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20,000 Days on Earth, Directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard

BFI, September 19, 2014 (UK)

Written by: Nick Cave, Iain Forsyth, and Jane Pollard

Starring: Nick Cave

Nick Cave
: Because he said that within chapter, great writing existed in there on so many different levels and he kind of went through the alliteration and read it out loud and said see what happens here and you know that was a really powerful thing for him to do for me.

I am an idea, possibly coming to fruition despite odds stacked heavily against me.

An idea about a man walking alone in quiet triumph while simultaneously draped in not a little nostalgia tugging. It is a rare day, a known tipping point. It is the kind of the day that plays loud and clear, leaving you acutely present in its shrieking vibrations. Things normally impossible to see, shine inexplicably. Your future reveals itself in brilliant focus before you while a glance behind still shows the grim reminder of the relentless chase by a scythe-wielding past forever gaining ground.

Nick: It’s a world I’m creating. A world full of monsters, and heroes, good guys and bad guys. It’s an absurd, crazy, rotten world where people rage away and God actually exists. And the more I write the more detailed and elaborate the world becomes. And all the characters that live and die or just fade away, they’re just crooked versions of myself. Anyway for me it all begins in here in the most tiniest of ways.

In the briefest of emails whose recipient will nevertheless feel the true weight of, he writes, “Unbelievable! I’ll catch up later but I am free!!!!!!! Last day of work and on the train home! I’m treating myself to a glass of wine in the train restaurant.”

And then I slip, suddenly distracted on a superhighway. Sports highlights, a review of the current conference standings, mind-numbing political banter. Before I surf over to music, click click clicking away: Minutemen, Ariel Pink, Gram Parsons, Nick Cave.

“Childhood daze
In a shimmer in a haze
Give us a kiss

In the blue room you whispered into the music
In the field underneath the thorn bush
Give us a kiss

And across the overpass and down
Past the blood factory and into town
Give us a kiss
One little sip, sip, sip
Before you slip, slip, slip away”

-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Give Us a Kiss

Fighting routine, I return to the idea of the man on a train in a face-off with his future. Headphones on, he gazes out at mountains that are sliding backwards into his past faster than an idea fading away unrealized. Thoughts about all he is leaving behind are impossible to avoid. They roll in like a dense fog smothering a previously vibrant afternoon that had been ripe in the intoxicating lure of opportunity and new beginnings. That his thoughts steer toward melancholy is an even stranger proposition when pitted against the Kylie Minogue dance thump bouncing with unabashed glee out of his Dre Beats.

“Set me free
Feel the need in me
Set me free
Stay forever and ever and ever and ever”

-fromCan’t Get You Out Of My Head” (on the Kylie Minogue album, Fever)

Like the man on the train and Kylie too, I can’t shake it. I remain connected to the idea however skeptical I am of it fleshing itself out. I am only halfway here. The world by way of an iPhone is still in the palm of my hand, beckoning, and that’s only the half of it. Self doubt has begun to simmer even before invites to the Groundbreaking Ceremony have been sent out. It won’t be long before the whole of it vanishes into a vat of I-told-you-so defeatism that refused to believe the idea had any merit to begin with. Flashes of inspiration burn out like shooting stars eliciting awe over their own disappearance.

This is the time of great danger for if the artist is to remain immobile or is left to wallow lamenting lost opportunities then the future will only serve to cement the failing cycle. You wanna be writer, kid? What are you waiting for? Is that an idea in your pocket or are you just too lazy to free it?

“I ought to practice what I preach
These days I go downtown in my tie and tails
I got a fetus on a leash”

-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Jubilee Street

Just like that, I’m gone, asleep at the wheel, off at a magic show in the bright lights big city of my dreams. Snap out of it! Pull the rabbit out of the hat. Come on now. You can do this. Think about why you wanted to be a writer in the first place.

Nick: He did actually take me aside one day and read to me the first chapter of Lolita.

Pscyhiatrist: Why that?

Nick: Because he said that within chapter, great writing existed in there on so many different levels and he kind of went through the alliteration and read it out loud and said see what happens here and you know that was a really powerful thing for him to do for me.

You ungrateful little prick. Inspiration should never be disposed of. It is given freely to you with an unwritten expectation that it will be nourished. Count your blessings and get to work already. If for no other reason, do it out of gratitude. You think you’ll move on this tomorrow?

With a nudge, I am present again, feeling vibrations rising up inside me. The man on the train and mountains too are bursting back into view. The idea, the man, and the page before me are suddenly and gloriously transforming, becoming one. We are all inexplicably joined now, building, building, brimming with words and emotion, basking in the joy of realization. Look at us now.

“I am alone now
I am beyond recriminations
Curtains are shut
Furniture has gone
I’m transforming
I’m vibrating
I’m glowing
I’m flying
Look at me now
I’m flying
Look at me now”

-Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Jubilee Street