On the freedom to have fun
My favorite part of being in a band is meeting up for practice, because it’s about having fun. There are no rules, no stakes: just my friends, a PA that barely works, and hours to joke around and make something together. Time evaporates. As a person who tends to be very self-critical—especially in professional settings—I’ve found a tremendous amount of freedom in that space, and an opportunity to be my truest, most uninhibited self. It feels like dancing when you’re drunk, or riding in a car late at night with all the windows down. It reminds me that I have the ability to make myself really happy, even when other forces in my life may have me believing otherwise. There’s no right way make music—or anything, for that matter. It’s about chasing what makes you feel good, what makes you feel understood.
Once I found out that there wasn’t a right answer, it’s like, “Cool, we’re good.” I’m just gonna make whatever I want and I’m fine with that. That’s what’s kept me happy and sober and sane all these years. I guess that’s the lesson—if you feel like doing something, saying something, making something, just do it in whatever way feels right for you.
There are so many rules in poetry that there are no rules. I felt like I could do anything. It provided structure, but it also gave me rules to break. That was what was exciting. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted. That’s still my creative process, where I’m just like, “I don’t know, I’m just going to do whatever I want.” Even if people say, “This is not what you’re supposed to do or say.”
I do try to remind people that creativity isn’t just writing or drawing, and it’s not just for artists, and it doesn’t have to be a labeled anything. Really, everything I’ve ever done has come from this place of me helping myself, and then letting other people into it.
But we’re finding a way to make this dark humor a little more digestible, and also being true to ourselves. I know so many people who are building creative lives by being their true selves, and it’s inspiring. I mean, if any of us could sing, and if these ideas were buried in pop songs, then we’d all crossover.
I often think of Twitter, especially when I’m thinking through current events, like a sandbox. I’m kicking around ideas. There are definitely times when I do latch onto something and think, this deserves the kind of thought and depth that writing an essay could bring about.
Two well-regarded and financially unsuccessful movies into my career, the only reason I would make a movie now would be for fun. There’s no reason to do it other than because I want to. Not because I need to, not because I need to show people that there’s this other thing I can do or because I need to create something that positions me as commercially relevant. The only reason that I would take a month off from my current screenwriting gigs—which is how I make money—would be because something feels urgently interesting.
I also think that whenever anyone’s waking up early and forcing themselves to do write… In film school, this would happen to me, where I would be working on a documentary and I would find myself treating it as a narrative, then I would realize that a documentary is recorded and I don’t know what I’m going to be recording, and I realized it was a control issue. Then when I relaxed and I let the piece become what it was supposed to, that was the work of making it. I feel like whenever I’ve woken up early or done these things, they’ve been like forcing puzzle pieces together.
In my book of poems [Night Sky With Exit Wounds], one of the last poems I wrote was “Notebook Fragments.” It’s in the structure of a diary entry. For many of us on the outside, the journal became this liberated place where we get to unleash ourselves and speak perhaps more truly, more fully, than we can even to our loved ones. I wanted to honor that tradition of weird, queer boys and girls writing in their journals—that this form is just as legitimate for art as the sonnet; the canto; the sestina. There is liberty in speaking, even if no one is going to hear it. We’ve been doing it forever in our diaries, so why can’t that, too, be literature?
…just do it, even if you don’t think you’re doing it the right way. That makes it better because then you’ll have a unique perspective. You’re making something different from what anybody else is doing because you don’t know how anybody else is doing it, so there’s no way it can be the same. Just having your own way of doing things makes it more special.