Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spinning Plates: The Latest, the Newest, the Bestest, and More!

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.


Katy Josephine said...

Brian, I love this post - it's real and thoughtful and it resonates with my own life. I, too, begin too many projects and some end well, some don't.

Like you, I am feeling a sense of urgency about the rest of my life. What is it that I want to achieve or leave behind? What is it that feels truly fulfilling?

Thanks for your honesty.

Kathryn said...

Hi Brian,

I, for one. would trade one flash of inspiration (and this blog sparkles with them) for any number of the boring press releases that sometimes infiltrate other blogs. If one of your spinning plates crashes every now and then, it just makes it clear how amazing it is that the others are still in whirling motion.

I have no idea who you are in the rest of your life, what books you have written or what movies you have made. It would be really interesting to know how all of that relates to what you are doing here. But even without your explicitly making those connections, it's clear from what you write on this blog that you have a very rich frame of reference. I'll keep reading.

Tamara*J said...

Brian it will be OK.

You can do whatever you set your mind and heart to because were humans.
Just flawed , fucked up, beautiful humans. It doesn't mean people will respect what you put out there to the world but as long as you do then that's what matters. It could all be gone tomorrow and you can't take it with you. Be the best person you can, that will always be enough for the ones that you love and that love you.

Smedley said...

Hi Brian.
I don't read the perfume blogs for the newest, greatest, bestest. I'm not overly influenced by marketing media -- in fact, it's usually that marketing blurbs will send me scurrying away.
However, I am intensely interested in conversations and ruminations about fragrances. I am fascinated by how fragrances reach a fundamental part of our being - how they can transport us to other places - how they can enhance moods, optimism, self-confidence, and how they are simply pleasurable. I love perfumes and I enjoy being exposed to the thoughts of like-minded people.
That's why I read this blog regularly.

At this stage in my perfume journey, I find myself becoming less interested in the "mass creation" of scents by some houses, and I'm less and less interested in the uber pricey and uber chic fragrances that are the latest "Must Have It". And don't get me started on CelebuScents...

I agree strongly with Kathryn's statement above.
I adore the "sparkling and inspired" writing here on this blog. You and Abigail are talented writers and I love to read what you write.
If you continue to write, I'll continue to read. Deal?

kathleen said...

All we can do is the best we can do. Frankly, there is no excuse for someone to ignore your email. That's just rude, whether they want to participate or not. I do wish you luck.

Brian said...

Hey everybody! Thanks so much for responding. I guess we are just basically talking about life, right? And it's busy, no matter how you approach it. I find it harder as I get older to stay focused, which could be part of my dilemma. That's really only happened in the past year or two. I worked hard to get where I am in various ways, as we all do, and I think for me the huge thing is slowing down just enough to enjoy it. If not now, then...when? What's the end point? And if I'm not enjoying it that's something to look at too. Generally, I'm enjoying it, but the drive to be busy is a curious thing, and lately I really want to step back and work harder not at simply being busy but at making sure the things I've started progress in meaningful ways.

Kathleen, she did respond! She's fantastic, really. That's another thing: we're all busy, and we expect instant answers. Again, what's the rush? But I do want to make sure, again, that someone knows taking the time to communicate with me is worth the effort, that they aren't just grist for my busy busy mill. You know? So I appreciate the skepticism. It helps keep me humble--which is a big task!

I continue to be truly grateful for the awesome readers we connect with here. I keep telling people out in the world, when they express surprise that I'm so into and write so much about perfume, that they have no idea. They have no idea how smart and savvy so many perfume lovers are. It amazes me. It's been one of the coolest things for me--more than writing, more than filmmaking. That connection is pretty fantastic and finding that kind of network is priceless.

RM said...

Brian, it's posts like these that make me keep coming back to this blog. Well, all your's and Abigail's posts really, but these honest, introspective ones really resonate with me. Probably because in some way I can very much relate.
As in, it could very well take something as seemingly minor, like your example of not getting a reply to an email you've sent, to set me on a tortuous path of self discovery!
I often wonder if anyone else internalizes and examines one's self, behaviors and motivations as much as I do and have since come to the conclusion that most probably don't. They just blissfully march through life most times completely and happily and consciously unaware of how they are perceived and who they are. I often think that would be a great way to live!
Maybe this particular person is away on vacation, or just too busy with heaps of other stuff or maybe they DO think you don't finish projects and therefore didn't bother replying. But, whatever the reason, why care? Keep doing what you're doing (you're obviously extremely good at it), keep throwing out all your zany ideas whatever comes of them and of course keep posting!

queen_cupcake said...

Good post--I am just catching up after being away and then being ill for a few days... My interest in fragrance waxes and wanes but I do enjoy a good read. By the way, and not to rub it in, but did you ever send me the Laura Ashley L'Eau you promised?

Brian said...

No, Cupcake! Thanks for reminding me. I made the decants and put them in my bag and forgot about them until you just mentioned them. Case in point.

Flora said...

Brian, what a great post; you put into words what I have often felt. I want my own writing to be something that people really think about, or at least enjoy. I have been feeling anxious about being "behind" on things because I was offline for a couple of weeks due to a dying computer, and this post made me remember to take a deep breath and not try to rush things as I get back into the swing of writing. I don't want to put something thoughtless out there just because I "have" to!

indieperfumes said...

Brian, I so agree with you. The perfume world and its inhabitants and beautiful fragrances have become an alternate creative world for me, and I want to contribute something to it that increases people's pleasure and appreciation of what's here now. I am constantly pleasantly surprised at the level of engagement and the quality of the writing and the humor I find on the perfume sites.