How Lockdown Has Made Me Reimagine My Life As An Artist
Now that we're coming out of lockdown I've noticed that I've been, sort of, involuntarily put in a 6 moth period of self reflection that I have come out the other side of completely changed through no intention of my own. I wanted to write something about some lessons I think this period of reflection has taught me about how to be most useful to my community, friends, family and, of course, Art.
When you work in the entertainment industry you notice how much of your life is dictated by your career and "the industry". When you're earning lots of money in high profile projects suddenly people come back into your life and people seem to find you attractive. When you're out of work the opposite seems to happen. Whether this is because of your self esteem and the energy your omitting being reflected at you or whether other people just want to be on a ship that's sailing well in the hope it'll take them with them... No one ones. My hunch is both with a skew towards the latter. But what happens when there is nothing? What happens when suddenly that industry is removed and all that's left is people. How does this inform the world you relate to and the people you relate with?
If the industry is the world that's reflected back at you and all you see is how "it" sees you then you either see a sexy mother fucker or a ming depended on how well your careers going. If the mirrors gone then you're forced to face up to the unfortunate and inconvenient truth that you're actually a being and you have feelings and you have relationships to the world that are based on reality. That's what's happened during lockdown to me. The mirrors gone and we have to let the world be our mirror.
We spent so much of our lives drawing up out various goals and objectives for our careers. We want to make important work on the biggest stages. We want to write films and television that everyone will see. We want to make stuff that make people feel safer... But when no ones making anything because of a global pandemic we not only have to face up to the fact that we are now in the real world but also that we have a void where these goals were that actually reveals a lot of things we've neglected as humans. Suddenly we are faced with the realisation that there are human things we need that exist outside of what want from a industry. When the industry is removed all that's left is the needs that we have been ignoring. We are suddenly aware of our fragile humanity and how we have been neglecting it.
For me the biggest intersection of "human need" it's main obstacle "the industry" has been how the "ego" plays a part in it. Subtly, and profoundly, the way that "the industry" shapes the ego worms it's way, in a nuanced way, to our daily lives.
Before I go into the ego and relation to this it's worth noting what the ego is. The ego is really just a sense of success or failure to adhere to that's set by someone else. If someone says you're short (using an example at random not because I'm 5ft8) your response is actually because society tells us short men aren't as valuable. It's actually nonsense. I have slept with lots of women and been in love and have great friends, a career, a loving family... Which proves that short men aren't actually loathed by the world. If humans were hard wired to hate short men, bald men, fat women, non-conventional women, gingers... What ever. None of these people would breed and they'd be bred out. But guess what.. All those people are sexy and loved. So what does that tell us? Ego is fictional. It's not real. All the things that knock our ego about our life are just projections of a society that benefits from them. They don't stop us loving, living.... all that. So the same applies to the above. If we take the concept of ego to the above things we're left with a fulfilled life....
For me the things that hold me up in my pursuit of quenching needs are:
- Drink, Drugs, Sex
- Fear of Judgement
- Work Life Balance
Competition is a big one in the entertainment industry. We spend a lot of time wishing that we were doing as well as other people. We spend years hoping that "the next big thing" will make us happy. And it doesn't. Because that's not how life works. If we take the ego out of compeition and we start to see our own choices and projects for what they are (the next thing we can do in our immediate capability that we think is important and will be good for us and audiences) then suddenly we see our careers as being impactful and important and in our control and NOT about being "successful". The EGO tells us that if it's not in a very narrow parameter of possibilities then it's a success and if its not it's not but what's REAL is that we can only do what we can access next. We do that well and with the right intentions and that's time well spent.
Drink Drugs and Sex are a distraction. Lockdown made me, mostly, sober and when you're sober you can evaluate what you need. If you're hiding behind "having a good time taking garies and club necking people you don't fancy before having short floppy sex" then you're probably not going to ask yourself the question "what do I need " and do anything about it. To look at your life and how it can be the most useful; you need to pack in this stuff at least for a bit.
Fear of Judgement. This is the most apparent way that we feel the ego in the creative industries. "If I have this girlfriend what will X STORM MODEL ACTOR FRIEND FROM DRAMA SCHOOL think". If I have X agent will my friend think I'm shit. If I take this community job as opposed to a commission from X theatre will the world think I'm a failure etc... Again. It's all nonsense. Lockdown took judgement away because there was nothing to judge. All that's left is what do I need to do that's important for me and for the world that's within my control and suddenly I could see that that's all there ever was. We can only do what's in our grasp. We can't wait for the universe to open its self up and take us to dream land; it's unrealistic. The question shouldn't be "what can I do to win the respect of X" it should be "What can I do next, and achieve, that will be useful to myself and others". That way we can have a career full of things that are useful that we're proud of. And you can't argue with it. One useful thing will always out way a few lines in a TV show no matter what your CV says.
Work Life Balance. Same as Drink Drugs and Sex. You can't do anything without rest. Burning yourself makes your work shit. Being "busy" makes you an isolated egotist that no one can love because they know they will always be second to work. It doesn't make you successful. It makes you less successful, your life less fulfilled, and your body fat and tired. Cuff me. You need to find time to do your work in a process, rest, reflect, ask yourself what you need and then do life and work. Being "busy" makes you a cunt. No one likes a "busy" person they just think that they value themselves over their friends and family.
Finally jealously. Jealously is an obvious one. You can't live in comparison to other people. You need to stand still and be thankful for the small things we're blessed with. I'm telling you now that the rich actors aren't more happy than us. I'm telling you now that the writers who have those big credits aren't more happy than you. I'm telling you now that the people in that relationship you think is perfect are not more happy than you. We all have our shit. We need to reimagine away from "I wish I had what they had" to "I have this, it's not loads, but there's a lot to be grateful more... What I NEED is X". Making it active and not coming to grips with it..
Once we've done this and started to think about how we might like to live outside the parameters of the ego we can get involved in the REAL good stuff. Bordem, Zest, Curiosity and Love.
These are the qualities that I have taken from Lockdown that I think make my life better.
Being bored allows us to ask what need and what we want to do creatively that might be of us. Stop sniffing and drinking. Get off twitter and your phone and just be bored and let your body and the universe speak to you. Sounds cosmic but in reality your brain just needs a bit of space to talk to you. If you're on drugs all the time it never gets the chance to let you know what you're craving.
Being Zestful can only happen if you're well rest, allowed yourself to be bored, and have the energy to explore the world you might like to see and realise what you can do in it.
Being curious only happens through sobriety. Get your weekends back and see what books, films, TV shows, people to talk to, articles to read, woods to explore, mountains to climb, friends to love, family to see there are. You can only learn about the world like this. You can't do it just sitting on twitter on a hang over.
And lastly love. Love can only happen, properly, when you know what you need and you have people in your life that give you that. You can only be that person for someone else when you're not distracting yourself from it all. You can't be a friend, partner, family member properly until you give yourself the space away from the ego to ask yourself what you need and what you can be.
So look Lockdown has thrust me out of my own distraction " The Industry" and made me question how much of my decision making has been based on "Ego" and how "Ego" has warped my perception of self and the world. It's led to some awesome stuff. I feel better in my body, closer to my friends, closer to my family, closer to nature, god, better read, better watched, my work is better, my relationship with my collaborators are better... I've a way to go like all of us (I'm 32 and have spent the last decade in London effectively trying to get people to like me by working and partying harder than anyone else). But I think I'm asking the questions. Fuck knows if I'll stick to it but it feels nice at the moment. I'm "party" free for... 6 months. I've drank no more than 2 drinks in that time except once. I'd like to go fully sober but life's hard innit.
Hope this is of some use to you.