There is a person in my life who I consider a mentor. I’m glad to have him in my life. I don’t see him often enough these days, maybe because I more or less finally have my act together. That’s no excuse, because he’s a friend, and I should definitely see this friend more often.
Sometimes I feel pretty selfish about our relationship, because what do I give him, except maybe a good laugh here or there? But I guess that’s enough for him.
He’s equal parts volatile alpha male, nurturing mother hen, a man’s man and a sensitive dandy. He’s a brilliant artist. His spelling is atrocious. He’s riveted by celebrity gossip even if he knows it’s all a load of crap, since he himself was a rock star, and he has a daughter who is a famous actress. He’ll say wildly inappropriate stuff, stuff that if I even wrote it here, it might get him arrested. I know, you probably think I’m kidding about that, but I’m not.
His name is Rick. Here are some pictures of him.
For movies, his tastes are eclectic. He likes period pieces, he’s a sucker for that Merchant-Ivory kind of style. He likes documentaries. But also he likes comedies and super serious foreign films and thrillers and well, pretty much anything, as long as there are characters he can care about.
For him it’s all about being able to care. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.
I sometimes wonder if it’s really appropriate to have a guitar god as a mentor. I’m a screenwriter after all. Shouldn’t I be bugging Steve Zaillian or William Goldman or David O. Russell or Quentin Tarantino to be my mentor?
But this guy is so appropriate as my mentor. This guy saved my life. When I was a total waste of flesh with low self-esteem, a drinking problem, with a passive approach to life and a horseshit work ethic, he pushed me to become a man, a real man. He’d deride me. He’d completely destroy me. I would walk away from hanging out with him, and feel like a total waste of space. I asked him one day when he was going to stop being such an asshole. He said – Never, you dope, I’m an asshole.
And then he laughed right in my face. What was I gonna do about it?
I continued to hang out with him, because, for whatever reason, I knew he had something that I wanted. He had confidence, self-respect. He’d say what was on his mind. I didn’t at that time. I was closed off and insecure and damaged. Perhaps I felt as if I deserved a verbal beating or two or three or 300. But here was the thing: my mentor? He also was insecure. Who the hell isn’t insecure? He straight up would tell me that he was a nut-nut. But he owned who he was. All of it.
So I think he’s the best when it comes to the mentorship. He showed me that I could own who I am, all of it.
Changing would be all about my actions, not his words, if I were going to feel better. And guess what? When my actions started to change, his words started to change. Gone was the venom. Now I’d get positive reinforcement. The actions I took: I dumped my bullshit, safe, well-paying, mind-numbing corporate job. I sold my car. I quit drinking. I lived on the edge. I accepted that I was a total mess, but I progressively got better. I got healthier. I started to believe in myself. I started to care about my character. And then he started to care about me.
And I started to take my writing seriously.
All of these actions helped me save my life.
He did what all great mentors do. He tore me down and built me back up. He encouraged me to be more. He even inspired me to be the kind of man who might be able to put up dry wall or build a shelf or change your oil or paint your ceiling. I never cared about that kind of thing, and now I feel proud that I know how to do that kind of stuff.
If I’ve learned anything from my mentor, it’s this…
What matters, what truly matters, is that you are an accountable human being, that you are a responsible human being, that you are an active human being, that you are a vulnerable human being, that you are a human being who sings from the heart, even if you aren’t a singer at all. Does that make sense? Be on time. Don’t waste other people’s time. Don’t overthink things. Be yourself. Work hard. Then, work harder. Write from the heart. Pay attention to what’s going on in your field. Learn about more than just what’s going on in your field. Learn about history. Relearn, unlearn your craft in order to master it. Enjoy things for what they are. See the world. Experience it fully.
And, did I mention? BE – ON – TIME!
I’m proud to have earned the man’s respect. I love him because he helped me learn how to love myself.
I can never thank you enough Rick. You really are such an asshole.