Issue № 94


I’ve lately been working through reading many, short interviews with people of varying degrees of fame and success. Most of them don’t particularly interest me. “But wait,” you’re thinking, “why would you bother to read a bunch of things which don’t particularly interest you?”

What I’m looking for, in both fiction and documentary, are moments that you weren’t expecting, and which the audience don’t feel prepared for, moments that are candid, like something that just happened in front of the camera, and it’s not going to happen again. Those are the moments you live for as a documentary maker.

~ Kevin Macdonald, from Kevin Macdonald

You see, I know that there’s this large body of work, it’s pretty uniform and I wonder: Why should I think that the ones I like are the good ones? Maybe they’re all good and the reason I don’t like most of them is me. If I sift through the work, am I actually identifying the good ones, or am I reinforcing my established viewpoints?

Growth is often uncomfortable, especially when it comes to shifting one’s perspectives. If I wanted to grow, I should intentionally read the ones that I think aren’t good.

You can’t just live in a comfortable little suburban neighborhood and get your education from movies and television and have any perspective on life.

~ J. Craig Venter

And there are a lot of quotes in the same vein as Venter’s, all of which rhyme with the point about finding your unknown-unknowns and developing a broader perspective.

As a filmmaker, you have a way of seeing things that is inherent in any telling of a story. You read a book, and images form in your mind, and as a director, you explain those images to the crew members. That’s what directing is, that’s what they mean when they say explaining your vision. So for me, it’s really not about any conscious desire to imprint a style. It’s simply: here’s how I see it. This is my understanding of the material. This is what affected me, here’s when I cried, we need to make sure that this moment is real, we need to make sure that your your heart is broken like I felt when I read the script. It’s about communicating exactly what you feel. And that’s the art of directing.

~ Sam Rami, from Sam Rami

I find I’m often confused by having too many options. I can get far into the weeds exploring all the possible way to do something.

Instead, I truly believe that after enough time practicing some creative endeavor, it’s more important to simply follow your own aesthetic and inspiration. “This is what I feel I want to do,” becomes the proper compass. It’s simply: Here’s how I see it.

Age. Age brings perspective in the fine clarity one gets at midnight, on the tracks, looking into the lights of an oncoming train. It dawns on you rather quickly: There’s only so much time left. Only so many star-filled nights, snowfalls… brisk fall afternoons, rainy midsummer days. So how you conduct yourself and do your work matters. How you treat your friends, your family, your lover. On good days, a blessing falls over you. It wraps its arms around you and you’re free and deeply in and of this world. That’s your reward: Being here.

~ Bruce Springsteen

I’m solidly in Springsteen’s target demographic, and yet I never was a fan. (I don’t have a single album. I’ve never been to a concert.) I’ve rocked out to the standard anthems, of course. But I’ve never really leaned in.

One evening, on a whim, I watched a little documentary about him, and the quote above literally rocked me. I hand-transcribed it from his voice-over narration. It resonated with me, carrying deep truth. Sure, that’s what the film-maker intended. That doesn’t make it less true.

…and, somehow, I managed to not subsequently binge-purchase all of his albums.

A period of time set aside to practice mindfulness like this is called meditation. It is the work that gives you access to the Other Incredible Deal and its benefits. The minimum effective dose is perhaps ten minutes daily. More time is better, but the good deal starts about there.

~ David Cain, from The Ancient Art of Turning Walls Into Doors

I spent many years studying Aikido. If I had to pick one thing which most helped me—one thing which led to the biggest changes in my life—it would be meditation. Over and over at every class, we sat on the floor in rows. At many classes we also sat and practiced a specific breathing pattern/method; Mindfulness training. To this day, I do the same seated, mindfulness practice daily. (Some days, I don’t quite get to it—oddly, today is such a day. I wonder if that’s why I’m writing about it?)

There are many other gifts which I received (that’s not sarcasm) but there’s no way I can ever fully repay the debt I owe for the gift of becoming more mindful, and for learning how to intentionally continue to work on becoming more mindful.

I do not recommend studying a martial art just to get the mindfulness gift. That gift might not be available from the art, or the specific teacher, you pick.

But I beseech you to seek the mindfulness gift through meditation of some sort.

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.

Joan Didion

Many things leap out at me from just those few sentences. The phrase, “a mind on the outs with itself” is sublime. The honesty and perspective it takes to write notebooks, let alone that section, are breathtaking. But it’s the voice that really strikes me. It’s only three sentences, and somehow the writer is present.

The writer’s voice casts a spell. The right voice makes the work accessible; it gives us the tone and point of view that best illuminate the material and make it shine. The magic of Hemingway’s prose is that it describes events the way the human eye sees them. He taught himself this technique as a journalist and he used it very consciously and deliberately.

Steven Pressfield, from The Writer’s Voice

The question I’m left with, not specifically from this piece from Pressfield but just in general, is: Is it better to simply write what one feels drawn to write, and to then literally discover—as in, “oh, surprise, so that’s my writer’s voice”—or intentionally seek it out through planned discovery?

Because it sure seems that different writers find their voices in different ways. Unfortunately, all I have here is the question. I’m not even sure if it’s really a dichotomy. Maybe it only seems to me, to be a choice. I’m on the “I dunno I’ll just try writing” discovery path. Maybe the other path wouldn’t work for me. Maybe if I tried to be more intentional about finding my voice I’d only realize that’s not actually a path for me to find my voice.

Until next time, thanks for reading.



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