It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.
— Jane Fonda
Taking what Julia calls a creative U-turn is common among creative people. In fact, she declares that every artist does this at some time or another (often, more than once). As examples, based on her own personal interviews with them, she includes such renowned creatives as Jane Fonda, Kevin Kline, Julie Andrews, Akira Kurosawa, Sidney Pollack, Sissy Spacek, Gregory Hines, and over fifty more.
“I talked to most of them about discouragement – which meant talking to them about U-turns. As much as talent, the capacity to avoid or recoup from creative U-turns distinguished many of their careers.”
She then goes on to make this declaration: “A successful creative career is always built on successful creative failures. The trick is to survive them. It helps to remember than even our most illustrious artists have taken creative U-turns in their time.”
She details the example of renowned writer and director Blake Edwards, who has given us some of the funniest and most successful comedy films of the past four decades. “Nonetheless,” she confides to us, “he spent seven years in self-imposed exile in Switzerland because a script that he felt was his best was taken away from him in preproduction, when his take on the material differed from that of the star the studio had acquired to enhance it.
“Fired from his own project, Edwards sat on the sidelines watching as his beloved film was made by others and botched badly. Like a wounded panther [get it? – B.], Edwards retired to the Alps to nurse his wounds.”
It wasn’t until seven bitter years later that he returned to directing. He told Julia that he finally concluded that creativity, not time, would heal his creative wounds. And he has been aggressively productive ever since. “Talking about this time-out to me,” she writes, “he was rueful, and pained, about the time it cost him.”
But she urges him (and us) to have some compassion. The creative U-turn is always rooted in fear. Fear of success, or fear of failure, it doesn’t much matter. The result is the same. And it is a common hazard of the authentic artist.
So what can we do about it in our own situations? We’ll take it step by step tomorrow.