In the not-too-distant past, I came to a point in my writing life where I was feeling so squished under the weight of the huge, laborious, scary, exposing undertaking that is writing a novel that I either had to come up with a new way to approach the task or give up entirely on ever finishing it. The thing is, by nature, a writer takes themselves very seriously. Often too seriously. Every time I sat down at my computer to write, the very first thought in my head would be: Now, this better be good. Not just good - it better be profound and moving. Otherwise what business do you have thinking that people anywhere will want to read what you have to say? Needless to say, I felt a little pressured and inadequate. I felt like one of those cave-explorers in the movies who has found an uncharted crack in the rock and decides to see where it leads, then eventually wriggles too far in and gets hopelessly wedged between millions of tons of rock. (I know that sounds dramatic, but that's how I felt, and if I weren't dramatic, I wouldn't be a very good writer, would I?)Then - the load was lifted, because I watched this.
In her TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert says that artists might be driven to insanity and/or depression less often if they simply pictured a muse or some kind of divine inspiration in the room for whom the artist herself is merely a channel - an instrument. An artist or writer may achieve something truly transcendent in her lifetime, but she can't expect to do it every time, number one: because that is too heavy a burden and expectation, and number two: because that muse may or may not show up to speak through you.
I can't express what a relief this idea was to me, not just because it takes the pressure off, but because it is true. As I have mentioned before, I am one of those individuals who holds that there is in an intelligent being behind the creation of the universe, and I now firmly believe that if, at any moment, my writing is transcendent or moving or effective, it is not because of me, but despite me.
Which brings me to "The People Versus George Lucas." That is quite a segue, I know. But Elizabeth Gilbert's talk immediately came to mind when I was watching this fascinating documentary. Even if you are not a Star Wars fan, I bet you know one. George Lucas's first three Star Wars films are like scripture to millions of people. Even today, some thirty years after they were released, children grow up loving the Star Wars characters and playing as them in make-believe games, and Star Wars merchandise is still available in abundance. (I am not immune to the collecting - see: Princess Leia bobblehead below...) So, it comes as no surprise that fans were irate when Lucas altered Episodes IV, V, & VI to reflect his "original vision" for the films, and created three disappointing new films that changed what we knew about the Force, included comic relief that resorted to bathroom humor, and simply lacked the feel of the older films we all knew and loved.
Excuse my dusty dashboard...
"The People Versus George Lucas" does an excellent job presenting both sides of the argument against Lucas. Yes, a lot of fans were mad, but at the end of the day, do we still love Star Wars and is it still a phenomenal legacy? Yes. Personally, I think an artist with such an adoring fan base owes it to his audience to at least treat his stories with as much seriousness as they treat it. The Star Wars Christmas Special, for instance, was so cringe-worthy and weird, I almost lost consciousness. It honestly made me wonder how seriously he was taking his beloved characters at that time. But we've got to give George a break, because after all, he's embarrassed about the Christmas Special, too, and because he created something that ended up much bigger than him. He created a story line and a setting that touched people and inspired countless other artists to put their ideas to film, or comics, or sculpting, etc. If he can't achieve that time after time, I don't think we can hold it against him. Especially since most of us don't even achieve it once.
Maleficent was feeling left out, so I had to include her, too...