Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Isn't that special?

"Let's imitate reality,
Let's strive for mediocrity!"

Oingo Boingo invited us to do so in their final album (though I guess they weren't even calling themselves Oingo Boingo anymore by then), and that lyric has stayed with me in the--could it really be?--fifteen years since I first heard it.

I've always had a real beef with the idea of taking something that's not that great and proclaiming that it is. Songs, movies, TV shows, even people. But that's all relative, I realize, and conversations with people who I love and/or respect, intelligent, thoughtful people who just plain don't see things the way I do, has made me doubt my own senses from time to time. Why do I doubt my senses? Because the littlest thing disturbs them.

Just this week, I've had two opportunities to be mediocre. The first is that we had our yearly Broken Mirror Story contest, and I was just plain uninspired. I may have blogged about the half hour I wasted just free-form writing any way the premise might have gone, any interpretation of those words, hoping that I'd trip onto something that was truly great.

I didn't. It was a couple of days before the deadline, and I had to ask myself the question, "Am I just plain not going to enter the contest this year? And if I don't have a good idea, is it alright to enter something substandard just so I could say that I did it?" And the answer to that question is, I don't know. Last year, I was really excited about the story potential for this contest, and I'll be darned if my attempts to write something I was passionate about didn't soar like a Kong turd from the Empire State Building.

And it gets me thinking. For years, I have continued on my lazy, aimless way under the delusion that I Am Talented, and that there will be success out there for me someday if I just hang on long enough for it to find me. But again, what if my perceptions are skewed, and Merrill is right that "What's Love Got To Do With It" is just not a very good song? When I lived with my uncle and his Down Syndrome daughter proclaimed that black and red objects were blue, my friend Jeff totally raped my brain by saying, "What if you're the one who's wrong, and those things really were blue?"

Like I've said before, I've got a faulty brain. What if it's in worse shape than I thought?

Well, I decided to go ahead and enter the contest, even though I didn't think my writing was all that exemplary, because I figured that it's an exercise rather than a real competition, and one can always use more exercise. Plus, isn't it a bit hypocritical if the originator of the premise doesn't do anything with it? Wouldn't that be an insult to the people who followed my directions, participating in my activity rather than someone else's (or nobody's)?

Heck, I don't know. At the end of the day, it may actually be worse to submit something mediocre than to not submit at all.

The other chance to totally embrace less-than-excellence this week I've already talked about in this blog. I had to submit a treatment for a movie today, and I wanted to impress the producer by going above and beyond the call of duty. He asked for two or three pages, and I gave him nine. But in formatting it today, reading it over looking for inconsistencies (the main character, it seems, was named Jacob, Jack, and David), I discovered that a lot of it was decidedly uninspired. A lot of it was just wheels spinning. A lot of it was aimless space-filler. A lot of it was really weak.

That wasn't a pleasant discovery. In my head, some of that stuff was pretty damn awesome, and I was proud of the fact that, despite working under someone else's specifications and editorial mandate, I was writing the kind of movie I'd want to go see myself. Somewhere in the actual writing of my ideas, things had gotten lost. Or worse, they had never been there to begin with (which I fully admit may have been the case).

So, my options were: default on my contractual obligation and miss my deadline so that I could spruce it up and attempt to patch the holes, or send it in, considering it to be just a first draft, and something that doesn't have to be extraordinary.*

I really wanted to impress him, and this just wasn't gonna do it.

I haven't really complained all that much about my work with this particular producer because, well, when I say things out loud, they seem so darn petty, that I'd probably be tempted to hyperbolize, and then, well, my beefs would be unwarranted, wouldn't they? And hey, the guy is paying me real money to do this work, even if it ends up amounting to nothing. And it's not like that douchestain last year that worked me over, passed me over, screwed me over, and then paid me both jack and squat. That, I could probably complain about.

Besides, what if the producer actually checked this out, and my big mouth (or big typing fingers, anyway) get me in trouble again? I'd be no wiser than those high school kids who put "i wish Mrs Bigler wood get aids and dye" on their Facebook posts, then get suspended over it. For once, I ought to hold my tongue.

Uh oh, I feel a tangent coming on, the way you feel a sneeze a few seconds before it arrives.

I had a dream the other day, that I was walking through a mall that looked dreamily like the Beverly Center and ran into my old college professor, the one who inspired me with dreams of success and stardom, who told me not to wait until I had money saved up, but to quit my job and move out to Los Angeles and work for him and make movies and maybe get that Spears girl pregnant** and enjoy life. Well, unlike reality, when I saw him in my dream, there were no feelings of betrayal or resentment (founded or unfounded), but I was just so happy to see him, and let him point me toward my destiny, that it would probably be categorized as love. It was a strange dream, and one that left me wondering if I have the daddy issues of your average pole dancer.

Whoa, tangent over. Gesundheit.

So, the treatment I wrote turned out pretty mediocre. I hadn't strived for it, but it just sort of ended up that way. But I had taken a shot at greatness, and I'm reminded of back when I was in my brief self-improvement phase, and I was fond of the little inspirational saying that goes, "Reach for the stars. Even if you fail, you'll land on the moon." Now that I've abandoned all that Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar stuff, I'm tempted to turn the saying into a Uranus joke. But I did try. I did make the attempt. And I sent it in, on time.

I don't think that's striving for mediocrity, even if the producer is less than impressed with the end result.

I guess there is a third opportunity to be mediocre (or glass-half-fully, to be extraordinary) in my podcast every week. I often think of songs or sketches or fun ways to ramp up production and make things memorable and special, and then toss them away because I lose the ambition, or simply realize it's easier not to. There have been a couple of episodes that were much weaker than they should have been, and sometimes that's totally out of my hands. But sometimes, that's my fault. And maybe that's something Big and I need to sit down and analyze, measure whether it needs to be addressed. God knows I don't want to give him more reason to quit the podcast, though.

I've been typing a lot, haven't I? And I don't know that I've said a lot. I have work that I need to get done, and this may be another way of not doing it, but it's also something that's inside my head that I'd like to get out onto paper (or pixels, you know?) because I may feel differently tomorrow morning. After all, there were a couple of real stinkers of stories I've written in the past (the kind I'd never share with anyone in a million years, or okay, maybe if someone twisted my arm a little), that when I picked them up again months or years later I realized weren't so dang bad.

So maybe it works both ways.

Rish "The Glass Is Half..." Outfield

*Look, I realize this directly contradicts my Jack Skellington-quoting blog post, but that goes back to the accuracy of perception. I thought it was good a couple of days ago, and today I thought it was bad. Can both be right? Perhaps the fact that I seem to have one of those sodding summer colds today has contributed to my opinion. This week has sort of been a good one for putting me into a foul mood.

**Uh, not that one. The other one. The one it's okay to make fun of.


Anonymous said...

Wow, look at you being all human and stuff. Now this is a bit of writing I like, with your heart on your sleeve.

Rish Outfield said...

Uh, thanks?

I never know how personal to be in these darn things. If I actually put my heart out there, then any dominatrix with stiletto earrings can stomp on it. Do I go on and on about that girl Tray that works at the clinic or how I've occasionally imagined my sister and her husband have died in an accident and I've adopted her child as my own? Or do I just go on talking about safe things like commenting on the weather and getting fat and celebrity deaths?

It's hard to know which way to go.

Anonymous said...

IMVHO - This blogging thang is very much a teeter-totter.

One side, all vapid, silly, for blog-candy consumption. You do this very well. It's funny, edgy and danged strange.

Other side, bleeding artist with all the trappings. This post was that. Also, I loved it. If that stiletto-wearing chick comes by, well, that can be your next post.

I don't see a problem with doing both styles. Mixing and matching in one post may come off uneven, unless you become famous, then you'll be eclectic.