22 October 2008

Creative Types


We can be pretty irritating, I know, and in an amazing variety of ways. We drive each other crazy, too, believe me. In fact, sometimes it seems like the central preoccupation in any creative type's life is trying to follow his or her process in outright defiance of any outside input whatsoever. This makes collaboration between two such types an often highly entertaining prospect . . . from the outside, at least. On the inside, there may be some hair-pulling, self-inflicted or otherwise, some eye-gouging, all standard operating procedure for we creative types. It can even seem quite subconscious, this uncooperative behavior. We're engaged in an intuitive challenge, and it piques our psychological quirks because our instincts are all we really have to back up our decisions. That's as it should be with pure creativity -- nothing is quite so original as a given individual -- but of course it sometimes leaves no room for the little things generally considered helpful to collaboration, like procedure, logic and human kindness. In fact, more often than not it feels as though the only thing that keeps collaborative artists from decapitating one another is the fact that they are, theoretically, united in pursuit of a common goal.

Yet it's something one develops a real taste for -- the creative, collaborative energy. It can feed itself and really take one to unexpected places; plus there's a momentum to it that is very motivating, very energizing. It feels good to "accept and build." So good, in fact, that when you achieve that dynamic you can find yourself wondering why everything else can't be like this. Doing my taxes should feel like this! I believe all challenges, even the most mundane and least challenging, have the potential to be approached in that spirit. I really do. But it's difficult. And fleeting. Because there's no escaping the fact that people change, and people are what it's all about, really. There's something special about being able to share and nurture that spirit, whether it's arrived at through hard work or instant chemistry and rapport. I suppose if it were easy or common, it wouldn't feel quite as rewarding.

I got a good dose of that feeling from Friend Nat last night over dinner. I feel like he kind of lives in that world in one sense or another 'round the clock. Aptly enough, Nat's the one who coined the tag "creactor" on this here 'blog (see the reactions on 2/28/07). He's very adept at taking something you give, even conversationally, acknowledging it and building upon it. That is to say, don't get into a competition with him that's at all about chasing the topper on a joke. You. Will. Fail. But then again, do get into it, if you have the opportunity. Because Nat seems to live by the tenets of good improvisation, such that even when he bests you it will be whilst agreeing with you, making you look good and helping to build on whatever came before. It's fun! I've got to figure out how he does that so consistently . . .

Also, I've got to dislodge my puckered mouth from his skinny butt. }smack!{

I don't see Nat nearly often enough, what with all the theatre'n' and the'rest'n' we're both up to. This particular encounter was owed largely to the fact that I'm presently on a brief theatre'n' hiatus until The Big Show gets mounted. (Er: opens. Er: goes up[dang it!]?) Even when we were last in a show together, we didn't get a lot of social time in. It's just the nature of the beast, it would seem. So when we meet, we have a lot to catch up on in all areas. We also, however, inevitably spend a lot of time talking about our work. It's what we both love, after all. In fact, it's just a little bit like dating the same willful woman, if said woman was in all places at all times and simultaneously dating half the population of Manhattan. But I digress. We talk about what we've just done, what we're working on, what's coming up and what we'd like to do in the future. Nat's got a play of his writing being produced at Manhattan Theatre Source come January, par example, right around the time I'll be getting good and ready to don Romeo's tights. (Oh shoot: tights. I didn't think of that possibility until this very moment...) He's suddenly busy right now, as a matter of fact. We just got lucky [dang it!].

Nat and I met whilst working on a whacky sort of show that was rather in development. We ended up performing all kinds of tasks in connection with the show that actors don't normally get the opportunity to undertake, such as revising dialogue, choreographing fight sequences and leaping from bookshelves. It was a little more than harrowing at the time, for me, because I tend toward anxiety (what? really?) and worry about the outcome when so much is uncertain. But it was great, too, and I'm still proud of stuff with which we came up. Zuppa del Giorno, at its best, works with that kind of chemistry, and with the urgency of enthusiasm more than of necessity. I can't quite imagine how much time I've spent creating something from "nothing" over my adult life, but the cumulative hours are probably a big number, and still there are no guarantees. One is never completely relaxed into the process; which is probably to the process's benefit. So it's good to be working with people you just grok. I've known this in some sense from a very young age but, as with everything else, it's one thing to intuit a lesson as a youth and another altogether to really learn and practice the same lesson as an adult. Learning (and practice) is like Jell-O(TM): There's always rooms for it.

Ooo. I should end on that sliver of sagacity right there. Copyright (c) Jeffrey Wills, 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Some people have wondered why I have maintained Odin's Aviary as I have. Friend Mark asked me back in the day how I can commit the time, and Sister Virginia put a similar thought somewhat more bluntly. I admit, it's easier at some times than others. I would love to do an entry every day. I'd also love to have a huge audience and be responsible for inspiring a horde of like-minded people. I could probably change things on the 'blog to make these things happen, the first of which would be to shorten my entries dramatically. One paragraph a day, that kind of thing. Lots of posts about funny and weird and cool and rather arbitrary things. I wouldn't consider that a compromise of my integrity, or something ridiculous like that. Look at my shared items -- that's the kind of thing I subscribe to. No, I keep up this style of 'blogitude for far more selfish reasons. It's collaborating with myself. It's a little time (okay: a lot of time) committed to accepting and building on my own ideas and philosophy. That's why I spend a page or two, building on a thought when I'm more productive, wandering and exploring when I'm less so. It's practicing and learning, and anyone who gets something out of that by reading it is, to my mind, a huge bonus to that process. That's when being a creative type feels like a most worthwhile endeavor.

The Taoists are fond of pointing out that there is a difference between the knowledge of good, and the practice of good. This, then, is my practice.

5 comments:

Kara Tyler said...

1st thought - you said grok - dork

2nd thought - creative types are wonderful to work with but so very draining. It's when that creativity is improperly honed and focues into ego that the problem exists. I once had n actor who refused to go on unless I pained his dressing room blue. That's right, 3 local one guys on a Sunday making time and half to paint a damn dressing room BLUE. When ya'll get it right it's something magical and transformative but when that energy goes wrong it goes so very very wrong. I imagine that's one more thing this blog is good for, keeping you focused and processing that energy instead of letting it build on itself and becoming toxic.

3rd thought - Nat has a script going up? Awesome. I don't know him but that's such a great thing. Speaking of which you mentioned a script you were finishing? Is it available for reading?

4th thought - really? grok? you can take the boy out of the black clothes but you can't take the dork out of the boy can you :)

Jeff Wills said...

1. No, you are!
2. I never thought of it as creative toxicity, but I like that description. Apt.
3. Not yet! But soon, I hope. I'm considering releasing a finished draft under a Creative Commons license through the 'blog or my homepage.
4. Some believe the word "dork" comes of a slang term for a whale's penis.

Kara Tyler said...

I have to admit to my dorkitude. I have the uncut extended edition of SISL and it's AWESOME it all it's 491 pages. You're jealous, you know it.

From NetLore: "The average blue whale produces over 400 gallons of sperm when it ejaculates, but only 10% of that actually makes it into his mate. So 360 gallons are spilled into the ocean every time one unloads, and you wonder why the ocean is so salty..."

I'll stop spamming your blog now.

Patrick said...

I think I have a similar agenda with my blog. I know when I'm writing in my journal, I make certain kinds of discoveries, and when I'm writing for others, either in a letter or a post for wider dissemination, I often make different discoveries. So yeah, remember what your blog is for, and change it only when/if your needs change. It's good for me to make note of this too.

RE: indulgent 'creative' types: anytime one's process is more important than the audience's experience, the central point is lost.

Jeff Wills said...

I quite agree, Patrick, but it's a delicate balance at times. Mostly I follow the rule of the audience (a born ham like me comes by it naturally) but there have been times when as an audience member I couldn't have gotten so much out of a performance had the actor not delivered something very different, personal and unforced. Guess that's why it's a fine art.