When I wake up in the morning the first thing I feel is excitement of a “Queen Mary”-type ship coming into New York harbor. The journey through treacherous dark mist and shifting winds, the dodging iceberg nightmares is over and with fanfares and ship horns blowing I am arriving to reality, to life, to existing people.
The second thing, after I lower my feet to the floor, I feel panic and desire to escape the problems and challenges in front of me.
At 6:08 AM I open my emails.
– Please, make decision on this.
– Don’t forget to send me that.
– Tell me the dates of your choice.
To start a morning with making decisions is like crushing 12 raw eggs into your bed before going to sleep. I close my emails.
I open the line test for my film. Now… do I put an image of a pig in front of word “money” or right after the word “politics”? I can’t make up my mind. It is 7 AM and I go to the kitchen.
There is a reason I don’t keep beer in my fridge. I have a strong temptation to start my morning by ignoring the calls for responsibility and cries of duty. It’s all futile anyway. Civilization is going towards the edge of the Big Cliff, there is no Eternity neither for me personally nor for my work.
Besides, I don’t get paid a lot for my efforts. No one is pacing impatiently waiting for my next drawing or word or film. It’s my choice to make that drawing, to write that word. Why don’t I choose an immediate pleasure instead? Here’s a list of things that make me happy: 1) sex 2) good food 3) long walks 4) talking to friends 5) loud parties with dancing 6) drinking beer at any time, in any company, even alone.
But wait, what do I do at 7:02 AM? I put a kettle on the stove with a purpose to make a hot caffeinated drink that would make me alert and more responsible!
First, of course, to get the beer I’d have to put some clothes on and go to the Deli on the corner where the seller might not judge me for buying a six-pack at 7 AM but I think he will. What if he tells my Mother?
Second, around 7:01 AM I remember that I had done sex and drinks and long walks all day long for a few months in the past. It doesn’t add up to greater happiness or better fun. It actually spirals down nicely to homelessness or mental hospital. I don’t mind mental hospitals as they lovingly take the responsibility and decision-making out of your day, but the bad thing is that eventually they have to let you go and you are back to where you started – in the kitchen at 7 AM making your choices.
Third, I admit that I withheld from you the 7th thing on my list that makes me happy: 7) extreme focus. This is the fun that strings together 6AM and 10 PM, Monday and Friday and every single minute inbetween.
That extreme focus is not easy to reach. Long walks don’t provide it. Sex does, but briefly and fleetingly. Drinking crushes it.
Your whole body resists going into the deep focus mode. The eyes want to shift to the right. The ears perk to the left. The hands drop an object, the feet loose a shoe, the ass gets itchy rash, the nose smells garlic, vertebrae cracks and aches.
But when you finally get on the wave, it carries you above the ground and all of sudden it doesn’t matter that the civilization is standing on the edge of the Big Cliff, that you might die one day, that your scans might disappear in an electric glitch. You become one with yourself, with your project, with the world. You are the future.
That extreme focus was how animation seduced me.
I wanted to be a novel writer since age 8, but every time when I wrote I was thinking about food, urge to pee or, when I got older, sex. Then I tried my hand in poetry, but one can write a poem in 5 minutes and then what do you do for the rest of the night? I studied Philosophy, but during the lectures was daydreaming about romance or thinking about food or sex. Preparing for exams was a torture – bodily functions overwhelmed any attempts to penetrate philosophical tracts. Reading a book for longer than 20 minutes without a distraction or falling asleep is impossible even now.
When I was about to submit myself to teaching Philosophy which horrified me (I get around Square of Opposition only on a surface) a friend suggested I tried an alternative, animation.
– I like your doodles on the lecture notebooks,- she said. – I’d like to see them move.
I’d never heard of animation being somebody’s occupation before but anything sounded better than teaching Philosophy, so I decided to give it a try.
I had to make a portfolio of some sorts. I sat down at 10 AM to sketch down a couple of storyboard ideas and when I raised my head it was 10 PM. For 12 hours I didn’t think even once of food, sex, peeing, sleep or romance.
– This is it, – I said. – No matter what happens with these storyboards, this is a thing I want to do for the rest of my life.
How can I betray that commitment by pulling out beer at 7 AM?
Besides, deep focus resides in the same part of brain where depression likes to spend most of it’s time. Focussing on moving my drawings, one by one, into a gesture, a greater meaning, a story, knocks the wind out of my depression.
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