We all usually look up to and model after our own heroes. It’s a timeworn way to get things done — Like what he did? Do the same thing!
As all my buddies know, I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. One of the things I like best about Springsteen is that he’s always been a very intuitive artist, able to pick up on his own faint creative signals to get busy making new work. Nebraska was a part of this, as were several other of his major works — quick projects that blew up like a summer storm while he was supposedly toiling away at a longer-term project.
It happened to Kubrick, too — A Clockwork Orange was a quickie movie meant to clear his palette after he tried to get Napoleon up and running and was unable to. He seemed to need a fall-back project that, instead of the years of pre-production that he had spent on Napoleon, just came together like melted butter in the bottom of a pan. And it did.
That happens to me quite a bit, too — I’ll be toiling away on some ‘masterpiece’ that I’ve been writing for years, then another project comes in, blows through really quickly, gets produced, shot and finished …. all the while the so-called ‘masterpiece’ just keeps getting more and more laborious … My first film Sinkhole was a fall-back project after another larger movie didn’t go. Alison was a quickie movie that came through and all I had to do was listen and take notes. It practically shot itself.
What is it about these summer storm projects, these back-door creative endeavors, that make them easier and quicker to get finished? Some of these summer storms are true masterpieces — Clockwork and Nebraska among them. Is it the lack of the weight of expectations that frees one up to do the job? Is it the lack of second-guessing that makes the project soar so high? Is it luck? Is it the fact that often these projects are ‘perfect storms’ of happenstance and creativity?
My answer is ‘All of the Above.’ Second-guessing and over-analyzing really do kill creativity. As do too many expectations of where your project will lead. Sometimes the creativity flows better if you don’t really know where you’re going … and you don’t care, either.
The trick is to listen to these voices, and let the projects steer you where they may. And not every summer storm project will blow you away — sometimes you get a dud, and sometimes you end up with Nebraska. But if you never listen to the possibilities, you won’t ever learn where they may take you …