Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.So that was a quote from Carl Jung, from his last book, which was mostly on alchemy, Mysterium Coniunctionis. And I’m John Fanning and this is the Create with John Fanning podcast. How’s it goin. Howy’re yis all doing out there? Hope yes are all doing well. This is Episode 4 of my series of episodes on creativity, based around my book Create. Last time I talked about Walls, and today I want to talk about family, friends, and what I call villains. So, family. Well, if I’m going to talk about family I need to talk about my own experience a bit so I can arrive at what I want to say, as I often do, through anecdote. I grew up in rural Ireland, in a place not far from Dublin, but sufficiently far to be too far, for a young fella seeking creative community. It’s called Meath, and it’s a beautiful place, full of history, The Battle of the Boyne, and the Boyne valley itself with all it’s mad megalithic tombs. One of them, Newgrange, not far from where I grew up, was built about 5,000 years ago around 3,000 B.C. which makes it older than the Great Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge over in England. So, the place was rich and beautiful, but creative community was hard to find. There was no music in our house, hardly any books, save the ones inherited by a great-aunt from England. All my Dad’s family were from a farming background. My Dad was an agricultural advisor. So, when I was a kid the other kids talked about tractors and livestock. Don’t get me wrong, I love my farming background, but I didn’t love the creative isolation, or the common understanding that creation was for crazy artists and writers up in Dublin, or in some far flung foreign city like New York or London. My mother’s family, the same thing, they all worked for other people, even if they were doctors and lawyers. I was actually supposed to become a lawyer, or a doctor like my maternal grandfather. And he’s the one I want to talk about today. On his deathbed, he asked me a question. I was in my teens. He could barely breathe. “What … are you … going to do … after university?” “I’m going to be a writer, Granddad.” His breathing got worse. “Oh no … not that,” he wheezed. Not the most encouraging conversation I ever had. But that was the general consensus. You want to be a what? Writer? Are you mad? How will you eat? Where will you get money? Away with the fairies, as they say in Ireland. So, getting back to that Jung quote.
Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.A classic example here in the states would be an immigrant family, say they have a store of some kind, but they want their kid to go to college even though their kid wants to keep working in the store, because he sees making furniture as really creative, or making bread as really creative. He or she loves it. So it becomes this war between doing what she loves and doing what makes her family love her. Of course this is not just here in the states. Like I said, I was under pressure to become a doctor or a lawyer. Projection and expectation’s normal in every culture but it’s wrong-headed because creation is about doing what you love, being happy is doing what you love, not what your family loves. And just because one person settled into a way of living in the world doesn’t mean they have to subject their kids to the same pressure. This pressure can be seen all the time. For example, I had it easy compared to the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. His parents went full throttle with their agenda for what young Paulo needed. In his teens, his parents sent him to a mental institution, not once, but three times. Why? Because he wanted to become a writer. Coelho was locked up for months and given tranquilizers and electroshock therapy. As I just said, the examples exist everywhere, in every career. Charles Darwin gave up a medical career. His father didn’t think much of his decision. He said he was a very ordinary boy, below the common standard in intellect, and that he would disgrace himself and his family. I mentioned Rodin and his process in the last episode. Well, his father was even more blunt than Darwin’s. He said he had an idiot for a son. It can be found in so much of what we watch too. Marilyn Brando’s character in “On the Waterfront” tells his brother what it did to him to take a fall in a fight, when he could have won. He said,
I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. Instead of a bum. Which is what I am. Let’s face it.Two brothers, one a villain, the other with a dream and passion to express himself through boxing. And why do we identify with this character? Because it’s great dialogue? Because it’s a great script? Great actors? Direction? Yes, but no. Because ultimately it’s because the scene makes us think, “I’ve experienced that. That’s my inner world, my inner struggle. I’ve had to deal with family like Brando’s brother. People who try to stop me from doing what I love.” We’re all like Brando’s character. We all have “villains” in our life, even if they think they’re protecting us like my well-meaning Grandad. We just have to be able to recognize the villains. It could be a spouse, a sibling, a child, a neighbor telling you: “No, you’re biting off more than you can chew with that,” or some other cliché. Because that’s what they’ve been told, and they believed it, they believed their villain, and they’re simply regurgiating it. Of course, as always, this doesn’t mean there are not supportive people out there encouraging people to create. My wife Kerry has been supporting my novel writing for over twenty years now. I would never have gotten those books done without her support. So many of the artists I’ve known, many of them close friends, would never have gotten their art out there if it weren’t for their spouses. So that’s a really important thing to mention. However, what I’m talking about is how important it is to understand the distinction between the two. There are people who will support your creativity, open the Doors towards creativity even further for you, and there are those who will play the role of villain, putting up Walls and discouraging you away from creativity, whether they know it or not. Who is your villain? And who’s your ally? Who or what has a negative effect on you when you’re trying to create, and who has a positive effect, gives you the opportunity to go further into your creativity? Are they the crazy-maker who calls you up when you’re trying to write a scene, when you’re about to build a chair, design a deck, to tell you about all their stuff, what’s wrong with their life? Or are they the person who minds the kids while you write? Or are they the person who assumes you’re not doing anything important, that you’re available because if you’re not making money, you’re not really “working”, and if you’re not working you’re available? Or do they leave you with the door closed, as Stephen King puts it, to create, and when you come out they smile and ask, how did it go? And when you had a crap day they encourage you, say it’ll pass, that tomorrow will be better, that getting 6 figures for your first book is not why you’re doing it, but because it gives you joy to create. The villain doesn’t have to be malicious. Just effective enough to unhinge you, to take your time, to discourage you. They don’t simply exist in plays and novels. They’re on the streets, or sitting beside you in a taxi, or on the couch saying it’s not worth it. When I was a kid, most of the time my villains didn’t have to say anything. A look, the expression of disbelief, was enough. Their silence, their faces were enough. Those faces said: “You want to be a what?” “This fellas off his head.” After Granddad, when people asked me what I wanted to be I answered, “I don’t know. Maybe a pilot.” Each time I’d tell them whatever came into my head. For the laugh. Because I thought I might as well have fun with it than let it depress me. My answers became more and more obscure. Lawyer. Botanist. Neuroscientist. Feng shui consultant. Fragrance chemist. However, now, when people ask I say, “I’m a writer”. So remember, be aware of who your villains are, as much as who your allies are, and of course villains will always tell you what you are not, so don’t let them tell you who you are. Create, regardless. So thanks for listening. I started with a quote from a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst but as I’ve done the last episodes, I’m going to end each podcast with an Irish proverb. This one literally means: There’s no hearth or fireplace like your own hearth. Or there’s no place like home – if they let you do what you want or more importantly, what you love to do that is.
Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.This podcast is supported by you the listener via my Patreon page. If ya want to support the podcast and help me get a wage for doing it, because that’s how I see this podcast as a job, one I love doing, then please head over to patreon.com/johnfanning where you can get early and ad free access as well as extra episodes when ya sign up. Ifya can afford it then give me the cost of a price of a cup of tea or pint once a month. Ifya can’t afford it that’s grand too, ya can listen for free, but please leave a review on itunes or wherever ya listen to it. Thank you! And thanks for listening. If you’re looking for more episodes you can find them on all the usual places like iTunes – or on my website at johnfanning.me under “podcast” where I’ve put up overview transcripts with links to all the people and ideas I mention. If you’re into social stuff and you’re looking to engage with me one-on-one, check me out on twitter @fanning_j and instagram @johnfanning_. It’s been great sharing stuff with you today so until next time take care out there and be benevolent when you can! Slán libh agus go n-éirí an bóthar libh.