This week I performed, and had my writing performed, at No, You Tell It!, which was a much-anticipated event on my part that I used as motivation to get certain of my creative goals in order, post-initiation into fatherhood. I try occasionally to set my own deadlines, but they're never as effective as those applied to me by an outside party.
Anyway, as I frenetically revised my personal narrative for April 22nd, I also finally got off my duff to re-engineer my website for April 6th, when the press for the event would start. When I passed around the new website for feedback, the ever-amazing Pavarti gave me a laundry list of "suggestions," primary of which was to get the dang Aviary over where I profess to call myself some kind of writer, and tout de suite.
There is an interesting thematic overlap here, of the sort I used to often experience early in my acting career. In those days, I attributed it to rather mysterious, quasi-Jungian synergy - a sign of "following the path." Now-a-days, I tend to think of it as me trying to tell myself something, quietly yet persistently, from the background of the daily struggle and strife. Either way, it is that weird sensation of life imitating art. Or whatever whatever.
I took to the revision of my website as something of a workshop in figuring out what in the hell I'd be doing as a creative person who's prioritized the support of his family over unbounded freedom to act like an actor. I took to the writing assignment for No, You Tell It! as a workshop in really going for effective and significant revision of my writing. We were all writing to a theme - in this case: "outdated" - and I ended up writing about becoming a parent, the life cycle of a theatre troupe and the regular yet somehow unpredictable rhythms of life itself.
All of this seems very well-ordered, connected and natural. I assure you: I PLANNED NOTHING. I'M MAKING THIS UP AS I GO ALONG.
As I always have. I need to surprise myself. It's at least to some extent a coping mechanism - aimed against depression, uncertainty, insecurity. There's a tension in my life - between a need for order and a need for surprise - that is mirrored in my writing process. I mean, I have written from an outline before. Usually it's under duress, on threat of torture by 1) a writing partner, and/or 2) an admittedly limited personal capacity for long-term memory. Generally speaking however, what I enjoy about writing is the surprises the process brings me.
It's not dissimilar to improvised comedy. You have an invisible framework - threes, setup/suspension/punchline, what-you-will - and just try to make poking around in the dark as interesting and relevant as possible until you hit on the hilarious. It is all about the moment, and nothing feels quite as like magic as that discovery. It would be a shame to capture it, mold it, distort what is plainly inspiration into something staid and flat and un-prophet-able.
So has gone my internal justification for not working over my own work when it comes to writing. Revision would squelch whatever was special about the original experience. Prove a dishonor to that inspiration. What an incredible excuse.
So how does someone who has it built into his philosophy not to revise, go about revising his life?
Though it seems grandiose to put it that way, it does not feel like an exaggeration. Even if becoming a parent hadn't meant sacrificing certain other creative opportunities, if I had attained a level of fiscal success that allowed me to keep acting up a storm and keep coming home by 5:00, parenthood still necessitates learning how to better order one's life. I laugh, derisively, at my younger self's occasional complaints of a lack of time or occasional boredom. Then I cry just a little bit, inside, before hitching up my (sexy) work slacks and tackling another day.
I did some good work through No, You Tell It!, work I'm proud about, toward learning how to effectively step back and revise. And my website looks much better. I count these successes. But: I did not succeed.
I did not succeed because the website, though it is pretty and more functional, still lacks direction - intention - and still emphasizes me as an actor. I did not succeed because my piece for the "outdated" event suffered in similar ways, still written in a voice aggressively eschewing an easy read, and still emphasizing exploration over communication. I still don't know what I'm doing. But I'm on the path, physically and metaphysically, which is sometimes the best you can do.
So there will be more changes coming - revisions, if you will (and whether you will or won't, frankly). Among these: Odin's Aviary will be transplanted to live under my moniker, part of the unified-field-theory of Jeff.
Perhaps somehow prescient of this, one of the live interview questions asked of me on stage at No, You Tell It! in prelude to my story being presented was about this here 'blog title. I explained about thought and memory, Huginn and Muninn, and how that seemed appropriate for a personal 'blog, without getting into my nigh fetishistic adoration of ravens. One interesting thing I failed to realize until just now, however, is that a primary characteristic of Odin himself is...fatherhood.
There might be something to this "reviewing what we create" after all.