I was having a conversation last week with a good friend who is in the life that I write about. We were talking about the danger of impulsive behavior on the street (a theme we often deal with on the show). In the heat of the moment, it's difficult to distinguish between bravery and bravado. One is lead by an innate sense of strength and righteousness (higher-self), the other by a childish need for attention (ire-self). The first leads to growth and influence, the latter, jail and death.
The conversation struck me. It's very relevant at this time in my career and life. I'm not dodging bullets on Ventura (not yet anyhow), but I do struggle with my higher and ire-self. My default in most fear-inducing circumstances is rage. It rarely manifests into anything physical these days, but the anger is right there, under the skin, crawling, looking for an open wound to bleed out of.
The psychological stems of my discontent are very transparent. I was a morbidly obese kid, with parents who were too checked out and ashamed to assuage my compulsivity. I had two defenses, my wit and my fists. When I couldn't make them laugh, I'd make them bleed. That tactic worked -- until it didn't. As a result, I've developed some deep-rooted "injustice buttons". The ones in my face lately -- duplicitous behavior. Whenever I sense someone is insincere or driven by hidden motives, I have a very visceral response. Deep. Like, rip-your-fucking-heart-out, deep. Which means my default with most human beings is not to trust anyone until they prove themselves loyal. Ah, loyalty, the other well-oiled button. It seems once I let people in, I take them hostage. I treat them well, sort of like the Somali pirates, but ultimately, I own them. I expect undying devotion to the cause (the cause is usually my well-being). And if, or rather when, someone jumps ship, they are completely, utterly and totally dead to me. I have a very small Rolodex.
I look back at my time on The Shield. My peers, the writers, most of them are not really friends. At best they are polite acquaintances, and few view me with complete disdain. Some of that is on them, jealousy perhaps, but most of it is on me. My behavior scorched a lot of Farmington. For the record, I do consider Shawn Ryan a mentor and a friend and I love Skeeter Rosenbaum. The rest, well, quite honestly, I don't blame them for their distance. I was a motherfucker. Unfortunately, I didn't know it at the time. I LOVED going to work on The Shield. I loved the world, loved the characters and I took a deep sense of ownership in that show. I gave it 125% and fucking hated it when other people treated it like it was just a job (which of course, it was). I didn't have the self-awareness or maturity to separate myself from my process. I couldn't take in other people's point of view. If it wasn't what I KNEW to be best, it wasn't worth hearing. Thank God, I wasn't running that show. It would have sucked.
But I am running this one. And on Sons of Anarchy, I am challenged every day to rise above my self-destructive defaults. I will say, that the last three years has been a series of professional and personal life lessons. I've grown a lot as a writer/producer and as a man. I'm not the same person I was five or even two years ago. I'm growing up, but clearly I've got a fuckload of growing left to do.
What's becoming painfully aware to me this season is that my behavior is no longer confined to a writers room, set or office. Because of the notoriety of the show, my blog, my social sites, my opinions are being consumed on a public level. So when I lead with my ire, I suffer the consequences. This became very apparent to me last week at at the Promax conference. Prior to my panel, some THR hack told my media person she wanted to discuss "showrunner twittering" with me. She rolled her video camera and immediately launched in with inflammatory questions about the pending lawsuit against FX. Yes, I know it's pathetic that our legitimate trade papers are now employing paparazzi tactics to get blog hits (thank god for DHD), but afterwards, I had to look at my part in that scenario. Clearly, in my blog against the lawsuit, I lead with self-righteous anger. Lots of it. And the blog was picked up everywhere. So that's what people expect and I guess, in the case of the little twat with the Flip camera, that's what her readers desired.
So who's really the twat?
Not sure where this post is going. It's just one of those public inventories I tend to do. Yes, they are self-indulgent, but along with my rants, it's important for me to claim some accountability and to cop to the flaws behind the claws. My goal is to be a creator not a destroyer. But it's challenging when I open my arms to embrace the world and feel the shotgun strapped across my chest.