With this entry I embark upon treacherous and uncharted seas -- I'm about to talk about my art without the benefit of cannabis. I don't do that very often, because I believe God's Goofy Green Goodness opens up my puny human mind in ways that are uniquely worthy of the discussion of art. But this time is sorta different.
My buddy and fellow writer Sparger sent me this link to a video, a talk by author Elizabeth Glibert on the nature of art and creativity and genius -- and the unfair pressure we artists impose upon ourselves. It's about twenty minutes long, but it is soooo worth your time, I promise...
As often happens with such things, Sparger couldn't have had better timing. As I sit uncomfortably in the middle of a two-month break between shows, Ive been thinking a lot about stuff like this. I realized a while back, after reading director Anne Bogart's brilliant (and reassuring) book A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art in Theatre, that what I do is not about A Career or A Body of Work. It's not about Accomplishment or Achievement. It's just about doing good work. Just showing up and doing my job. The stakes are no longer so high for me.
I no longer believe that every piece of work I do has to be better than the one before it. I no longer have to "top" myself with each show or each book. It just has to be a serious, honest effort to say something of value in an interesting way. That's all. If it's a flop, then I'll learn some lessons from it. And if it's an incredible success, I probably won't really know why anyway...
Gilbert talks about how the ancient Greeks and Romans did not believe that genius (which really just meant creativity) resides inside a person but rather was an external divine force. I love that.
I like to think of myself as an antenna, always scanning the skies, listening to the world, being ready to receive, being ready to write down whatever fascinating things come charging into my neural circuits. I don't think of myself as the source of those things, but instead merely as the recognizer of them. And yes, that's where the pot comes in. A heaping bowl boosts the strength of my antenna, allowing it to pick up weaker signals I might otherwise miss, signals I might otherwise dismiss as just white noise. There's a lot of wonderful stuff in there! The pot rescues me from that overly judgemental internal editor that leaps to assess the value of every thought before it's fully explored.
I agree with Gilbert. It's time to free ourselves from Great Expectations and allow ourselves to be what we are at our artistic best -- a conduit, a servant. Because just being that is enough and it's more wonderful than most people will ever understand.
Long Live the Musical!