I received a birthday wish yesterday from an author whom I respect and admire. On my 41st birthday I was feeling a little low and under-accomplished for a man of my age. When I received this short note I knew that I must have gotten the attention of this titan in my field and I felt enlivened and a bit proud.
The day from there was filled with mishaps, broken phones, and very lackluster meals I would not wish on an enemy; however, the company of my wife and the knowledge that so many friends had reached out to me yesterday was comforting and uplifting.
Still, something inside me continued to knead my all too easy to rile anger and it was not until I took a quiet 30 minutes and watched a lecture by Charlie Kaufman (one of my writing heroes) that I realized a bit of the truth.
Writing for someone who loves writing is likely much harder than for someone who does not love it. The self-scrutiny, perfectionist tendencies, self-doubt, and easy distractions make the road to writing successfully quite an obstacle course. Commercial success be damned, I want what I do to be something I love, something I find entertaining and engaging.
I was flattered and uplifted that someone of repute knows what the hell I do, and at the same time I do not do it for that reason alone. Yes, the audience is a symbiotic component of the process along with the work itself, yet the fulfillment comes from within.
As a theater director in my past I loved the sense of accomplishment that came with seeing the final product exist for that moment in time; well attended by audiences or not. The particular piece of time would be occupied by something, as we simply cannot stop moments in time from existing; therefore, according to Kaufman, we must fill them, and why not fill them with something honest, real, and helpful?
This is the truth about me and my pursuits as a writer and the reason my wife and I lead a fairly unconventional existence. It is about what drives us to fill our moments in time. We want to see as much of this planet as we can and we want to be able to indulge our passions in the process. To do this we cannot buy the family home or have the pension building jobs nor the perceived safety of gated spaces. We must be out on the path, nimble and adaptable. We must be honest with each other and ourselves and be accountable for this on a daily basis.
We live and travel to some places where people are so amazing and want us to stay close and build a quasi-family. I say this to all of them, we can and will be more your family because we are true to our calling than we could ever be confined to one place in one job while our precious few moments in time could be filled with new experiences, discoveries, and joys that make us the people we are.
Kaufman quoted a prominent writer last night who said, and I paraphrase here, that being completely the person you are while the world wants you to be the person it wants you to be is an enormous battle for an individual and a lifelong one. I have been struggling with going back down a controlled environment as times were challenging these past 6 months yet I know I will always leave the place of safety because without motion, without change, I will remain motionless and unchanged. There is no safety in stasis.
A very dear friend said to me last night that the greatest things are often built in times of great silence. I do not disagree, yet I have been silent long enough. I have likely screened the world and those I love from the deeper reaches of my being as to protect them from my own perceived darkness. I now believe this to be a disservice to those that love me and especially those that want to see the me they may know outwardly and intimately be the brave soul that bares himself to the wolves for community or self-sacrifice.
I was touched deeply by the film Shame I saw over my birthday weekend. Not because of its brutal sexuality or its exceptional character development. Rather, I was struck by the honesty the director had in his depiction of humanity. Outwardly beautiful people perceived to have it all can easily be imploding internally. This is what happens to us when we mask ourselves for what our mind says we need while our soul is left to fend for itself and only exposes itself in dreams.
The stuff of my dreams is the only truth I know and the truth I promise to share out on the road to individuality.