Creativity takes courage or at least that’s what Henri Matisse said. But does it though? I mean really? Are we sure? Because courage? That’s a heavy ass word. Just typing it I shake my head and go, “Uh uh. No way.” The thing is if creativity does take courage then that means I’ll actually have to make the stuff I dream about! Also? I’ll actually have to let people look at it. So then it will take even more courage to deal with people hating it or worse than that- totally ignoring it’s existence. Oh fuck no.
Thankfully, it all has to start with a dream. Preferably not the dream I had the other night where I was high on drugs and trapped at a Christian themed amusement park run by sadists but a dream nonetheless. When I’m in dream territory, there’s no holds barred. It’s all “maybe I should” or “hey wouldn’t it be cool if” or “I’ve always kind of wanted to” type of ideas. They don’t need to stick. They don’t need to find budgets or time or audiences. They can just be dreams but I should be nice to them and take care of them like tiny, fuzzy baby birds. And the more of them I have at any given time, the better. I feel like my little old brain that’s perhaps been bitch slapped by chemicals one too many times needs a high concentration of dreams and crazy ideas. This is maybe why I consume films, television shows, books, magazines, music, visual art etcetera like I’m trapped in a never-ending game of Ms. Pac-Man(the superior Pac-Man and I will hear no other opinion on the matter!). I need a stream of ideas and inspirations running all day long so my brain and the dreams it produces doesn’t dry out. Creativity, or at least mine, has always been collaborative in the sense that it needs to be fed constantly and from dozens of sources.
Right now my brain is particularly well-fed thanks in part to the high density of terrific movies out right now. Saturday night, for example, I watched Hell or High Water, a modern western which is not my genre by a longshot. The film is so jam-packed with thought-provoking ideas and crackling dialogue that it didn’t even matter. We also watched Bright Lights on HBO, the new documentary about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds which given my love for Fisher was immediately heartbreaking and inspiring. Earlier in the week, we watched Manchester by the Sea. It simultaneously tore my heart out and made me laugh while reminding me how powerful great acting can be. Add to the pile recent viewings of Moonlight, Arrival, Sing Street and a few oldies thrown in more good measure and my head is overflowing with film dreams and inspirations.
Yet no current movie tackles the idea of dreams and the power to pursue them like La La Land. The film, which has become my litmus test for haters and negative people, is pure cinematic magic. It conjures up the beauty of classics like Singing in the Rain while somehow managing to feel totally fresh and original. It’s the sort of film that kids will watch in 5 years and fall in love with acting and the movies because of it. But to me it’s deeper than that. The central message of the movie is that pursuing your dreams is hard and heartbreaking but worth it. Emma Stone’s character sings an audition which feels more like a monologue (songologue anyone? I clearly can’t stay away from that pun) that utterly took the air out of the room in the packed theatre we watching it in on Christmas Day. In it, she tells the story of her aunt whom she loved and looked up to because she was a free spirit who followed her dreams. The story–spoiler alert– doesn’t wind up that great for her dear old aunt but she at least lived courageously. Which brings us back to what our buddy Henri said at the top of the post.
So terrific. I have a dream– cue the ABBA song. Now what? Well, some are just hanging out in the bus station of my mind, smoking cigarettes and drinking lattes for a short period of time. They’re funny. They’re charming. But they’re not built to last. They’ll leave but some of them might come back in the shape of something else later. It’s the dreams that won’t leave me alone that I have to take care of. These dreams are like pesky houseplants or whiny puppies. They need to be coddled, nurtured and looked after. But mainly they take large, daily amounts of courage. It takes some pretty big balls to pursue these nagging little dreams because it’s scary and there’s a really good chance that I’ll make something and nobody will read it or give a shit about it. But if the dream is persistent enough, it doesn’t really matter. This courage that felt impossible to muster up suddenly shows up simply out of necessity. It’s not a struggle. It’s not a should I or shouldn’t I moment. It’s a “I have to.” I need to remember that when this whole courage thing feels too hard or too heavy, that all the good changes in my life have happened because of courage. Fucking duh. I mean “the courage to change the things I can” is kinda the whole reason I’m no longer a tequila swilling, coke snorting vacuum from hell. So I freak out and feel uncertain but find the courage anyway and take care of those little dreams and give them a fighting chance. That’s where I am right now. I’m pursuing dreams and trying not to think too hard about how terrifying it all is or what a badass I’m going to have to become to make said dreams happen.
It’s also an incredible relief when I let myself off the hook for not always having courage. Courage, much like that tricky little devil honesty, isn’t something that comes second nature to me. It takes me a minute to get there and with some dreams, I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. But the point is to keep dreaming and keep praying for courage. And here’s to you if everyday you try to do the same.