But that’s not what I want to write about. What I want to discuss here today is The Creative Process.* Not to sound all fancy and “I’m An Artist…IT’S WHAT I AM!” Nothing makes my skin crawl like listening to a young white male in a dress shirt and khakis talk about his Artistic Process. Let’s just assume all of us breathing and alive humans are artists. I thought I needed an Ivy League degree and/or a drug addiction to be taken seriously. BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE.
I have read many articles, books, quotes that make creativity seem like something very deep and complicated…and, (sigh)…OK…yes it’s true, I did read Robert McKee’s “STORY” (beautifully satirized in the film “Adaptation”) and I tried writing screenplays and…well, here I am.
Today I believe that all we need to write/create anything is to live…and by “live” I mean fall on your face so hard you have a permanent scar, chipped tooth, and pebbles indented in your skin. (I remember one time in Junior High I stepped into a trashcan on my way out of a classroom and did a belly flop/stomach slide into the hallway where I landed spread eagle in front of a group of boys…It’s actually a fond memory). Yes, I’m talking about FAILURE. You want to hear about a creative process? YOU WANT A REALLY GOOD STORY? GO AND WANT SOMETHING REALLY BAD, TRY AND THEN FAIL MISERABLY. There. You got it. Beginning. Middle. End.
Connecting to the obvious is harder than it seems, not because it’s hard, but because in our culture most young people aspire to some sort of casual, cool vibe…even about important or embarrassing things… It’s like, yeah, I just got fired/dumped/rejected I think I’ll go kill myself and yawn there’s a reality show on…OK, I’ll live. A lack of expressed passion passes for depth in a lot of American culture. (You can blame who you want but I place it on Brett Easton Ellis and maybe Buckowski and Hemingway…YEAH, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT HOW THEY’RE YOUR HEROES.)
Not to say I’m beyond any such indulgence. I wrote some very high quality pretentious jibber jabber in college…and well, now we have THIS BLOG that I REFUSE to take down or edit because I think, in part, it keeps me humble and kind of lame. Yes, I have typos and weird half-stories about pointless stuff and rants. Maybe I’m a saboteur or it’s more fun to just NOT be great…
But, yes, I can ALSO get fancy and showy, too. We all revert to our default state. I would say some of my “best” jokes are actually kind of cheap and mostly about what will guarantee get a laugh. (“My therapist says, ‘You have to kiss a lot of frogs.’ I’m like, thanks for telling me…all this time I’ve been sleeping with them!'” KABOOM!).
So, I have come up with some personal techniques I try to adhere to the following steps (for lack of a better word):
Step 1: Separate from everyone. Go live a monastic life in your head. FUCK EVERYONE ELSE. Not literally, just LET EVERYONE ELSE tell the same joke, write about the same thing…even if it’s clever (or a pun). FUCK THAT. WHAT DO I SEE? (I read this very interesting piece by an editor that proves that sometimes everyone around you can be wrong.) And then find the courage to express what you see.
Step 2: Find The Spark. I find that if I don’t have a sparkly feeling about an idea/joke it’s not worth my time. But how do you find the spark? I don’t know. Do a rain dance. Make an altar. One thing that has always worked for me is a nightmare heartbreaking end of a shitty relationship. I FEEL TERRIBLE BUT HERE COMES THE MUSE. But since I’d rather not go through that, I just lie on my couch and wait for sparks to fly in.
Step 3: Have fun. This is The Thing. I do find sparkly ideas. But I treat them poorly. I delete a lot of tweets, I bail on premises, I write a few scenes of a play and then say good-bye. I often don’t trust my instincts. I have a lot of shame issues that block me. The only reason some things make it to the light of day is because I’M LAUGHING. IT’S FUN. If it’s fun, I stop caring what people think. Of course this won’t work if you’re writing about the Uganadan genocide, but maybe you enjoy the PASSION of your emotion. The point is that when I am consumed by a project I rarely concern myself with “What will THEY (my mother) think?”
Step 4: I forgot…I’ll come back to it.
Step 5: Defend your child. People will say shit. Here are some gems I heard about my play: “It’s not ready, yet.” “It needs work.” “It’s kind of like a sitcom.” (That one was the worst). “Your lead character better be really HOT!” , “It’s very fluffy.” “If you want to act in it, YOU’LL HAVE REWRITE IT IN ORDER FOR IT TO MAKE SENSE WHY THE GUY WOULD LIKE YOU.” (Yes, that was said to my face)….Everyone is entitled to an opinion. But if you birthed a project that you love, LOVE… it is what it is and it will NEVER be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. Wait a second. No, perfection does exist. It’s just that usually, I don’t care…a lot of Academy Award winning movies come from well-structured screenplays and feature quality actors…and I haven’t seen a single movie nominated for an Oscar. (I’m sure they’re all fantastic…).
When I stopped attempting to find perfection, I started to have fun. This blog is riddled with mistakes, LOTS OF CAPS, passive voice and gerunds…BUT IT WAS REALLY FUN TO WRITE.
Just for today, I have a process.
* The irony of this whole blog is that the idea of “process” is kind of a running joke in my play. I think therapy messed me up more.