I’ve been struggling this week to figure out what to talk about. Not a lot has changed since last week and so what to do? How do I keep this fresh.
And then it occurred to me: this is an achievement problem.
I was thinking about creators I know and respect and they always seem to have something to talk about- some project to tout. And it isn’t as though I have nothing: Check my film’s new imdb listing, for instance. It’s called WoodMan in case you’re having trouble googling. I mean I could hot link it here but whatever. You know how to go to imdb.com and search for my name, right?
Also, I finally got some new (long overdue) headshots taken. My photographer friend WendyD snapped a bunch of pics of me this past week and I can’t wait to see them and show them off! My on camera agent will be pleased. Perhaps I’ll get cast in things again with a more accurate photographic representation of myself to- you get the picture (GET THE PICTURE? GET IT!? (terrible)).
But despite that, there’s always that lingering sense of ‘I got nothin.’
Perhaps all creators feel that. Perhaps even the most prolific generators think they’re kind of between projects, spinning their wheels. Perhaps that feeling, more than most others, is what motivates a creative person to generate something. The problem occurs when one finds oneself thinking, what can I promote today? One has this weekly blog, and one feels an obligation to discuss the exciting things one is doing with oneself but the most consuming activity in one’s life is the painting of one’s room and the (likely futile) attempt to score Alcatraz tickets last minute for April 13. Super. One feels like one is uncreative, unproductive, dull. And everyone else is a nuclear space fire ablaze with ingenuity and charisma.
But I don’t have nothing.
WoodMan is set to meet on Sunday evening to discuss our festival year, so hopefully I’ll have more news about that in the weeks to come, and I’ve been generating a lot of new ideas for scripts, so I’m hoping, too, that several new stories will emerge from me over the next half year. It’s been a week of solid auditions, which I know will inevitably lead to exciting work, if not this week then next, or the next or the next.
So I suppose what I was feeling today was the space between all this stuff. The space can feel like a void. You can see everyone else’s book, or film, or script, or painting and think, “what the hell? All I have going for me is some blog and a proclivity for Bubble Witch 3,” successfully comparing, in other words, everyone else’s public achievements with my own private anxiety. It’s clear, again and all of a sudden, how unfair that is to myself.
So with the burden of that false comparison lifted, and eyes wide to the possibilities and wonders before me, I shall set out this week to begin. To pursue the wisps of creative filament that wink on and off in the periphery.
One is never certain if an idea is truly good or not.
Goodness knows in my life I’ve made numerous artistic and professional choices that I thought at the time quite brilliant, and that went utterly nowhere. And conversely, things I never much thought about at all have garnered me praise and reward I never expected over what, artistically, I considered at the time to be inconsequential at best. In sum, I’ve completely given up trying to make a determination for myself as to what constitutes the ‘Good Idea’ and what is just junk.
I’m certain, that said, that some gems lie in the junk heap of my discarded creativity. My own personal cutting-room-floor. But moving forward from the strips of unseen tape upon which lie my brilliant death in Dark Angel and my gawking bewilderment on Supernatural, and from my scrawled brilliance on so many crumpled napkins is an inevitability. We can only move forward. Dwelling on the past – even on the successes of nominations and notoriety – is a pathway to self-loathing in the end. No one wants to be the chump who can only point to things from long ago when the spotlight hits and the audience is asking for what’s new.
I have boxes and boxes of writing. Much of it will never be of any use ever again. And much will never be of use at all, having never been shared, performed, or produced in any way. This writing is no longer an asset, and has become a mere souvenir of who I used to be. I have wasted years delaying my grief over this, instead convincing myself at routine intervals that someday I’ll hire someone to digitize it, or that someday someone will beg to see it all for some memoir that no one is likely to ever want to write about me. I need to mourn for these lost ideas, else they become anchors lodged in history, too heavy for my fragile ship as it struggles ever forwards.
If unshackle myself totally from the ideas that have shaped me – Comedian, Movie Star, Wealth Deyond Dreams, Writer of Reknown – then what is left of me?
The argument has always been it’s in my blood or it’s just who I am. But these arguments no longer carry me forwards. They are the arguments one needs to get started, and to overcome the barriers one sets up for oneself between ordinary teenager and artist. I am an artist now. I have been for some time. But I’ve been a slave to a notion of myself that’s based on exterior perception. What kind of artist do I want to be? Well that’s still the right question, though the answers I have given (a famous one, a rich one, an eternal and undeniable one) are all designed to inoculate me from work. The answers are more like: a dedicated one; one who forges new material; a fallible, vulnerable, mortal one. A creative one. One who works.
Do I want to continue to be an actor? Yes, of course. But I’d like to stop waiting around for the right producer to notice me and decide I’m perfect. Rather I would like to take each part as it comes and live in it completely, even if the only moment I get to be alive is at some crummy audition.
And a writer? Yes that too. But in this case I think it’s time I stop punishing myself for not always writing jokes as I used to, and instead engage with humble discovery.
These are the only two questions worth asking, as a creator: What’s next? and So what?
I ask the first question on a first pass, and the second question on a last pass. What’s next is expansive, a brainstorm, a playground. So what is contractive, a criticism, a butcher. Both these aspects are elemental to creativity, in order to find the new, and then render it clinically, with resonance. If you ask in the wrong order you get nowhere. I want to write about something. So what? No point I guess. What’s next? I guess nothing. But ask in the right order and you get DaVinci. You get Bowie. Rickman.
You get Art.
The realization I’m having now is that these questions are what drive us not just in creation, but throughout our lives, too. Our very existence is a kind of art. I’ve asked the questions of myself in the wrong order quite a lot in the last while. So what? No point. And so I shut down and try nothing before I get to question one. And so: What kind of artist do I want to be? The What’s Next kind. I want to be a creator from which people will not know what to expect, because I will not know it myself until faced with the very moment of creation. And what kind of person is that kind of artist? Wild guess. And that’s the hammer. Am I like that? Could I be? Only one way to know and that’s to try and bang in the very next nail.
So what’s on my mind lately?
Well, podcasts. I want to write a story and read it on a podcast, only I want you, the audience, to tell me what’s going to happen next. It might be hilarious, it could be sublime. And I won’t know, and that’s exciting. I began this process this week, and with some initial success. There’s a few introductory minutes of writing done, and I’ve collected a number of excellent suggestions from my fine followers on Twitter (I’ll call out whose ideas get used, of course). I’m not sure yet when this will come to fruition, but stay tuned. It’s what’s next. And it feels like a Good Idea.