My wife and I were lucky enough to see John Cleese’s “Last Time to See Me Before I Die” performance in Toronto this past weekend – and it was absolutely brilliant. Cleese essentially outlined the high points of his life, from childhood to various stages of his career. Aside from enjoying his wit and ability to make fun of himself and others, it was really neat to learn aspects of his life that I never knew before – like the fact that he was very close with Sir David Frost.
Cleese reminded me of two very important tenets that I think all writers – and everyone else, really – should live by. The first was his discussion of how the Monty Python cast cared less about what their audiences would like and more about being silly and having fun. This is critical for every writer, not just people writing fiction and poetry. If you write just for money or fame, you’re missing the fundamental goal of writing: enjoyment of the art. I don’t worry about whether potential readers will like a particular character or plot device; instead I write for myself, and to improve my craft. If I get published from what I love, all the better, but I often say that if I never get published again, I’ll still be writing.
The other tenet was how Cleese referred to himself as a “pseudo-adult,” which I imagine is partly how he maintains his enthusiasm and sense of fun. Writers aren’t very different from actors or comedians, in the sense that we’re also creative people and, as such, should have an element of fun in what we do. For me, this fun extends to not really seeing myself as an adult, even though I’m working, paying bills, married, etc. Adulthood – true adulthood, mind you – is often stressful, complicated, busy and dry. Everyone, but especially writers, needs to avoid getting bogged down by the concept of “adulthood” and let it ruin our fun and creative spirits. Similar to thinking too much about money and fame, if you start thinking too much about the traditional definition of adulthood, you might find your creativity stifled.
Or just come up with a new definition. That works, too.
This article from The Edmonton Journal provides a great overview of the show and why it was so awesome: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Nothing+Fawlty+about+Cleese+Edmonton+show/8985255/story.html