Sunday, August 14, 2011

The 27 Club

It’s called the 27 Club or the Curse of 27.

It's made up of famous musicians who died at the age of 27. The “Club” is quite large but there is a core group that trumps the others in terms of talent and fame. They died for the following reasons:

Poisoned
Drowning
Asphyxiation
Heroine
Heart Failure
Suicide
Alcohol

All in all, it is a pretty terrifying list of words.

I am not a musician unless you count the one song I taught myself on guitar or the 8 years I blew at the trumpet (pun intended). But after some considerable internal debate I have started to consider myself an artist as of late. And whether it be film, music, or some other art form, the link between intense creatives and flaming out in a terrifyingly public manner at early ages is irrefutable.

It has crossed that point where I have begun to wonder if some people embrace the 27 Club as a self fulfilling prophecy, a right of passage, or just inevitability.

Now I don't consider people like Joplin or Cobain my peers. Indeed the only peers they have are those in the same Club or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I do however believe I have a certain understanding of the creative mind, and what it feels like to be overwhelmed by your ideas.

It can sometimes seem like trying to push 500 pounds of putty through a pinhole. And what that can do to your mind, heart and soul can be overwhelming.

It also depends how you view creativity. If you believe that there is no muse and that those of us lucky enough to create are merely catching the tail of a passing idea and pinning it down, then the idea of the flame out might seem a bit narcissistic or attention seeking.

If you believe that ideas, art, and music come from deep inside individuals, and that those individuals are responsible for creating these sometimes wonderful things that we then all digest, then you might see how that kind of pressure could drive someone mad.

But regardless of what you believe, that is just the process of creating. It doesn't account for things that can happen afterward if you are lucky enough to be successful. Things like fame and success and wealth. Those factors alone can turn a normally solid mind and body into mush.

I turned 28 this weekend. Part of it is frightening and part of it is a relief. The latter is because I have every intention of becoming a wildly successful creative type, and I have made it over one of the key hurtles… living past the age of 27.

My buddy at work who sits next to me never misses an opportunity to remind me about the 27 Club. At last I can relax about that and concentrate on all the terrible awful things that can behold a 28 year old.

But the part that scares me most is actually just being a 28 year old. I am not one to condescend to people younger than me because I think they don't know as much or have seen as much as me.

Quite the opposite. So many of my friends who are younger than me I find so much more impressive than myself. People so intelligent or talented that they have been able to achieve incredible things at an age earlier than I.

I constantly find myself looking up the online profiles of actors, writers and directors to see how much time left I have to achieve success at the age that they did, or, if they achieved it before me.

But 28 is three years past 25 which is the age I had originally targeted for myself to be and feel brilliantly successful. Now mind you I had really no idea what I was going to be or do or how I would achieve that brilliant success… I just knew 25 was the year to make it happen.

I know it had something to with my camp counselor in 7th grade telling me he was 25 and in his prime. He was a guy I really looked up to. He told me stories of girls, of partying and living this awesome life. All things I wanted for myself one day.

But having a goal without a plan is fools’ work.

I actually didn't even start the thing that I was passionate about and in love with enough to follow to success until the month before my 25th birthday. So looking at it now, it was probably unfair to put that pressure on myself to succeed when I had no idea how I was going to do it. It's like saying you want to be a millionaire but never leaving your couch.

Well I am now off the couch of my early 20s and am on my feet up and moving around in my 28 year old skin. And while it's nice to feel like I am making strides toward my goals, I have so many goals that sometimes it feels like I am just striding in circles.

And of course I worry about flaming out, about losing inspiration, or losing my creative abilities. I worry about it a lot. And the more I think about how much I worry about, the more neurotic it makes me about the whole thing.

And I haven’t even done anything yet.

But whatever the club, whatever the age, I am gradually moving my creative pieces into place, almost like playing Risk.

And it is quite an apt metaphor as it is a risk to expose yourself like that, to take chances, and to put yourself out there with your art, words, or music. But I am moving these pieces into place, slowly but hopefully surely. And I will continue to.

Because I would rather be a part of the club that tries and fails, than the one that never tried at all.

5 comments:

Jeff D'Antonio said...

Try with all your heart; live, love, and laugh with all your heart; succeed or fail with all your heart.

And dream big - there's no shame in falling while grasping for stars.

Happy birthday.

Jessica said...

I just turned 28 a few weeks ago and I do sooo understand the feeling. 22 was supposed to be when I was a super famous award winning actress/writer. So, huh. But I really do think our generation is one of late bloomers, and really not by our own fault (not entirely, anyway). It just takes a lot more to even get started. Anyway, take heart. I just read an article the other day about Darrell Hammond, who didn't even get going until his late thirties. So there's hope!

Anonymous said...

This is the best you have written. It just keep getting better.
Aunt Grace

Caroline B said...

It's good to have goals but there are no time limits. I gave up my dream of being a professional artist when I was in my early twenties, yet here I am two decades on and finally achieving it. If there is something you are compelled to do with your life, you have to keep on trying.

RedWriter said...

28... Still life in the old dog yet, Rich. :) xx