yeah, when Miranda July procrastinates on her screenplay the result is a fascinating account of a disparate group of Angelenos whose sole commonality is not using computers. A book, people! I procrastinated in writing this post and all I’m left with is half a jar less of peanut butter and a newly color-blocked bookshelf, which actually is kind of nice. But any writer can relate to her frustration, “I was jealous of older writers who had gotten more of a toehold on their discipline before the web came.” July delves fully into her distraction and conducts interviews ranging from a teenager in Paramount selling bullfrog tadpoles to a Greek immigrant in Lakewood who can’t bear to throw away the photo albums of deceased strangers. Photographer Brigitte Sire documents the people and their spaces, lending insight into their fascinating worlds.
As July conducts more interviews, they inform her work on the screenplay as well as her own relationship to marriage and children. “The moral of these people was clear to me: if you spend your life endlessly cruising around the world, never stopping to plant children on dry land, then when you die some Greek woman you don’t even know will become the steward of your legacy.” A Burbank man selling only the fronts of Christmas cards inspires a pivotal scene in The Future in which the man himself advises the lead character on sustaining love. Ultimately, the efforts of July’s procrastination become the missing link for finishing the script as well as leaving her with a wealth of material for this next project. I can’t wait to see what comes of my dalliances in power sanding…
Pick up It Chooses You for the writers in your life. Consider it an unfussy Valentine’s Day present. I think Ms. July would approve.