Terence Blacker: Learn to use your earthquake


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It is, of course, possible, that the so-called "silly season", which ends officially this weekend, is in fact rather serious. All but a few politicians have given us a rest from their yakking. There is little on TV. Most people have gone on holiday, reacquainting themselves with their families, seeing new places, reading books. They might even have stepped back from their lives and taken stock of where they are heading. Now, when they return to what they always accepted as the real world, they suddenly see it differently. With the end of the holidays, momentous decisions are made.

The film director, Steven Soderbergh, may not have been sitting on a beach over the past few weeks, but it is surely no accident that he has reached an important decision at this moment in the year. He has decided to become an artist. Soderbergh has been in the film business for 25 years. Having directed such blockbusters as Ocean's 11, he is now a major player. At 48, though, he has decided to give it all up and paint pictures. He will have to be strong to resist the pressure to change his mind. When anyone who is established in a particular profession experiences this kind of career freakout, those close to them tend to get a little rattled.

Like others who are mid-freakout, he should ignore the naysayers and follow his instinct. Not only has he the wherewithal and possibly even the talent, to survive as an artist, but the alternative is truly grim. He would grow old believing he could have had a more substantial and satisfying life if only he had had the nerve to leave the well-trodden path and take a risk. That restlessness is a powerful force. If your inner voice is telling you that, like Soderbergh, you have become exhausted with everything that interested you; that the future will be a matter of doing less well what you've already done, it should probably be heeded. The advantage of an occasional personal earthquake is that the devastation can re-order the inner landscape and allow renewal. The death of a parent or loved-one can provide the shake-up, as can redundancy. A divorce can do the job beautifully. Sometimes, though, the earthquake needs to be self-generated. A moment may come when the business of collaboration and teamwork becomes tiresome. The thought of another year dealing with an over-promoted tosser on the top floor, or a sharp-toothed jackal sitting at the next-door desk suddenly becomes unbearable.

It is rare that a career freakout is a bad thing. Actors who decide to go on the road as musicians, publishing editors, advertising copywriters or radio producers who leave corporate life to write books, have a different look in their eyes once they have made the decision. The chill wind of freelance life makes them feel more alive.

Others provide themselves with a different kind of earthquake, abandoning the loneliness of working for themselves for the company and relative security of a job teaching, or working in an office or for a charity. The end of the silly season is when an earthquake is mostly likely to strike. You don't have to be a Hollywood director to take full advantage of it.