I’m not sure if Apocalypse Now has ever been used as a model for self improvement, but here goes. Last week I was definitely starting to feel like Capt Willard in his hotel room at the beginning of the film. “Saigon. Shit.” Ceiling fan turning slowly, sound of a helicopter rotor, Jim Morrison singing The End. And then Willard’s voiceover, “Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger.”
I realized I was in my room getting weaker. I hadn’t created anything in days. No film, no photographs, no music. I hadn’t even written my blog post for the week. I had let myself get bogged down with mundane “business” that somehow seemed so urgent. So to rephrase: Every minute we don’t create something, we get weaker. We need to be like charlie squatting out in the creative bush, so to speak. Instead I was chugging whiskey and punching mirrors.
Then another line came to mind: “Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right.” I pulled up the clip, and the rest of the line is: “Unless you were going all the way. Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fucking program.” I realize Kurtz was an unhinged murderer, but stay with me here… As creatives it’s our job to get off the boat and split from the program. And we’d better be prepared to go all the way, because we’re all heading up the metaphorical river into the heart of darkness.
Of course once I started pulling up Apocalypse Now clips on YouTube I had to re-watch all my favorite moments. And that’s when I came across another winner: “Horror has a face. And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.” Now I’m going to take my thesis well beyond the bounds of reason, but indulge me. I think this line can apply to our creative journey. Because indeed we must make a friend of horror, if we interpret “horror” to mean the uncertainty, difficulty, and vulnerability of being an artist of any type. If we don’t, that horror will drive us mad, or at the very least knock us off the path of our true calling. We must accept these horrors, make them our friends, and move forward without fear.
Is that the sound of two Corporals approaching my door with orders to report for duty? It’s time to take a cold shower, sober up, and get back into the jungle.