Recently, I started putting together a project.
Let me rephrase that: I started putting together another project, I should say. I put feelers out to some of my favorite writers/bloggers, wondering whether they'd be interested in participating with me, and some of them responded. Others didn't. When I asked one who had responded whether he thought I had the right address for someone who hadn't, he said, hmm, maybe she's skeptical; after all, there was that project you started back in January and never finished.
It stung, for several reasons. Wow. He remembered the exact month. It made me wonder. Am I the kind of person people consider flaky? Am I perceived to start a lot without finishing it? I was defensive at first but since then I've done a lot of thinking.
To get it out of the way, in my defense I would say that yeah, I have a lot on my plate. Writing and filmmaking, my two main preoccupations, involve many starts and stops. You never know where the inspiration will stick. Filmmaking, especially, being a collaborative art which requires financial assistance (alas), is always pretty touch and go. Most of this work takes a massive time commitment. My first film took three years to complete before it started making the rounds at film festivals. The one I'm working on now has taken a year, so far. Novels can take years as well.
Some ideas sound good when they pop into my head. A good idea can be a real thrill. But in order to stick it out with something over the long haul, you need material and circumstances which will keep challenging you without stopping you in your tracks. Some ideas, a week or a few months in, suddenly seem a lot less interesting or compelling than they did when they first occurred to you. Other ideas take a lot longer than you anticipated, because at varying points they require differing degrees of reassessment. Things get recycled; you never know how they'll end up. What starts as part of one project might end up part of something entirely different.
Having finished one film and a novel, and having edited an anthology involving over fifteen contributors, I tend to cut myself some slack. However, I've noticed a trend over the last year or so; I pile on even more projects than ever before. This means that even when the ideas are good, sound ventures, they can take a lot longer than they normally might, because I've overextended myself. Maybe, having accomplished certain things, I believe there's nothing I can't do. I doubt that, but accomplishment does tend to distance you from the time and trouble it took to achieve something. You remember the end, not so much the means.
I think more than anything it's age and culture. By that I mean that I'm old enough that I wonder how much time I have left. It's inevitable to start thinking that way, however morbid it sounds to you. How many more films can I make? How many more books can I write? There's so much I want to say. What if something happens next month?
As for culture, I think we're living in an environment which encourages the sense that you're only as relevant as the last thing you produced, tweeted, or exposed. I love the sense of conversation out there, but it can be wearying too. I don't always have much to say, and sometimes feel I'm just talking because it's expected and I want people to remember I'm here. What happens, it seems to me, is that a lot of useless crap gets thrown out into the mix, without much thought put into what it is, where it's being thrown, or how it's being said or done, let alone whether it's worth tossing in the first place.
I think we're all well aware what kind of influence this has on the fragrance industry. A lot of content is produced, without too much substance. I complain about this all the time. So much out there, especially these days, feels so uninspired. You feel you're simply always being pitched a dog and pony show. You feel you're always being manipulated. You lose and miss that quality a fantastic fragrance can have--the sense that the Universe has opened itself up to expose some central wonder of life heretofore left hidden.
I don't want to contribute to this phenomenon. I want to make sure that the things I put out there attempt in some way to speak to real human experience; I want to add something valuable to the conversation, rather than simply contribute to the din. That's a tall order, especially for a blog. I have zero delusions about blogging, I think. I write what I like and a few people read it. But already this new thinking has penetrated my everyday life. Just last week, someone pointed out to me that if I start another film right this second, as I was thinking of doing, the one I'm trying to finish will inevitably suffer that lack of focus. Again, I was defensive, then I came home and realized I have seven film projects in the pipeline. That books me solid for the next, oh, ten years.
I can't control whether people respond to an email or really what they think of me ultimately. They might continue to be skeptical of my ability to follow through. But I can work at being more focused and intentional. I don't think the fragrance industry will have any such epiphanies--about what they commit to, about its quality or the conversation it generates (Womanity is not a conversation)--but at this point I need to step back a little and re evaluate my part in a phenomenon of substance deprivation and easy promises. I continue to be less than enthused and even, lately, dispirited, by what's being peddled as quality or novelty. What's our rush? How is all this connection and collaborative activity creating more division and isolation than unity? I'm not Ghandi. Again, no delusions there. But when I complain about culture I want to make sure I'm not part of the problem. Wish me luck.