Climbing To Making It Nirvana While Freebasing IMDB
I always find the suicide of a successful artist shocking. Such as Alexander McQueen this past month. Take a profile shot of his life and all seems gleaming: World renowned in his chosen field, rich behold comprehension, famous friends and famous admirers. He achieved everything this society says you need to achieve to be content. But for whatever reason, tragically, it wasn't enough. With the eroding of religion we need a new type of heaven to look forward to. A man made mortal heaven where everything will be okay. Better than okay. Blissful. The new heaven is "Making It" in whatever stream of life you choose to swim; medicine, finance, sport, art, politics. You name the career, there's a divine peak everyone's trying to reach and when you manage to reach this golden summit you are assured that All Will Be Well.
I don't count myself any less of a climber in the Peak Distinct of Attainment. Starting out I would spend hours rambling around the Internet Movie Data Base, searching out writers who I respected and scrutinize the year of their first big break with the year of their birth. If I calculated that they had made it in, say, their early twenties. I'd become agitated and depressed. But if I found out that they'd made it, say, in their late thirties, I'd rejoice; "there's still time," I would think, "I still have an enough years to break on through". This is a ridiculous practise, of course. It helps to develop your skills as a writer in no way whatsoever, while simultaneously injecting severe doubt and insecurity into your head. Comparing careers is like crack cocaine for the struggling writer - the laptop and data base sites become the paraphernalia and the information becomes the freebase. I've been off it for years, but sometimes, late at night, I'll catch myself on doodle.com checking out Anthony Neilson's D.O.B.
As I carried on up the mountain of Making It I found that, like all promises of promised lands, there were pit stops, sub divisions, side roads and above all mirages. Another person's accomplishment was another's disappointment, and one's person's perceived failure was...you get the idea. When I was in York one time for a new playwrights conference I met a fellow scribe who knew me by name - we'd never met before but he had heard about me and was "very excited" to finally be introduced. I was flattered but I was also completely bemused. I did not consider myself successful in any sort of way (not according to my ordnance survey map of Great Achievement) but here was this lad looking at me thinking I was on the divine path to Making It Nirvana. Hmm.
When we finally get to Making It Nirvana we expect certain things to evaporate instantly. Such as loneliness and poverty. These of the two biggie burdens that we demand to be taken off our tired shoulders. Though this doesn't always happen. I know two very successful scribblers that have achieved the peak and still suffer the same old frustrations. A playwright friend of mine and winner of the prestigious George Devine Award was telling me the other day that he still can't afford to give up his day job in a bookstore. Even though he has commissions coming left right and centre and a residency at a top new writing theatre. Another writer I know whose show got 5 star reviews last year and was in the running for national awards, got so lonely at a party once that he ended up in a corner reading the Guardian. And not the fun G2 section either. This playwright had to fend off isolation with just the World Affairs pages. Ugh.
So even if you get to the summit you still have to contend with real life I guess. Real life never goes away. Which pisses me off somewhat as I was lead to believe that real life would be magically got rid of when you manage to reach Making It Nirvana. But then I consider - would I want real life to be disposed of? Would that make me, in some way, I don't know, artistically buggered? Think about the true success stories, the ones who rocket past the Making It plateau and storm into the realm where yes indeed real life can be blasted apart along with any kind of human struggle. These titans in the sky get million dollar deals and Oscars galore and then turn in very bad art very quickly. Their next project, once in the cosmos of success, is often rotten and riddled with clichÃ©s.
Is it possible perhaps that to continue to make good art, Making It Nirvana must always be kept out of reach, there to be climbed but never conquered?