Orson Welles was arguably as famous for his abandoned projects as he was for his “finished” films. As an assistant professor I can identity. I begin several projects at once and am lucky if one of them ends up being published in any form. Scholarly publishing is notoriously difficult and, well, let’s just say less than objective. In any event, part of my survival as an academic depends upon publishing scholarly articles from time to time. My last published article was in 2007, or centuries ago in academic-time. Nevertheless, I do write nearly every day and most of my projects are in some state nearing completion; at least I hope so.
I began writing an extended New York Review of Books-style article on V. S. Naipaul in 2008. The theme was to be about how certain writers make something of themselves from almost nothing, as Naipaul has always claimed he has. I began the article with a lot of excitement and interest, only to allow myself to become sidetracked by numerous things in my life. I abandoned the article about a month after I began doing research for it. I just ran out of steam on this particular subject.
The truth is that writing is a lonely task requiring large amounts of time spent in solitude. Most of the time this suits me just fine, as I feel most comfortable alone with my own thoughts. My oldest friend reminded me of this over the weekend when he stated that I was a person who lived mostly in his own head. Although I have always known this about myself, it still took me a bit by surprise to hear it spoken publically. I can only be thankful that I have an understanding and supportive wife who gives me the space I need to live. But even I get the occasional urge to crawl out of my own head once in a while. So, when those times do present themselves I travel.
I crave the solitude needed to write like a drug addict craves a score. Even if I am not writing, I am always thinking about the possibility of an article or review or conference paper. Last year I drove to a conference seven hours away and during that time I wrote several articles in my head. Two of them have managed to cross the boundary and onto paper. The other five have been abandoned, or more accurately, aborted. Countless other projects are still waiting for me to once again turn my attention their way. For example, I took about thirty minutes of film footage last year in Lisbon, Portugal with the intention of editing a short film on my MacBook Pro. The film is intended to be a first person narrative of someone walking the streets of Lisbon. I wanted to capture the sounds and feel of the streets in a raw sort of way. One day I plan on editing this into something, if only for my own satisfaction.
I am not sure where creativity comes from, but I do know that creative people cannot turn off their creativity. I am also not sure if I am creative, but I do know that with each abandoned project there is another waiting to take it place. In fact, I have this idea for a jazz piece called “Walking up Columbus Avenue in the Rain,” just let me grab my trumpet.