The People We Follow Weren't Followers
Hey guys, sorry we couldn't get this to you yesterday. I just got back from a "Survivor Man" experience with Best Friend and Setlist Co-Founder Jake Flynn; completely off the grid so no way to get this out. Our minds were at high altitudes and our spirits were tested as we hiked an accumulative of 20 miles in 40 hours with over a hundred pound packs on our backs. We had a lot of time to recharge our thoughts and direct them to important topics we've had on our minds. Our conversation cemented my thoughts on the idea that "The People We Follow Weren't Followers".
What does this mean? I coined this phrase from a book I was reading, True and False, written by David Mamet. In his chapter They Once Walked Among Us David explains how the great acting teachers "were assured of nothing other than their own dissatisfaction of the status quo. It was the force, logic, or romance of their vision that emboldened students... they managed, in spite of human frailty, to assert their view sufficiently to found a school and attract followers might inspire us--but instead of inspiring us to worship their shades, it might inspire us to found our own schools." My take - Be true and express your own views, don't mimic; be inspired and build off of what you grab your inspiration from. The ones we follow weren't followers.
A lot of times I struggled with the idea that "if I didn't discover something for myself then it wasn't my own". I would beat myself up about not creating something from scratch, not making up my own path to follow in a sense. Then it hit me; no one just grabs creativity out of thin fucking air. You can't make creation, you can just create. You cant make an idea, you just have ideas. You need something to work off of. People need a "blueprint", we'll call it, whether that blue print is a role model, a hero, or just anything or anyone who inspires us, to structure our talents or interests to build off of. It was hard for me to have idols or role models because I didn't want to feel like I was copying what they were doing. Something I've learned about acting is that the great artists of acting "take" and "steal" from who they follow so admiringly. They get inspired by what they see and build off of it and make it into their own. There is a famous story of Marlon Brando in his acting class. The students job was to create a scene from someone walking into THEIR apartment and use whatever dialogue necessary to be real in the scene. Everyone was following a certain "blueprint" to work off of and started talking how you would when you entered your friends place. When Brando's turn was up to do the exercise, he sat down on the couch and started to read a magazine. When his fellow actor walked into the room Brando stood up and rushed to the other actor throwing him out and slamming the door behind him. He then said "I don't know who that fucking guy was!" Right?! Someone walks into your apartment doesn't mean you necessarily know them. Brilliant, he made a decision out of what he was told to work with. He followed the structure but not what everyone else was doing.
I listened to a podcast featuring Writer/Director/Actor Jon Favreau. He said "back in the day when you wanted to learn how to play the guitar your first chords were Hendrix, then you would make it your own." Not that you solely copied Hendrix, but you loved a certain style and would make something out of your inspiration. I love this understanding because of how wide it can be applied to all sorts of art, especially music. I mean think of all your favorite artists you've drawn from, not copied, but made your own out of inspiration. It took some time, but I finally understand it.
Back to camping in the Smokey Mountains, we almost didn't make it out alive, so this is kind of our victory article. Enjoy it!