Eight years ago, I made a short film. I had been saying for years that I wanted to make movies, but I hadn’t done anything about it. I was scared and I found every excuse under the sun not to do anything other than talk about it.
Then I met a woman. She was interested in film. She was interested in me. I was intensely interested in her and I wanted her to fall in love with me. I wanted to impress her and I wanted her to be proud of me.
So I put aside my fear and my insecurity and my ignorance. I made a film. It wasn’t a perfect film, but it was good enough to get into 20 smaller film festivals and win five awards.
The woman and I did fall in love. In a very real sense, my film was a love letter to her. It never would have been made without her in my life.
I think about this a lot lately when I think about why I haven’t made any more films and why I’m not turning out the kind of art I’d like to be making. I have several scripts in various stages of pre-production. I have a documentary that I’m working with a producer to try to bring to life. I even wrote half of a book last year that I ended up deleting in despair because I didn’t love it enough.
But I’m not finishing things. I don’t have enough enthusiasm for anything. I’m not using the talent that I know I have. Why not?
We’re told that we should do the work we do for ourselves — because we simply want to do them — instead of doing things for other people. I can honestly see that point of view, but I know it’s a sterile argument that leaves me cold. The only motivation I know is love — wanting to conquer things and win things as treasure to give to someone I love. Money and power and position don’t mean anything to me. Being loved and understood and appreciated is all that works for me.
A couple of days ago, a friend and I were talking about why I’m not doing the things I ought to be doing. She’s been encouraging me to write a book. Earlier this week on Facebook, I had joked that I could write an entire book about the things I didn’t understand. (Another friend quipped, “Just one?”)
Mary thought it could be a good concept for a book, so she’s been encouraging me to do something about it. She mocked up a fake front cover, using a picture I happened to post earlier in the week (the one at right) and her whimsical idea of what it could look like. (Here’s the art she came up with and sent to me.) She’s trying to prod me to do almost anything, and this was her fun way to do it.
I have books to write. I have films to make. I even have photos that I’d love to turn into a gallery show. I have things I want to make. I have things I need to make.
I just don’t know how to do it without the right person to do it for — the right person to give it to.
In my mind, I have a very old-fashioned image about this. I picture myself putting all of my talent and effort and sweat into making things and then laying them before someone I love. I picture myself saying, “I made this for you. I can’t give you the world, but I can give you myself. And this is what I know how to make. I hope you like it.”
I have to have a reason to make good art. Without love as a motivation, I’m just being a craftsman making a pretty trinket. It’s not real art, at least not in the way I understand it. In some mystical way that I can’t explain, love is the magic elixir that turns the work of a craftsman into the work of an artist.
Maybe there’s a better way. I honestly don’t know. I just know that the only way I know to breathe life into my work — and make it become good art — is if my sincere message to a woman is, “I made this for you because I love you. I hope you like it.”
Without that, I’m just making pretty pictures and stringing together pleasant words that don’t mean a thing.