So this has been a rather interesting week in the whole “uncover your creative self and let’s get moving” philosophy I’ve developed over the past few weeks. Well not so much interesting in a “really, you can cross a passionfruit with a camel” kind of way, more in a “goodness but I’m an idiot” kind of way.
See I somehow thought I could write a blog whose focus was on my creative recovery and writing a screenplay, that wouldn’t be “personal”. You know, more analytical, less discussing why I keep falling over at the first hurdle and settling down for a nice glass of wine and a packet of Doritos.
I’m not particularly comfortable with the whole personal level of this blog. I’m very good at putting on a veneer of politeness and laughing my way through uncomfortable social interactions. Being open and honest about feelings etc is something that I did years ago and it brought me a whole world of pain. I much prefer to sit and smile and crush all those pesky emotions and feelings into a nice tight Genie Bottle and leave them their to fester. Of course they don’t really do much but give me heartburn, but at least their not wandering around the minds and memories of my fellow earthlings.
Earlier this week, the media reported the death of Maurice Sendak, the author of “Where The Wild Things Are” and I was saddened to hear the news. I hadn’t thought of that book in decades, but on hearing of his death, I was reminded of something. When I was little, it was one of the books my mother used to read to me. It was one of two books that set my four year old brain on fire and made me want to write.
I didn’t understand what writing was back then, but between Where The Wild Things Are and a book I still have called My Sometime Soon Book, the flames of desire took hold that I’ve spent years running away from. I can remember being so caught up in the imaginary world those books provided that I announced quite honestly and with absolute conviction that when I was a grown up I would write books too.
Of course, as you already know that hasn’t happened yet. I’ve even moved away from the idea of novels – for now – and centred on writing screenplays. But it was through the imagination of both those authors my own was born.
I can remember not long after that, being about 4 or 5 and sitting at my Aunts house with cousins by the dozen, my Grandfather and my Uncle asking us all what we wanted to be when we grew up. All my male cousins wanted to be plumbers, policemen, firemen or in the Air Force. My female cousins wanted to be hairdressers or teachers. When my turn came I announced I wanted to be a Pirate. It made perfectly logical sense to me. I wanted a Parrot. Pirates had Parrots therefore I needed to be a Pirate to have a Parrot. It was the first time I was told to stop being ridiculous and have a proper job like everyone else in my family like being a plumber. Everyone always needed a plumber.
Of course, not long after the proof that I was an alien in my family had been announced by my Uncle, I went right back to wanting to be a writer – although between you and ,I being a writer was secondary to being a Pirate, I didn’t give up wanting a Parrot until one pooed on me one day, that was the end of my love of Parrots and subsequently Pirates – and kept it a quiet hidden dream from all but my parents. If my family couldn’t accept me wanting to be a Pirate, I had no doubts what they’d think of me wanting to write stories.
Many years later, on the way to that same Aunts house, that same Uncle in the car with us, he asked me again what I wanted to be now I was older and soon to leave school. I told him I wanted to be a journalist or a novelist. School had pretty much sucked many levels of non-awesomeness for me and while I was a straight A student I never tried and spent most of life trying not to be noticed by my peers. Anyway, my deliciously supportive Uncle – he was my mothers Uncle – told me I was an idiot.
Actually what he told me was I had dreams above my station in life. That I should stop being such a dreamer and leave school, get an apprenticeship as a plumber and get a real mans job. That if I continued on my path of dreaming about would never happen, I’d end up dead in a gutter, broke, unloved and unnoticed, an embarrassment to the family and a creature pitied and laughed at. He also told me that all my life I’d been strange – if only he knew – and that I needed to fit in.
Something went pfft that day, and 21 years later I can still hear him in my head and when I write. I’m not saying one old man can derail a life, not by a long shot. We all believe what we want to believe I guess. There are dozens of those people in my head. School “chums”, teachers, past friends, who told me I’d never amount to anything. It was my choice to believe them or prove them wrong. Back then I didn’t have the courage or the commitment to prove them wrong. Now I aim, not to prove them wrong at all, but to prove myself right.
I believed in myself back then, in the way all children do. I believed I could have anything I wanted – even a Parrot – but somewhere along the road, I chose to believe they were right, they knew better and I shouldn’t even try. I mean honestly, who wants to be an object of ridicule, dying in a gutter without a cent to his name and no one to mourn his death by getting fall drunk at his wake?
I believe now the world is made up of those who believe in themselves, and those who allow others to dictate what they will believe. I gave up on my dreams a long time ago. I make no further excuses about that. I chose to listen to them, not the people who supported my own beliefs. I guess it’s easier to believe those who crushed their own goals and dreams, rather than make believing in the dreams of which you have no real proof are correct beyond a burning desire tucked away in your gut somewhere.
I guess what I’ve learned this week is there will always be people who want to keep you down, who don’t want to see you succeed as much as you do. I’ve learned that my writing is a personal belief that I need to hold onto with all my strength, through the easy roads and the hard ones. No one will write my movies, my novels or my shopping lists but me. I also realised this week that I have written nothing of substance in over 6 years. The last 6 years I’ve written a few blog posts here and there, a film review or two, but nothing that will bring my life to where I want it to be.
Remembering where the flame came from today seems like the universe giving me a gentle nudge, a moment of reflection that said “This is where it was born, just because you pushed it away doesn’t mean it went anywhere. It’s time to write. So do it. And stop worrying about exploring your emotions, or writing about them in a way that exposes fears and foibles. That’s life after all.”
So in closing I want to say thank you to Maurice Sendak, for opening a child’s imagination to the wonders that live within all of us. I want to say Thank you to whoever wrote “My Sometime Soon Book” for showing that a little boy can be anything he can imagine. And I want to say Thank You to my parents who always and in all ways have supported me no matter what I wanted to do when I “grew up”.