Tag Archives: David Lynch

A Love Letter to California

Hollywood Sign
Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Working at a country club in New Jersey affords me two months of “vacation” meaning that the club closes for January and February due to lack of interest in snow golfing, which to me sounds like a lot of fun, actually. Nevertheless, I’m free to collect unemployment and reconnect with my thoughts for two whole months.

How should I celebrate this wondrous lapse in obligation? There is a wild child within me, chained deep down in the cellar of my heart that sometimes screams loud enough to connect with my brain. This wild child screams, “Go to California!” And maybe he adds a few expletives, too for good measure.

Oh California, what a lovely thought. Ah Los Angeles, the only destination for an aspiring screenwriter/director seriously looking for validity. How nice it would be to axe the “aspiring” part when I tell people about my time spent pursuing filmmaking.

I would love nothing more than to pack my Chevy with copies of my screenplays, changes of clothes, camera, and paperback copy of Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory as I set off on the kind of cross country, coast to coast road trip that movies have been fawning over for decades.

How glorious to travel, stopping as I please, all in culmination of seeing the big, bold letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign. I could careen my car up and down Mulholland Drive, hoping desperately to not be sidetracked by amnesia-by-car accident or run off the road by any Mr. Eddy’s demanding that I get a driver’s manual. (I’ve been watching a lot of David Lynch lately.)

California is a place where a young man with long hair can get by on conversation alone; swapping anecdotes for bottles of booze, wisdom for a warm place by a beach bonfire. It’s a place where I can transition seamlessly from my dream of surfing the Pacific coast to doing what they call “couch surfing,” trading my board for a place to crash for the night. If not a sofa, then a fine patch of stained carpet on a guy named Brody’s apartment floor.

I could even march into one of the big name production studio’s lots, barging into a tired producer’s office, and slam down a copy of my latest script pointing a definitive figure to the cover page saying, “This is the next big thing.”

And that old, tired producer wouldn’t be able to hold back a grin at my outsider naivety, my out-of-towner’s courage, and he’d probably cut me a check right there on the spot because California is a place where people take chances on newcomers based on gut feelings.

But alas, this love letter, though straight from my heart (fucker) seems doomed to be only the meandering thoughts of a boy stuck in his Pennsylvania bedroom hacking out fantasy on a piece of paper. It takes a lot of money and a whole lot of determination to be spontaneous, it seems.

Why do we thinkers, us readers, we with such passion burning holes in our soul; why do we, why do I feel the need to restrict myself from such desires? Perhaps it is just fate, with a firm grip of my inner workings, trying to tell me that there is no perfect place, no place more pregnable with dream-realizations than the place your two feet are standing. Certainly this fact is grounded by the words I read earlier today in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, that my promise land “is not down in any map; true places never are.”

Gone Fishin’: How to Catch Big Ideas in Deep Water

English: David Lynch, photographed on 10 Augus...
David Lynch, doing his signature spirit finger motion when discussing ideas floating around,photographed on 10 August 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like quotes. I have spent many hours copying and pasting quotes from artists I admire into my Evernote app for further handheld inspiration. Recently I’ve been diving head first into the work of filmmaker David Lynch. I seem to find I have some things in common with Lynch, at least I perceive so. Specifically, I hold a great deal of admiration for his imagination and his idea generating process. In many interviews, Lynch refers to ideas as fish and his extended conscious-mind as a pond where these idea-fish are swimming around, waiting to be caught. Lynch says:

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

 

I’m not embarrassed at all to say that quotes like this send me gushing like a teenage girl at a rock concert, (or a Justin Bieber/Taylor Swift festival. Is that what teen girls gush over now?)

Lynch’s rationale that we all have great ideas swimming around in our subconscious, waiting to be found and explored, is enlightening and liberating. He admits to not knowing the best way or even if there is a way of locating these ideas and bringing them to the surface. They just kind of come, sometimes when you least expect it, and you have to be ready for them. A forgotten idea can drive an artist mad, so keep your pen and paper (or trusty Evernote app) handy.

This journey into the “deep water” of one’s soul is not necessarily a Lynch original. I can recall a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” I love that quote. Writers must pain themselves and even torture their souls in order to squeeze the pulpy prose from their juicy brains. Good writing is about feeling something on a very deep level and having the courage to push forward, through the emotion and onto the page.

Even before reading this Fitzgerald quote, my first encounter with the term “deep water” came in a creative writing class where I met my current hero and greatest teacher, poet Christopher Bursk. Chris, whom would be agitated to be referred to by his last name in this post or in the classroom, spoke regularly about the importance of paddling out into deep water in order to write beautifully. Our assignments were often exercises in swimming in deep water; write a poem about something you regret, write about a person you would benefit from being dead, or the self-indulging, soul scrutinizing personal “Song of Myself” that we’d have to write and share in front of the class.

The greatest advice from Chris on writing about deep water was a story he’d tell us about taking his son to swimming lessons. The swimming instructor said the best technique for swimming out of deep waters and to the shore was the dead man’s float; where you put your head under and trust the water to keep you afloat as you paddle forward.

This is of course true for writing. Much like Fitzgerald’s quote, sometimes you have to trust that the pain or longing of the deep water will keep you afloat and just start paddling, start putting the words on the page, and eventually you’ll make it ashore.

These quotes and this advice have helped me channel emotions into some of my best writing. It’s a constant struggle though but I’m content with battling every day. It’s a compulsion to want to strike out every day in hopes of getting that good idea, catching that big fish.

I was thinking of myself, Lynch’s quote, and came up with an analogy. If you’re ever uncertain of why you can’t come up with a good idea, look at the process as you would look at fishing. When you go out fishing, they don’t always bite. Fishing is all about patience. Staring at your rod or checking your hook constantly won’t make the fish come any quicker. Sometimes you just have to lie back and let your thoughts drift when all the sudden you see your line bob and you scurry to your pole, your pen and paper, and start reeling the fish in.

Some people are better at coming up with ideas than others, just like there are master fisherman in the world. In this regard, I think I’d say I’m a talented idea fisherman. I get ideas, sometimes several ideas, every day and I try to be a work horse in order to get them all into a project, down on paper. For the analogy’s sake, I’m good at getting fish to take the bait. But I will say that I have trouble catching the big fish. I’m young and still learning to explore myself and be honest with my emotions.

If I do manage to hook a big fish, a great idea, I often find I have trouble reeling it in and getting it onto the boat. Or worse, sometimes when I do get these big fish onto the boat, adapted into a story or script concept, my ship sinks before I land safely ashore. Sometimes my emotional state implodes unexpectedly and my ship, my safety, submerges with all the ideas and ambition onboard.

So what’s left when I hit the water, away from the safety of the vessel? Usually I panic and suck in a lot of water. But then I remember the wisdom of my heroes, I put my head under the current and start paddling towards land. And sometimes I’ll find I’ve carried one of those big fish along with me as I step onto the sand.