This last month has been a series of strange creative ups and downs, being hard on my own vision, doubting what I've created, questioning why I even bother, followed by excitement for new works that have been sitting on my backplate, picking up my Copic markers again and drawing in the mornings. Followed by the nagging inner critic: "why do you bother drawing, you'll never be a visual artist, so why waste time?" (Yeah, spitting back: "Well, it's fun, damnit" doesn't work.)
These thoughts which have been with me for certain periods of my adult life (developing more so in my 30s, oddly enough), have caused me to think a lot about the creative process as we've been trudging along the final edits for What's the Use?, forcing me to question why I go through this laborious process of refining a film that I've been working on since the summer of 2011. Why do any of us do this when the chances of our films going down our intended paths for them are extremely slim? Why do we artists spend so much time, money, blood, tears, sweat, and other bodily fluids, on works that rarely do what we want them to do for us? I cannot answer that question but only say that, well, hope prolongs misery, a theme that was in my first feature.
Editing, which is usually my favorite part of the filmmaking process, and where I think the story really is made, has been taut and tense, and I find myself sometimes stepping away from the computer after only a few minutes of work to do some menial task, like, the dishes in the sink. I do this so I don't have to made decisions, and face the tension that even after all these weeks of crazy pick up scenes this summer, they may not make the film any better. (I don't truly believe this, and have seen enough to know this is not the case, but this tension has existed.)
These random bursts of breaking up my editing to go clean up something has caused me to think about how we define ourselves. Meaning, I spend so much of my waking day making films, and probably during my sleeping hours too, in my subconscious brain repairing and analyzing everything that has happened that day. Yet, I don't call myself and editor, or a filmmaker even, or a cinematographer, a producer, or any other other hats I wear pursuing this masochistic passion. If someone asks, "What do you do?" the expected reply is always what I do to pay bills, which is NOT being an editor, or filmmaker, or any of other other things I mentioned above. I find this strange that when we talk to strangers, we are expected to mention our job as our central identity, not our passions. But arguably, I would say most of us don't really identify our jobs with who we are in our cores. It's sad that even if I did mention I am a filmmaker or writer or whatever else I like to do, it is assumed I make a living at it. Our identities are inherently tied up with income. How American.
I think this hurts our creativity to actually so deeply imbed our identities with what we do for a living. I have been wondering by even saying I am even a filmmaker, I am forcing myself to think/act/create like what my cultural perceptions of a filmmaker are. Meaning, if I did not identify myself as ANYTHING, would I feel more free to create?
So, curious to hear others talk about the process of creativity and identity, I came along this great TED talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert. If you are a creative type (and I think we all are, some just access it differently than others), please watch this. It truly moved me and has given me renewed energy for paying attention to the little creative energies that I find living around me.