Control and Forgiveness

I’ve been speaking mostly of control in terms of the individual leader-artist heroically controlling external reality – in filmmaking this takes place through the massive expenditure of resources, deployment of specialized technology, and employment of hierarchical management structures to create a seamless and glossy audiovisual faux-reality, covering the messy organic reality underneath. This is performed with tools ranging from massive amounts of hairspray to motion-control camera cranes.

This short essay points out that there’s another whole dimension to this control dynamic that I have barely touched upon – as opposed to outer control of reality, the artist’s inward-facing creative self-control, neatly contained, for writers, in the maxim “Write Every Single Day.”

Author Daniel José Older suggests countering that control impulse with forgiveness, rather than spiral into miserable rigidity, berating oneself for skipping days, and spending hours staring at blank pages. He presents the very welcome idea that a delicate, organic creative impulse is not necessarily responsive to the sheer force of personal will. When you’re trying to get a tiny seedling to grow, patiently giving it space and time is probably a better policy than obsessively repotting it in new soil and soaking it with a garden hose every twenty minutes.

Beyond forgiveness and a non-shaming attitude towards oneself on uncreative, unproductive days, and self-flagellation for all the stories and films not being relentlessly pushed towards completion, I think there could even be room in the conversation for a certain appreciation of non-productivity, fallow seasons, hell, even Writer’s Block! Perhaps “creative blockage,” evoking constipation or heart disease, is the wrong metaphor to use altogether for these periods in an artist’s life. I think I’ll return to this subject again shortly, because it seems like there are further implications to consider…

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