Do creative people "have a core of fierce insecurity inside of them that's so profound that they see any legitimate praise as a form of sycophancy"?
[I] wonder if creative people have a core of fierce insecurity inside of them that's so profound that they see any legitimate praise as a form of sycophancy? As a creative professional, I am wracked with various insecurities but they've never spilled over into a belief that people "want" something from me if they tell me they like my work.
First: If you're not already reading that blog, dooo eeet. Easton doesn't post often -- unlike most of us Netizinians, he has a life -- but when he does, it's inevitably memorable and intelligent stuff. He has a lot to say about the "geeks of color" issue (I hate that term, but it's more or less all we have), and how too much of the time being a) black and b) nerdy turn out to be problematic. What's worse is how the problems don't stem from society at large, but from other blacks, or, worse, other nerds.
One of the fandom groups I'm in that meets up locally has a heartening mix of both ethnicity and gender, but I have to remind myself that a lot of people don't get this lucky, and that it's also not about what I do in the safety of my own clique. It's also about challenging this stuff whenever its stupidity rears its head in front of you.
But this post revolved around something else -- namely, the problem of meeting your heroes, and finding that maybe they weren't worthy of heroism. Or, as he noted, what happens when you meet them and find that they seem more interested in being flattered than simply being connected with.
Bill Watterson: "No upside for me" in adapting Calvin & Hobbes to animation. I agreed.
... coming at a new work requires a certain amount of patience and energy, and there’s always the risk of disappointment. You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic.
... I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes. If you’ve ever compared a film to a novel it’s based on, you know the novel gets bludgeoned. It’s inevitable, because different media have different strengths and needs, and when you make a movie, the movie’s needs get served. As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to. There’s no upside for me in adapting it.
I admire the hell out of this man. Not just because he stands his ground, but because he understands why his position has been worth sticking to.
If someone offered me the chance to adapt one of my works into another medium, I'd consider it. But the medium, and the degree of control I'd have over the resulting product, would be paramount. I don't think Flight of the Vajra would work as anything less than a miniseries, but it would need the budget of a feature film -- ergo, it would be all but unfilmable. Maybe if it were animated (he said, watching Mr. Watterson flinch).
When your only marketing system is for marketing blockbusters, what happens to everything that's not a blockbuster?
Q: I think my friends are most familiar with the blockbuster formula playing out in movies, and my sense is that they hate it. They see big loud sequels and adaptations taking over and they want to know who to blame. So who's to blame?
A: There are a number of people who are negative about blockbusters, and that surprises me. Put yourself in the mind of an executive. They know everybody pays the same amount for a movie, whether the studio invested $10 million or $300 million. To complain about studios overspending is odd, because the price of the ticket doesn't change. In what other industry do we complain about companies increasing their spending when they don't raise prices? In video games, it's the opposite. People are thrilled when companies spend more on the next [Grand Theft Auto].
Thing is, they're right. It is easier to get your money back by making one big movie and promoting the hell out of it than it is to make a bunch of little ones and hope to your lucky stars that one of them touches off. What you lose by doing so, though -- and what you lose invisibly, without a murmur -- is another story.
That's what's not mentioned in this interview: how the blockbuster mechanism has the bad tendency to drive out all other forms of getting creative work in front of people. This means any movie (or book, or record) that doesn't work as a blockbuster has to either be deceptively marketed -- which typically kills its commercial prospects dead -- or marketed outside the blockbuster system, which means it's lucky to get a little word of mouth before petering out. There's got to be better ways.
But when all you have is a hammer, I guess everything has to be driven like a nail.
With all the things that make demands on what little spare time we have, is it a surprise that sitting still and looking at words on a page gets pushed down and down?
Not long ago I was talking to some folks about the problems of being an author (sadly, the Jeremiad that came from my mouth made it sound like being an author was nothing but problems), and one of the things that popped out, unbidden, seems to have been spot-on. The problem with being a writer -- and, by extension, most any kind of creator -- is not just that you're in competition with other writers currently alive. You're competing with every other writer that ever lived, too, because the same systems that deliver readers your work with the touch of a button also deliver all of theirs as well.
Wait, it gets worse (I added). You're also in competition with every other creative figure that wants to monopolize someone's time -- every video game, every movie, every tabletop game, every board game, every TV show, every Sudoku puzzle and crossword, every magazine article and newspaper headline.
On the concept of the wasted (artistic) opportunity.
Projection time: You ever come out of a movie fuming and gnashing your teeth, and when your pal asks you what gives, you groan, "God, what a wasted opportunity!" and then spend your walk back to the parking lot (and a good stretch of the ride home) iterating a laundry list of ways the film could have been oh so much better?
I will let you briefly cast your minds adrift and recall any such recent letdowns. For some, it was Man of Steel; for others, it was Pacific Rim; for me, it was both New Trek films. Your money and mileage will vary. (MoS and PR were fine movies, if also flawed in endearing and stimluating ways.)
Now, I say "projection time" not because of the gizmo at the back of the theater, but because a) I've done this sort of Gedankenexperiment more times than I can count (no, really, now?) and b) I'm just dumb enough to assume most everyone else with two hemispheres to bang together does it also. It's not bad movies, or books, or records, or what have you, that drive me this bonko; it's wasted ones. A great concept, a memorable setting, a striking character -- those things can all be easily profaned with the most unworthy hands.
But the whole concept of waste is is subjective, and that's why talking about it as a general aesthetic issue is such a man-trap.
If the right thing was intuitive, everyone would already be doing it.
The other day my friend Steven Savage was pulling out fistfuls of his hair over the fact that so much of the most valuable advice he felt he had to pass on to fellow creators seemed like, well, just plain common sense. Intuitive was the word that came to mind, and I said something along the lines of, "If the right thing was intuitive, everyone would already be doing it."
The right thing is only occasionally intuitive. Most of us do not set ourselves on fire because there are immediate and terrible disincentives: pain, disfigurement, death, all that fun stuff. But many of us engage in, say, bad financial behavior -- this was one of the litany of things Steven felt creators needed to know most about and often don't -- because the negative incentives for doing so are often delayed enough that we have no instinctual aversion to them. (Plainer English: we overspend on our credit cards because our credit cards don't turn red and explode when we do so. Maybe they should.)
Mr. T-isms aside, know who you are and where you're going. If you don't, the consequences to your creativity can be dire.
Rather than get bogged down in the mire of the government shutdown (my Canadian friends are all gently shaking their heads in dismay), I'll turn to other matters.
Joyce Cary (of The Horse's Mouth, first his novel and then later an Alec Guinness film) was wont to say that once a writer has achieved his own vision of life he will never run out of things to write about. Elizabeth Lawrence, Cary's American editor, put it this way about Cary himself: "He know who he was and where he was going."
Both are essential; neither are a given.
When you call yourself a creator and yet lack for either of those things, there's much thrashing about for an identity. Some end up taking on a second-hand identity -- identifying with a movement, or sporting a fashion, or attempting to exploit a trend, or doing something even dumber.
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Uncategorized / General for the month of October 2013.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind