#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. ✨

#PlayingWithGuns

Big, tough guys with their guns. Raring girls with their guns. Aren’t you nine kinds of pain with your automatic, circular cartridge catastrophe. Aren’t you just something special on the news with, saving the world kind of, defending our rights by editing out the part about “life” that was thrown in with liberty and pursuing stuff.

Thanks for nothing.

****

I have only handled a gun three times, and all for theater. In my junior year in high school I got the part of Aunt Eller in our high school production of “Oklahoma!” and the musical requires the cantankerous woman stopping a fight between farmers and cowhands with a threat of gunfire in the air. During dress rehearsal I was presented with a Colt, chambers full of blanks, and told to aim it to the ceiling and pull the trigger. “Careful, it has a bit of kick,” said the gun owner as he passed it to me. I took it from him and nearly dropped it; who needed bullets when you hold something you injure someone with just by dropping it on their foot. The term “pistol-whip” took on all kinds of meaning in my hands, and THEN the damn thing had a trigger.

Lifting it was a bit of a challenge, but I was up to it; I played marching baritone in band during the summers, so I had triceps like an acrobat. It was the relaxing enough to just lift it and pop the trigger. My first attempt nearly jolted me from end of my left index finger (stage placement made Aunt Eller a left-handed shooter and a right-handed butter-churner, apparently) all the way down to my heels, followed by the sudden urge to reach out and hold on to something. What a percussion instrument! Fantastic!

And yet, once was enough.

I didn’t have that option, though, so I jerked through a round, sore and tense by the end of the rotation. They asked me if I felt comfortable with it, and I answered that I didn’t but that more shooting wouldn’t improve the situation–it would just turn Aunt Eller into a pacifist.

So the first night I stopped a brawl with an airborn blank (the gun yanked out of one of the actors’ holster, too, which is an action about as smooth and successful as threading a needle on a mechanical bull, although I haven’t tried THAT) and could enjoy my acting for the rest of the evening. The second night, though, I felt such a fear of that damn weapon I clenched my eyes shut as I aimed it. Aunt Eller was fearless, but I hated that kick.

But it didn’t kick. The gun clicked instead.

My eyes popped open as those surprised folks in a cartoon. The audience laughed, enjoying the theatrics of my ad-lib, and I found my fearless side. Having to only shoot one bullet a night, I wasn’t normally the one who cocked the piece, but I shook it (maybe the blank wasn’t in the chamber?) cocked it, and stretched out my arm and tried again.

Click.

It was at that point that I gut-reacted. Fucking gun, I thought and spun on the fight and yelled “HEY!” at the top ferocity. Everyone roared. A weapon that wouldn’t protect me in a modern-day place of business or legislature or learning was funny for fourteen seconds.

That night was our last performance and I never handled a gun again.

*****

A Colt is its own form of cantankerous, with jams and weight and single dispatch of bullets (about the only way to make a Colt into automatic weapon is practice hitting back the hammer with the heel of your right hand, which isn’t on my bucket list). I understand, with full sobering gravity, that this isn’t the Wild West in that these mass killers and vigilantes don’t use this kind of gun when mowing down the world.

That would, as I mentioned, require some level of skill.

The natural inclination is to make all guns illegal, but because that’s just not acceptable, then some states limit the amount of rounds you can buy. (Too few states, in this writer’s opinion, but there’s a take on all of this that screams disagreement.) Others ban certain kinds of weapons. I’m thinking any gun is still too cowardly, unless it requires skill and patience and quick-thinking to operate one. If there is going to be an insistence on owning a firearm, shouldn’t it be with some kind of cost other than monetary? If you can squeeze off a shower of lead, you aren’t committing to the act, really. Shouldn’t you be limited to the gospel itself, the kind of guns that were around when that Second Amendment was written, in order to hang on to that power you so crave? True, you may only mortally wound one person at a time (or fill your own face full of powder), but you’ll have earned it.

Or what about a compound bow? Real strength is in pulling back one bolt at a time, isn’t it? If you have to carpet the world with your own brand of justice and end one third of the sum of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (I stand corrected; ending someone’s life would end all three), then why not do it with sheer muscle?

But we’re venturing, again, into too much of a commitment.