Note: This is a post about self-doubt and self-exploration. It is not a post inviting a bunch of people telling me that I’m awesome and it’s all OK and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and I really REALLY don’t want any *hugs.* I’m not broken. I just need to say some things out loud.
I’ve had some nearly crippling doubts the last few months. I’ve been on stage doing things that have, in the past, been very easy for me and I’ve found myself feeling inadequate.
As recently as this week, I’ve been recording a podcast recording and thinking “I have literally nothing interesting to say.”
I’ve found myself taking part in improv shows feeling as if I was simply not pulling my weight.
I’ve looked at the lyrics for some songs I’ve written lately and been annoyed because I’ve written way better lyrics than that.
And I start wondering, am I getting too old to do this any more? Was I wrong to think that I should even be doing this sort of thing? Am I letting the people around me down? Can they tell that I’ve totally lost it? Everyone loses it eventually, right?
These thoughts anger me because they are bullshit.
I know that improvisation is not about being the funniest person on stage. I know that if you don’t have anything to add to a podcast conversation, the best possible choice is to say nothing. I know that none of these doubts are about real things. They are thoughts that get in the way of being successful.
And they are thoughts I know a lot of performers have. The best performers have them. The best writers have days where they think they shouldn’t be writing the color text on their own dust jackets.
Every time I write a show, I’m worried that it isn’t funny. To me, I don’t measure success in ticket sales nearly as much as laughs. I could sell out every show and if my favorite joke doesn’t get a laugh, I feel defeated. I know lots of other people feel that way. At least I hope I’m not the only comedy writer this neurotic.
I remind myself that I’m extremely lucky a lot of talented people want to work with me even when I’m not my best. I remind myself that best is subjective and I need to cut myself some slack.
But you know, I don’t want to cut myself some slack. When I walk off stage feeling like I was the worst person up there, I want to demand we go out and do it again so I can do it better.
I’ve had a lot of off days in a row and I just keep asking myself if I’ve lost it or if I never really had it. As if I know what “it” is. That kind of thinking is poison.
Knowing it is poison and finding the antidote are different things. I want to power past it. I want to get on stage or try to write funny shit as often as humanly possible just to get that doubt demon to go fuck itself.
I haven’t forgotten how to be funny. I’ve forgotten how to not care when I’m just OK.
The secret to good improv is to just fucking talk. If you give a shit about saying something funny, you aren’t in the moment.
The secret to writing funny stuff is to just fucking write something down. Write something down over and over and over again until writing funny stuff is second nature.
And you have to remember that everyone has slumps. The best don’t give up.
I’m not the best. But I’m good. Sometimes I’ve been great.
I know I haven’t lost “it.” I just have to stop waiting for that one good moment that will make up for all the unsatisfying ones. I’m confident that moment will come as soon as I stop spending so much time worrying about the fact it hasn’t happened yet.
I usually look at them and ask if they think I’m lazy. I spend most of my time writing or promoting my writing or trying to find new projects so I can continue to write. And I don’t make a lot of money. Yet.
Even if I find a way to make this crazy writing career pay off to the extent I can afford to do it, it is not going to make me rich unless I accidentally write exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. J K Rowling isn’t insanely rich because she is so much more talented than the thousands of other writers producing books right now.
She is insanely rich because she wrote the right thing at the right time and because she got a whole lot of lucky breaks.
About this time last year, I’d made up my mind to leave my job. I wasn’t happy in my work and I felt it was time to figure out how to make money for myself rather than for someone else. Then a crazy thing happened. I was asked what they needed so I wouldn’t resign. I gave them my terms, they agreed to my terms and I decided to stay.
I had a lot of grand plans for the year. I went from a 40 hour work week to a 30 hour work week and I thought with those ten hours, I could build a freelance business and transition to that job on my own timetable.
I imagined nothing would fill up that extra time aside from being a writer. I imagined that I could keep myself motivated to follow an ambitious blog schedule. I imagined that I could somehow be an (almost) full-time worker and a carve a path to consistent freelance work at the same time.
And over the course of the year, I lost my way. There were changes at work, challenges at home and it seemed a lot easier to just remain as I was. I hadn’t given up on my lofty goal. I’d just postponed it.
Since I’d eliminated the parts of my job I hated, I was much more content at work. That meant I didn’t feel the same drive to get away from my job. The job was good. The people were good. It was all good enough.
Yesterday, I wrote about the decision I made to leave my job. I got a lot of encouraging words and I appreciated all of them.
Today, I’m going to write about how and why I ended up keeping my day job and how it helps with my eventual goal to work for myself.
Before I explain what happened, let me offer a few pieces of advice anyone should keep in mind when they deicide it is time to leave their job.
1) Never “rage quit”
I don’t care how much your job sucks. Two weeks isn’t that long. If you did your job well and your boss could be a good reference, give notice. Even if your boss is a total asshole.
At some point, you might need another job. If you tell a prospective employer that they can’t call your last boss, that will make it that much harder to get that job.
I had been thinking about quitting for a long time. When I submitted my notice, I said I was willing to stick around for up to six weeks to help train my replacement. It meant that I was going have to wait six weeks before I started working my “real” job. But it also meant that if I needed to go job hunting again, I could list this job on a resume with the knowledge they would say good things about me to a potential employer.
Two weeks goes by quickly. Do yourself a favor and power through it.
I have burned very few bridges in my life and I’ve always come to regret making that choice.
Over the last few months, I’ve made some vague posts on Facebook about a big life change. I hate vaguebooking as a rule because you should either say enough for people to know what you are talking about or you should keep your mouth shut.
Anything else always seems like little more than fishing for attention.
I needed to keep my posts vague, though, because until I was ready to be completely public, I didn’t feel like I could say what was going on. I was happy to discuss what was going on in private. Just not on Facebook.
Well now the deed is done, I want to talk about it to anyone who will listen because I’m excited. And scared. And a whole lot of other things.
On January 2nd, I put in notice at my job. I didn’t have another job lined up. Right now, I don’t plan on looking for another job. I just realized that it was time to make a dramatic shift in what I wanted to do with my life.
So what happened? Why did I make the decision? What kind of shift am I talking about?
First, there were some changes in my job that were particularly difficult. I was told I could no longer use work time to answer and send personal e-mails. This had been permitted up until a few months ago and with all of the shows and other work I do outside of the standard work week, the use of personal e-mail was very important to me.
Yesterday concluded one of the best customer service experiences I’ve ever had. Before I tell that story, however, I’m going to tell you about one of the worst. They both happened within two weeks of one another.
My office of 3 sometimes orders lunch as a group. Often, this happens when my wife, who is a driver for us, is delivering near a restaurant we like. Because the office is so close to our house, she can easily drop something off on the way home.
On a particular day recently, we knew she’s be working right next door to a Chipotle and we were in the mood for burritos. We placed our order through the Chipotle web site and waited anxiously for our lunch to come.
Our lunch was crazy late because, apparently, the restaurant was busy as hell and even though we’d ordered our lunch early, nobody had actually pulled it off of the register yet. When my wife arrived, they told her they didn’t have an order, looked on the computer and insisted they didn’t have it and sent her away. She called the office and got the confirmation number (because we’d already paid for the order). After a long time period in which it became apparent that the manager had no idea how to operate her own computer system, the order was located.