Press Your Luck

Are you familiar with The Artist Way? It’s a book written by Julia Cameron, but it’s not just a book: it’s pretty much a 12-step program for recovering artists. As an artist, I’m pretty much my own worst enemy, and this book aims to get broken, self-destructing creative individuals to a point of positive, free-flowing artistic energy (which I know sounds hokey, but I assure you that it’s completely awesome). Each chapter represents a week and includes several journaling and artistic exercises to get you back on track. One week stood out the most for me. The chapter is about silencing that terrible discouraging voice inside all creative types (actually, all people in general) that tries to convince us that we are not capable of the things we wish to achieve. One of the exercises that week was to draw some sort of cartoonish monster or goblin that would personify this destructive inner monologue, and each time you hear that voice chime up, the author suggested you think of that drawing, realize the utter ridiculous of it all and silence that terrible voice. My brain often works in bizarre ways and instead of drawing an original picture, this popped into my head instead:

For those of you that don’t recognize it, that is a Whammy from the early 80’s game show Press Your Luck. Allow me to refresh your memory further:

The whammy is comically evil—not only does he steal all of your money, but he does it with such unabashed mocking joy! I mean, did you see the way that dixieland Whammy band stole all of that guys money? To me, the inner monologue of mine that tells me that I will never write a truly great story or make a great film is best personified by those damn Whammies! They steal all of my best ideas and replace them with creative bankruptcy. After that week, I started keeping a picture of the whammy around (it’s currently the desktop image on my blackberry) to remind me that whenever I feel that discouragement wash over me, that I should keep my chin up, declare to myself “Big Bucks, No Whammies” and do my best to win big. I know, I’m quite a weirdo, but it works for me.

But lately, I have started to notice that the Whammies have crept back in. If 2010 was the year of victory over the little bastards, 2011 is the year they came back with a vengeance. Last year was pretty awesome: my first year of performing improv, I started a screenplay that I continue to be excited about (though it has remain untouched for the past 9 months or so), and landed a pretty incredible job opportunity. So far, I have coasted into 2011 riding a wave of complacency. I haven’t written anything in months, I haven’t been back in improv class in almost a year, and in general, I have approached my creative disciplines with a lackadaisical malaise. The whammies have stolen my mojo, and I want it back.
You hear that Whammies???? I’m going all “Michael Larson” in this place.
Oh, you don’t know who Michael Larson is? He was an unemployed ice cream truck driver (which might be the saddest job description ever in game show contestant history) the biggest winner on Press Your Luck in 1984. He won by memorizing the patterns on the game board. Yep, he single-handedly beat those Whammies and took home over $100,000 in prize money.

I think it’s good to have role models.

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