It's great when your hard work has paid off. Mine has, in very unexpected ways and very big ways.
While I can't yet share where my work has led me, I can say this - It would not have happened without shutting a few things down.
One of them is my mouth. Almost a year ago I came to the conclusion that sometimes I just need to close my mouth and do the work. Not rant about unfairness in the system, regret my choices or blame others for my lack of discipline. I just had to shut my mouth and work.
I love my restless mind. It keeps me up at night, creating, pouring over details and it will not let me go until a scene or song that I'm writing is either settled or sung. But I had to shut myself off from having too many things to say about too many other things in this world. The one thing I had to concentrate on was NOT offering an opinion. I had the occasional Facebook rant or the odd gripe here and there. But my daily barbs for things and people I disagree with are now off limits. I cannot and will not waste my time and energy on bloviating.
I believe I have some important contributions to make to the cultural conversation in my country. I can't make them in an undisciplined fashion. So my mouth is now firmly closed when it comes to pedestrian ephemera.
I had to shut down bad eating habits. While a lamington from my local bakery will give me the energy I need to get a few more lines written, the rush dies after an hour. Therefore, almonds, carrots, sugar free biscuits and xylitol in my tea have become the norm. I hate it. I absolutely hate it. But my body has thanked me and my garden now looks more like a market garden than the mess it was. I have eight small garden beds of various vegetables and one large corner patch reserved for potatoes and tomatoes. The vegetable garden is also a beautiful respite from staring at a screen all day.
I had to shut down friends. Or rather, those that called themselves my friend. I had a friend of thirty years who I didn't know was racist. I had a friend from church, who I had known since my early twenties who used my house and company as a way of escaping his responsibilities. He would arrive with cigars and war stories and basically dump his troubles. I soon discovered that this was his way of taking a break and 'being bohemian', as he told others. I live on the south coast and my company was his break from life. I had other friends who would only ever see me alone and never in a group because they couldn't stand the way I would 'become the centre of attention, just by being there'. It took time away from my work and writing when I had to entertain people who ended up not really caring about my work at all.
Last of all, I had to shut down the false image of me that people were creating. It gets a bit scary here. I know racism exists in Australia. It was just tough to see it close up in the theatre. Lateral harassment and bullying from other artists in the Aboriginal community became a real thing to tackle. I had heard about this pettiness and jealousy, but I never thought I would see it first hand. Get an ounce of success as an Indigenous man and there will arise ten other Aboriginal people to tell you that you are acting white, or they will be passively aggressive and remind you that 'they know the real you'. There were also Non Indigenous people in my professional artistic life who have ascribed to me an arrogant attitude. When this type of behaviour was challenged I would find that these teachers, mentors, do gooders had never really experienced having their practice questioned by a person of colour. Where a white up and coming writer/director would be called assertive, I was labelled as aggressive and difficult. Key people that should have helped me to the next phase decided that I was difficult to work with. This was based on the fact that I refused to be silent on my choices about what constitutes good writing and good theatre - and that I refused to be a token black.
It was a horrid thing to discover that the very people who were supposed to be teaching me, mentoring me, knew almost nothing about Australian theatre or it's need to grow. These are the people I regretted listening to.
I had to shut this regret down. I had to shut these people from my head and just work. Just write.
Because of that experience, the last thing I had to shut down was my lack of trust in the theatre community. Over the twenty five years of being in the arts, I have seen the good and the bad. Dressing room antics, a total lack of disregard for the safety and mental well being of crew, political infighting and exclusivity in cliques that form in theatre communities here in South Australia. I had lost my trust in the process. I had nothing left to offer. So I chose to write one epic piece, that would attempt to say everything I wanted to say about this country, my part in it and the way forward. I shut everything else down, closed the door and wrote for one year.
Then I found one person I could trust. My trust was rewarded.
The result of that one year of introspection and reclusive living?
It's coming soon.