What drives me? What drives you? Why do we have these deep seated needs that often others cannot connect with, or they just plain think we are crazy?
The need to create and share? The need to write that film? Scribe that novel? Paint that painting? Act? Make that movie?
What is it? I have heard a nun once say ‘Christianity is not taught, it’s caught’.
Creativity, which for me is primarily filmmaking, story telling and all the allied disciplines, is the same. I was infected with it at some point, and so far there does not seem to be a cure for it. Aside from easing the symptoms by, well, creating stuff and experiences.
There’s more than one factor in this equation.
I suggest there are several interconnecting deep seated reasons WHY we pursue adventures that are hard, dangerous and treacherous… And I wish I were smart enough to see the whole picture, but I can’t.
However, I can isolate one facet that I suspect is at least one big piece of the puzzle. Over to Mel Robbins for 90 seconds.
I saw this video above with Mel Robbins being interviewed by Tom Bilyeu from ImpactTheory.com – it’s just this short clip – but it was a light bulb moment for me. Transcribed she says…
Once something is important to you, it never leaves your mind. If you always dreamt about being a singer-songwriter and you never did it, you will be haunted by that at the age of 70. Because it’s still right there, stored in the back of your mind. It’s something that’s meant for you, that’s trying to call to you. See your dreams, you either pursue them or they fucking haunt you.
So here, laid out in under one minute, is a mechanism I recognised in myself right away.
Mostly in my earlier years I had an experience that was significant. Significant to me does not mean significant for anyone else too.
I wanted something or wanted more from something.
That deep and profound need, no matter how small and silly, or huge and bombastic, remained in my head like an idea worm. Always there, boring away into my psyche.
We can choose to ignore it, or we can pursue it.
Ignoring it can carry a cost.
I suspect we see it in some people around us who may have given up on their ‘dream’. In my experience those people are rarely deeply happy in their lives. They are often those who openly criticise too.
Then there is a second group of people, those who pursue it.
Some may have discovered that one experience was enough and that’s it.
Others are still on their journey.
These people are likely acting on an idea that was formed as a younger person, an unmet need, that is now a deep seated and unrealised obsession.
Let me give you a really silly example of a small one for me.
As a kid I was fascinated by insects. One summer I was allowed to look after the school stick insects in their insect case. I loved it. But when the new school term came around, I had to return them. At the same time I discovered a book with photos of all the different and exotic stick insects in the world. I WANTED TO KEEP EXOTIC STICK INSECTS. My mum and dad said no. And so I was left with this deep desire for something denied. Or at least not fully explored or experienced to the level that I wanted. No, that I needed.
Now as a middle aged man, it’s kind of ridiculous to setup a stick insect terrarium in the home. Unless of course you have a young son. Then it’s required. Of course it is. I had my excuse and a couple of hundred pounds later I had the Rolls Royce of stick insect homes in the living room. Complete with five exotic varieties of creepy-crawlies from around the world. Of course the kids loved them. But I was really the one who was getting the most out of it. The pic below is of my first new stick insect, and it shed it’s skin in true alein form, on the very first night (skin top left, insect bottom right)
After a year or so, that need was completely met and I gave the whole setup to a local dad to enjoy with his son. I have never thought about stick insects since. You could say I ‘got it out of my system’. There’s a reason that phrase is so ubiquitous in our world. And often used to explain acts that seem to most people to be strange or weird, ‘well at least he got it out of his system…’
As I look back, I can clearly see so many childhood dreams like this.
The time I wanted a Vectrex video game SO BAD for years. One was on display in the Argos shop window and on winter nights I would stand there, waiting for the bus, just longing for to own a Vectrex, the pinnacle of high tech gaming at the time. It was completely out of my mum and dads price range. But twenty years later it would be mine, snatched up from eBay for £40. Oh the glee of that unmet need now satiated. I play it maybe four times a year for twenty minutes, and love every second of it. But I don’t need to buy another one. That need has now been met.
Or the time I managed to get some amber with an insect in it, way before that was popular through Jurrasic park. How many times would I show bemused visitors this ancient relic and they would nod and smile like I was a crazy person.
I have similar deep fascinations with microscopy, astronomy, palaeontology and fossils, and crazy science experiments in general. Just give me half a chance and a good reason to create a huge exploding foam experiment in the back garden and it will happen.
What I found here is this also makes me a target for passive derision too. It’s easy to poke fun at that guy who bought back into the concept of vinyl in his forties, when we are all use streaming music. I mean just get into a chat about the differences between frequencies, how an obsidian base turntable dampens vibration… and you know there is an unmet childhood dream here. That person is driven by different motives, and for me, kudos they are actively chasing one of their dreams.
Right now my boy may be building such a need in himself, one that he may revisit in adulthood. He is obsessed by Pokémon cards. Let’s see where he is at in 30 years.
For others it could be experience driven.
Parachuting, kayaking down an Amazonian river, summiting Everest are obvious examples.
Or seeing a band live maybe. We have all seen Axl Rose on stage playing to an ocean of fifty something fans, and everyone is loving it. Even Axl.
All of these are relatively easy to pursue (maybe not Everest), given a little disposable income. And to be honest, I think I have done most of mine over the years. Yes, I have a mini Galaxians arcade game on my desktop as I type this. And you can read a blog post from 2012 where I explored my fascination with arcade games HERE. So you can see this extends over my entire lifetime.
I want to encourage you to lean into your versions of these deep seated dreams and needs.
They are important.
And don’t mock anyone for theirs. Rather show interest and ask questions. You will definitely learn something if you do. So that’s the low hanging fruit.
This post is really about the big ones.
As Mel says, if you had a dream to be a singer-songwriter, you either go for it or it will ‘fucking haunt you’.
So what is it, deep down, that you know you are haunted by? Adulting may have convinced you that this is not a good idea. And to be fair that may be correct. But this is also why it feels like a haunting. A ghost. Our logical minds have convinced us to let it go, to put down childish things. But there it is, in the dead of night. A nagging in your stomach. A voice in your head. The idea worm and boring into your brain. I know I have it too.
There is a very important distinction though, between my attaining some stick insects or a video game from eBay, in order to meet the needs of a long distant child, and that of, as Mel would put, pursuing becoming a singer songwriter.
For me it’s movies. And it all truly took root on a Friday night in 1979, when my brother, sitting in our family kitchen explained, beat for beat, and in extreme detail, the story of this movie he had just seen. A movie called ALIEN.
In that moment, the desire, fascination, and dream laid deep roots. And critically I could not access the experience.
I was denied the ability to watch ALIEN. I was still a child and could not go to the cinema to see it. So I read the book, bought the photo novel, found the soundtrack on LP, bought magazines with photos and articles about it, even managed to buy a super 8mm version of it for my home ‘big screen’.
I became the leading expert on ALIEN in the small northern town of Wigan.
I would eventually get to see it in screen three of the Wigan Odeon, double billed with John Carpenters ‘The Fog’. It was a night I will never forget. And I wanted to recreate that night for myself and others. I mean now I think about it, it’s exactly what I was doing at the book launch of Twisted50, the anthology book of horror short stories we published. Video below…
My love of fantastical cinema had always been there. Jason and the Argonauts, Valley of Gwanji, even Dr. Who from behind the sofa. But it was Alien that caused me to change the direction of my life forever.
Looking around my peer group, only one person at that time had similar and bombastic ambitions.
A singer-songwriter and guitarist who decided to leave Wigan to head for London on an adventure to seek fame, fortune and a recording deal. He never got to number one in the charts. But here’s the critical part. He is still playing and recording music. Still chasing the dream. Still on the journey.
For my part, I began making Super8mm horror movies, the first of which you can see on my blog HERE , clearly heavily influenced by John Carpenters ‘The Fog’. Within three of four years I had directed my first feature film, the unmet need being so strong in me. Was it a great film? No. I needed to continue and make more films. And I did. And still do.
It’s not the beginning or the conclusion of the journey that is important.
It’s the journey itself that is the prize.
THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION.
Commit to the journey of chasing that dream, whatever it is, and the JOURNEY BECOMES THE REALISATION OF THE DREAM.
Think of it as the WHY, the reason, and not merely the object of the dream.
In this way, the doing it is more important than achieving ‘it’, whatever you imagine to be the logical dream destination might be.
The journey will ALWAYS continue.
Beyond the summit of the biggest mountain in the world, is the pathway to an even bigger mountain you didn’t know existed. Until you reached the summit of the one that is already behind you.
Taking action and starting the journey will change your very being too.
It will also change your peer group, from people who have ‘settled’, to others who are dreamers. Not idealistic dreamers who just talk ‘it’, but dreamers who are doing it.
I am still in touch with my guitarist friend, and every so often I check in on his FB page and smile that he is still rockin’ stages, grey haired for sure, but fuck yeah, DOING IT!
So I dare, you in 2023. Commit to the dream. Or forever be haunted. You choose.
Take that first bold step.
Then commit to relishing every single following step.
The failures, the success, the frustrations, the breakthroughs, the new alliances, the betrayals, the goals achieved, the goals missed, the thrills and disappointments.
In this brave new world you will feel more alive, because the only thing that is now certain, is that everything is uncertain.
Over the dimension of time, most of us eventually take the certainty of a safe life at some point.
And for what it’s worth, this entire post is really me just having a word with myself about re-committing to massive action, outrageous risk taking, dream chasing and enjoying the journey.
The Journey IS the Destination.
I will see you in Mordor.
And here’s the whole interview with Mel below, it’s terrific.