Finding the Joy

I’ve been spending too much of my time thinking about productivity, procrastination, habit-forming, etc.

The effort it takes to focus on the how often distracts from the what.

I’m trying to give myself permission to let things ~be~ sometimes. I don’t have to be working on a play draft while writing in a journal while memorizing monologues… Digging into too many projects takes away the joy of creating for me.

I’m happy to work on something just for the sake of working on it. Even if it leads nowhere (©Adele). And especially, of course, if it brings in good money. But the joy isn’t found in the fussing about how efficiently things are getting done. It’s in the act of creating something from nothing.

Percolate

Not every idea comes in a sudden rush of inspiration. Not many at all, actually.

It’s OK to sit on things awhile. Let them percolate. Right now, for example, I’m working on rewrites for a play, and it’s taking a long time. I often find I’m just waiting for the characters to tell me what to write next. I believe they’re having an ongoing conversation somewhere in my mind while I’m not paying attention. Every so often, a line of dialogue or plot adjustment enters my consciousness and I write it down. Then, once a good amount of those thoughts are laid out, I get to work on piecing them together.

Trust that the process is happening even while you’re working on other things. Let yourself keep thinking about the project while focusing temporarily on something else.

Things have a way of getting clearer with distance.

Odd Choices

Tyler Doyle and Sarah Currie in Morris Panych’s The Ends of the Earth. 2016.

In 2016 I directed a production of Morris Panych’s The Ends of the Earth. It’s a tale of two men who, acting on unfounded paranoia, flee from each other, only to meet each other again in a derelict hotel. A series of strange encounters and coincidences unfold during their adventures. The piece dabbles in absurdity, and I must say, the choices made in this production were… interesting.

I’m really drawn to strange worlds that only make sense within their own specific parameters. A woman suddenly coming out of a linen closet with a meat cleaver, then disappearing a moment later… a staircase that may cause one to “catch their death”… a fortune teller with a wood-whittling sidekick… The play lends itself to an almost unsettling comedy that I absolutely love.

But it only works with brave choices. It’s not a play for the faint of heart. Delving into something this absurd requires a certain level of confidence from the creative team… We made choices that probably didn’t read very well, but we also made choices that hit the mark (a perfectly timed falling chandelier, for example). However, I believe we wouldn’t have found success with anything had we not been willing to take risks.

When you encounter odd material, lean into that oddity and don’t look back. For if you do, you may “catch your death”.

Solo

There’s no denying the creation process can be a very lonely journey.

I’m finding the many days alone are pretty hard. Trying to get work done and move forward with different projects is proving next to impossible. The weight of this whole pandemic thing can definitely have an effect on a person. And artists, whether naturally introverted or extroverted, can really struggle with finding the momentum to keep making.

And that’s OK. I’m not trying to provide any solutions here. Sometimes we simply have to lean into it all. Yep, it’s a crappy time. Exacerbated, for me, by the recent loss of some very meaningful people. And that’s just how it’s going to be for a bit.

Sometimes it’s OK to sit with the loneliness, boredom, and restlessness. The more we try to push against it the harder it becomes. And there may be lessons in there somewhere. Something may spark when you least expect it. Loneliness can teach us the importance of having others. Boredom can point us to our biggest interests.

Or, it could just suck for a bit. And that sometimes has to be accepted. But hey, I hope you know there are others out there feeling the same way.

Insecurity Loop

It’s so easy to get caught up in it. Someone reveals they don’t like you, you wonder what it is about yourself you could change, you work on changing that thing the next time you interact with someone, they reveal they don’t like you, and it continues.

I find as someone who’s spent a good amount of time on stage trying to impress people, when I don’t impress someone I spiral.

Artists are vulnerable. We put our full selves on the line. And when someone perceives one of our core values as a flaw, we can get pretty hurt. I do, at least.

One thing I’m working on is trying to get out of that loop of continuously trying to “fix” myself and getting hurt even more. It’s hard. I find I have to be a bit delusional. But looking at my successes and positive qualities, practising self-compassion, is absolutely essential. Otherwise I will constantly dig deeper into sadness. Ick.

What makes you proud of yourself?

Rest

IT’S HOT.

I’m trying not to expect too much from myself today. My mind’s been racing with thoughts of inferiority, and a large part of me feels pressured to be productive. “Get stuff done. You have to prove yourself worthy.”

Naaaaah. It’s hot.

It’s fine to embrace the heat and take a breather. The work can wait.

And you are worth the rest.

Dedicated Times

Instead of approaching my day with a list of tasks and trying to get as many things done as I can, I try to section the day off into chunks of time. I’ll dedicate the first two hours of the day to one small group of tasks, for instance. Thinking in this way helps me with procrastination. If I don’t finish the things within the time I’ve allotted myself, then I can always adjust my expectations the next day, but at least I sat down and worked on the things I set out to do.

I find that if I just have a list with no scheduling, I get overwhelmed and end up doing next to nothing.

It’s good to consider time management as an artist. Think about whatever project you’re working on as a job. Dedicate times of the day to subsections of the larger project, and be sure to get as specific with your tasks as possible. Put away all distractions and be at ease knowing that all those other things swirling around in your head will have their quality time with your attention.

Willingness to Be Wrong

We are all bound to make mistakes. Sorry. But them’s the rules.

The artist who says “Sure sure sure, I get it, but you’re not understanding me” is always going to fall way behind the artist who says “Ah, I see now! Thank you for pointing that out.”

Humility is important. And, as Michael Healey said in his webinar through Citadel Theatre, so is delusion.

We have to have a willingness to be wrong, yes. And be able to fess up to messing up. But equally important as artists is our ability to fool ourselves. Launching into a creative project is to jump into the abyss: not many, if any, have done this before. It’s brand spankin’ new. We have to somehow convince ourselves that taking that risk is worth it because we are worth it. “Heck yeah, I can write this play.”

It’s delusional to think that we can bring something into this world from nothing. But it happens.

It’s nice to dream that we will never run up against failure. But it happens.

And the failure inches us even closer to the impossible.

So take it in strides, learn from it, and keep pushing.