In Times of Creative Block, Act Like Your Idols

When I get stressed out, much like a dudebro drunk on whiskey, inspiration and creativity is not something that comes easily.

In fact, my brain just completely shuts down. During these times, I often find myself standing wide-eyed and dumbfounded when people are talking to me. You may even find me hovering in the grocery store staring at the same three shelves of salad dressings for about fifteen minutes, completely immobile. This may have more to do with the fact that there are now 400 types of salad dressings to chose from when grocery shopping and not a temporary neurological malfunction.

When I begin imitating a mentally challenged person by accident, I try to think of my idols. Having idols is important. Having heroes are important. Having people that you dress up as and fantasize about before going to sleep is important.

I’ve accumulated a lot of idols in my years. Some have left me- Beetlejuice, Elton John circa 1974, Dana Scully. Some have stayed-Woody Allen, Pee-Wee Herman, Frank Zappa. Some have joined me only recently on my journey through life- Freddie Mercury, Prince, and Amy Sedaris.

And yes, I know there are very few women on the list. You don’t think I don’t know that? You don’t think I don’t have it on my list of potential questions to ask my therapist if and when I ever get one? All I can say is that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m an adorable tiny gay man in a 27 year-old female’s body. I like fashionable men’s clothing, Cher and Liza Minnelli, and I just like men in general.

If it weren’t for my idols, I don’t think I would be where I am today- which is sitting on my couch watching Purple Rain and dressed like Prince.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a habit of trying to embody my heroes. Back home is an entire shelf devoted to VHS tapes of me as Rod Serling, Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox, and various members of The Kids in the Hall. Donning gigantic Jewish eyebrows made me feel as though I’d gain a fraction of Serling’s grace for storytelling. Twirling around in the backyard with a half moon tambourine I forced my mother to buy me made me feel as though I was a little closer to staring into Lindsey Buckingham’s deep blue eyes. Little has changed since those days. As many of you know, for Halloween this year, I glued chest hair and a mustache to my skin in order to become Freddie Mercury. This simply wasn’t a costume, but a day for me to envision myself as a Persian rock star with an overbite as impressive as his voice.

All of my heroes above have brought me inspiration and entertainment through the years, but there is one man in particular who has been my shining example of who I want to be. He has been a renown musician, artist, filmmaker, writer, and photographer for the past four decades. He is always changing, always trying something new, and keeps on going whether his new endeavors work or not (I’m just going to say it, David, Rei Momo sucked ass). Since I was sixteen years-old and first saw Stop Making Sense, David Byrne has and always will be my artistic hero. Whether he’s making songs about buildings and food, films about Texas,  bike racks in New York City, turkey Jell-o molds, or buildings that play music, Byrne just keeps ’em coming. I try to remember that when I’ve reached a creative road block- just keep it going. Keep those wheels churning and don’t necessarily think that what you’re creating could be viewed as poop. Or a Afro-Cuban/Hispanic/Brazilian album sung by an extremely dorky white dude.

This post has been extremely difficult to write. I’m not happy with it. I don’t like where it is going and I don’t have an ending for it. Even thinking about David Byrne right now is not helping me to bring this post to a point or a conclusion. I guess if I were to channel Byrne I would just end the post right now without a

Who are your creative idols?

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  • Reply Anthony Strand December 20, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Groucho Marx is absolutely at the top of my list. No other piece of entertainment has influenced me quite like those first five Marx Brothers movies.

    Steve Martin, of course! As an actor, comedian, writer – he's done so many different things so well. Too bad he's lost his talent for picking quality films, but he'll always be tops in my book.

    A bunch of directors – Preston Sturges, Christopher Guest, early Mel Brooks (again, the first five movies), Terry Gilliam.

    Louis Sachar is actually a big one for me. The Wayside School books, Someday Angeline, There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom – all of those shaped how I view the world, both as a kid and now.

    Those are the ones that come to mind right away.

  • Reply Hipstercrite December 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Anthony- The Marx Brothers and Steve Martin are both on the top of my list too. I can't believe I left them off. I've been a follower of the Marx Brothers since I was about 12. Steve Martin can do no wrong in my book. I love his acting, his writing, his music….everything! Good taste, my friend.

  • Reply Big Mark 243 December 20, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Shakespeare, whether or not he wrote what is credit to him or not. I have strong memories of my Mom taking a little boy to the Hillberry Theatre near Wayne State to see productions of the stories she was reading to me.

    Dante for the Inferno and Chris Clairemont and John Bryne for introducing his story to me.

    George Orwell, Richard Wright and your boy Rod Serling… I wish for a skoosh of their creative ability… maybe I could get one masterpiece script or story and be done with it.

    You are someone that I admire. In fact, the post I made today I am not happy with. I posted it to continue with the continuity. So I feel you on being less than thrilled with what came for publishing.

    Anywho, I hope you are well and I still think you managed a good post and one worth reading. Thanks for not 'taking it back' and leaving it out here.

  • Reply j.m. neeb December 20, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Creative idols: Colson Whitehead, Jack Kerouac, Radiohead, Christopher Nolan, Flannery O'Connor, Mark Kozelek, Josh Rouse, Steve Martin, Pam Houston, Eddie Izzard (stand-up, mainly) and Justin Beiber.

    Okay, maybe not J. Beib.

    Excellent topic. 🙂

  • Reply Benny December 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I like this one! Lately, it's been Woody Allen, and I hope he continues to be a role model for me. He works quickly and (some would say) haphazardly, but what's important is that he's constantly on, but in a surprisingly not neurotic way. You can tell by the way he talks that he's always coming up with jokes and plots. And, according to actors who've worked with him, he doesn't obsessively try to get every scene perfectly- in fact, he usually decides to move on after the first take! And his movies, hit-and-miss as they are, are rarely BAD. Even the bad ones have interesting moments and are mercifully short.

    I guess that's what I try to emulate – constantly generating ideas, stifling the impulse toward perfectionism, and letting myself be brief!

  • Reply The Kid In The Front Row December 21, 2010 at 12:02 am

    What you've said is so true. I was talking about a movie on my blog the other day, "Julie and Julia" and wrote this:

    "Julie Powell; as a real person, and as a film character; is really a great role model for success. She had a target which would test her. She had passion for something. She had a role model. And she worked her ass off. Her character spoke a lot, of feeling like Julie Child was in the room, and of having conversations with her as she cooked. To many, that sounds insane; but to anybody who wants to do anything extraordinary, it's the most normal thing in the world. Napoleon Hill was preaching that back in the day in his success books. It works. Unfortunately, I thought I was visualizing Billy Wilder in my imagination, but it was actually Bill Wiseman, from Barnsley, UK; who is currently unemployed and suffering from gout. Make sure you visualize properly."

    Anyways, for me; it's CHARLIE CHAPLIN. And BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. Between them they represent everything I try, do and want to achieve/be, etc. 🙂

    Thanks for your inspiring post!

  • Reply Austin Eavesdropper December 21, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Oh, Steve Martin! Good one, Anthony. I second that one, and also on my list, there are:

    –Madonna. Yes, she's a cold bitch, but damn. Girl is unapologetic and take-no-prisoners! I don't know if I can relate to her EXTREME work ethic, but I can totally relate to the need to keep reinventing yourself, and keep trying new things.

    –Tina Turner. The crazy hair, the feather costumes, the effervescent spirit. She was one of my mom's heroes who got passed down to me.

    –Denis Johnson, most especially for his book Jesus' Son. God.

    –And finally, this one might not be immediately obvious, but Meryl Streep. I can't believe the variety of characters she's played, and played WELL — Julia Child, for starters. Yet she seems so genuinely humble and generous. If I ever become successful at anything, it's her grace I want to embody.

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