A Special Kind of Insanity

song in my head — “Disappear Here” by Bad Suns

I’ve heard it said that the crazy things we do for and with the people we love is a special kind of insanity.

The truth is we’re all a little crazy on our own. We all have our quirks, our certain ticks and neuroses, our tastes and tendencies. We are complex animals. And when we fall in love with someone who also has all their own little things, it can make for an turbulent ride as we try to match the rhythms of our would-be lover.

But when the frequencies align—when two crazies find the beat together and can sway in time—well, that’s pure magic.

So don’t try to change your crazy. Find the crazy that dances with yours.

— G

Control

song in my head — “The Ballad of Love and Hate” by The Avett Brothers

“There are more things… likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” - Seneca

Anxiety seems part of the human condition. But as many have pointed out throughout history, most of our grave concerns are in our heads. If we indeed were as afraid as we sometimes appear to be, we would never leave the house. Much greater are the scenarios built up in our minds than those we are likely to actually encounter.

It's a matter of faith and control, and the gentle harmony between them. Do we try to control the things that are out of our control? Do we have faith that some things will take care of themselves?

As you loosen control, your confidence in life's natural rhythms can grow. Hold onto your sense of power too tightly, and the only thing you're liable to suffocate is not anxieties but yourself.

— G

A Beacon of Light

song in my head — “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley

Why do I create?

I create because I have to. Storytelling is like oxygen to me, courses through my veins like blood. But plenty of artists say similar things. There are plenty of us out there who would say things like "I would write if no one read it" or "I would still write if I didn't get paid."

But here's a little paradox I've discovered about myself.

I only write for myself, but I find it very hard to write if no one is listening.

What do I mean?

I write what’s inside of me in what I hope is a way that only I can. My inner imaginations and passions and voice are my fuel; nothing external like "the market" will inspire me to write something. I think stories are like puzzles, and that almost any idea that I chew on for a bit could be a story worth telling. Otherwise, why would it come to me? I'm so dedicated to this idea, in fact, that I have “stories” in my head that are only titles! I have no idea what the rest of the tale will be, but the title sparked something so deep in me that I can't and won't let it go. It's like a key that unlocks a box—I only have to find the box.

That said…

Though I may write for myself, I believe writing is communication above all else. I write to express and communicate my inner workings. So while I don't write for you—some imaginary audience member with market-tested tastes or who likes certain genres—I do write for You—that person out there who maybe, just maybe, sees the world a little bit like I do. I don't know who you are, or how many of you are out there, but my hope is that if I write enough words, if I spark enough fires and let the ashes float out into the ether, that someday we'll find each other.

What I'm doing here—scribbling down my thoughts every day, writing my fanciful stories—it's not a marketing strategy. It's a beacon of light in a dark forest; I'm lost, like you. But I'm finding a way.

Perhaps we can find our way together.

— G

Responsibility

song in my head — “no tears left to cry” by Ariana Grande

Sometimes doing the responsible thing feels somewhat irresponsible.

Maybe this is because what is "responsible" is often determined by the culture or society around us, and any step outside of that lane is viewed as a break from tradition and, thus, irresponsible. But such a deviation from the norm may be exactly what you're built for. There develops friction then.

An actor friend of mine has been living in Alaska for the last couple years. He has no home, no job while up there, though he returns from time to time to work on films. He lives out of his Jeep, sleeps in a tent most nights, and spends most days writing in his journal, documenting and getting to know himself on a level most of us will never experience. To many, this would be an envious life, an adventure along the lines of which many of us dream. But whatever our "Alaska" is, there’s an echo in our mind (often put there by someone else) telling us that it's "irresponsible.”

We put the importance of average, everyday work on a pedestal in our societies and scoff at the outliers, the travelers, the circus freaks. But what if you truly feel you were meant for something different?

There's a twofold response, I think.

  1. Embrace that difference and run after it. Let it be what defines no matter what you face.

  2. Do the routine, everyday work when you have to and do it (as my wife would say) with a smile on your face. Let it be what empowers you to do what defines you.

What it's really about is freeing yourself from judgment—your judgment of yourself, your judgment of others, the judgment others place on you.

No work lasts forever, and Alaska isn't going anywhere.

Work and dream, and when the time is right, jump.

— G

Finding Stan Lee

song in my head — “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional

When it comes to art, the voice of the artist matters.

But what does "voice" even mean?

Voice, I believe, is perspective, and perspective is the key to making good art. It's the inner viewpoint you're trying to outwardly communicate.

Okay, yes, voice has a little bit to do with how you tell your story—your choice of genre, the pacing, the tone and use of language, violence (or lack thereof), description (or lack thereof), etc. But that's superficial skin compared to the necessary meat beneath.

In my opinion, an artist's "voice" makes an artist; it's why they create. Your art should be the reflection of a conglomeration of experiences, interests, emotions, opinions, beliefs, world views, and everything else that adds up to make you who you are. If this voice or perspective is missing, the audience will know it. They might have enjoyed the recipe you concocted, but it won’t be a lasting taste.

And worst of all, it won’t last for you as the artist, not in the deeper, meaningful way that it should.

So, ask yourself this: could anyone create the thing you just created? If so, you owe it to yourself and the people you hope to serve to try harder to be you. Inject every word and every scene with your theme—what you think and what you want to say, and leave finding the audience to the birds.

Because I genuinely believe that if you put something with perspective out in the world, and that you craft this with skill and style and understanding, you will find fans. And those fans will follow you anywhere. So don't be afraid to create the strangest thing you can, something unique that sings of only you. If it has a heartbeat, the audience will find it. The right tribe will embrace it.

Anyone can create a superhero. There have been knock-offs of characters with powers and superhero stories since we've been telling stories! But not everyone could’ve created Spider-man. Stan Lee wrote what Stan Lee wrote because only Stan Lee could write it.

People like us do things like this.

We see then that the answer isn't to "be Stan Lee."

The answer is to find the Stan Lee within you. Who are you? What do you do? What do you stand for?

Now go stand.

— G

Creatively Agnostic

song in my head — “SGL” by Now, Now

The great American professor, Joseph Campbell, spent his life taking an anthropological look at the impact and importance of human storytelling. His idea of the monomyth—how patterns and themes and archetypes repeat in the myths, legends, and religions of a myriad of people groups throughout history—was most clearly articulated in his seminal 1949 work entitled The Hero With a Thousand Faces. From this vibrant and vital research, a methodology developed known as The Hero's Journey. It's an idea that has permeated screenwriting and storytelling ever since.

However, a critical thing about Campbell's work that is often left out in the execution of The Hero's Journey as a practical storytelling method is that Campbell never intended for his work to be used in such a way. His is a descriptive conception, something that explains observed patterns in things that already exist, not some prescriptive advice on how to write stories. Because of this misconception, when used purely in a story creation way, without the greater context of what the work means, some (and often many) of the beats in The Hero's Journey don't make modern story sense.

Bumping up against this then tends to elicit two types of responses. It causes some creators and teachers to double down on the importance of sticking to The Hero's Journey, forcing square story pegs into round holes or shifting some of Campbell's literal examples into metaphorical ideas to justify their zealotry. I've been guilty of this from time to time myself.

Other observers go in the opposite direction, dismissing outright the usefulness of The Hero's Journey in story creation, citing inconsistencies in pieces as a reason to ignore the sum of the whole. They throw the baby out with the bathwater if you will.

To me, either approach is ill-adviced.

As you'll come to find out in the pages of this blog, I love thinking about story structure as a whole, and notably The Hero's Journey. Campbell and his work have fascinated me since I first came upon it in film school. But I will be the first to point out that it is not a perfect storytelling system or prescription. It's a helpful tool in what Stephen King would call the writer's toolbox, not a writing gospel.

When creators become overly for or against a particular system or way of doing things, they can lose sight of the importance of imagination, flexibility, and fluidity—necessary and worthy traits for an artist to have! But as human beings, the more dangerous result of this rigid mindset may be that we close ourselves off to the possibility of fresh perspectives, new voices, and important ideas.

Apple wants you only to use Apple, thus forcing everything to become proprietary. That works for them (and others), but it doesn't have to be your way, especially when creating art. It's helpful to study and to study hard, to develop favorites methods and hone your craft. But it’s often just as beneficial to be creatively agnostic.

— G