I’m sitting looking at a picture of an original Star Wars movie poster–and when I say Star Wars, I mean Star Wars, not A New Hope. I put the “old” in old-school; I saw Star Wars the night it premiered–because I saw the poster featured on “Antiques Roadshow,” and I thought the appraiser under-valued it, so I looked it up. And now I’m looking at it, and I see three pretty much unknown actors listed, followed by Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness, who were anything but unknown. It follows that George Lucas paid a pretty penny to get them. Which leads to the question:
What did he think he was doing?
I don’t mean that pejoratively, as in, “Was he crazy, spending that kind of money on a space opera?” I mean, really, what did he think he was accomplishing? What do any of us think we’re accomplishing when we write a story or make a movie or paint a painting? And more to the point, should we be proud of what we’ve done?
You look at Star Wars now, and it’s gone way past “global phenomenon.” But back in the day, we didn’t know it would do that. Certainly when that grandiose poster was printed, nobody knew if the darn thing was going make a dime. It could easily have been laughed out of the theater–and would have, if it hadn’t made so much money. So it’s easy to say now, “That’s something George Lucas can be proud of!” But what about before?
You’d hope no creative person would release story or movie that he wasn’t proud of, but we know that’s not the case. (Where there’s a buck, there’s a way. And someone who is proud of it–proud of making a buck, anyway.) But is that legitimate? Are we allowed to be proud of a story if no one ever publishes it? I mean, seriously, are we allowed to be proud of a story that sucks? Are we allowed to be more proud of it if someone publishes it–and then it wins a Hugo? On the other hand, are we allowed to be proud of writing a story that wins a Hugo–even if we ourselves don’t think it was worthy?
It is said that, “Pride goeth before a fall.” But it’s also said, “Don’t submit a story you wouldn’t want others to read.” So pride is bad, but without it, nobody knows you exist. And in the end, you may be the only person who even thinks you should be proud of what you’ve done–which sounds like a great recipe for a fall to me.
I sent a story yesterday to a major magazine. I had real hopes for it. I was proud of it. I thought this could be my chance to break into a new market. I went to bed happy. Fifteen hours later, it came back. A form letter, not even a personal note. I was proud, now I’m fallen.
But I sent it out again immediately. Because I’m proud of it? No. (Although I am.) I sent it out again because I like it. And that’s even more important. You can be proud of doing a job well even if it’s a job you don’t like. But to do a job well enough that you like it, well, that’s something to be proud of.