Screw you.

Yes, that’s right. Screw all of you whose talent was celebrated and encouraged, and yet, squandered: all of you who have a complete brilliance, a view of the world so lucid that it pours forth in words and phrases that drag the reader willingly behind, struggling but longing to keep pace. I’m not well known for disingenuous, overly-complimentary missives, so people, take ’em when you can get ’em. Read on, there’s more…

From the moment I learned to read, I have consumed words in every manner of ways at every available moment of the day. Yes, even at stoplights. I cannot get enough. Each MOMENT I spend reading is peace for me. TIME is a rare commodity: one we can never recover. So, if I decide that I’m going to spend my TIME reading your work, it is a compliment of the highest order. No, I don’t like everything I read, but I recognize when it is written well, and I respect it. Out of that respect, I will keep reading, because those of us who lay bare our hearts as artists deserve to have at least a few moments when our work makes its way into someone’s consciousness. And perhaps, during those few moments, it makes an indelible impression.

If you refuse to recognize that often, we are so mired down by our own demons that we cannot see the beauty that we are, then you are cheating yourself of the moments that carry us through the chaos we call creativity. We cannot always see how someone else might recognize, hell, even love the images we conjure, but it happens.

So, keep writing. Someone IS paying attention.

Talent and Execution, Sisters

So, after phrenetically trying to absorb the enormous talent surrounding me a few Saturday’s ago (at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival), I spent a great deal of time thinking about one particular conversation, which ended with my new friend saying, “You know, that would make a great blog subject.” And so here I am, after massaging the idea a bit in my head…

I’ve watched my sister for all of her ^%{^*] years (What? I’m smart enough to not give that away.) and since the moment I became aware of it, I’ve been amazed and awed by her unparalleled talent for socializing. Diaphanous, tinkling laughter breaks into an electric smile. Conversations peppered with smart, evocative remarks designed to engage without criticism or insult. It is truly an art form when used so masterfully. Let me be clear; there is no sarcasm here. Invaluable is the ability to successfully maneuver a crowd of very different people and remain so positively memorable that people who were strangers moments before become first fans, and then friends.

While I fancy myself a creative person, and have been accused occasionally of having some talent, it pales in comparison to an ability  to maneuver the world as my sister can. I’m socially clumsy most of the time. I have a hard time relaxing and simply enjoying the moment. I cannot relate to everyone and often get anxious trying to find a reasonable balance. I find myself absorbing whatever energy there is in the room, rather than having the talent to change it.

So, I truly appreciate the talent of social grace. And it IS a talent. Sure, it too can be improved with practice, but few achieve the art form that I’ve watched in my sister. She can find herself in any group of people, in any venue, and navigate the personalities as though they were characters in a book she’s written. It isn’t her only talent; she is many things. But this one thing deserves special recognition because it is rarely recognized.

I celebrate her for who she is. I couldn’t be any more proud of her and her accomplishments. The fact that she’s my little sister is just a bonus. The fact that she is my friend makes me hope that I did something to deserve her.

Talent and Execution, Part I

“All you have is your fire,
And the place you need to reach.
Don’t you ever tame your demons,
But always keep ’em on a leash.”
Arsonist’s Lullaby, Hozier

I know a lot of hugely talented people. And in all honesty, some of them intimidate the hell out of me. I try to maintain some level of objectivity as I witness the genius unfold in their work. I try to remember that art is inherently derivative. Even that which is considered innovative is born of some wildly explosive idea that has been expressed in generally accepted media: paint, photographs, stories, films, performance. It’s all, down to canvas on which it is applied, an executed idea. And that is where the rubber meets the road (if you’ll pardon the overused adage).

Without execution, creative ideas die on the vine.

The great irony is that people who are highly creative tend to be brooding, self-critical, and often depressed. There are a number of studies that prove it. In an article for the Stanford Journal of Neuroscience, Adrienne Sussman writes:

“Thus far, we have seen that manic depressive disorder and schizophrenia are both significantly more prevalent in artists than in the rest of the population, that neurologically they share similarities with the biology of creative thinking – in short, that these altered mental states could indeed contribute to creativity and artistic production. Knowing that this connection is scientifically supported, how are we to ethically treat these illnesses?”

Two experiences this past week, on the opposite end of this spectrum, really solidified a quandary in my mind. Why are some hugely talented people commensurately successful, and others miserably struggling?

The first experience was painfully watching a friend decompensate publicly on Facebook. There were a number of factors involved in the meltdown, but it created for me a mix of emotions. The first was helplessness that my friend was in pain. After that, several emotions passed through me, but the final and most powerful was anger. I was ANGRY that someone so full of talent had so functionally disabled himself. I considered his history of depression, then I considered my own, and then I considered the commensurate level of talent. There is brilliant and dysfunctional, and then there is pretty damn good and excellent at coping. There is a lot of variation in between. Which brings me to the second experience…

I shot a film festival for my sister and some friends, this past weekend. I was actually in a sea of creative people as writers, directors, actors and producers milled around waiting to have their picture taken in front of the TBUFF (Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival) step-and-repeat. Among them was someone that is part of a family so talented that it should be criminal (I kid. I covet their genes.) But their obvious creative talent (name one, they’ve got them all) isn’t the most impressive part. No, that lies in their amazing execution of that talent. I think about this often when I can’t get my hands around an image I want to create or a story I want to write because I’m still learning how to execute what I see and hear in my head. It is that demon: one whose neck I can reach, but cannot quite grasp. Saturday night, I was downright phrenetic as I tried to absorb the energy surrounding me.  I got a creative buzz so voluptuous that when I finally got home at 2am, I couldn’t sleep.

If my new acquaintance happens to be reading this, then I hope he accepts my apology for trying to monopolize his attention. But hey, it was entirely his fault for exuding that effusive energy on which we “creatives” thrive.