I’m listening to The Nerdist podcast, chopping cauliflower for dinner. Chris Hardwick is interviewing Paul McCartney, and I can’t stop smiling: McCartney is so good. He is voice resonates and his ideas resonate and I love the way he sees the world, his work, the works of others. He reminds me of thoughts I’ve had about the creative process. That fame is better earned than instant. That it’s okay to practice a lot, invisibly, and work at a craft to make money.
I have to stop in the middle of chopping, leaving a mound of cauliflower on the cutting board, to find my pen and write down some new, wild ideas that come to me while he’s talking. Everything he says ultimately runs together in my memory and becomes just a single knowing:
I’m not alone.
I’m not the only one trying so hard, practicing so much. I’m doing the right thing. Paul and I are now old friends. Even though I come from a hardcore jazz family and didn’t happen to grow up listening to the Beatles. I respect McCartney and his music; he’s a kindred spirit (and, he’s still alive, which most of my kindreds are not).
I spread cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, slide it in the oven, and look for something else to chop because he’s still talking and I can’t turn him off, that would be rude.
Ultimately this interview will be saved on my computer along with other favorite interviews I’ll listen to again later, when I need reminding I’m not alone, need the courage to keep creating.
Most of these favorite interviews are not with writers. Almost none, in fact. There’s a sameness in discussions about writing. It often reduces the craft to a series of boxes to check, a religion of maintenance rather than an effort toward growth and innovation. A religion where we all start regurgitating the same thoughts, the same styles, and writing ceases to become an adventure. It becomes a duty, a cause of sideline interest and endless discussions about rules and methods.
I prefer to be inspired, and let the methods take care of themselves. I get inspiration from Pauly Shore, Sam Raimi, Jeff Bridges, Spoon, Guillermo del Torro, Hayo Miyazaki, Andy Serkis, Tom Cruise. By old, old fairy tales. By Hemingway’s memoirs (whose own style has been, sadly, turned into a religion of sorts). I get more from his inner thoughts than his writing. I love the snapshots he provides, telling of his process. Of standing over a fireplace peeling an orange when he couldn’t get a story going, of staring out his window and telling himself, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”
These glimpses into the lives of other creators show me they did the same things I’m doing now, and that it’s not madness to stare ahead and murmur encouragement to myself. It’s alright to practice for a long time, invisibly. It’s alright to become famous some other way than overnight.
These are the people I try to surround myself with. I keep their thoughts close as I write my stories in pursuit of a life.