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.
Putting it Together is my Monday “artist talking about art stuff blog”. The title comes from “Sunday in the Park with George,” the best (and possibly only) musical that is entirely dedicated to an artist talking about his art. Is that pretentious enough?
As I try to make sense of how to be a creator whose job is creation, I have a lot of doubts and fears. Am I good enough? Why didn’t I start doing this ten years ago? Can I even do this? What do I do first?
The voice inside my head isn’t a pessimistic one. I prefer to think that it is a realist. The questions aren’t the problem. As long as I have some good answers.
Doubt is part of any creative process. At least I hope I’m not the only person who goes through it. I assume that most people who produce something that exists primarily to entertain other people spend at least some small amount of time wondering if what they made was good enough.