What Lana Wachowski taught me this week

In Creative Inspiration on November 6, 2012 at 2:41 am

So the movie Cloud Atlas opened last week and there’s been a bunch of press about one of the directors, Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski.  Lana teamed up with her brother Andy and Run, Lola, Run director Tom Tykwer to make Cloud Atlas and the Wachoiskis are appearing in press junkets and interviews after having avoided the press for years.

Unlike much of the press or internet chatter, I haven’t brought up Lana in order to throw out my opinion about her or transgenderism. Listening to a recent speech and interview she gave, I have come to a monumental discovery about the creative life, at least for me, and I wanted to share it.
The first part of my discovery came from listening to Lana’s Wachowski’s speech when she received the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award. She described growing up with a feeling of shame over difference and disconnection that I believe most of us feel at some point in our lives to some degree.

We often feel reluctant to let ourselves be known, to do what we are compelled to do, to engage the world creatively and honestly. We feel out of place, like we are freaks. And because we are the only ones like us, no one really wants to hear what we have to say, and we will never be loved. When creative people fall into this mindset, we often think, “why bother creating anything if I’m the only one interested? I will be unable to communicate my vision because I am the only one like me.”

The extreme version of this self-doubt expressed itself when Lana decided she was so out of place she should take her own life. Luckily, circumstances did not allow that to happen. Her career in film has been a perfect example of how the opposite of this doubt is true. She and her brother created The Matrix, which changed filmmaking and opened peoples’ minds to new ideas on the nature of reality. They wrote and produced V for Vendetta (arguably the best adaptation of any of Alan Moore’s graphic novels) and introduced the general public to new ideas about the nature of freedom and revolution. Just ask those hackers form Anonymous. And now Cloud Atlas, which admittedly is getting mixed reviews, is an ambitious project not pulling any punches in tackling philosophical and culturally significant issues.

Lana Wachoiski’s life is complete proof that — instead of shutting down, giving up, or checking out, — our self-doubt is the exact reason why, as artists, we must proceed.

I realized this after hearing Lana Wachowski’s interview on The Nerdist podcast. She was there to promote Cloud Atlas, but the conversation moved into discussing what it is that makes a life-altering film experience.  And it was this statement she made that connected the dots for me: “Art is the invitation to abandon your perspective.”

Art becomes life-altering when “you are given the opportunity to abandon the gravity of your perspective,” she explained. In the moment when we’re truly engaged with a story that is making the world new for us, it is often due to being shown the world in a new way, a way that we would not have imagined for ourselves if we had not been shown it through the story.

If Lana Wachowski had given into her doubt we would have missed out on several unique movie-going experiences. Her singular sense of who she was and how the world is was required in the collaborative process to make her films as powerful and memorable as they have been.

It follows that one must be capable of being able to translate a unique perspective to others in order to create engaging, life-altering art. If one feels completely unique and out-of-place, despite what one may feel, this is not a curse.  This is actually the exact reason why we must engage the world. This is what is required to craft memorable art. There is no one else like you and the world will never receive your gifts if you hide. Take it for the blessing it is and get to work. But also work in order to prove wrong the fear that your worthiness depends upon how well you destroy your difference. It is the exact opposite that is true.

Watch Lana Wachoiski’s speech. This is amazing.

And listen to that Nerdist podcast interview.


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