My last post was about being prepared for success, in an emotional sense. I used actor Thomas G. Waites as an example of someone who wasn't ready for it when it came knocking. In this post, I'm going to go with a more extreme example of this, Troy Duffy. Never heard of him? He's a writer/director who made headlines when he sold a screenplay for a whole lot of money. It was a big deal at the time and I remember hearing about it from friends who didn't even follow the movie business. But I forgot all about the story until I happened upon the documentary, Overnight (2003). This movie chronicles what happened to Duffy after he made this deal of a lifetime. In short, he became an insufferable, arrogant jerk. The movie is basically 80 minutes of Duffy smoking, drinking, bragging about his genius, yelling at his friends and people in the movie industry who he should have been working with. What you never see him doing is writing. Frankly, it was hard for me to watch someone being handed the chance of a lifetime and responding by flushing it down the toilet. Talk about being unprepared. The good news is that Duffy finally did get his movie made, but at a huge cost. And all these years later, his career has never recovered. And I bet it never will.
So, are you emotionally ready? It's an important question and you better know the answer. Because if it comes knocking and you're not, it's better to not answer the door.
Sorry for the long wait between blogs. Life.
If you’ve read my older blogs, you know that I’m interested in the creative process as well as success, and how the two work together. Or don’t. Here’s one thing I know about success in the creative fields: it’s utterly unpredictable. You can do exactly what a hugely successful person in your given field did, but you’ll come up with a completely different outcome. The main thing is to keep plugging away, and be prepared. But what does being prepared mean? Obviously, knowing your craft is a big part of it. But there’s something else to it that isn’t discussed much . . .
When I was a teenager, I saw actor Thomas G. Waites in two prominent supporting roles (“The Warriors” and “And Justice for All,” both released in 1979). He was obviously talented and an up and coming star. But then I didn’t see him again until John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” in 1982, again in a prominent supporting role. Then . . . nothing. I forgot all about him. Then, many years later, I saw him on an episode of “NPYD Blue.” I think I recognized him by his voice, because he was older and bloated. It made me wonder how this actor, who was obviously talented and on the verge of big things, seemed to have disappear. Well, I found out in a recent podcast interview with him. He talked about his instant success at a young age, and about how difficult he was. “Pain in the ass” is the term he used, more than once. What he didn’t say but what was obvious to me was this: he had success right out of the box and he did everything he could to sabotage it. And eventually, he did.
I don’t mean to pick on Thomas Waites. He’s a fine actor and has made a living at his craft. But we always hear about self-destructive artists who succeed despite themselves (the examples are countless). I wanted to give an example of someone whose success was hampered by their self-destructive behavior. What was his issue? It's up to him to figure that out. But this much, I'm sure about: he wasn't prepared.
Getting back to my original point. Preparation isn't just about doing the work. It's also about being able to handle things emotionally. It's about being ready for the good stuff. When success comes knocking, you don’t want to slap it in the face. It may stay away for a long time. Or forever . . .