We Are Not Being Explosive Enough
This is a shout out to everyone writing here and anywhere. We just went through the craziest year most of us will experience. And we are writing crap. A year like the last one will create an explosion of new ways to do things. We all need to aspire to more.
I’m as guilty as anyone in setting my sights too low. But when everything was both muted, in our personal lives, and over the top in politics and social justice, lying low was probably a survival mechanism.
But things are opening up. Not just society but the possibilities ahead. The miraculous availability of effective, safe vaccines is remarkable. In one of my marketing incarnations I worked with an innovative company involved in human drug trials. Just a few years ago it was unimaginable that a vaccine could be developed and brought to market in less than a year.
I think there is both an opportunity and a danger right now for creatives. The danger is complacency and a move backwards to the past ‘normal’. That is delusional. The opportunity is coming back to life in a changed world.
The same technologies that made that fast vaccine development possible are going to radically change our lives. AI, CRISPR gene editing, unlimited data processing power, and more, have led to huge breakthroughs in medicine, space flight, public transportation, energy independence…the list is endless.
On the dark side, the world outside of our Western bubble is still in a raging, deadly war against the virus. So, I understand tempering my optimism. But I see things being reinvented on every level. It is our responsibility and challenge to illuminate these changes as artists.
A more personal medium
I have been in the early stages of what I assumed to be a new novel project. As usual I have no idea where it may be going. But I had an insight into a different way to think about it and the inspiration was this year’s unconventional Academy Awards season, of all things.
After years of impersonal blockbusters with massive budgets and unimaginative scripts, filmmakers were forced to work on a more personal level. This was reflected in the films highlighted in the Awards.
As I watched them, and the innovative and more human ceremony, I wondered what I could learn from this huge change in a medium that had become a cliche. I saw a room full of diverse creators at the top of their game after a very challenging time. Globally diverse and racially diverse, the show was a display of how even Hollywood tokenism had been washed away.
I realized that many of these actors and filmmakers had been forced to rethink the medium. Technology that was once costly beyond imagining could be held in the palm of your hands. Budgets shrank and schedules for shooting and editing became much shorter.
This was liberating to realize. And I thought maybe this story I’m working on is not a book. Maybe there is a new way to create and deliver it. Could it be a kind of video podcast with a narration? Something I create as it goes along?
I am trying not to think about the mechanics too much. But this thinking made me realize we need to go beyond tradition. Music has been going beyond for a while. I’d argue that it is the first art to truly take full advantage of technical liberation from corporate oversight and costly recording studios.
Filmmakers are next. The crop of films we just saw, delivered to our homes on demand, is just the beginning. As a writer, I realized that my goal of writing books is limiting. And I’ve never liked limits. But writers are at the root of much of today’s art.
I love painting. I can’t do it to my satisfaction but when I inhale great work in a gallery it ignites something inside me, something that is not literal or logical. So how do you reinvent that? I’m guessing it is happening right now in the minds of artists all over the planet.
Optimism vs. pessimism: our choice as creators
Art exists to illuminate human nature and share that revelation. Even the mundane self-help story, if personalized, can tell a story. But, like all things, it can be diluted by sights set too low or driven by materialism. You can stay on the surface or you can dig deeper and go into the unknown.
Then you can come back and tell the rest of us what it’s like. That’s the challenge. Blow your limits away, be more explosive, change the world around you, and watch that change radiate outward.
Yup, that’s a manifesto. For me it is a personal, to come out of the shell I’ve lived in this past year and do something meaningful. And I see a path to doing it.