Fair warning. We’re about to go to Bragtown, USA. I'm sorry to self-promote, but I really can't help it. Two weeks ago, I flew back to the Big City for the coolest weekend of my life. After corresponding for a composer for about a year, sending him chunks of prose based on a vague idea, I got to see the text performed as a song cycle, a 20 minute operetta of sorts, by this composer at the piano and a fantastic baritone. I don’t want to overstate my involvement, here. I had nothing to do with writing any of the music and wasn't part of the rehearsal process in any way, but hearing the text that I wrote performed as a piece of music at a concert hall in front of a paying audience was an incredible feeling. On top of which, my parents travelled down to see it, as did one of my best friends who I hadn't seen in years. I also reconnected with some family and friends, saw the sights, generally had an excellent time.
I bring this up not just to boast, but to explain why I haven’t been able to write anything since. It happens every time I help create something that I’m especially proud of; everything I attempt afterwards seems pathetic and small. But if I were to give myself a big long holiday from any creative writing, I’d lose the ability. Writing is funny that way, or maybe I’m funny that way. If I don’t do any writing of any kind for more than a week, I forget how. I’ll string a bunch of words together that, when read back, sound like an ESL textbook (“It is hot out today. I am glad I am not wearing a jacket. What is the deal with jackets?).
So now, high off the experience of such a cool project, but fueled by the dread that I’ll never produce something as good again, I have to think of future projects to propel me forward, in the hope that something sticks.
Dream: Create a wealth of projects to pursue. Force creativity through opportunity.
Goal: Achievable. It’s hard to be a self-starter, but if I sat around waiting for people to ask me to write things, I’d be one of those super morbidly obese people who have to have their walls torn down in order to leave the house.
Plan: List some ideas for things I could write.
Idea: I write a sitcom where a slacker poses as his optometrist twin brother to give eye tests to sexy ladies. The optometrist brother is a big nerd and reluctantly agrees not to rat out his brother if his brother gives him advice on how to pick up women. The working title of the show is Seeing Double.
Idea: I write a passionate Huffington Post op-ed about how sweet potato fries turned me into a homosexual. Hopefully, it would gain the same viral traction as the equally ill-informed “vaccines will give my kid autism” movement. Sweet potato fries didn't make me gay, but I’m really sick of seeing them at restaurants. The other night I went for dinner and they served sweet potato fries INSTEAD OF French fries. Unacceptable. Let’s pull those out of some kitchens.
Idea: I write Christmas Letters for Hire. I love getting a Christmas letters; those generic, “This is what’s up with the (Surname)s!” communications that are both boring and boastful (for more, see the first two paragraphs of this entry). But so many of them are badly written because they are not honest. I will write you a brutally truthful, meaningful holiday letter for a small fee. “Denise was fired from her job at the hair salon and Doug’s taken a real interest in showing off his penis on the internet, so we've got high hopes for 2016!”
Idea: Inspired by the film Boyhood, I write and direct a film about the life of a goldfish in real time. It is infinitely more interesting than the film Boyhood.
Idea: I write headlines for Buzzfeed listicles. 10 Things Every South Asian With Restless Leg Syndrome is Tired of Hearing. Which Character from Hotel Rwanda is Your BFF? Americans Try Cat Food for the First Time.
Idea: I’ll write the interstitial singing bits between verses of a rap song. So far I have “AY!” and “Oooh”.
Idea: Write a terrible science fiction book about a dystopian future. Must remember to keep things dystopian. Turn the dystopia up to 11. Whenever I start to think, “Could I make this more dystopian?” My answer should be, “Yes.”
Idea: Write t-shirt slogans. I’m sure t-shirts with words on them are the last word in uncoolness, but maybe that’s just because nothing has been clever on a t-shirt since 1981. A girl at my gym routinely wears a shirt that reads, “I hope your day is as nice as my butt.” What the hell does that mean? She has a nice butt, I suppose, but I never want to have a day I would compare to anyone’s butt, good or bad. I could top that. I can’t think of any examples right now, but I could.
If you’re only as good as your next project, I’m clearly no good at the moment. But here’s the cool thing: for all the wonderful, supportive friends and family that came to see this thing a few weeks ago, there were also people in the audience I didn't know, and they also seemed to enjoy themselves. Those people will likely never read anything I've written, or remember my name in association with the project, but if they thought something I had a hand in creating was funny or moving, that proves that the project exists on its own merit.
I still feel like a 5 year old at a piano recital. The reason why children’s piano recitals are not attended by the public at large is that if you happened to overhear 5 year old playing piano, you wouldn't think, “Oh what a lovely tune”, you’d think, “That’s terrible, it must be a kid.” So any time something I helped make gets some validation from total strangers, that’s pretty cool. Combine that with the support of family and friends? Well that’s a feeling so perfect I don’t need to write another word.