June 17, 2014

Self-Discipline

I've recently taken a long hard look at myself in what Elvis Costello so eloquently termed the "deep, dark, truthful mirror." My self-esteem remained intact, but I had to face the thing I most lacked, the will to follow through with the fruits of my creativity. In short, self-discipline.

I've been exercising my imagination muscle since I was knee-high to a cicada. I still have in my possession reams of drawings and crudely drawn comics that stand as a glowing testament to my early cartooning ambitions. In high school, I wrote and drew, with No. 2 pencil, dozens of issues of a lampoon called Weird in which I skewered teachers and students alike. I'll never forget witnessing dozens of students passing my creations around outside class in the courtyard. I watched as they read my words and convulsed in laughter, eagerly passing each issue around like rare collector's items.

My cartooning ambitions were permanently put on hold when I discovered I had a natural aptitude for music. After teaching myself the basics of piano, I started composing my own music. I never had any interest in performing cover songs. I wrote dozens of songs the year I first sat down at the piano, really bad songs I might add. To date, I have written or partially written hundreds of songs, constantly striving to unlock something new and pleasingly different. Unfortunately, I have only recorded a handful of songs over the years, and the end results have been less than satisfying.

Even this blog has suffered from my lack of discipline. I've watched my postings become less frequent, even as the audience has slowly grown over the years. My humor piece "Why Chicks Cry" caused quite a ripple on the web. It was mentioned in Time Magazine's online edition and I was approached by several publishers, but it all came to naught and the main reason is I have a lousy follow-through. I was asked to contact DC Comics to get legal clearance on the panels I used, and after one feeble failed attempt to reach their licensing division, I folded.

I'm brimming with short story ideas, novel ideas, original song ideas, all kinds of creative ideas. I have ideas out the ying yang! And it doesn't matter one bit. My creative heroes, the people I most try to emulate, have, or had while they were living, the tenacity to roll up their sleeves every morning and make their creative visions tangible. That gumption is my missing piece.

I have often allowed myself to believe that life has gotten in the way of my creative pursuits, never acknowledging the truth that life often gets in the way of everybody's pursuits. I have been disciplined and responsible in other areas of my life. So why can't I be disciplined with my creativity? Am I afraid of failure? Am I afraid of success? Am I afraid of criticism?

There's no time to wonder why or spend much time locked in regret. I am still relatively young, and there are mountains to conquer. Today, I make a public vow to channel my creative energies into real honest-to-goodness end products. For better or worse, I refuse to let my legacy of ideas die locked within my brain and soul. I am rolling up my sleeves and going to work!

Just you wait, 'Enry 'Iggins!

1 comment:

  1. Several years ago, I went to the memorial for an illustrator I'd worked with when I was working for an ad agency. He was a nice old guy, a freelancer who always did a great job. He had died from cancer and a fellow co-worker of mine told me he'd been to see the guy just a few days before he died. He was bedridden at that time and in his seventies. My co-worker told me that the illustrator had looked at him with tears in his eyes and said, "I'm not ready to go yet. There are so many things I wanted to do and now I've run out of time."

    That really stuck with me. To the point that I quit my job to do these things I always wanted to do and never seemed to find time to do. While I was still young enough to do them. I didn't want to picture myself in the same place. With all the time run out.

    There's this quote by William Hutchison Murray: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

    I've found this to be so true. You have to commit. Actually say, this has to be done by this date and I don't have an option of not doing it. Then it's amazing how all those imagined obstacles move aside and things actually happen to facilitate doing it.

    I've done various things over the years, but for 16 years I wanted to do an animated Star Trek parody. I chased it on and off for that whole time and then in January of 2012, I realized there was a way I could do it and made it my resolution to have it done in time for the Dallas Comic Con in May. A mere four months later it was done. After all those years.

    And that bit about Providence moving really happened. I ran a Kickstarter campaign that came through and gave me the money to make DVDs of the movie. That brought my project to the attention of a composer who wanted to score it and a big freelance job came in just in time to give me the money to pay for it.

    I just recently did it again with an animated parody of The Walking Dead. It wasn't as easy and it seemed like there were more hurdles this time, but I overcame them all and feel like I broke through some of those self-imposed weaknesses I was convinced I had.

    That fear of failure and criticism was definitely there. I remember that my stomach was physically hurting when I dropped the DVD master of "Stalled Trek" off at FedEx to go to the replicators.

    In the end, it didn't make me any real money, but I did get to watch a small audience watch my Star Trek parody at a convention. One of my legs was shaking as I waited to see how they responded to it. To my great joy, they laughed and laughed hard. Getting to see an audience enjoy a cartoon I made was a feeling I'll never forget.

    I hope to get to do the same with my "The Wobbling Dead" movie soon.

    That was all the long way of saying, "go for it!" :-)

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