Category: Creative Mondays
A year long exploration of creativity.
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By Grant Baciocco
Recently, I have started to become really fascinated with failure. It kind of started when I was reading the Jim Henson Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Of course, failure is the furthest thing that you think of when you think of Jim Henson. He created The Muppets, for pete’s sake! I know this, but I was totally fascinating with the projects he attempted to get going before, and even after, creating The Muppets. One of my favorites is a pilot he shot in 1962 called Tales of the Tinkerdee.
This was a half hour pilot for a puppet TV show that was geared at both adults and kids. A very early pre-cursor to the type of show The Muppet Show was when it began airing. Fun for all ages. Jim shot the pilot, in Atlanta I believe, and you can watch the whole thing on YouTube. It’s fun, filled with puns and mistaken identity, but it never went anywhere. Jim reused some of the elements of Tales of the Tinkerdee in future productions and even tried to remount the show in a different format, but it never gained any traction. An interesting side note is in this production, Kermit played a wandering minstrel and he wore a spiked collar for the first time. The collar he’s had ever since.
Currently I’m reading The Moose that Roared by Keith Scott. It is the story of Jay Ward who created Rocky & Bullwinkle, Peabody & Sherman, Dudley Do-Right and so on. I was surprised he had a lot of projects that turned out to be non-starters as well. For a long time he wanted to do an American Bandstand type show but with jazz musicians. He couldn’t ever get it made. Part of the reason it never saw the light of day was that he came down with a crippling bout of agoraphobia that made him practically unable to leave his house. He still created while suffering from it, but he was unable to make it to important meetings to help try and get his ideas made.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’m a big fan of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 creator Joel Hodgson. Joel has often talked about releasing a coffee table book that chronicles all the projects he and his brother Jim have pitched over the years that never saw the light of day. It’s amazing to me that they have enough of these projects to fill a whole book!
No, I’m not interested in all these failures because I get some sort of morbid joy out of it. I find these failures inspiring. Tales of the Tinkerdee didn’t make it, but Jim went on to create The Muppets. Jay Ward didn’t get his jazz show on the air, but he went on to create Rocky & Bullwinkle. Joel Hodgson has enoug projects that never made it to fill a coffee table book yet, he still created Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
To me, this shows that if one project doesn’t make it, you don’t pack it all in and give up, you keep creating. Who knows? The projects after your most recent failure might be the next Muppets or Rocky & Bullwinkle or Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media
NOTE: This is the final Creative Mondays post. Thanks for the support.
Time and time again on this blog we have talked about how creating is not easy. Every piece of art that exists in this world is here because the artist who created it fought tooth and nail to bring it into the world. When you think about it, creating a piece of art has just about EVERYTHING stacked against it ever being created.
First of all, there is the simple act finding the desire, time, energy, fortitude to even begin the project. It is super hard to get a boulder rolling. Taking that first step, starting can be a Herculean effort for many, many people. I wonder how many great works of art, in all fields, we have missed out on simply because they remained as an idea in someone’s head? For whatever reason, they didn’t take that first step and start. The idea never stood a chance. It is only by taking that first step can we begin to bring the piece of art into being. Those who fight and fight hard and actually take that first step are the true creators.
Once you’ve started, things may seem easier but, depending on how you look at it, things can become more difficult. The bolder is rolling, yes, but your pushing it uphill. Once you’ve begun time becomes a factor again. Will you have time to work on the project? Will it take weeks? Months? Years? And if so, will you stick with it? Once you’ve begun is also when the critics come out. The people to tell you that you’re doing it wrong, or that you should do it a different way. Or the most vile critic of all, your negative brain. The voice in your head telling you that what you’re doing is not good, will never be any good, fixates on every minor mistake, tells you to just give up. You must fight against all these obstacles and continue to create, what you know deep down in your heart, is worth fighting for. To bring your vision into reality, you need to fight the entire time.
If you don’t fight, you will not create. It is that simple. True, some ideas may be worth fighting for more than others. It’s up to you to pick your battles. It is also true that some fights will be easier than others. A project can inspire you down to the core and you won’t have to fight to get it done. The fun of working on it will quiet the negative brain and you will, seemingly, create with ease. Do not be fooled. You’re still fighting though, because it’s much easier to do nothing, than to do something.
Lots of people have ‘great ideas.’ A lot of these ideas will never see the light of day because the people who have them are willing to fight to get them done. They feel that just by talking about them, someone else will take the reigns and make their idea a reality. These people will be right there when the rewards come in and they’ll want half, for their ‘idea.’ As artists we know that it is not just about the idea, it’s about doing the work that must be done. It’s about fighting.
So, here’s to the fighters. Those who believe in their art so much they will fight until they are broken, bloodied and exhausted to bring their art into the world. Creating is hard. Always fight.
Have you every had to really fight to get a project done? Tell us about it in the comments below. Have a great week!
NOTE: Obviously, this was written early last year. It has some good thoughts though, even if it is a little dated.
Author Mur Lafferty and I are good friends who met through the early days of podcasting. Ten years ago! Wow! And we’re still friends. She lives in North Carolina and I’m out here in California, but we seem to have very similar attitudes about things that happen to us in our creative pursuits. We will have long email, Twitter DM and text conversations about random topics and we always feel the same about things.
In January, she wrote a blog post on disappointment. It was called, ironically enough, On Disappointment and I will let you go read it on her website at http://murverse.com/on-disappointment/. It’s a great post about how you can have a lot of stuff going on in your life that is very, very good but one little negative thing, in this case a rejection, can bring you down to the point where you become completely fixated on it.
This happens to me all the time. All the time and it is damn hard to get over.
At the end of 2013, Sesame Street held an open call for a puppetry workshop. You had to submit a three minute video of your puppetry skills and then just wait. From the moment I hear about it, I didn’t want to submit. I didn’t want to submit for the very topic this article is about. I knew if I submit and didn’t make it, I would be fixated over it and it would grind me up inside.
I then got a little inside information that if I did apply, I probably would NOT get it because the Sesame was casting a net for a different type than I am. Read: they already have enough white male puppeteers, the don’t need more. So again, I figured I would not apply. But then a friend of mine said that the pressure was off because I knew that inside info and I should submit ‘just to be seen.’
Well, I wound up submitting. And, surprise, surprise I did not get accepted*.
And to no one’s surprise it really crushed me.
Creative rejection sucks.
And the thing that REALLY sucks about it is, like Mur in her post, I have a lot of really great stuff going on. At the time the rejection came in, it had already been confirmed that I would be traveling to Australia with The Jim Henson Company’s Puppet Up. Shortly after the rejection, it was confirmed that I was going to be going on the Puppet Up U.S. Tour before the Australia tour.
I am being paid to go to Australia (and tour the US) to do puppetry, in a show that is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE THING TO DO, and all I can dwell on is the fact I didn’t get into a two day workshop that I would have had to pay to get to (flight, lodging, etc.). That is absurd!
I know many people who’s brains work like mine. And Mur’s. And it’s just insane.
This, unfortunately, happens a lot and when it does I just have to focus on the good. And there’s a lot of good. In fact, in this case, the good outweighs the bad by a trillion percent.
When this happens we have to focus on the good.
Focus on the good and just keep creating.
*The reason they gave me as to why I wasn’t accepted, and my reaction to that reason, would be a subject that would fill 10 of these blog posts, so I’ll hold off for now.
How do you handle creative disappointment? Do you have a coping method that works for you? Let me know in the comments below.
One of the greatest things about creative types is that they always seem to have a knack for looking at everyday objects or things made for other purposes and finding new creative ways to use them. Some creative types do this with a little more whimsy and imagination than others, but we are all capable of doing it.
One of the main examples of a creative type using everyday things creatively is Jim Henson. Now, I never got to meet Jim Henson and I haven’t read his autobiography yet (yes, I know, bad Grant) but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and talk to people who did work with Jim Henson as well as those who’ve researched his life. Something I’ve gleaned from these conversations is that Jim loved technology and loved finding new ways to use this technology in creative ways. He was interested in stop motion so he got his own stop motion set up and made his own films on it. Some of these became pieces that were shown, others were just experiments for him, but he was fascinated with the technology of the time and using it to be creative.
Another great example of Jim using technology creatively (and being decades before his time) was his Handmade Video project. In 1990, with the advent of smaller handheld video cameras, Jim foresaw that soon young filmmakers would go from merely watching TV and Film to making it. So he got three young actors, one a young Dana Gould, and gave them a video camera and let them hit the road and film their adventures. In on fell swoop he’d invented a form of the modern reality show and pretty much the concept for YouTube and internet video. All because he looked at these new fangled video cameras and thought of a new and creative way to use them.
I am in no way comparing myself to Jim Henson but I try to live by that example. When I see a new piece of technology or social media service, the first thing I always do is try to see how I can creatively use it. For example, when I first heard about Twitter, I was deep in production on the Dr. Floyd Podcast and I immediately set up Twitter accounts for all the main characters. Occasionally, I’d send out tweets about the show, but one day I thought it’d be fun for Dr. Steve to start razzing Dr. Floyd on Twitter. People who followed both of them would see it and those that were loved it. They also joined in the conversation.
Then I stumbled on the idea of using Twitter to tell as Dr. Floyd story. It’d be told solely in Tweets and those following all the characters would be able to see it. So on Christmas Eve one year, there was a Twitter-sode all about Dr. Steve and Fidgert trying to capture Santa Claus when he got to their hideout. The fans loved it and I felt it was a really fun and unique experience to test out.
I did the same thing years later when I discovered the Social Media service Tout. Tout lets you put out 15 second videos, much like Instagram does now. I created an account for my character Uncle Interloper on Tout and began trying to find new ways to use their unique video reply feature. One thing I did was start a sing a long. Uncle Interloper sang the first verse of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and then people replied with the next verses. We got all the way down to one in about a week. It was so much fun and Tout even contact me privately to commend me on the idea. I later went on to create the first Tout series with Uncle Interloper. It was a daily show, Monday through Friday, that told one continuous story in 15 second increments. Again, people loved it and it was all because I looked at a new piece of technology and tried to find a creative way to use it.
Technology is all around us.
What have you looked at differently and put a creative spin on? Let us know in the comments below.