I think my blog will be taking a turn in the coming weeks.
I have, for two years, been telling myself I wanted to write (seriously) more often in the hope of sharing and explaining my creative path and the way my childhood informs all of my creations today. I’ve been successful in fits and spurts. Yet it has been extremely hard to write about the most important details of that childhood and share them.
To be truthful, I had no idea why.
Last night I read a wonderfully thought provoking short story called “Mr. Goober’s Show” by the esteemed sci-fi writer Howard Waldrop which, today, has me going deeper into my own world to understand why some things “work” and some don’t for myself, for others and for and within the creative life so many of us wish to live.
In the story a man relates the experience of his sister and he in the 1950’s when, while visiting with an Aunt, they uncover a mechanical (pre-war) television that, according to the Aunt, does not work because the way television is transmitted in the story’s active time (1950’s) has changed and so there are no programs broadcast the old way anymore.
The children, left alone one evening, plug in the old TV and, after a bit of fiddling with the knobs, they DO find a broadcast which, since there is no sound, they can only watch. They dub the show “Mr. Goober’s Show”. The genius of not explaining exactly what they see is part of the draw of the story. The years pass, the sister becomes obsessed with discovering what they saw as the brother seems to be less concerned and interested over time. The sister goes to work in the technical/ TV field and, in a series of letters over the years to her brother, explains the futility and ever-increasing obsession with wanting to know what they saw. How it was even possible given the technology and the science.
I won’t give the end away but, the thoughts that are now in my mind began with my own recollections of two shows I saw as a child that I simply have never been able to find in adulthood, even in this vast internet age of every little detail of every single movie, show and program being catalogued. They seem to not exist.
Now, the two characters, the brother and sister, go in opposite directions with Mr. Goober’s Show. While they both are totally taken with it as children and talk about it into their young adult lives, the boy, we are led to believe, simply loses interest and the girl becomes obsessed with unraveling the magic though the obsession leads her deep into the technical aspects of what it COULD have been and away from the early experience of it.
To me, it reads as a dual warning for adulthood.
When I was a child, my world, from a very early age was filled with my inserting myself into many roles and fantasy worlds. These were based on historic or dramatized events. At one time or another I was an astronaut in a cardboard capsule fitted with hundreds of christmas lights and switches I taped in place or poked through holes. I was a high seas pirate on a front porch ship, a Shaolin monk, an Egyptian scribe (and sometimes pharaoh) , I stormed the beaches at Normandy and climbed Mt Everest, explored alien worlds and fell through time portals. I lived in Medieval castles and fought dragons and demons time and again the victor. I lived on the Prairie along with the Ingalls family and solved crimes as many 70’s TV cops (often Kojak because it involved the lollipop and wearing my grandfather's fedora). I created entire sports leagues in the back yard and invented my own futuristic sports, made up board games and card games of my own in winter too.
What happens in adulthood is clearly a duality that we often choose one or the other path as laid out in the story I read. We either lose the sense of magic and wonder of childhood and move on leaving it behind, or we get so caught up in the explanation of all things magical, how things work, what they mean, that they must make sense and what is and is not possible, what we imagined versus what is “real”. We get so wrapped up in this that those early worlds are torn down by the time we reach adulthood and left in tatters around us.
But adulthood is just another fantasy world. And while people look at artists as dreamers, it is often the average 9-5er who is living just as distorted a dream. Usually one that is constructed of, and constricted by, equal parts “have to” and “reason” that the magic is often left out altogether.
Have to and reason can destroy artistic magic too. . . which is why I think art schools ultimately damage as many as they help. . . so why would any other lifestyle be any less damaged by the same factors?
What’s the balance then? For me, it seems to be that we never should leave that magic behind or totally understand it either. This is why, in a nutshell, I have been unable to write about those early experiences.
Technical explanations and scientific certainty can be fascinating but deadly to the imagination as well. I’d rather not know how things work and I’d rather not try to explain where my ideas come from or how they are completely linked, every one of them, to something within that has been nurtured since my childhood. There's a magic in them that I lived, have understood as inherent, and I have tried to explain without success even to myself. And there are those few events that are truly and simply unexplainable. How can I write about them without feeling like I have to explain them or say, "This is what I have come to understand about that day, that event or that memory."
I think the key to telling great, compelling stories, and that is what all artistic outlet can be reduced to, is in what you do not reveal. I tell bits and pieces of the whole but I leave just enough out to allow for the viewer to have a door in for themselves to my world and my work. I want to create things that inspire imagination and open to larger landscapes within. It’s pure storytelling and it is the core of every creative being.
It’s the ephemeral, untouchable essence of who we are. . .
In the simpler sense, there are parts of me that desperately want to know what those two old shows I saw as a 6 or 7 year old were. . . and an equal part of me that never wants to see them again. I want to maintain my own memory of them as they were experienced then which, in seeing them 30 years later, can never be the same, can they?
So this creative dream I live now. . . yes, it is a construction of my own. No one wrote the book on living it and no one told me how to make it happen.
I am asked constantly, "You can make a living doing THAT?" and while the simple, actual answer is "Yes." it leaves out all the magic because, in truth, not everyone can. It's not enough to be good at something or to excel in business or have great people skills and even a staunch self belief matters only a smidgen. The creative path requires the absolute presence of magic. And the magic requires that we never answer all the questions ourselves. We leave them for others to discover and to find within their own creations in their own time.
That’s the magic of the story.
I’ll be trying to create a more revealing feel here in the coming months. Posting more updates on projects and little bits of inspiration here and there going forward. Turning the focus into more of a daily process of what I am actually doing and how.
Focusing on the magic of my todays as much as my yesterdays.
In those posts, some of the larger story will come through but, in the grand scheme of things, the magic I want to convey is not from the past.
It’s in the here and now.
It’s not a memory but the one constant and unbroken thread of my life.
The one, as in the William Stafford poem, that I will never let go of.
I hope you will continue creating the magic of YOUR life
And follow along with me too. : )