A few years ago, I answered an all-call plea for help from a man whose writing and work and general existence I adore. He and a team of writers who had been working together for years needed someone to create, direct and take complete responsibility for a five minute segment of a show with an absolutely phenomenal premise. It was smart and funny and I felt it was perfect for me.
The team had been working together on this for about a year, if I recall correctly. I was told I was on my own. Use that as a gift. It was to be a movement piece based on a piece of art. The person who was originally going to do it couldn’t. They wanted to honor her idea, which was “movement.” I was excited.
I had three weeks.
I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I was cocky and insecure and I had a pen.
I had two babies who were just learning to walk and talk. I was a recent grad of the Second City Training Center and had internalized the lessons to say yes to any opportunity. I literally was packing the house to move. I was beyond tired. I had just been cast in another show which would mean I couldn’t attend every performance of this new opportunity. I was told that was fine. “See you at dress!”
I should have asked questions. I should have seen what everyone else did. I had a cast of four really talented people who trusted me and deserved my presence at every show. I let them down, even though they knew I couldn’t be at every show. “It’s fine,” they said kindly. It wasn’t fine. I wish I could keep apologizing to them. They were phenomenal. They were the professional. I was trapped between two shows.
I lost the opportunity to connect and to learn and to fail with a safety net of people who were better writers, more comfortable in their creativity, at ease with the chaos of the process. They were further along. I was some weird almost-40 something newbie whose experience was largely academic and only recently on and behind the actual stage
And my piece was weak. Not terrible. Weak. Didn’t fit. It was mocked at dress rehearsal by other casts who didn’t know I was sitting behind them. I was mortified by what I had done. It wasn’t terrible, but it was…off. I hid. I felt untalented. Alone.
If I had to do it again, I would have still said yes, but I would have YES AND’ed the crap out of that…Yes, and can i sit in on what you are doing. Yes, and can I have the name of other people in the group so I can pick their brains? Yes, and can i see your script? Yes and….I can do this. Not “yes and I’ll try.” Yes, and I’ll drop out of the other show which really didn’t need my
I would have probably still failed (although let me say this again, it was me. The cast was masterful with the shit I gave them. I owe them my everything.) But I would have failed in the ways I like to fail…the way of motivation and contacts and learning. Not in a vacuum.
I have failed in other vacuums, too, since then. Succeeded, too. Often both at the same time, same project.
The failure has always been a result of my lack of connecting with others. Sometimes it’s as simple as my being unable to “hang out,” sometimes I’ve been seen as “other,” but ultimately, it’s on me. My shyness. My fear of rejection. My exhaustion. My attempts to take ownership of the work rather than let the work grow via community.
My feeling as though I’m not as talented as everyone else in the room.
It wasn’t always like this. Back in high school and college I thrived on creative interaction. I didn’t question whether my ideas were valid…I questioned the project, the best ways to approach it. At some point, I let that confidence and curiosity give way to being accepted and good enough. The whys would be something else to explore completely.
I don’t feel that anymore. I don’t know what the shift has been. I am convinced sleep has a lot to do with it, as has turning forty. At forty I have a limited amount of shits to give about that sort of stuff…and at forty-one, now, even fewer. It’s liberating and it took too damned long to get back to that place.
The good thing about creating my own vacuum is that I can create a plenum chamber. I am at the point in my life where I am really ok being wrong, being not accepted. I just want to learn. I want to create. I want to be part of a group of creators, rather than some sort of solo creative force.
I am blessed to befriend or be acquainted with some pretty talented people, and I hope they see this as a heads up that I will keep offering my time, my talent, my questions, my nodding head, my “whatever you need” because the creation is what matters, the product can make us all better, the bonds strengthen us all.