#SelfDoubt vs #SelfConsciousness

There’s this actor, maybe you’ve heard of him, a fella by the name of Tom Hanks.

Mr. Hanks has been in a fair number of films, he’s produced some, he’s directed some. My personal favorite of his movies is the one pictured above, Cast Away, and it was my favorite movie of all time for a long time. I still watch it about once a month; it helps me process loneliness back in solitude and gratitude when I need to.

Cast Away did not make Tom look glamorous. Hanks’s character (and to play the character you have to look the part) started off the story overweight and a control freak of time (which he tries to explain to the Russians, if you want irony in 2017); by the end of the story he is shaggy and rail thin, no longer a lover of seafood, grateful for something as small as a Swiss Army knife, and someone in awe of time and fate. There are now a lot of photos and memes of this film on the web and social media of Hanks looking nearly gross; ain’t nothing gorgeous in it.

For the past three years Hanks has also been working on a collection of short fiction for publication. The work isn’t necessarily Pulitzer-worthy, but it’s entertaining and touching in some places; one short story is so funny it took me about two hours to read it. Shortly after I finished the book I looked for media supplements on the book; this task was a bit of a struggle because the book was released right before the release of Hanks in the film The Post, and most interviews involve the book for about 30 seconds and the film for about 12 minutes. But there was an interview filmed for The New York Times, on their program Times Talks, where Hanks was interviewed primarily about the book and answered questions from social media and the audience.

One question asked Hanks how he overcomes self-doubt. The question was ambiguous enough to apply to any career in creative work, and Hanks answered as though it applied to his acting, since that was the creative work most folks knew him for. His belief is that self-doubt is the same as self-consciousness; get rid of both and you can create. Sometimes the role requires that you look ridiculous or that you do something you don’t want to do to play the role because there might be a picture of it later…you have dispense of that. You have to make the mistakes and trust the process, he explained.

Just before I read the Hanks book I read another book, Sourdough, by Robin Sloan, that took me to the same place as Hanks’s thoughts on creative process. In the book the main character of Lois has to deal with Silicon Valley hipsters who are too cool for school in product development and nutrition; she also has to deal with analog purist foodies who think that anything high-tech is a fad or corruption. Lois, from the Midwest and feeling far from cosmopolitan, finds joy from simple food and makes mistakes in learning to cook and bake, not to mention making lots of mistakes in marrying tech and life hacks in that cooking and baking. Lois looks silly a lot. Lois is nowhere near glamorous.

Yet, in the reading of Sloan’s book and Hanks’s book and his interview, I feel like I’ve got a standard to move toward. Make mistakes, Jo; so I go back to cooking myself, making messes. I pull out the baseball novel I was working on and botch it up or improve it for one of my writing sessions; I do the same with sessions devoted to other writings. I very well may be making all kinds of mistakes right now in this blog post. I think that’s the place where the best stuff comes from, and I’ll continue to do so. ✨

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The Right Stuff

As I write this, my brother is in the living room watching “Platoon.”  I’m not a big Oliver Stone fan (there are two directors that I would re-watch only one movie apiece from–Stone, for “The Joy Luck Club,” and Tarantino, for “Inglorious Bastards.”  The rest of their stuff I can do without), and I while I’ve been told what seems like two hundred times that this is a “classic,” it does nothing for me.

I’ve been told nearly that many times how great San Diego is, but most of the telling has been from the point of view of people who hate cold, or hate the relief of rain.  Most of the people who tell me are also not known for being the big nerd that I am–a woman with a love of good literature, good Gewürztraminer, and Bruce Springsteen music.  It’s no longer a matter of San Diego being lesser for me–we just don’t have the same tastes, and the same curiosity.  

Yesterday I turned my curiosity loose in Balboa Park.  I love Balboa Park but don’t get there nearly enough–if there aren’t slot machines or remote desert trails, I usually don’t make it to a place.  But yesterday I awoke at 6 am, walked to the train station, rode the train in the sunrise to Santa Fe station in San Diego (an old-fashioned station like one might find in foreign films or 40’s movies), and then took the trolley to City College Station.  San Diego reminds me of San Jose in its populated loneliness, a crowd of loners and hermits, no one making eye contact.  I was on the Orange Line to El Cajon, a car full of Saturday workers, it seemed.  They did not seem happy it was a Saturday.  I had to contain my wonder, wipe it off my face like a mask.

I could have boarded a bus at the station to get to Balboa Park, but, like my first forays into San Francisco, I don’t know the bus lines that well and wanted to read them from the street.  The days are getting cooler here, anyway; by cooler I mean that a t-shirt and shorts are now comfortable after the sun’s up, instead of avoiding travel in mid-day.  I walked from City College Station to the San Diego Museum of Art, a small gem about the size of my Legion of Honor.

I walked in and nearly wept.

Art is art, anywhere.  In San Francisco I went to the deYoung once a month at the least, but here I haven’t seen art museum art since my last visit to San Francisco.  Most of the art in Carlsbad has been sea-based:  weathered wood with half a layer of paint, shells, nets, sea-glass, etc.  This is beautiful stuff, but limited.  When I walked into the San Diego Museum of Art I see stuff not just of the desert or ocean, even though there are influences.  Diego Rivera had multiple paintings on the walls, but I couldn’t find Frida.  Georgia O’Keefe and Salvador Dali were in the modern art room (wing?  hard to say), and an exhibit on women and industry and war captivated me beyond measure.  Sure, yes, Rosie the Riveter, but have you seen the aviator war photos of the strong Margaret Bourke-White or the needlework of Nava Lubelski on stained canvas?  Have you seen An-My Le’s photos of 29 Palms that could be mistaken for Afghanistan?

Like the deYoung, the San Diego Museum of Art has a sculpture garden, and there is where I had lunch.  Over happy hour (between 11 am and noon on Saturday:  a glass of pinot noir, black bean soup, Moroccan shrimp, all half-price) I heard the clarion bells play “Roll Out the Barrell” and “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” odd tunes for such a heady park and for the hour that drifts away from morning like stale flowers.  It was San Diego, though, and not San Francisco.  I kept hoping for more, more authenticity…but then it came time to get back on the trolley and see San Diego trying to prove metropolitan-ness.  I wish it wouldn’t.