I happened to have to write a 20 second radio spot as part of a “shop local” promotion, and I was struck by how happily I was looking forward to wielding the red pen once I had completed my first draft.
I quickly sketched about 45 seconds of content, and then grinned to myself, beginning to whittle down words, and rejig phrases. I enjoyed exploring the essence of what I was trying to communicate, distilling it down to fewer and fewer words. And soon, of course, I had cut so much that it began to become painful. Only twenty seconds to stand out from a crowd and get a message across? Who made this stupid rule, I grumbled to myself.
It struck me, then, that participating in a writers room for Star Trek might actually be a relief, as well as fun. It might not be totally devastating when your favourite lines for a character are cut, if you also contribute dialogue that makes your colleagues burst out laughing. What a luxury, to have friends helping shoulder the burden.
I find, though, that I still cherish the idea of one person conceiving one product. While the creation of a group of people can be convincing, the result of one person’s work must surely have a unity of thought and expression that no group could reproduce.
I worry about being diluted, about my own vision not getting out there before it’s changed by someone else’s intervention. I get frustrated when my own incompetence prevents my sharing the wonder of my inspiration. My vision was strong, but my execution didn’t match it. The joy of struggling to express lapses into despair. I feel cheated if someone else helps. The result may be great, but it wasn’t mine.
This inner debate doesn’t matter when I’m in the zone. I’m expansive. Possibilities are limitless. There’s an overflowing abundance of ideas, more than enough for everyone. What matter who the artist is, as long as something new enters the world?
After the fall from grace, though, when I’m no longer held enthralled in the flow, and once more back in the daily grind, my inner critic begins a painful assessment. How close did I get to what I wanted to express? How much closer could I get?
Maybe this North American preoccupation with the hardy individual, struggling alone to win success, is getting in my way. After all, the most basic act of creation, procreation, takes two. Darwin thought the origin of life on the planet depended on light, heat, electricity and other variables. Creativity always pushes towards more, and I may blinding myself by arrogantly avoiding help.
I’ll just close the door on the world for a moment, while I consider that.