Creativity, or at least perceived creativity, is a beautiful curse.
That might seem a tad over dramatic, but trying to dedicate your life to creative pursuits- like painting, or photography or in my case writing, is pretty much crippling. At least it should be if you’re serious about it.
For one, there is the never-ending self-doubt that comes with it. It isn’t an optional add-on, it is a compulsory part of trying to forge ahead being a creative. It overshadows everything. Even writing this blog-post is wrought with it. Every sentence and word I type is second-guessed and mulled over for way too much time, knowing that eventually the intention is to share it with you. Then there is the nagging voice asking the question; “who do you mean by you?” What if there is no you? What if this neurotic page of text is of interest only to me? Putting it out into the public domain might be pointless and if so, whom am I writing it for? Myself? Isn’t that just textual masturbation?
That’s another thing that continually crosses my overworked mind when I begin, or try to begin, a project; “what’s the point?” Not in any(real) morbid sense, like I feel that the our eternal struggle on this Earth is for nothing as we all end up dead and buried-or burnt-and so there is little to no point chasing any pursuits that may result in our superficial happiness, but in a sense of questioning what the work, my words, are saying. I’m always trying to find a deeper meaning for anything I write and when that desired social commentary is immediately clear then I immediately resort to thinking the piece is not fit for purpose. Even though, as is apparent already from the little I have so far managed to divulge, I am never really clear what its purpose was intended to be from the start.
The thought of sharing this blog is just as scary as the thought of sharing a story that I have written, or trying to convince a group of actors to play characters that I have created in a screenplay I try to turn into a short film. In each instance, what I am essentially doing is sharing and opening up myself to people. People whom I know, people that I am related to and people who I am yet to meet- and when you do that, then you are making yourself a little more vulnerable each time, you are sharing a little more from your insides and losing some of your privacy.
Melodramatic? Maybe, but it is essentially how creativity feels. Expressing yourself in any medium is surely a way of thrusting your heart- or at least a piece of it- into a public forum and allowing it to be judged and deconstructed and criticised and hated. And that is only if anybody cares enough to view or read or hear it. But there is also an egocentric part to creativity. The feeling, no matter how small (or large) it might be that people will love and revere and adore your work. They will lavish praise on it and in turn lavish praise on you, feeding your ego and perhaps making you believe that you are in fact what you always secretly hoped you were. Talented, unique and a voice that people relate and listen to. And if your ego drives you, does that not make you a slave to arrogance?
And so it goes. Round and round and round. Am I the romantic picture of a troubled and tortured artist, or am I an unconfident and insular gem waiting to be discovered, or am I a brash, egocentric character who needs to be in the public eye? Or am I none of those things? Am I simply a person who enjoys writing, creating, and who will join the legions of others who exist as writers and painters and photographers who never really make a splash in a hugely overcrowded pool?
I don’t know what would be worse. To create and make no real impact on the world, or to create for no other reason than external validation? Is that ego speaking or confused low self-esteem? I have no idea.
At the time of writing I have begun, well, writing. A novel to be precise. A form of writing that, during my primary school and early secondary school days, was how I spent most of my time. That was before I discovered screenplays and how entertaining they could be (I credit Pulp Fiction with being the screenplay that really changed my focus in life).
I had always loved films, but it wasn’t until the mid 90’s when Tarantino burst on to the scene and I was exposed to Reservoir Dogs, the aforementioned Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Natural Born Killers et.al that I REALLY fell in love with the medium. I saw a new kind of storytelling, provocative, hard, edgy and uncompromising and I felt compelled to do it myself. Actually, I don’t know if compelled is the right word. I remember watching those films and reading those screenplays and loving the worlds and characters so much that I just wanted more and more of it and so perhaps it was purely selfish reasons that I began to write screenplays, to create those worlds that I could visit again and again. Pure self-indulgent pleasure. And I fucking loved it. I would do it whenever I could, in fact the whole of my last two years at Secondary School were spent writing a screenplay called Castles made of Sand (named after a Jimi Hendrix song I had discoveredat the time). It wasn’t particularly well written or structured but it was far more entertaining to me than Maths, which is probably why I struggle with basic numeracy! After that, I had the bug and I wrote an equally unimpressive screenplay called Road to Nowhere. This story made up the entire (short) time I spent at College and, while it was pretty much rubbish, the themes and ideas formed the basis for the first screenplay I actually made into a film years later; ‘Losing Innocence’.
When we made ‘Losing Innocence’, it became clear to me how writing feeds writing. The film making process is its own beast and a whole different learning curve but that is potentially for another post, but writing – however bad or good or incomplete or badly structured, always finds its way. Ideas that are in old notes years later can become fully fledged themes to build a story around and from the point of Losing Innocence I knew that no time spent writing was time wasted IF writing was what I indeed wanted to do. That is why there are countless half-finished screenplays on my laptop and many more half-baked ideas jotted down in the selection of notebooks that sit next to my computer.
This novel that I am in the process of writing, is another example of how writing has fed the process of writing. Two years ago, I began imagining an idea for a novel, a medium of creative writing that I hadn’t attempted for a while and- as I was sitting stewing over what I perceived as writers block (although it was more than likely that age old enemy of any creative- procrastination) I decided that throwing myself back into it might just help me find my mojo again. Initially I decided to take a loose screenplay idea that I had begun and change it into a novel. A story about a young girl and her father reconnecting after the death of the mother in a fantasyland full of mythical creatures and creations accessed through her mirror. But it didn’t take long for me to realise how much I was simply plagiarising C.S. Lewis and attempting to force myself to write in a genre that I really had no interest in investing in. So I left it, just over one chapter and countless notes amongst the many others in a folder named “writing” on my desktop.
And then last year I returned to it. The idea of writing a novel had always stayed with me, despite me finishing the screenplay for our latest short films Climbing Trees and beginning a future project Safely to Shore in that time, and I opened up the old file and scanned the pages that I had written. What struck me was, despite the direction that the original concept and notes had intended to take the story in, none of what was actually on paper was committed to it. It was just a start and a start could lead anywhere. A spark could cause a fire. And it was this that reignited my desire to write the novel.
I decided, unconsciously at first, to just write without pressure. No notes, no pre-determined direction and no deadline, nothing. Just a title,’ ‘Chasing Amy’ and the pleasure and enjoyment felt from actually writing it. If some of what I wrote was/is crap, then I would deal with it at a later date, for now all I wanted to do was write. And this has fed not only the story but other ideas too. ‘Safely toShore’ would not be so close to completion if it weren’t for passages written in ‘Chasing Amy’ and vice-versa. In fact, when I look at things now, there is so much that has come out of writing without pressure. Not only have I put myself in a position to hopefully complete two short films this year- I managed not even one in 2017- but I am filled with a more positive feeling about my writing than I have been for years.
‘Chasing Amy’ might NEVER get finished. It may never be read. It may be total shit and be laughed at by anybody who is (un)lucky enough to come across it. It might change my life. It might allow me to earn a living from being what I want. It might inspire others to try their hand at sharing their passion. It just might…be.
I asked earlier what would be worse, to create and make no real impact on the world, or to create for no other reason than that external validation.
Writing this I actually think that what would be worse would be to not create at all.