What Took You So Long? (Encouragement for Creators)

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In regards to your creativity, do you ever feel overlooked and unappreciated? Or that your gifts and talents are being marginalized, and your efforts minimized? Do you feel people have underestimated you, and perhaps even misunderstood you? If so, you’re not alone.

Shatner, at far right, with Richard Basehart, Lee J. Cobb, Yul Brynner, and Albert Salmi, in The Brothers Karamazov (1958).

We know of an accomplished Canadian performer who, at one time or another, probably entertained similar notions. He began as a Shakespearean stage actor and made his broadway debut in 1956 to positive critical reviews, and then quickly graduated to supporting parts in two major movies: opposite Yul Brynner in The Brothers Karamazov; and with Spencer Tracy in Judgment at Nuremberg. He was excellent in both films, but additional A-list movie roles failed to materialize — a curious thing, indeed, given his skill and leading-man good looks.

But the talented actor persevered and even flourished in a string of guest appearances on the finest television dramas of the early 1960s. He delivered a wide spectrum of remarkable performances in series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, and Dr. Kildare. Eventually he got his own weekly show, a popular science fiction adventure series that made his name a household word. Unfortunately, many of the scripts William Shatner received during his three-year run on Star Trek, playing the swashbuckling larger-than-life Captain Kirk, called for some over-the-top performances. Shatner was more than up to the task, and his work helped viewers to easily suspend their disbelief.

In the process, the actor got a reputation for chewing the scenery and hogging the camera. It’s easy to buy into this assessment, but his role practically demanded as much. And adding insult to injury, Shatner, who’d easily “owned” the part after only a handful of episodes, made what he was doing look so easy and natural that viewers soon decided the man wasn’t acting at all; he was simply playing himself!

Following Star Trek, Shatner starred in a few B-flicks and several made-for-television movies. He was usually better than the material he was given, but no matter how hard he worked — and he was absolutely brilliant in The Andersonville Trials — he was never able to shake the general public’s perception that regardless of what he did, he was just being William Shatner. That was more than enough for many viewers: Shatner had been transformed into a pop-culture celebrity! But it greatly diminished the actor’s talents and abilities.

Shatner quickly branched out in a variety of directions, such as hosting and narrating documentaries, in which his distinctive voice and … method … of delivery … were unmistakable! He wrote several best-selling novels, produced and directed in television, and even recorded a couple of LPs on which he sang — sort of!

Some people loved him, while others couldn’t take him seriously. But Shatner began to boldly humor any detractors by playing off their silly notions of who he was. Shatner the talented actor started playing Shatner the foolish and hammy hack! This led to a series of lucrative commercials for Priceline.com that showcased his comic timing and bolstered his popularity. He also got on the radar of the producers of the series The Practice, who snatched him up in 2004 for the role of ultra conservative attorney Denny Crane, a part created just for Shatner. And he was so good in the part that the character was spun off into his own show, the phenomenally popular Boston Legal, which ran 5 seasons and netted Shatner two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe!

When the actor accepted the first of his Emmy Awards, he gazed at the audience and humorously asked, “What took you so long?” It’s a fair question. Shatner has been performing since the mid-fifties. That’s over 60 years of stellar work on the stage, screen, and tube! What had changed? Certainly not Shatner. He’s always been a tremendous talent. Was it the timing? Or a fresh perspective on the part of audiences?

Let’s ask again, are you feeling overlooked, unappreciated, minimized and maybe even misunderstood? If so, (and we’ll state it the way Shatner might say it) then you … our dear, creative … friend … are in … good company!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

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The Pot or the Prize? (Diet for Dreamers)

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There’s an old adage: “A watched pot never boils.” That’s not true, of course. Apply sufficient heat and wait long enough, and a pot of soup will eventually start bubbling no matter who’s paying attention. But when we’re impatiently waiting for something — like a response to a letter, the answer to a prayer, even the fulfillment of a dream — it can feel like an eternity, leading us to believe, “It’s never going to happen!”

Sitting around waiting is not good for morale. Nor is it productive. That’s why actors quickly learn it doesn’t pay to sit by the phone. The call from an agent concerning a part in a new play or TV commercial will come sooner or later, and waiting by the phone does nothing to speed the process.

That’s why writers are told to submit their material and immediately start working on the next project. The longer a creative person waits for a yes or no, an acceptance or a rejection, the more frustrated he or she tends to get. And time spent simply waiting is time wasted. Waiting for something to happen — a prayer to be answered, a financial nest egg to hatch, a long-held dream to come true — to the exclusion of more productive activities, can drive you crazy. It’s similar to being on a trip with a carload of restless kids, with one of them asking every five minutes, “Are we there yet?”

Sigh!! No, replies the driver for the hundredth time, as he or she begins to wonder if they’ll ever reach their destination! The impatience of the passengers makes the trip feel longer and more tiresome. However, once the kids settle down with a toy or a comic book, and the driver switches on some music, the miles seem to go by more quickly. And before the kids know it, the driver is parking the car.

Getting back to the proverbial pot, we can run to the kitchen every 2 minutes to see if it’s boiling yet, or we can relax — knowing that we don’t need to micromanage it — while we accomplish something else. Similarly, when you’re expecting a new development in a business venture or creative project, or for God to move on your behalf, it pays to focus your mental and physical energies on something else. There are always better ways to spend your time than constantly checking your email or the stock reports! If you’ve done your part, leave the rest to God; things tend to progress and work out just fine … without us over-scrutinizing them.

Focus on the bigger picture, your long-term goals and dreams, instead of sweating over the results of every little step you take or decision you choose. Remember, Jesus asked, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:27 KJV) “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.” (Matthew 6:34 NAS 1977)

So, continue to pursue your dreams, but don’t get sidetracked by a preoccupation with minor details, or how well each step is going (or not going). Focus instead on your destination. Keep your eyes on the prize — not on the pot! “…And having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13 KJV)

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