17 October 2006

Dear Samuel Pepys (2)

Necessity is the mother of invention. She's also the mother of motivation, invention's less glamorous sibling.

Seriously, I don't believe anyone ever did anything they didn't have to. The difference in industry from one person to another derives simply from what each considers "necessary". For example, for whatever reason, you found necessary an impeccably meticulous work ethic in the office, plus extra-curricular reading (general and scientific), an hour a day of music, and regular philandering - not to mention unfailing daily diary entries for the decade before your sight failed. Because if you hadn't, people might have looked at you funny in the street: "old Sam's not been pulling his weight lately. He's really let his viola da gamba slip and looked a real fish when asked about Newton's latest paper."

When I last wrote to you a year or so ago I was suffering a real slump of motivation and couldn't understand how I got so little done, you so much. And still, whenever my thoughts turn to you it tends to be in self-reproach. But in general I'm riding a wave of productivity at the moment. Why? Because it's necessary.

I turned fully freelance a couple of months ago. Until then, I had the support of a bursary to pad out times thin for work. No matter how slow I got, I never neglected the essentials of keeping Silver Tongue afloat, because for whatever reason it seemed necessary. Now, I rely on keeping Silver Tongue afloat for my future rent and food, so its necessity is even more keenly felt. Although I've had days in the last couple of weeks less productive than the ideal, none have been totally wasted.

If you need something doing, ask a busy person. I'm now getting on top of a lot of Silver Tongue's administrative machinery, which I really ought to have dealt with when I had leisure to do so. The website is being redesigned, the financial governance sorted out with considerable outside help I could easily have engaged more than a year ago if I'd looked in the right place, and the legal constitution put in place. All of this will be done within a few months. (Added to all of which, I'm keeping up these correspondences with much more regularity.)

Inspiration comes from the strangest of places. As you may have noticed from recent published letters to other correspondents, of all my work in the pipeline I've been most enthused for a while about the clown show. Shiver didn't get the reception we'd hoped in Edinburgh and, though we're reworking it, selling the tour has been a tough gig. And I just haven't thought in enough detail about Man Across the Way to get excited about it. But wandering around the internet looking for good models for theatre company website design, I found myself poking about the Complicite website. I couldn't say what it was in particular, but I found myself thrilling with excitement at the possibilities of that show. So because of one necessary task, I found myself inspired with new and welcome enthusiasm for another.

It's not right to say I haven't been looking forward to the Man work. It's just not as new as the clown work, and so it's easy to become blase about it. But what I realised while reading about Simon McBurney were all of those things that are new. I found my first words of the development process, which starts in a fortnight. I found myself talking about how different this process will be from previous Silver Tongue development projects. I found myself seeing the things about the show that are different, that are new. This is all very exciting. It's not as though we're totally changing everything, leaving behind all that has made us what we are. But we're forging ahead anew.

Is this how you maintained your enthusiasm for all your projects? If in stasis, change things? If it ain't broke, fix it? It's a pretty good principle, especially in the arts. It's impossible to create to a model; in order to be genuinely creative, you need first to create the model. It's zero budgeting, it's the clean slate. Change is vital, it is the engine of creativity. But sometimes it doesn't appear necessary, and necessity is, of course, the mother of invention.


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