Follow Your Bliss

I had something of a revelation during my time here recently. You might say this was life transforming. You see, yesterday and earlier today I was looking through some of my old blog posts from about four years ago, getting more ideas for an upcoming book, and I came across something. Back then, on November 5th 2002, I wrote:

“A year ago, to this very day, I was laid off from the last studio job I had doing computer game work. Since that time I finally decided to push forward wholeheartedly into the realm of independent animation. I released Understanding Chaos and Shadowskin on DVD, promoted them through various avenues. I did many interviews and a few magazine articles. I was even invited on a trip to China and Japan to promote both my work, Lightwave 3D, and Aura Video Paint, my favorite software. I moved to LA where I started interacting in different circles and becoming a bit more known. I also hooked up with PBSO and began the J4A project. It hasn’t been the smoothest ride I’ll tell you, but I’d take it over that studio job any day!”

Just over two years later, in my 2004 year end review, I wrote:

“I am going back to work. I believe it is a necessary part of the way of Chaos and essential to doing a long term project.”

Now both of those were concious choices. I’m not going to say that either one was right or wrong at the time. In fact, I would say they were both right based on what I believed. It is in fact belief that is the central issue here.

We have to really be careful what we allow ourselves to come to believe. As independent animators we are often faced with doing the impossible by industry standards and we need to always remember that those standards are not our own. Who was it who decided that a lone artist could not make a quality animated film, and when was this decided? People whose minds are stuck in the industry will tell you with conviction it can’t be done and give you many convincing reasons why this is so, but we have to remember that this is their experience and not ours. As it is written in The Richest Man in Babylon, you wouldn’t take advice on fine jewelry from a brick maker.

I am thankful that I started out with but a goal and, though I saw no way to achieve it, I also saw no barriers against it. I hadn’t yet worked at the studios. I hadn’t yet worked on “real films”. I hadn’t yet encountered the egos, the attitudes, the crushed spirits and broken dreams that so pervade the industry. I wanted to do it and so I did it. Even so, as time went on my beliefs fell into corruption. I learned a lot being in the industry. I read books by masters of the trade and veterans in animation and this was good, but it also took something away. I started to believe I had to use certain tools. I started to believe I had to follow certain processes. I stared to believe I had to live up to certain expectations. I started to even believe I had to travel a certain road, or that there was some purpose I had to fulfill or things just wouldn’t go right.

When the revelation hit me, I had never before seen so clearly. I didn’t just see clearly at this moment. It was like traveling through the Stargate, but into my mind and into my history and I saw clearly so far back. I could see the importance of each turning point. I could see the meaning in each lesson learned. I could see what I gained and what I traded away. I could finally see my purpose.

Joseph Campbell, famed and venerated author of The Masks of God, once said, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” I can see now that when I did that, so many doors did open. I traveled halfway around the world to speak in China and Japan. I stood in Production I.G., my favorite studio, and watched one of the greatest anime films ever done in the making. I saw raw drawings of characters like Batou and Major Kusanagi on the desk of an artist so great as Hiroyuki Okiura. I wrote articles for major magazines and did many interviews. I got a deal with a major publisher. I got to stand in stores like Best Buy, Suncoast or Borders and see my products on the shelves. Those doors did open.

I have come to realize that if you truly want to create, you are tasked with nothing else but to follow your bliss. It would be like a crime for you to do less. As an artist or creator, you have something to say and to not get that message out would be a shame. There are things that exist in everyone’s life that one can let be an excuse not to go after the dream, but its only a pale shadow of an excuse. If we really want to be free, we have to be free, right now, waiting for nothing. If we really want to create animation, we have to just start creating it and believe, even know, that we are on the right path and that the film will be done because the doors will open and the obstacles will fall out of the way. Nothing should stand in the way of your dream. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect right now. You don’t have to have the perfect computer. You don’t have to have the best software. You don’t have to have a dream team of artists. You don’t have to have anything but your desire and your belief that it will happen. Just start down that road. You will be surprised how many things just move out of your way.