We sort of got to hang out with Kevin Smith last night. Not in the he came over to the house and had a couple beers with the family kind of way. My wife, youngest son and me walked around the frigid Colorado December air and found Mr. Smith at the Boulder Theater. Twenty rows back, in an uncomfortable chair and in the noisy bar area, was about as close as we could get in the 850-chair venue.
He passed along some humorous anecdotes, dropped some big time Hollywood names, a substantial pile of f-bombs and some bits I was not expecting. Dude was throwing down serious wisdom. Yes, the guy who happily generates genital jokes, rolls around in nerdy comic book references, and rocks the hockey jersey wardrobe worked in some sagely candor to all who would listen in that small theater.
Boiling it all away, it could have been dismissed as a ‘follow your dreams kids’ mantra passed down from high upon a stage to the wannabes below. But there was more to it than that. It was a big hearted man, with great empathy for all creative souls to do far more than follow dreams. He insisted we go and make those things happen. Will, perseverance, whimsy, whatever it takes — but go for it without sweating the critics who surround us all in this life.
Some readers who know me may jump in at this point and remind me I can’t write about Kevin Smith objectively. It’s true. I’m a fan. More than a fan, ever since I watched the movie Clerks in complete awe, I see him more as a brother who I haven’t got to hug yet.
In awe of Clerks?
Because he truly made something from nothing. And he did it by begging, borrowing, selling off personal items, applying for way too many credit cards, all to make a film he knew only he could make.
That was the perspective I learned last night. The motivation I’d not heard before, despite years of lingering about as a fan of most of his work, and now as a fan of his endless perseverance.
He didn’t make Clerks for me. Initially, I thought he did. If you haven’t seen it, in essence it is a long day with two wacky dudes inside convenience stores talking about Star Wars and lame customers, and two crazy dudes outside the store, dealing and dancing. Throw in a little romance, some lasagna and dead guy in the bathroom and you have a fascinating day in the life in Jersey that stays with you.
Easy, right? Go deep into debt, roll the dice on a little film and live a life of magic and wonder. I think too many Kevin Smith fans look at it that way and maybe this tour in particular has him trying to explain, it ain’t that easy, but it is worth the hard work and effort. The stuff people forget is Mr. Smith has had to constantly reload, regroup, and try again. Create more, do more, sell more, work harder, and as he put it, ‘fail a bunch of times’ before finding more success.
I did laugh at some of the anecdotes. I love Ben Affleck stories. And it bums me out Bruce Willis is a complete ass. But that information was strictly entertainment bits based on personal experience. The message I heard was loud and clear. If you have a creative soul, or big story to tell, don’t dream it, do it.
I was going to get in the question line at the theater last night, despite knowing so few questions get answered. And the fan in me kind wanted the bonding moment to point out all of the places our lives intersect — if presented in those Venn Diagram circles — both of us love to write, love movies, love comics, love Tarantino, worked retail, owned comic shops, love Batman, lost our dads, he’s a Kevin with a brother named Donald, I’m a Donald with a younger brother named Kevin, roller coaster with weight issues, I’ve done radio and he does podcasts.
I keep thinking if I shake the family tree hard enough, a Smith has to drop out of there. We have to be related.
At least I know we’re kindred spirits. And the funny part was I started this writing trek this year, to make something from nothing. It has been equally joyous and frustrating. I keep looking at my words and thinking, “Yeah, this ain’t Mice and Men. Or Plato would never waste his time with genre fiction. Or damn this stuff sucks.”
Sagely Kevin Smith served some wisdom. It doesn’t matter if my work isn’t meeting a social standard, or an entertainment norm. I need to finish these stories for me. I need to tell stories only I am capable of telling. Send my perspective out into the world and someone may love it, or not. But the process is worth it. Fail a bunch, maybe succeed a little, or not at all.
I always feel better writing, so I’m going with that. Some of the stories I worry about being rejected will now get sent out. I have a kind, generous loving support from my wife and a pen, which is far more than a lot of folks have.
Just like that. Back on track. Wisdom from my man teaching me to go for it and how not to send inappropriate text messages. It also does not hurt to know Johnny Depp. See, I’m smarter already.
A little kick in the butt from hanging out with Kevin Smith.