Open a vein

“Writing is easy, you just open a vein.”

I always thought 20th century wit Dorothy Parker said that until I googled the phrase and came up with a selection of at least four other viable sources – all of whom were men. Though I still believe she might have said it, in all of that knowledgeable, computerized and obviously reliable information offered to us by The  Oracle  Google, there was never a mention of Mrs. Parker.

By the way, the Mrs. salutation was what DP’s writer “friends” at the Algonquin Round Table in NY famously called her, so it’s not retro, politically incorrect or even slightly lacerating of me to now refer to her this way.  As for her “friends” – who were some of the great minds of the 20th century and yes, all male — well, I’m sure they got as good as they gave.  Because as we all know, being friends with a biting wit can quite dangerous, especially when that person blogs  writes weekly with any frequency.  Or even at all.

But the “opening the vein” part is what’s interesting to me and got me thinking about how often I or any of us do this anymore in 2012 — or if it’s even advisable.  Certainly, if you’re a writer or any kind of artist – or just really even a human being – it is.  I mean, who are we at our cores if we’re not honest with the world and ourselves?  No – the correct answer is not “most of the entire human population.”  Or if it is, it shouldn’t be.

It stands to reason that being honest and open about who you are and urging others to be the same, shouldn’t even be a subject needing discussion.  It should just be a given — a fact.  Like the fact that I wouldn’t go skydiving for $10 million dollars or that movie studios would rather make a bad, financially successful tent pole movie rather than an Oscar-winning good one.  (Think of those last two statements as not only being open and honest but my gift of knowledge to you).   But it feels as if it happens all too seldom nowadays, which raises the bigger question – what the heck is everybody saying? Which then also raises the even bigger question of – how do you even know when someone IS being open and honest?

I'm looking at you, Transformers 2.

I try to teach openness and honesty to my film and TV students because not only does it get you to some version of what the world can perceive as universal truth but because one of my limitations as a person/writer/artist is that I don’t know how to do it any other way.  And as I discovered this week, that is a good thing because I passed it on to at least one of my former students, who this week passed it on to one of my present ones.

As I do more than a few times a semester I moderated a panel some days ago of “formers” who work in the industry for “presents” about to graduate and get launched into the industry.  The panel then forged some exchanges of emails and contacts among both sets of groups, resulting in, among other things, one of the “presents” being shown around the soundstage of a television show where one of my very talented “formers” now works.

This, in itself, makes me smile because it’s only through these kind of connections that any one of us can navigate a business as tricky as the one we call “show.”  But what made me happier is the advice the “former” gave the “present” about being a writer when the “present” one felt inferior.  “The most important thing to remember when you write anything is honesty,” said the former.  “If you can remember that, it’s not that hard.”

Listen to Jiminy.

Now, I have to admit the “former” was an honest scribe before ever meeting me and will continue to be forever because, well, some people just are.  But I do like to think that somewhere along the way it was encouraging to find that at least one other fellow writer/person/human being felt exactly the same way.

And that is the point.

In this age of non-reality/reality, 24/7 product placement/marketing, and political campaign rhetoric that feels like a loop of one big load of crazy, it’s more than reassuring to know that there others that feel exactly like you – especially when what “you” are (or are feeling inside) feels out of date, old-fashioned and not within the lightning speed space of our not soft but very hard-wired world.  I don’t know about you but the irony of my early life is that I always felt like “the cheese that stood alone” until one day Iooked around me and realized that I was really just a part of one big dairy farm but was operating in a way in which I was making certain that all of the other cheeses couldn’t see the real me and all my glorious cheezy–ness.  Obviously, that is not a problem any longer for me – being cheezy that is.

We're all in this together...

Working with younger people – the ones that Pres. Obama is now trying to ensure can not only afford to go to college but can live decent lives while they pay back the small to massive student loans many have been forced to take – I can assure you that one of their deep down primary issues and concerns is: how do I be the real open and honest me and still manage to be happy or even survive in the real world?  They don’t want to be vulnerable, but they are.  They don’t want to be nasty, but find that sometimes they have to be (and then it gets easier).  They mostly want to have money but are still idealistic enough to not desire it with the price being the total selling out of their souls.

One way to ease their minds – if any of us care to or care about the future of the world – is to do so by example.  No, this does not mean you can’t cheat a little bit on your taxes or make up an excuse to get out of a boring dinner with a friend or relative.  What it does mean is taking a little moment or two out of your day to lead by example.  Some people do this by being good parents. Others do it in everyday conversation.  Some people do this through their “art,” whatever that might be, and the practical application of creativity that they hope they can share with the world and the world will someday see.  Still others do it by using it as a credo from which to live their lives by and at regular intervals taking time out to speak to those coming up and share with them the best ways in which to navigate the world.

The best part of this is not how noble it is of you to take time out of your day to do something other than complain or even how nice it is that you might have saved some neurotic 21 year old a few more additional years of therapy (though that certainly is admirable).  The best part is what it will do for you.

All four of the “formers” I hosted this past week separately wrote to me or pulled me aside and told me how wonderful it was to be able to come and give back to younger version of themselves who were now in their old shoes.  Some of these “formers” were nervous about talking and sharing and some were afraid of being open and honest and being “themselves.”  Others were busy and weren’t sure if they would have the time, or perhaps knew enough to even come.  Still others were reticent that once they were there they could contribute nothing valuable enough to say.  But the honest truth is all left with smiles on their faces – smiles waaay bigger than the “currents” they were speaking to because most of the “currents” have not yet been out in the world long enough to appreciate how little honesty and openness there is in everyday life.  Just as the recent “formers” didn’t know prior to the panel how easy and, more importantly, how gratifying it would be to give a little of their real selves out.

Much easier, in fact, than opening a vein.

One thought on “Open a vein

  1. So, hmmmmmmmmmmm, the gears are grinding. I read my life, to this point and it’s been a long life. What I know is, finding that honest/authentic/truthful part of myself is not linear. it’s more like a bubble that just keeps getting bigger, richer, finer, including all that there is of me, keeping in mind what I want to be, rather than just what I want. What I also know is that “getting there” doesn’t take the violent, opening of a vein, rather the opening of the flow of your life, your heart to everything and everyone else. That connectedness is certainly what inspires me. Seeking inspiration has always been a big part of my life. No one lays out the examples of “being truthful”, or “real”, or “authentic” or “honest”. You must DO those things to BE those things. That most often takes time, if it happens at all. It’s so easy to just put on the label and fake it. There are a lot of very successful people who do that very successfully. So, seeking inspiration, the kind that changes you, is circular, like the bubble I think. It takes passing it on, being willing to be inspiring as well as inspired. It’s not about us, rather the reflection of us. That is networking at its best, to me. It takes a bit of courage and an ego that is willing to put it on hold for a bit. Like you said, dear writer (the kind with truth and authenticity and honor), “it’s easier than opening a vein”. I’m reminded so often these days, as I’m in the midst of a new writing project of my own, of what George Furth said in “Merrily We Roll Along”……”our job is to not turn out the same”

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