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May 17, 2001

Focus, Daniel-San
A brief and blurry reflection on writer's block and the potential genius of Fred Durst

By Mike Haney


"My need for focus is beyond critical; it borders on paralysis and desperation."
- Hunter S. Thompson
I've been reading The Proud Highway lately. It's a collection of letters that spans the first 30 years of Thompson's life using the carbon copies he fanatically made as he wrote to everyone from his mother to employers to politicians. While anyone familiar with Thompson knows that he is a self-professed drug-addled maniac who for decades bent the rules of journalism to fit his own "gonzo" lifestyle, what becomes apparent in these letters is the man was indeed focused. He was a writer. He usually typed more than one draft of even the simplest letters. He once took a job with a Puerto Rican bowling magazine just to keep writing. He once even re-typed the entire novel The Great Gatsby just to feel great sentence structure. He knew that he was a writer and that's what he did. That's all he did. And eventually he did it brilliantly.

My head is filled with other things. I am not focused, and consequently I've been writing shit.
I've been in a sort of paralyzing and desperate state myself the last few weeks. I think the term "writer's block" is a bunk excuse for lazy hacks who can't make deadlines, but I have to admit the words and the ideas have just not been coming. My head is filled with other things. I am not focused, and consequently I've been writing shit.

Not helping my efforts is the fact that the music industry has been boring me senseless. Save a few albums, it too has been churning out shit lately. Nobody is doing anything particularly noteworthy, good or bad. And I think part of the problem is a lack of focus. Consider these stories from today's music news headlines:

  • Jennifer Lopez has just signed a deal with NBC to create three television specials and develop a sitcom based on her own life.
  • This summer will bring Mariah Carey's movie debut, in a starring role with an accompanying soundtrack no less.
  • Several industry sites found it newsworthy to report that Christina Aguilera has decided to do another album before choosing one of the dozens of film scripts she has been receiving.
  • And Fred Durst is currently slated to direct not one, but two movies in the next year.

  • Carey and Aguilera no doubt have some vocal ability while Lopez and Durst, not so much. All are multi-platinum-selling, TRL-scream and-cream superstars. But none of these people is by any means an accomplished musician, nor have any even shown signs of musical maturation; and certainly none has released anything resembling a masterpiece of pop recording.
    What if there is a White Album or a Straight Outta Compton lurking inside of Durst that he will never recognize and nurture and share with the world because he's busy pretending to be a movie director?
    Why then, would they foray into other artistic fields before even climbing past simple mediocrity in their own? And worse, why would anyone give them the chance?

    I appreciate wanting to expand your horizons. And it could be argued that these types of artists, like Elvis and Sonny and Cher before them, are not musicians as much as they are entertainers. And as such, tackling as many entertainment mediums as they can in their short professional lifespan is forgivable, even expected.

    But what if? What if one of these people really did have some unique and creative musical vision that just hasn't been developed? What if there is a White Album or a Straight Outta Compton lurking inside of Durst that he will never recognize and nurture and share with the world because he's busy pretending to be a movie director? What if there is a little Joplin inside of Aguilera, longing to come out and blow the world away?

    Well, maybe not. Maybe I am grasping at straws here. But I'd like to believe that if one of these pretty, disposable pop stars we are always inundated with would simply take the time and care to develop their craft instead of steroid-pumping their image and their pocket book, we might just find something worthwhile hiding underneath. And wouldn't that be better than tuning in to another episode of The J Lo Bunch?



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