While enjoying an iced coffee at the Los Feliz branch of a gigantic corporate coffee provider, I spoke to my spouse about the dangers of doing too many things. I fancied myself a renaissance man in my youth, and so I wrote a novel, made a movie, formed a band and released an album, all the while slaving away at a variety of jobs in the hopes that someday my talent would be recognized and I could stop working and focus on my art.
Flash forward 15 years. I have not been “discovered.” My novel has not been picked up by a publisher, nor has the sequel. The band broke up and our album is not selling on iTunes. My movie didn’t get bought by WalMart so I only made enough to pay the lawyers for the frivolous lawsuit brought on by a ( no longer) cherished friend. I went to business school to see how to monetize my intellectual property, and had nearly every last ounce of creativity beaten out of me. I remain a husk, a hollow shell of my former self.
Drained of my energy, looking back on the whole process, I have decided that I fell prey to the lure of doing too many things. If I had remained focused on my corporate jobs, I may have done very well in that world. If I had allowed myself to be branded a writer, I might have written dozens of novels by now, one of which would be sure to have caught a publisher’s eye. I didn’t even mention the two screenplays I wrote when I first moved to Hollywood. They remain buried at the back of my bottom file drawer.
Film was a tricky and expensive art form. I still don’t know if I could have persevered as a director, producer, editor and marketer. There was too much business and not enough art. Music is the most beautiful of the art forms I embraced. Our little band made music that prompted small children to spontaneously break free from the arms of their mothers and dance with joy. That was a confirmation that we were definitely doing something good. It was also the most positive collaborative experience of my life. I detested being part of a “team” in the traditional sense, but belonging to a band was very rewarding.
But I did not stay focused on music, either. I went to business school. It was 180 degrees in a different direction.
Today I spent most of the day in bed. I missed going to a singing, and I missed going to a meeting at the Society of Friends. I did not sing or play an instrument. I did not work on my new novel. I definitely did not make a movie, and I didn’t check my work emails. I had plans to work in the garden, but I slept through them.
Paralysis set in. I was tugged in too many directions at once. This is the danger of sacrificing focus for the lure of doing too many things. My advice to the young poet – whatever your poetry might be, do not drop it in pursuit of a new form of poetry. Spend every available ounce of your energy focused on your art, and do not stray. Believe in what you are doing at the expense of other shiny new things. There are no guarantees that you will become a celebrated artist. If you divvy up your creative energy in parcels for different forms of art, it does not increase your odds of success. Stay focused until you have found success, and only then may you pursue whatever else tugs at your heart.