Advice for all creatives everywhere
I'm going to take a moment to address all fledgling creatives. All the students of art and graduates of design; all the young guerrilla filmmakers and dabbling actors; all the Sunday writers and all the garage musicians (not Garage musicians - they need to take a good hard look at themselves), and all those with areas of creative expertise impossible to pin down. Sit yourselves down, because I am going to give you the best piece of advice that I will ever give.
Don't count your chickens until they are well and truly hatched.
Living by this One Simple Rule will do wonders for your sanity, and by removing those unsightly frown lines from your face you will instantly look years younger.
It's inevitable that you will be promised many exciting things over the course of your career, and it's an unfortunate truth that a lot of them will just not happen. I say this not as a grizzled veteran or a cynical hack, but as a friend. As a distant colleague. As someone whose hopes have been raised and dashed more times than I've had disappointing dinners.
Honestly, if every idea sent my way had been realised, I'd have had the most exiting life of any person I've ever met: I'd have collaborated on a play in Belgium; I'd have reworked a very, very famous novel and a well-known TV series into graphic novels; I'd have collaborated on books with actors and on promotional work for international expeditions; I'd have won all kinds of awards; I'd have a column in a newspaper as well as a regular cartoon strip; my work would've featured in countless magazines and books; Britten and Brülightly would have been made into a film three times; and I would at this very moment be sleeping off the jetlag from a trip to Colombia before preparing for a trip to Belgrade. That's no small amount of conditional perfect tense for a seven-year career!
The frustration at lost opportunities can easily turn to anger, and unchecked this can lead to the kind of wild bitterness you often hear muttered into lonely pints at the bar or at the backs of strangers heads on the bus. Nobody wants that. You just have to remember that people mean well and it's nothing personal.
The 'unseethroughability' of offers is something that comes with the territory. In a way, I think it's the nature of the people we work with to think big. Really big. It's our nature, in fact: we have these grand schemes and wild ambitions that take place in a nebulous world of inexactitudes. In the same breath as you're asked if you want a coffee, you're asked if you want to star in a short film. Entire creative industries are built around these castles in the sky - sometimes plans succeed, and people are catapulted at high velocity into superstardom overnight, and sometimes they don't.
It's usually nobodies fault when they don't, of course: often these things just run out of steam and/or funding. Especially funding. The mind is willing but the bank balance is weak. In that case it's certainly not a reflection on either the promiser or you, the disillusioned promisee.
A friend once suggested I think of these opportunities like trains: some are consistent and timely and will carry you onward in your career to arrive at distant but exciting stations. Some promises are delayed, but will strive to get you there in the end, and some are unfortunately cancelled.
Some frustration is justified, of course. Some people or organisations, like some train companies, have a total overestimation of their own abilities but can somehow continue to masquerade as a reliable service-provider. They will time and time again get you all geared up for your journey only to announce that they are sorry to announce that you are going nowhere. You'll soon grow to recognise the signs of these serial promise-breakers I hate you, First Capital Connect, I HATE YOU and avoid them. They are simply not worth the hassle.
And that doesn't mean you shouldn't prepare for their arrival of chickens in case they do actually hatch - it would be short-sighted not to prepare some chicken feed and…I don't know…a little coop for them to run around in. And if the worst happens, if they never hatch, then remember that someone thought highly enough of you to entrust you with that egg. Even without the promised chicken, it's still a tasty treat.
Well I've overlaboured the metaphor now, but you see what I'm trying to say.
Take everything that comes your way with a pinch of salt and a phlegmatic approach and save the celebration for offers that come to fruition, because for all the plans that do fail, the ones that succeed - and you will have many that will succeed - are that much sweeter.
SONG du JOUR
'Since I Left You' by The Avalanches
One of the most bittersweet videos of all time