Monday, February 20, 2012

Stephen King's Garbage Can

Just sitting here, listening to a radio interview of the prolific and successful author, Stephen King. And King is telling this story - about his life before he was published. About how he was a young, struggling wannabe writer, who got so discouraged with his attempts at writing his ambitious first novel that he finally throws the thing out - convinced he's inadequate to his ambitions, that he's destined for failure at the only thing he really wants to do.

His wife comes along, fishes the discarded manuscript titled, "Carrie" out of the garbage can, reads it and tells him - "You know, there's really something here. Do not give up. Keep on."

Smart man, Stephen. He listened to his wife. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, it's funny that, as I'm listening to this massively successful author tell his story, I discover a message to me on my Twitter account. A woman writes that she saw our film and thought it was great. Did I have any advice for an aspiring young filmmaker?

Well, at first I was thinking, how do I properly answer this? I take this kind of thing seriously and want to share whatever I have if it can help. But the limitations of Twitter don't allow for me to go into a whole lot of detail or depth on this question.

As it turns out, though, I really don't need more than 140 characters to give this woman the only answer that really counts:

Never Let Up.

It really all boils down to that. Those three little words are very literally the sum of all the advice anyone has ever given on this subject. They also represent whatever cumulative wisdom I've gained from my experience making this film and what I am now facing in trying to make another.

However if, like Stephen, you need a little more intervention, then allow me to quote the captivating Ira Glass, writer/producer of "This American Life"...

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me... All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this GAP.
For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not good.
But your TASTE, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a DEADLINE so that every week you will finish one story (or drawing, or poem or scene). It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You've just gotta fight your way through.

So, if you're an aspiring writer, filmmaker or anything artistic, and you're not lucky enough to have Stephen King's wife lurking around your own metaphorical garbage can, then let these be your words to live by... "Never. Let. Up."

Because the more you do, the more you'll do - thereby exponentially increasing the odds that your abilities and opportunities will eventually catch up to your ambitions.