So those of you who have been following this blog for a little while are already acquainted with my massive ego Jasper Mountbatten III. He's an extroverted, irrational, volatile personality but he can also be entertaining in party situations. Sometimes he's inspiring (albeit in a rather bullying "Finish the whole keg you frickin' democrat!" kind of way) which can be helpful at those moments when you do actually need to finish the keg. Other times he's like a hurt little child and can sulk in the toilet for days at a go. But whatever the situation, Jasper's reaction is inevitably active. Even the sulking is an active kind of sulking. And his reactions are those of either extreme joy, or extreme injustice and anger. You'll forgive Jasper if he has a rather inflated view of me as a person, that's kind of what his job is.
Today though, I'd like to introduce you to another aspect of my personality. He's related to Jasper, although you would hardly guess it to look at him. When Jasper is the one at the party entertaining everybody with a hilarious story about the time he fell asleep in a river, his cousin Derek Bluebottom is the one that everyone is desperately trying to avoid. He's the guy at the party who looks like he was forced to come by his mum. He's the one in the kitchen standing by the fridge. You know, the one who you need to politely ask to move in order to get another beer. It's not an accident, he's standing in the way deliberately. Just so that someone will be forced to interact with him. Deep down he wants to connect, but instead he just kind of looks at you with nothing in his face. Pretty soon, word has spread through the party that there's a weird sad guy next to the fridge, and people start going to the off-license instead of to the kitchen. Derek has that effect on people.
If I'm perfectly honest though, the last place you would ever find Derek is at a party. He's more likely to be found at home on the sofa, sitting in the dark (having been unable to find the will to turn the light on) scrolling meaninglessly through an endless pit of despair until his phone runs out of battery, gradually sinking lower and lower until he can't feel anything anymore. Not joy, not sadness, just an infinite bog of numbness.
Say hello to Derek Bluebottom, my depression. Or perhaps don't bother, he's not likely to hear you.
You might wonder why I'm introducing you to Derek at all. He's not exciting like Jasper (or arguably normal like me), he's a bit of a pariah...
There are many times in my career so far that Derek has come to visit me. I must say I don't particularly look forward to his visits as I never really know how long he's going to stay. He came to stay after I got fired from Fantastic Mr Fox, actually he was a fairly regular visitor in the weeks leading up to that moment.
He also came for regular holidays during my very early years as a composer/lyricist, whenever I didn't get anywhere in a competition, whenever I didn't get a job, whenever I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life and what the damn point of any of it was anyway. Interestingly enough, although they make fairly strange bedfellows, Derek usually comes to visit with Jasper. But, you don't always know that he's there. He slides in the door behind Jasper and sets up in the spare room before you've even realised. And the most important difference between Jasper and Derek? Jasper always leaves as soon as the cocaine runs out, whereas Derek lingers long past his use by date.
So of the two, who is the more dangerous? Jasper for his outbursts, and volatility? Or Derek with his quiet numbing?
For me, the answer will always be Derek. But why am I talking about Derek now?
Because he's in my spare room... and I'm terrified.
I have recently gotten an amazing commission which I will be able to tell you about as soon as it is announced, basically it's an opportunity that has been one of my secret goals ever since I started off on this crazy theatre journey. So naturally when I found out, Jasper turned up at the door with a bottle of expensive champagne and a pound of heroin. It was great. I was so distracted for the two days of Jasper's hardcore party visit that of course I didn't notice Derek as he slumped through the door behind Jasper and headed straight for the spare room.
And then of course, Jasper left.
And now I'm left with Derek. Occassionally he comes out of the spare room, and pads gently through the hall, sometimes he'll sit next to me on the couch. He has a presence that infuses everything near him with an overwhelming sense of meaninglessness.
But the most difficult thing about Derek is his diet. As much as his presence is disturbing, it's his diet that is really dangerous for me. You see, Derek doesn't bring things to eat with him when he visits. He feeds on what is available to him. And his favourite food?
Derek eats my confidence like there's no tomorrow, for breakfast (when he can be bothered to have it) lunch and dinner. And the really sad thing about Derek is that eating my confidence has absolutely no effect on Derek. He can eat it all and never put on weight, it's like it disappears down his throat into an endless black hole.
And Derek doesn't even need bad reviews to start eating. All he needs is my imagination. My perceived thought that I can't do this job. This is what is happening right now. This commission is a great opportunity and already Derek is thinking about how badly it will turn out.
I have come to realise over the past year, that actually I really need a lot of confidence in order to do my job well. If I am to create good work I need to be able to trust in my ability to create good work. Especially in the theatre I have to be confident enough of my own worth as a composer/lyricist in order to be able to express my opinions and thoughts to my collaborators. I have to believe that my contribution is worth something. And the moment that I stop doing that I can't function effectively as an artist.
I've talked about this before but I hadn't realised what a huge part confidence has to play in the role of a creative in the theatre (as in many industries). When I was starting out I thought that it was talent and who you know that determines whether or not you succeed in this business (whatever your definition of success maybe). But I have come to realise that confidence plays an immense part in the whole process. For without it, any talent you possess is meaningless. If you are unable to express that talent and contribute your thoughts and ideas you might as well be back home in the spare room with Derek.
The good news is, that now I've started realising when Derek is on his way round...
So I start hiding his favourite foods from him. As with many things, I have noticed that simply being aware that Derek is coming over is half the battle. Just knowing that he will be there, and that he will be eating on my confidence somehow makes me feel better, and conversely it also makes me feel more confident that I can handle it.
I can prepare to a certain extent for his visits now and I also know that eventually, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but some day...
I'll wake up...
go to the spare room...
open the door...
and Derek will be gone (at least for now).
I don't think I'll ever get used to his visits, and I don't think we'll ever particularly get on. But at the very least he has made me aware of my own confidence in myself and for that he deserves a bit of thanks.
See you next time Derek.