In a recent episode of The Moment with Brian Koppelman, writer-director John Hamburg (Along Came Polly, I Love You, Man) touched on a few things that I’ve been turning over in my mind lately.
Referencing advice from his therapist, Hamburg says of writing, “Be a detective, not a judge.”
I’ve been watching a lot of The Sopranos and Mad Men again recently, which typify this advice. We as the audience are free to judge characters as they engage in ruthless, selfish, and abhorrent behaviors, but part of the reason these shows were so innovative is because the writers don’t judge the characters. The creators of both these shows are committed to exploring these characters, instead of passing judgement on them.
In regards to the struggle of the early days, Hamburg says:
“There’s something about sitting in your apartment, nobody’s told you you can have a career…and you just have some kind of self-belief, mixed in with insecurity…and writing for the sake of ‘I have a story to tell, I think I have a voice, and nobody’s paying me.’ It’s so pure.”
With this single sentence , Hamburg paints the vivid portrait of my life as it exists now. I find myself feeling delusional enough to write most days, coupled with an exhaustion from working to sustain that delusion. The older I get, the tougher and tougher sustaining this delusion becomes.
Finally, Koppelman winds the interview down by asking Hamburg about getting competitive. Hamburg touches the root of the desire to compete when he speaks about jealous stoked by the work of others. “As I get older,” he says, “I try to turn competitive to inspired. I try, and I just told you earlier, trying is having the intention to fail.”
I find myself feeling this way frequently, a pattern I’m working to break by channeling my channeling my envy into inspiration as well.
This is one of those conversations that came at the right time, as I find myself languishing through a season of doubt. As Austin Kleon reminds us, “creative work has seasons. Part of the work is to know which season you’re in, and act accordingly.”
Bearing that in mind, if anyone needs me, I’ll be hibernating…