The Billy Crystal Guide to Finding Your Creative Voice
Lessons learned from “Mr. Saturday Night”
All creativity begins with the moment of conception.
That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today’s clip comes from the opening scene in Mr. Saturday Night:
Identity is a chicken egg conundrum. Carlin used to say you can’t do comedy without an audience, and that if comedians don’t get up in front of people every day of their lives, they’ll never learn who they are. They’ll never uncover their comic identity. The irony is, artists assume the reason they can’t get started is because they don’t know who they are. But that’s putting the cart before the horse. Truth is, the reason they don’t know who they are is because they haven’t gotten started. They haven’t created enough to know what kind of creator they are. Buddy inherited his sense of humor from his father, which he absorbed sitting around the dinner table as young boy. And so, the venue where he first cut his teeth as a comic was after dinner, performing for relatives in the living room. That’s why he became such a success. By the time he was a teenager, he was ready to perform in public. Those hard core formative years fostered his dream and laid groundwork for the years to follow. And so, that same principal applies to anyone with a creative voice. Whether you’re performing on stage, presenting to a group or pitching to a client, identity is byproduct of volume. Only through consistent execution do you gain an understanding of whom what, why and how you are. So you have to get started. Any way you can. Because if you don’t start somewhere, you ain’t gonna get nowhere. What is your legacy of taking action?
Do things just to do things. Billy spent sixteen months working on this film. And during the production, he did everything. He wrote, directed and starred in the film, and says he had the greatest time of his life making it. Meanwhile, the movie was considered a box office failure, when compared to his past successes. And according to his autobiography, that negative reception made him feel sad, angry, scared and, worst of all, second guess his creative decisions. Billy even said he developed a severe bout of pneumonia as soon as they wrapped the shoot. In retrospect, though, he also said this movie was one of the most cherished projects of his career. That the film was a love letter to the old school comics that influenced him as a young man. And nobody can take that away from him. Nobody. That’s the ideal place to be as an artist. Doing things because you’d be doing them with or without success. Hanging your sense of accomplishment, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on an internal sense of validation. Pressfield calls this territorial activity, in which the sustenance comes from the act itself, not from the impression it makes on others. Are you still digging for treasure, or have you realized that digging is the treasure?
All revolutions begin with language. Language is the only leverage for changing the context of the world around us. Once our language changes, our outlook, behaviors and priorities will follow. That’s the magic of words and manifestos and crystalline expressions of human thought. They illuminate what’s possible. They inspire us to expand to our full capacity. And the encouraging part is, revolution doesn’t always have to come in the form of political upheaval, cultural rebellion or economic shift. Sometimes it’s a simple change in the way we talk about ourselves. When I started writing my first movie, I was afraid to call myself a filmmaker. It felt pretentious and dishonest. But then my mentor convinced me to act as if. To make sure that every thought I had, I thought it as a filmmaker. Even though I hadn’t finished the film yet. And so, I started believing that I was what I said I was. I allowed the constellation of my identity as a writer to expand. And every time I told someone that I was a filmmaker, I loved the way it made me feel. Artistic. Creative. Ambition. Which makes sense, considering the word derives from the root revolvere, which means to roll back. Maybe that’s all a revolution is. The rolling back of old skin. The shedding of an outdated way of speaking about ourselves. Using new language to describe who and how and what we are. Are you focusing your attention on the way you’d like to see yourself?
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you putting your trust in money or your money in trust?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
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