Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!
(1) Grateful for my lady friend. If it weren’t for her stabilizing influence, I would have never gotten it together to record the Eden in Babylon demo.
(2) Grateful that, after all this time, the demo has actually been completed. Can’t wait to hear the mix.
(3) Grateful that now that it’s over, I will finally have time to give quality time to my daughter.
(4) Grateful that the money to pay for demo costs came together more-or-less miraculously right in the nick of time, and all of it came from anonymous donations to the pool.
(5) Relieved that I am no longer manic like I was during the 48 hour period of pretty much non-stop preparation for this project.
(6) Grateful that when I got home from the recording session last night, there was no part of me that felt a need to “keep working.” Instead, my entire being wanted to enjoy my night with my lady friend, and look peacefully into her beautiful blue eyes.
(7) Although, when I was manic, I thought this project was the most important thing in the world, I am relieved and thankful that when I got home last night, I realized that it was no big deal.
(8) Grateful both for all the years when I slaved away as a servant for the super-rich, and all the years of enduring indignity and dehumanization on the cold city streets. I have experienced both extremes. Most people are not fortunate enough to even have experienced one of them.
(9) Grateful that No. 8 above has done nothing but fuel my philosophical fire.
(10) Let the Philosopher now prevail over the Artist. I’ve got a job to do on this Earth – and nothing can stop me now.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything helps – God bless!
It was the year 2008 — the year in which I lost over half of my so-called “friends” and at least one close member of my extended family by sending a single three-sentence email that I guess they couldn’t handle. The word “homelessness” might as well not have even existed in that email.
The few friends who cared wrote back with advice that had to do with anything and everything other than the fact that for over four years now, it had been all I could do to keep a roof over my head. One person even advised me to look at its contents when I was “sober” — as though assuming that a person had to be drunk in order to express that he could no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness. I had written that somebody had to believe in me enough to let them stay at their house long enough so I could get back on my feet — or else, I would do something drastic.
I would take my own life.
Record gales were assaulting my entire body in Golden Gate Park. Do I die of hypothermia tonight, or do I spare myself the trouble and do the deed of my own courage and power? I had just heard yet another landlady claim that I had to leave my cottage because her daughter was separating from her husband and needed to move in. In California, they call this an “Owner Move In.” It’s the easiest way to get rid of a renter whom you don’t happen to like.
I had been working as an accompanist for a Gilbert and Sullivan company, the Stanford Savoyard Players, at the time. When I lost the cottage, the musical director kept paying for my motel rooms so I could finish the show. This was more than gracious of him, but of course I could not expect such treatment to continue once the show was over.
I had been in so many different programs, shelters, and board-and-care homes — in addition to all the rentals that somehow only led to irreconcilable conflicts, owner move-ins, and finally a crash landing back on the streets — I had stopped counting long ago. None of those situations had ever put a single dent in the rock hard armor that is Homelessness.
In this case, I guess my $900 monthly disability money vis a vis my $550 rent was making the landlady nervous. And though she knew I’d landed the Stanford gig after finishing my opera coach service at Peninsula Teen Opera, she still came up with the Owner Move In. Last I checked, her daughter never even moved in. Guess she didn’t like the way I looked.
Sure, I remember pacing the floor in her living room, when I was supposed to be staying inside the college. I remember her approaching me, asking: “How did I ever wind up with the likes of you?”
I remember the incredulity she expressed when she didn’t believe that all of my family members were refusing to let me stay with them.
“But why should they let me stay with them?” I asked her. “You won’t even let me stay with you, even though I’m paying rent.”
“You’ve got a point there,” she shrugged. And of course, she still kicked me out on my ass.
So the show ended, and a couple days later I found myself completely lost in the kind of “summer” that Mark Twain claimed to be the “coldest winter he had ever spent.” I crawled into the Simple Pleasures Cafe on Balboa, and after breaking my last five dollar bill, bought a minimum three dollar hour on their public computer.
It was then that, overwhelmed with despair, I emailed at least one hundred people at once with these words:
I am stuck in a T-shirt out in Golden Gate Park in the freezing cold wind, and I do not believe I can make it through night. I am writing to let you all know that I can no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness. Please, somebody let me stay over tonight, or show me where I can go, because at this time, I am prepared to take my own life, to avoid what I feel is coming.
And though I indeed lost at least a hundred formerly positive contacts with a single email, the revelation of humanity that poured forth from exactly three people whom I hardly knew was astonishing.
An Actress: Andy, I’ve been there. Give me your number; I will do everything I can possibly do to help you.
A Bartender: Andy, I’m driving over from Lodi to get you. Tell me where you are — my dad says you can stay at his house for a night or two.
A Poet: Andy, check your PayPal. I just shot you eighty bucks. Get yourself a hotel room, get inside for tonight, and take it from there. Tomorrow is another day.
Of course, the final offer was of most immediate appeal. I used my last two dollars to hop on a SamTrans bus and check into a cheap motel in Belmont for the night.
In the morning, I woke up, scratched my head, and scanned my options. I knew that Greg the bartender was willing to come get me. But it seemed as though something more important needed to happen first. So, I walked up the hill to Sequoia Hospital, and told them everything I just told you.
I explained how my job contracts had ended, and how it would be a bit of a lull before I could find another gig. I expressed how I had thought that surely now, with both employment and a rental, I should have managed to get back on my feet. Before, I explained, I either didn’t have a job or I didn’t have a place to live. This time, I had managed to muster up both at once. And yet still the Homelessness loomed larger than any of that.
I told them how two nights prior, I had written to all of my family members to beseech them to let me stay at their homes for just a couple nights, and no one at all replied. I told them I had been trying to deal with my mental health issues ever since a first-time manic episode in the year 2004 had lost me my job, my car, and my home. I told them how every time I entered into some kind of program, something would happen, something having to do with my inability to get along with others in close quarters, and I would get kicked out. Or else I would finish the program, and then what? Where would I go? All roads, I told them, led to Homelessness.
I told them I completely understood why people didn’t want to have me over, because I probably would’t want me over either. But at the same time, I asked them, where is compassion? Who has a heart? Can’t somebody bend for a little while? When is anybody going to realize that I’m not going to be able to solve any of my “boundary issues” or exacerbations of ADHD or bipolar disorder if I don’t find that somebody loves me enough to make a simple sacrifice – and yet, nobody will.
“Can I possibly be that bad of a piece of shit that nobody will let me stay with them?” I asked them. “I’ve let homeless guys stay at my place before. I didn’t like having my space invaded either, but I had compassion. Sure, Tony slept for twelve hours and left a mess in the kitchen. So what? Was I supposed to let him die out in Golden Gate Park on a night like this? Why can’t they get that I won’t be able to solve any of these other problems of mine if I can’t first solve the much more enormous problem that is Homelessness?
“And why, why, why doesn’t anybody love me anymore?” I cried. “How can they keep saying they ‘love’ me, yet forbidding me to even so much as knock on their door, or to come over for Christmas dinner? What is wrong with me? Am I that horrible of a human being that, for all of my God-given gifts and musical abilities, I am supposed to die in a damn gutter? Why can’t anybody give me a break?”
I shut my mouth and ceased my appeal. I looked in their eyes, fully expecting them to say the usual:
I’m sorry, Andy. We’re not a spa or a ski resort. I know you want to get your meds fixed and find some help here, but we can’t just let every homeless person on earth over for a 72-hour stay. We feel for you, but you will just have to receive help for your condition somewhere else.
Tears were flowing down my eyes. I stayed silent and gazed at the three women in front of me, who in turn gazed at me.
And I tell you — when those three social workers rushed up and hugged me, I remembered again the Revelation of Humanity — that inkling of hope, not just for me, but for the entire human race.
I was not a piece of shit.
I was not “worthless homeless scum.”
I was not a “dirt bag.”
I was a human being who needed and deserved real help.
Sure, I lost at least eighty professional contacts, maybe twenty people I had thought were my friends, and another person whom I very much love, with a single email. But what I gained from this experience was far greater.
I thought I would end my meaningless, worthless life. Instead, my life of worth and meaning had just begun.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!
I’m writing on a text file in Open Office. I have the emerging text to The Oracle Sequence open on another file. I’m making a conscious point of avoiding the typical Internet venues on which I write. That means WordPress, DiaryLand, Facebook, Twitter, and all email-related interfaces, such as Zoho or G-Mail. I’m trying to break certain negative associations I have developed with all of those venues, for they seem to be thwarting my progress on this particularly pertinent portion of my project. Never before have I felt such an enormity in the gap that separates the degree of my desire to progress with the degree of my actual progress, as pertains to a specific project or piece. I want nothing more than to begin making substantial progress on this project. I want the piece to “break.”
But let me explain what I mean by “break.” I use this expression a lot, but I don’t often take the time to clarify what I mean.
Whenever I am in the process of creating something substantial, my progress seems to proceed extremely slowly for the first several days, taxing my patience. But I endure, for the knowledge that at some point soon, the piece will “break.” When it breaks, it is as though floodgates have been opened. Where the rate of progress before was tortuously slow, all of a sudden I am progressing at a very rapid, steady pace. The process of producing the piece has begun to “flow.” With that sudden huge burst of energy comes a renewed confidence. I no longer brood with the sense that the inevitable break I await will be delayed interminably. Instead, I exult in the creative process. Whereas, days or hours earlier — or even moments earlier — various aspects of the process seemed to pose nothing but horrific obstacles toward my progress, they now seem to work marvelously in my favor, as if by magic. And before you can bat an eye, I feel that I am actually completing the piece in question.
You heard me: completing the piece. The prospect of its elusive completion no longer buzzes about my brain like an annoying insect I can never manage to swat. Completion occurs readily, rapidly, precisely — and in fact, numerous times.
“What?” you may ask. “How can completion occur numerous times? You just got finished telling me that until this thing ‘broke,’ you couldn’t even complete it once.”
That’s a very logical question, and please allow me to explain. For you see, it seems I’ve substituted one problem for another one.
What happens after the piece “breaks” is that, in my greatly increased productivity, I get from A to Z so fast that my emotions can barely handle the sudden positive turn of events, and I decide that everybody needs to know about it. So I gleefully send out a “completed” version of my piece to all my dearest friends and family members, hoping they will be as excited at the surprise “completion” as I am. But then, little do they barely have the chance to open their email, when BAM! I decide that the recently completed version wasn’t quite good enough; and so I send a second version of the piece; say, Version “1-B.”
After that, I send Version 1-C, and then Versions 1-D thru F, and so on down the line. People in my life are suddenly receiving so many versions of some new work of mine, they naturally have no idea when the bombardment will cease, and exactly which of the many versions, if any, they should bother with.
While this is happening, I vaguely sense that there is something wrong with my approach. Oh, I understand exactly why this pattern has come into being. The hugeness of the moment when the piece finally “breaks” is typically too much for me emotionally. You see, I had been frustrated for days, perhaps weeks, all around a relatively insignificant creative project of mine; for example, this polishing of The Oracle Sequence that has come to receive such prominence in my head lately. But once The Oracle Sequence “breaks,” then to whatever extent that I had earlier been impatient and frustrated, I will now have become just as excited, and in fact, full of glee. Excited, exuberant, and gleeful. I feel almost mischievous at that level of enthusiasm. In that sudden, newfound elation, it will be extremely difficult for me not to burst forth with a constant, incessant gush, exulting in the experience of excitement that so elates me, and exuding that ecstasy upon the world.
But when I do this, I forget that the world is not necessarily predisposed to tuning into the value of my creation at that moment. Moreover, the world does not necessarily care about my creation — at least not yet. If I want them to care in some future, positive scenario; then probably I shouldn’t be bombarding them prematurely as though to prove my prowess and prodigy in an a priori fashion. Wouldn’t it be better to hold back, until I really have a product worth releasing; and even then, to release it to the world with humility, and grace?
Of course it would be. I therefore must commit myself to terminate my earlier practice, difficult though that termination may be to effect emotionally. I need to cease to involve all my close friends and family members in my process. Henceforth I will not even go online, not even to WordPress, but do all my work in secret, offline, where nobody will see me, and where I will nor be tempted to share my work prematurely. Far better will it be for me to regard this wonderful burst of creativity as a private matter, something that speaks for the ineffable unity of the Creative Mind. In this way, it is akin to the moment of “illumination” delineated by Graham Wallas in his work on the four stages of the creative process. According to this model, the previous period of frustration and confusion actually parallels an unconscious process of “incubation,” whereby the piece is quietly being constructed with great direction and progress in the unconscious mind. The conscious mind remains unaware of this inner process, and in fact believes falsely that nothing is being accomplished at all. According to that model, The Oracle Sequence is at this very moment being polished, refined, and completed — even as we speak — though in my limited awareness, I feel as though nothing is happening at all.
Obviously, this explanation is pleasant to the ears of the Artist. But how valid is it, really? There are other ways of framing this event of “breaking,” this sudden bursting of the floodgates, and the subsequent steady flow of unprecedented Artistic creation. Some of those ways are not particularly favorable, however, or sympathetic with the Artist’s dilemma. Take the view often espoused, for example, by those in the mental health profession. These are those who contend that the Artist is only subject to his mental health disorder, since his pattern clearly manifests the mood swings of manic depression, nowadays known more commonly as Bipolar Disorder. In this view, the Artist is unable to create while in the depressive phase, because his depression prevents him from doing so, on a basic neuro-physiological level. When, in my case, I experience the event of the “breaking,” followed by a fast flow of creative prodigy, I am according to the psychiatrist merely in the “manic” phase of my “disorder.”
I am further told that during the depressive phase, the Artist may not even be aware that he is depressed. This is due to the intensity of his Artistic focus, in which he is completely immersed — even as he gets nothing accomplished at all. His focus, after all, is on his Art — whether he is succeeding in manifesting that Creation or not. So if he is not succeeding, he may well be depressed and in fact rather irritable. But he does not know this, for his focus is not on his feelings — but on his Art.
The psychiatrist continues to advise him that the reason why nothing is getting done is on account of his depression. The depression, claims the psychiatrist, has overwhelmed him, and rendered him inert and immobile with regards to his creative goals. But the Artist doesn’t see it this way. He argues that the converse is the case. The only reason he may be depressed is because nothing is getting done. And besides, the word “depression” doesn’t quite cut it. “Annoyed,” perhaps. “Annoyed, irritated, aggravated, frustrated, impatient, confused, bewildered, and generally out of sorts. But depressed? You gotta be kidding me! Depression is for less inspired, less purpose-driven men than I.”
At this, the psychiatrist typically only nods her head. “Give it about a week, my boy, and you’ll be just fine.”
Be this as it may. We have the clinical, ultra-behavioristic approach of the detached, unfeeling psychiatrist, dismissing all the mysterious spectacles of Artistic angst with a cold, calculated DSM-V approach to life. A bit more pleasing, we have the intriguing approach of Mr. Wallas and his followers, an approach that is definitely more Art-Positive than diagnostic in nature. But neither of these perspectives really assists me in confronting the essential anxiety that I must endure in order to attain to a happier state of affairs. The one way exalts Art above all, the other poo-poos and dismisses the Artistic character, even hinting at attributing the Artistic Focus to some form of mental illness. Yet despite this glaring difference in the two perspectives, they both point to one very disturbing factor that they share in common. In each case, the Artist is at the mercy of a psychic process that is largely beyond his conscious, creative control.
What is needed, then, is greater control.
As to just how this greater control is to be gained, please don’t think for one minute that I have not already pondered this question eternally. There are in fact several text files on Open Office already, exploring this perennial question. I even draw near to a solution or three, in places. But let me take my leave at this juncture, and advise you of my findings when they are bit more conclusive. It may well be that as I complete my analysis as to what it will take to complete my piece, the completion of the analysis may prove to be a more important creation than the completion of the piece itself.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!
Q. Do you know who I am?
A. Yes. It took me a while, but I figured it out.
Q. So why have you summoned me?
A. Because I am miserable.
Q. Why are you miserable?
A. What a stupid question. Isn’t it obvious?
Q. I don’t know. Is it?
A. Of course it is! I can’t seem to get back to where I was before March 4th of this year. Try as I may, everything I do turns to dirt.
Q. What happened on March 4th?
A. I finished the script to my musical, Eden in Babylon.
Q. Isn’t that a good thing?
A. In and of itself, yes — a very good thing. I had been blocked up for over three years, over something stupid. Something a friend of mine did — or a former friend — or someone whom I thought was a friend. It’s hard to explain, but once I got past the block, I finished the script with a vengeance.
Q. A vengeance? Against whom?
A. Against the guy I just told you about — the guy whom I thought was my friend — who ripped it apart – ripped it to shreds, assassinating my character in the process. I finished it, not despite his scathing condemnation — but because of it. I wanted to show him what I was made of. And then —
Q. And then?
A. I dedicated the musical to him.
Q. (trying not to laugh) How masochistic can you possibly be?
A. It wasn’t masochism! More like — manipulation. I thought that, somehow, if I dedicated the script to him, it would soften his heart toward me. He would relax about it all, and then sit down with a glass of wine on a Sunday evening, and read the script more closely, with caring, savoring every word. He would be willing to believe that it just might be a good thing after all — since I had (after all) dedicated it to his very self. Finally, with an approving smile on his face, he would at last come to appreciate what I was trying to do with it — before just assaulting my integrity and writing me off, along with my hard-earned labor of love, as though I were just — just — scum.
A. You heard me — scum! I keep thinking about all these rich people I went to high school with. They think I’m scum because I wound up on the streets — or maybe I was scum beforehand, because my parents were poor. I don’t know — if I hadn’t have been a piano player, they’d have never given me the time of day. And now, even with the piano playing, it’s not powerful enough to negate that image — the image of the guy begging for change on the streets — even though I never really begged, but —
Q. But wait – what does it matter what they think?
A. What do you mean, what does it matter? Of course it matters! I’m trying to produce a musical — not just trying to be some random guy who’s into not caring what anybody thinks of him, as though that’s what he needs to maintain his mental health, or some other boring, irrelevant proposition. Of course I care what people think. I need an audience — I want them to think well of me, or at least — of my work.
Q. But what does it matter what he thinks?
A. Lifelong friend? Theatre Arts professor – reputable? Certainly, his opinion counts.
Q. But does it count enough for you to have let it condemn you? Snag you for three years? And then want to dedicate the show to him? Have you even heard from him since you did so?
A. No — he won’t talk to me. He hasn’t talked to me since shortly after he condemned me.
Q. Why would that be?
A. I guess because — well — I sort of accused him of not having carefully read the script. I said something snide, like – maybe he gave me twenty-five minutes at the most on a busy day, feeling pressured. I might have pressured him. I was stuck at page 58 — eager to get feedback, to be encouraged . . . to move forward . . .
Q. Wait wait — you think he didn’t read the script very carefully?
A. No – not at all. He might not even have read any of it. His comments were all the kinds of things he could have said had he only skimmed it briefly. All except for the big one, where he insinuated that I was some kind of over-the-top political activist, or grandiose sociopath, or whatever it he perceived my main character to be.
Q. Now Andy — let’s get down to it. Do you think that he even read your script?
A. No, I do not. He did not read the script.
Q. Then wouldn’t that explain his silence toward you?
A. How so?
Q. Could it not be that he simply is shying away from you because he doesn’t want to fess up to the fact that he dissed you so flagrantly?
A. Cowardice. It’s occurred to me. But I am not one to complain about cowardice. I myself am just about the wimpiest bloke on the block. I struggle to promote myself; I faint at the slightest trace of adversity. I can’t even get a gig playing the piano anymore, I’m so timid about letting them know my interest. I’m just not courageous, like I used to be.
Q. Like you used to be? When?
A. When I first decided to live outdoors – to be homeless by choice — in Berkeley, in April of 2011, six years ago. I was brave then. I spoke my mind. I was inspired. I didn’t just cave in to the Mainstream.
Q. And you have been “caving in to the Mainstream” lately?
A. Yes. I’m becoming passive, like most people in the Mainstream. I’m starting to just “go with the flow” — even if the flow is decidedly downstream. I do nothing to attack or challenge my circumstances. I don’t fight like I used to. I just – shrug my shoulders, and let it all happen, even as I descend deeper and deeper into hell.
Q. And this descent all began on March 4th?
A. Yes. I had reached the highest height. I had finally finished Eden in Babylon – or, a first rough draft, at the very least — after all those years of blockage and despair, feeling mocked by friends and family, and by prospective producers everywhere — I had reached the pinnacle —
Q. And then you fell down?
A. I fell off. I plummeted down to the dunes. I sank in the quicksand. I still sink, ever lower, even to the heart of the earth.
Q. Do you know the story of Icarus?
A. I do. I even wrote a song about him, years ago.
Q. Have you heard of the Icarus Project?
A. I have. I believe I receive their newsletter. I pay them no mind though. They all seem crazy to me.
Q. But don’t they have something in common with you?
A. Well – looking into them a bit more closely, they do appear to be more-or-less like myself. They’re activists. They would like to see transformative change in society. Many are Artists. Many have Bipolar Disorder.
Q. Do you have Bipolar Disorder?
A. Ha! They say that I do.
Q. Do you believe them?
A. When I’m not too busy being offended by them, yes, I do find a shred of truth in their undying diagnoses and psychobabble.
Q. Then why not revisit the Icarus Project?
A. You bore me. I would have liked your suggestion to have more to do with my regaining the courage I lack. The courage with which I once gave up everything I had — and chose to be homeless in Berkeley.
Q. Will you regain courage by returning to the streets of Berkeley?
A. Probably not. Especially since I’d be escaping all the things I’m afraid of at Friendship Square.
Q. What are you really afraid of, Andy?
A. Myself. I’m afraid of — my own self. Afraid of where my mind might take me. Indeed, where it has already taken me. Whenever I am not consumed in a creation about which I am passionate, my mind takes me to deeper forms of darkness than I’d thought imaginable. It’s the difference between day and night with me. Day — and night.
Q. And now?
A. Deepest, darkest night. It’s unfathomable — I can scarcely even see where I’m going. It pains me. For seven months, from when I first moved here at the end of July, till the beginning of March, I was shining as bright as the day. Since then – my God, it’s been almost six months now — it has been nothing but the dreaded, dead of night.
Q. When will it end?
A. Will it ever?
Q, Won’t it?
A. I suppose a new day will dawn.
Q. Doesn’t it always?
A. Has so far. But all my efforts at seeing the light of day have failed me.
Q. And when all else fails?
A. Use fire. Flame the fan of the sun yet to rise. Light the heart of the night with fire.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!
I’m not sure exactly how many hours I put into my writing today. It seems I didn’t really get started till about one in the afternoon. Let’s say there was an hour break for dinner and bathroom stops. So I guess I wrote for eight hours. All I know is that when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene One” at the bottom of p.104, I looked down at the computer clock — and it read 10:00pm exactly.
I had a feeling today would be a good day. I awoke in good spirits, feeling relaxed and relieved after having resolved a difficult situation at work. I also knew I had the day off — and I knew what to do with it. Most of the writing of the 17-page Scene consisted of refining the six pages leading up to the song called Hunted, finishing the lyrics to Hunted, writing all the dialogue between Hunted and the following song, writing a new monologue called the “Mainstream Monologue,” and finally finishing all the lyrics to the song Children of the Universe. (If you happen to listen to the music of that song, you can easily discern how writing its lyrics was no small task.)
Obviously, I felt very pleased when I finished all that work. But there’s something gnawing at me.
If you’ve been reading me much at all lately, you’ll know that I’ve been contemplating the different stages of the creative process as well as the different spaces of Bipolar Disorder, and how they seem to coalesce in order to yield long periods of time when nothing gets done at all — at least not consciously — followed by long periods of time when all kinds of work is steadily produced. Even though I only have two Scenes left to go, and I can actually even see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have this horrendous fear that the next period of depression – or incubation – is going to last even longer than the last one, which was damn near seven days.
For the sake of balance, I want to stop writing now, and rest my weary head and bones. But for the sake of getting the show finished, don’t you think it would be better if I forged forward, while I’m still on the roll? I’d hate to plunge into another week or two of dry vacuous nothingness.
But no – I must seek a more healthy balance here. I have tomorrow off as well, so I might as well get some rest, and have at it once again in the morning. I’m starting to get the feeling that God is actually going to allow me, after all these years, to finish the damn thing. I need to ride on that hope. There’s no turning back by now.
I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site. I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.
I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned. I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted. During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page. Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling. They were almost right. However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again. Something was wrong.
I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression. I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing. I don’t enjoy these lulls. But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination. It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages. Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One. The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.
So the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit. Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist. I had been nervous prior to seeing him. I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists. At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view. But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake. Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed. So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.
To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door. As it turns out, he is from a musical family. He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher. More crucially, he thinks like an Artist. So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified.
When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:
Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.
His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art. The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts. All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.
His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism. He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.” Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it. Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me. In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me. Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work. Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked. So I protected myself – by fighting back. He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.
This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable. Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different. Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts. Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked. It only takes one entity to unlock both horns. I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities. It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.
Dave then asked how the script was coming along now. Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship. I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work. But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act. The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor. Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two. My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual. As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame. My approval resounds from within and without me. My God has accepted my work.