@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Hello, Old Friend
“It’s your old friend, the comma splice,” it’s a note written on a lengthy treatment for a screenplay from a former college professor. Comma splices… yes… my old enemy… my old friend.
Comma splices are: When you join two independent clauses with a comma and no conjunction, it’s called a comma splice. Some people consider this a type of run-on sentence, while other people think of it as a punctuation error. Here’s an example of a comma splice: Koala bears are not actually bears, they are marsupials.
By the time I was in college, I was already a pretty talented writer. Writing had been a first love of mine. As was story telling. And due to positive conditioning, it would become something I’d get better and better at. With increased interest in my work (mostly from teachers), my pride in being a wordsmith only grew. This activity had become a passion. In school, I never looked forward to tests (in fact, I still suffer from nightmares about going to take a test I didn’t study for). Essays, however, I didn’t dread at all and often looked forward to writing them.
It’s not so unusual I formed bonds with my writing teachers and professors. I was never interested in being cool or even well liked by my peers, but my teacher’s approval was a different story. Especially those who graded my essays and stories. From a young age, I concluded that whatever I did with my life, I wanted it to involve as little math as possible. Math was and is my sworn enemy. I hate math. Even simple math makes me angry because my brain is no good with numbers. And that’s just how it was. Even when I was little I accepted that I didn’t have a math brain and I didn’t even really care (besides getting bad grades) that I couldn’t comprehend formulas because I hated it so. It was as clear to me as anything some people have math brains and some don’t. This was especially clear to me because my older sister was (and is, as she’s an accountant) very good at math and I couldn’t multiply numbers in my head, even adding them was difficult. And when it came to any other subject, I had her beat. Lisa was a math student. I was an english student. This was the way.
It wasn’t until college that I learned about comma splicing. Specifically, that I was a serial comma splicer. In theory, I could argue that many of the great writers break grammar rules for their own style. True enough. But additionally, I hadn’t even learned what a comma splice was until college (thanks, High School teachers!). It was my creative writing professor at college who marked up my paper in red ink with all my comma splices. This, however, didn’t usually stop me from getting an ‘A.’ And the class kind of hated me because she also used my paper as an example of how creative assignments could be. It was almost as though the class let out an unanimous sigh when she said she was going to read/hand out copies the story I wrote. Mostly, I enjoyed this praise. But there were times I felt a little embarrassed too.
Fast forward. I was hell bent on a career as a writer… specifically a comedy writer for television. This is how I ended up in stand-up. But of course, stand-up is it’s own thing. Established New York Comedian, Nick Griffin, would take me under his wing to write a screenplay together. It is because of Nick that my work would be looked at by a big shot Hollywood manager whom I respect (and kind of fear?) highly. And this is when I knew that my writing needed further tooling.
So I hit up my former college professor. She read a 300+ novel I wrote and helped me edit before submitting it (this went no where). And while I’m sometimes hesitant to reach out to my now retired professor, she always responds with notes aplenty in a timely manner. “Your writing makes me think and laugh,” she writes, “stay in touch.” She is more of a friend than a teacher at this point.
And just like that I have a forever writing mentor. Someone I can throw material at and she can help me make it better. And she will point out all of my (many) comma splices, and refer to them as old friends.
Something else feels like an old friend to me. After 2020. After what was the worst year worldwide for a long time. After my stand-up career vanished overnight. After losing all my money. After losing hope and motivation. After almost losing my home. Everything felt… just… bleak.
It’s the new full time writing job the woke me from this existential haze. And that suddenly, New York, my forever home that started to feel sharp around all the edges, like it was squeezing me out in the most painful way possible, felt once again like it was holding me. The feeling of Home returned. The feeling of belonging came back. My wallet also came back, as I’m sure it will come and go many times in my life. I could put food on my own table instead of showing up at family members homes and eating all the chicken in their refrigerator like some sort of refugee. And something else was back too. Not over night. But over many nights. Motivation. Ideas. Creativity. All my old friends. They were returning to me now. Drive.
Hello, old friends. You don’t know how much I’ve missed you. I’m in my 30s now. This is supposed to be the decade I splash. My 20s were a mere practice. My time as a writer has yet to peak. Thank you for showing up. Let’s start, shall we?