The Smouldering Boats

The performance coach and inspirational speaker Anthony Robbins, says that to move forward in life you have to burn your boats. The boats are, of course, metaphorical. We have not all reached Mister Robbins level of finance, we can’t all own a boat or boats. The metaphorical boats he was speaking of are the safety nets we might employ that prevents us moving forward.
The phrase is actually derived from history and a historical event. Caesar had come, a flotilla of ships in his wake, to conquer Britain. His forces were outnumbered by the British and he knew that if his command felt there was an opportunity for a retreat, they would take it. As his legions gathered on the cliffs, he had them look to where the ships were moored. All the boats were burning. There would be no retreating. With no other option than to go forward and fight, his forces advanced and defeated the British.
If you “burn your boats”, you have no option but to make a life on the island you have landed on. That is sort of where I find myself now, except I am not quite ready to fan the embers, hence the title. The thing is, my ‘boat’ has been smouldering for quite some time now. Years actually. The reasons not to let everything else go and focus on writing and filmmaking is simply fear.
I can come up with many other seemingly authentic excuses – because that is all they are – but the overriding one is fear. Fear of what though? There is fear of the obvious; failure and success. One does not want to fail, even if failure is inevitable on some level. Conversely, success is scary because it needs to be maintained, so is another route to eventual failure. Not that failure is fatal. The oft-quoted lesson of failure is that you learn more from failure than you do from success. Tell that to the practically failsafe J. J. Abrams.
There is also a strange guilt associated with wanting to ‘work’ in a creative industry, coming from a working class background, growing up around people who worked long hours for other people, so as they could pay bills. Even having felt the pressure of directing and making films, the pain of writing and rewriting, it does not feel like work or a chore. It feels like your cheating, as though you are trying to con a living.
There is the fear of disappointing people; family, friends, peers. If you don’t take a risk and stay uncomfortably miserable in your comfort zone, the only person you will definitely disappoint is yourself. Disappointing yourself is doable. You can lie to yourself, keep the reasons coming, the ‘I can’t just’ litany of excuses and stories you tell yourself. Truthfully, you know that those closest to you will support whatever it is that you want to do, especially if you are showing the necessary commitment.
What is difficult, is forging ahead with creative work when no one in your immediate circle – friends, family – has any interest in your thing. Everybody needs their circle. Even though writing is a pretty insular pursuit, having like-minded people around, those you can bounce ideas off and who understand the grind of the creative process. As much as any and every creative person, with writing or filmmaking, has a particular singular view or perspective on what their project or work should be. Still, nobody wants to be alone.
One has to get into the headspace, a selfish, singular headspace. That is where the bravery comes, the overcoming of fears, to forge forward, almost blithely believing that what you are doing is not only needed but will be appreciated and liked.

As long as the crutch of the job, other fiscal opportunities, sensible, credible excuses and the mythical peer pressure exist in the mind, the boats will always remain smouldering. It’s getting to the point where I must blow on the embers and push the boats out into the sea to be consumed and sink. It’s time to burn the boats.

Before I Die: 101 things to do – part three

And the list continues….

15.) Be in the majority
Having been born and raised in the UK and never having lived or visited, in adulthood, either Africa or the Caribbean, my view of the world; media, populace, histories, is that it is all white. As a black person I am curious to see it from a different, less minority heavy, perspective.

16.) Surprise myself
A strange one I know. It is more about pushing my limits and challenging myself. Something we all should do.

17.) Become an expert in something I generally learn enough to get by in a given situation, like most people. It is impossible to be an expert in everything. There are a few things that, personally, I feel I need to have more than passing knowledge of, mostly things filmmaking related, these are what I will focus on.

18.) Have more than one million pounds in bank account.
I realise life is not about money, nor does it denote happiness or necessarily success. But it can help.

19.) Sell a script
This is a goal that is a ‘looking for validation’ thing. Having not done any of the conventional courses or followed the  routes that people take for filmmaking, I sometimes can feel a fraud in the film world. This would go some way to countering that.

20.) Be spontaneous
This goes with the surprising myself and making a million. What money can afford you is freedom. Freedom allows spontaneity. Simple.

21.) Complain less
This is a western problem,  a problem for people who have too much and do not realise it or appreciate it. If you’re not in a third world country, terminally ill or chronically challenged, you probably could complain less. That does not mean accepting meekly, it means finding solutions.

That’s all for now. More to come.

Before I die: 101 Things to do – part one

I was watching a video on YouTube on Xmas night. Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, was giving a talk – see it – here he makes a lot of interesting points, speaking positively, he encouraged the listening to follow their instincts and do that which they loved. Not the most original thing ever said in a positive thinking seminar, but always worth repeating. Amongst the many wonderful titbits Jack offered, was the idea of listing things that you want to do before you become worm food. He suggested a list of one hundred and one. That is a lot of stuff for a person the wrong side of thirty! Anyhoo, what the hey, what is life without challenge eh? So, in no discernible order and – for some at least – no concrete plan, here is my list of 101 things to do before my final parade.

1.) Win an Academy award.
This is a, not to state the bleedin’ obvious, big one. I love making films. I would do it for free. I have done. Ultimately I want what everybody who works wants; to never feel like I am at ‘work’. Making films gives me that. I don’t want to make films to fill up YouTube however. There are plenty who do that already. I want to make big films, memorable films, Oscar winning films. Is that too much to ask?

2.) Visit Japan.
No reason. Just interested in visiting a culture vastly different from mine.

3.) Reboot the Xmen franchise.
This one is like my ultimate dream. It is a massive one. I will need to work really hard and get so, so, so lucky, I know this, but it is still going on the list.

4.) Take three months holiday
Because working only nine months of the years and living the other three would be awesome!

5.) Learn Spanish
I have been to Lanzarote over twenty times. Been to mainland Spain twice and can still only order beer, say hello, thank you and goodbye! It’s laziness and a certain English apathy on my part. Habla espanol?

6.) See a boxing match at Madison Square Garden
There are not too many greats about in the fight game anymore. Money, attention span, mixed martial arts and a paucity of genuine, mouthwatering match ups – the Klitchkos having singlehandedly made heavyweight boxing pretty much unwatchable – have all contributed to the decline of a once dominant spectacle. Still a show at the home of boxing would be worth it.

7.) Meet Joss Whedon
They say you should not meet your heroes, as it might disappoint, but the works of Whedon are probably the most inspiring reason for me wanting to be a writer/director, it would be great to meet him and thank him. Even if he turns out to be an arsehole.

Okay, seven in, ninety-four to go. I will put a few more in the coming weeks – or months – onward and upwards.