Bruce Ferber: Crown of Creation
This post from Bruce marks the end of the I Buried Paul book tour! Want to check out all the stops on the tour? Head on over to Pump Up Your Book for a full list of the blogs. Thank you for joining us and don't forget to pick up your copy of I Buried Paul from your favorite retailer.
Every artist knows the drill. Finish a project, then, if finances and life-circumstances permit, take a well-earned hiatus to re-engage with the natural world and other humans. This is the creative person’s equivalent of a corporate-sanctioned “two weeks’ vacation.” Some of us are also tied to desk jobs, but either way, we who “make stuff” need to get away from the pressure, even if that pressure is self-imposed. Unfortunately, unlike our electronic devices, we don’t have a cute little icon to gauge our recharging percentage. That energy we must feel from within. When we commit to breaking loose from routine, most of us experience a sense of freedom and a decrease in anxiety. Perhaps the greatest gift of taking a sabbatical is that distance allows us to see the world from a slightly different perspective. Sometimes the break gets us so loose, we want to extend our time away from the work. If we can afford it and aren’t on deadline, why not? I’m in San Sebastian, why not hop over to France and see Biarritz?
If only it were so simple. At a certain point, no matter where an artist might be geographically, the boss shows up and begins to ask questions. “When are you going to start writing again?” Or painting. Or playing music. This pain-in-the-ass supervisor who lives rent-free in your head wants to know when you’re going to start creating again. She doesn’t care whether you do it in Biarritz or Flushing, Queens, but this is what you do. This is who you are. So, finish the sightseeing already and get at it.
Jimmy Kozlowski, the protagonist of my novel, I Buried Paul, is blessed/cursed with the need to create, and is willing to sacrifice material wealth in order to retain that privilege. To Jimmy, it isn’t a choice, but a raison d’être. I think this rings true for a lot of people — certainly for me. I get antsy when I don’t have a project that demands my focus. I may curse and moan while I’m in it, but I miss the damn thing as soon as it’s gone. How much easier would it be not to care about making art? Still, Jimmy and I keep at it, me writing novels, Jimmy playing Paul McCartney in the Tribute band Help! while working on his original material.
I often wonder where this need to create comes from. I think that on some level, everybody wants to assert their individuality and put something unique out into the world. It’s a tall order, and a scary one at that. Is my work unique enough? Suppose it is, but it still sucks? Exposing oneself creatively always runs the risk of a less-than-kind reaction from the masses, courtesy of every snarky, self-appointed judge on social media. But what if their criticism is valid? How do you recover from a Labradoodle with his own Facebook page making a cogent argument as to why your short story is pedestrian? My advice would be to empathize with the dog’s probable identity issues, and thank him for pointing out the work’s failings. Lick your wounds and use them as motivation to be better next time around. If starting something new seems too hard, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your next story may reveal itself at an unexpected time, or come from an unexpected place. As for me, Jimmy, and our tribe of committed masochists, we have no alternative but to keep putting ourselves out there. All we can do is take solace in the words of Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
About the Author...
Bruce Ferber built a long and successful career as a television comedy writer and producer. A multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, his credits include Bosom Buddies, Growing Pains, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Coach, and Home Improvement, where he served as Executive Producer and showrunner. In addition to being recognized by the Television Academy, Ferber's work has received the People's Choice, Kid's Choice, and Environmental Media Awards. He is the author of two previous novels, Elevating Overman and Cascade Falls, along with the nonfiction book, The Way We Work. He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife, large dog, and assorted musical instruments.