Much as I try, I can't get this film out of my head. It wasn't revolutionary. It wasn't well-shot. It wasn't a documentary that you tell friends about, pressing them to see it at once, because it will change their lives or their perspectives or their...something. It isn't that kind of film.Yet, it has changed my life, my perspective, and a lot of my somethings.
Beautiful Losers is intense, but is so quiet in its intensity that I suspect others may view it as nothing more than a film that highlights some now-well-known artists who were once underground but who made the art they wanted to make, despite all that it cost them in the early days...or in some cases, what it is still costing them to this day. It is perhaps even easy to dismiss some of these artists now - Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee - who have achieved such critical success that if you did not know their earlier work, did not follow them as they struggled, you might not get what they are about at all.
And that's fine. As a documentary about artists and how they got where they are today, it succeeds at the basic levels.
What moved me though, what shook me up, was how these artists that I've long admired really did do whatever they had to do so they could create. This is something I've struggled with a lot in my life. I can even pinpoint certain decisions made long ago, specific moments when I had a choice between a more artistic life and a more commercial, stuff-filled one. At nearly every turn, I chose the professional opportunities & financial gain & really great shoes over my artistic endeavors. Much of my working life has even halted my artistic endeavors for painfully long stretches at a time. The whole of 2009 on this blog is but one obvious testament to that.
I'm not particularly proud of those decisions I made long ago, but I made them and here we are. They make up my truth. The one that was confronted in a very real way as I watched this film. We each bring our own life experiences to any piece of art we see - a film, a painting, a novel - and my life experiences allowed me to see Beautiful Losers as one long series of questions directed at me: How much longer will you put off the writing? Will you be writing fiction at all in this life, or just focusing on unrelated work things? Because if you plan to focus only on work things and shoes and your clients, Callie, let's just call it a day. The wavering isn't doing any of us any good. The pretending is painful to watch.
Longtime readers of this blog don't need me to rehash my work/writing balance struggle. This blog is called Counterbalance for a reason. It is for this reason. I want to write fiction, but I don't. The reasons are many and they reach a very long way back and are intermingled with fear and insecurity and so much baggage that I've stopped even trying. Resigned myself, really. Resigned myself to more work. I'm very good at what I do professionally, I've just left a work situation that stifled me, so I'm now able to focus more on doing, professionally, what I love.
Beautiful Losers forced me to question where the writing might be in my newly created 2010 life. I don't yet know. All of my professional work won't prepare me for feeling my way through this writing thing for the umpteenth time. This can't be achieved with a marketing plan and carefully outlined strategies & tactics that will allow me to knock out a novel by year's end. I'm not able to map out all the success metrics I'll setup and track. There is no monthly reporting that will work here. There is no social media campaign I can architect that will produce a brilliant literary novel in a few week's time. Google Adwords does not a novel make. It's easy to see why my working life is so satisfying - the results are swift and measurable. If something's not effective, it is easy to know exactly what it is and tweak accordingly. Not so with the novel writing, not so.
Adding to the potency of Beautiful Losers is the terribly sad death of Margaret Kilgallen. She was so talented, lived a life that allowed her to create the art that she wanted to create, and just as she was gaining critical success, died of cancer a few weeks after giving birth to a baby girl.
If that is not a wake-up call, I don't know what is. Not sure what that means yet or what that looks like for me and the non-writing. I know I've written this post before. Many, many times before. But I'm writing it again, after seeing this film. That's something.