While discussing the turning year recently with an actor friend, he confided that if he could do it all over again, he would have been a writer. Now in his early forties and after 25 years of auditions, he’s pivoting to the blank page. “Great news!” I said. “Unlike ballet or being a starlet, being a writer doesn’t depend on the trimmings of youth, and you don’t have to rely on a production green-light to get sweaty. Writing is a doing activity. Writers write. You can start today, and you’ve got plenty of decades to try to get good.”
At 41, Winston Churchill purchased a box of oil paints and added to his lifelong passions of writing, bricklaying and politics. Though he always saw himself as a hobbiest and signed his work with the pseudonym Charles Morin, within a couple of decades his paintings were winning prizes and getting into important collections. He even wrote a book about painting, as he did for his other obsessions, which included history, strategy, politics, anthropology, evolution, fusion power and extraterrestrials. “Buy a paint-box, and have a try,” he urged. “When I die and go to heaven, I want to spend the first million years painting — so I can get to the bottom of the subject.”
I asked my actor friend what he regretted most about his creative life. “How much time I’ve wasted,” he said. He implied that he was already pressurizing his new gig towards the markers of professional achievement. I reminded him to begin at the beginning — that embracing amateurism is where authentic passion is tested. Resiliency is honed and pocketed there. Like most pivots, the onset is bumpy and humbling, like it’s supposed to be. “A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God,” wrote Sidney Sheldon. Celebrate the beginning. Learn by doing. Take your eye off the clock. “It is a mistake to look too far ahead,” wrote Churchill. “Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”
PS: “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!” (Ray Bradbury)
Esoterica: When starting over, it’s tempting to attach the same expectations we had of the old practice to the new one. But your former, best work took years to hum. The time is now to begin again, understanding that you are not yet professional — great news if you’re interested in getting good. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)
The audio letters are now ready to give as a gift!
The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.
“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” (William Faulkner)