by Dennis Daniel
Take a deep breath. Fill your lungs. Now, let the air out slowly, like a heartfelt sigh. I get inspiration from that. Yep. The simple act of breathing, living, functioning, eating, walking, thinking, taking a crap...you name it, I get inspired by it. Why? Because all around us, life calls us to be creative and to see the creative in all things. Each one of us has that special little catalyst that drives us to do better. I'd like to share with you some of the many things in my life that give me faith in myself, mankind, and the power to create that resides within me.
I'm someone who likes to delve into things totally. For instance, when I saw the movie Amadeus, I fell in love with the music of Mozart. I became obsessed with finding out everything I could about him! I wanted to know how such an extraordinary human being could have walked this earth. I knew the movie was just a dramatization. I needed to find out about the real man. In a nutshell, Mozart was one of those gifted children. He was surrounded by music from infancy and just had a God given ability to absorb it better than most. His curse was the fact that he knew he was a genius. This kind of attitude makes it hard to get along with everyone. Soon, he was taken for granted and ended up dying, broke, and getting buried in an unmarked pauper's grave. Yet, when you listen to his music, you can literally hear the voice of God. Centuries pass and its power is undiminished. Wow! Is that inspiration or what? Mozart was gifted. So am I. Here's how I relate his life to mine: I don't know why I was given the gift of my voice. I can't explain how I'm able to imitate so many voices, come up with ideas, write, produce, and direct all my own productions. I just can. It was a gift. When I see how Mozart handled his gift, I can see how I should handle mine. I certainly don't want to end up like he did, so I try not to make the same mistakes. I tell you, it really is a marvelous way to think about things! I can enjoy what Mozart created and also learn something about his life and apply that lesson to mine. It makes me feel as one with him whenever I hear his music.
This same theory applies whenever I read the biography or autobiography of someone I admire. I love and respect the work of people like Franz Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Harian Ellison, Boris Karloff, The Beatles (especially John Lennon), Woody Guthrie, Vincent Van Gogh, Jack Kerouac, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William S. Burroughs, Friedrich Nietzsche, Stanley Kubrick, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Orson Welles, Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly, Monty Python, The Marx Brothers (especially Groucho), R. Crumb, Harvey Pekar, John Huston, and many, many more. All of these people have inspired me. All of them have taught me something about life, creativity, and overcoming overwhelming obstacles. Whenever I feel like my creativity is running dry, I look at the prolific lives of those that I admire, and I see that I can pull myself out of the hole.
Many of us don't realize the power we have within us, the power to create that can overcome all obstacles. If those before us can do it, why can't we? As simple minded and "pie-in-the-sky" as this all might sound, I have found it to be a universal truth. There is nothing that separates me from any of the people I've mentioned. They set themselves a set of goals, and, by God, they achieved them. Just look at some of those names! Van Gogh! Jeez, talk about a tortured artist. My not being able to come up with a good enough idea for some car stereo place is NOTHING compared to the internal torment he went through! Orson Welles!! He was declared a genius at twenty-four years of age! He made Citizen Kane, a ground-breaking masterpiece! But, he refused to play the game and lost it all. He couldn't find that common ground. I can learn from his mistakes and enjoy his art at the same time. And enjoy it I do.
Another formula of mine is involvement. If I truly love something, I want to become as much a part of it as possible. For example, I've always loved horror films. When I was a boy, I used to read a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland. It was the first of its kind -- a horror movie magazine for kids eight to fourteen. It inspired many people working in the field today. As an adult, I've written about horror films for many different publications. (I even appeared in one! I was in the remake of Night of the Living Dead. I'm the zombie eating the burned up guts of a guy who was killed in a truck explosion. You can see me, clear as day, munching away on screen!) One of my publishers, FantaCo Enterprises in Albany, asked me to compile a book about the history of Famous Monsters magazine. It took me three years, but I now have my name on a book called The Famous Monsters Chronicles. Imagine that! I edited a freaking book! Even I can't believe it. All it took was a sense of devotion and love. There were many obstacles along the way, but I hurtled over them and got the job done. Now, I feel like part of history. Does this inspire me to keep going and keep creating? You bet.
Radio isn't my whole life. It's merely a part of the overall picture of who I am. I take all the things I enjoy, mash them all together, derive inspiration from them, and use it in my art. This sweet life is too short and too precious to waste on the negatives. Do as the great mythologist Joseph Campbell suggests and find your "bliss station." Spend some quality time with the things you really love, whatever they are -- your family, friends, lovers, books, movies, sports, TV shows...you name it! Absorb them into your psyche. Get it done! There's power in that! The batteries get recharged. Find inspiration in all that surrounds you -- the sound of birds singing, the smell of a flower, the hum of a finely tuned car, the miracle of reel-to-reel tape.
Take nothing for granted. Use all that you see and hear, and, for God's sake, don't waste your time trying to find meaning in it all! There is none. Just relax and go with it. You are merely a part of the whole, grinding, meat wheel of life. Be thankful for your creativity and it will stay with you all the days you exist. With any luck, it will be remembered long after you're gone. Ahhh...to think that I could inspire someone with the things I've accomplished. That would be the greatest gift of all. Make life itself your "tale of the tape."