If you are not a frustrated artist of some kind, don’t bother reading this post today.
“Man, I’m scared for you. You are gonna be alone for a long time”. said my friend EK, as we were discussing our individual reasons for doing comedy. I was talking to him about making a big shift in the way I approach comedy. Though it’s an AMAZING feeling to make a crowd erupt in laughter, I realized that I want to be more than the court jester. I’ve lived a lot of life, and I have something to say about it. The comedy stage is my pulpit. It hasn’t been as fulfilling as I know that it can be, and I realized why: I’ve been too attached to outcomes. I’ve been too hung up on getting laughs. In doing so, I’ve neglected to develop the very thing that leads to getting great laughs: a distinct comedic voice. I decided that for the next 3 months, I’m going to stop trying to get laughs. I am going to get on stage with topics and ideas and just develop them. This is what EK was warning me about. “This thing that you are doing is good, but it’s going to mean you’ll be up there all by yourself for a while”. That process is going to mean I’ll have to endure a lot of silent audiences. A lot of awkward silences. A lot of nights of wandering.
“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the alhatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!” “I don’t mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.” – Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagul
I’m trying to forge new paths in a few areas of my life.
I’m looking for a romance that looks unlike anything I’ve personally experienced before.
I’m trying to create a business that has never existed before.
The way I dress defies categorization.
I’m trying to create a social life that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
The photographs, music, and comedy that I’m trying to create don’t fit into any existing molds.
I’m trying to be a father on terms that I’ve never seen before.
I’m exploring the realm of spirituality with no preconceived notions about what I’ll find out there, if anything.
Though there are people and mentors in my life that have done amazing things, that I’d like to emulate in some degree, nobody has ever done exactly what I’m trying to do. I wish to high heaven there was some kind of person that had already become everything I want to be, so I could just imitate them, but there’s not. I’m going on nothing but my inner compass and it scares the shit out of me at times. There are times it takes everything I have, and then some, to believe what my inner compass is telling me. I don’t expect anyone else to follow along with me, when I can barely do it myself, which is probably the main reason I am still single. There are days when I feel god damn lonely. The loneliness becomes painful at times. I’m talking heavy, heart crushing loneliness. There’s nobody out here to talk to, or relate with. I wish there was.
I’m putting this out there as a message in a bottle, in case there are other creatives who feel the same way. Maybe it would feel less lonely to know that there are other people out there hacking through the jungle, following nothing but an inner compass, fighting off the lonely as well. Are you out there? I’m over here. Don’t come over here, you keep doing what you are doing. I’m gonna keep working where I’m at. It’s just nice to call out during the night and hear a voice call back in reply. It’s nice to know that somewhere in the thick of all this, maybe a hundred yards away, someone that is doing different things but for the same reason.
One last thought from a guy who has blazed a few trails, himself:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” ― Ira Glass