Last night and I had a super bizarre dream. It was one of those “Peggy Olson” pregnancy dreams – I didn’t know I was even pregnant and then BAM! I had a baby. It was just there. So Ben and I are suddenly walking around with this surprise baby and introducing it to all of our very confused friends. As I always do in these dreams, I’m wondering how the heck all the logistics will work out (I kept thinking that I didn’t even have a stroller!). Then suddenly, there’s no baby. I look down and I realize I have just been carrying around an empty blanket the entire time. At this point, my friend Claire comes up to me and very gently reveals that they, “Know I have gone insane, created an imaginary baby, and that they have been humoring me the whole time to be nice.” Yikes bikes.
If you took this literally, you’d think it was anxiety about moving to the suburbs and all that jazz. But I don’t think it is. Because last night I fell asleep again with that age-old fear about myself: What if all of the art I have been doing and creating is just a bunch of crap?
Am I alone in this thought? I have been writing a play recently that I actually started over four years ago. In the past two months though, I’ve been finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m probably about 30 pages or so from the end, and the only thing that trips me up is the occasional wave of, “What if this is just really terrible?” Luckily, probably because I live with a very encouraging playwright, this thought has not completely lead me to throwing up my arms in defeat.
Knowing you’re not going to know
And no, I am not actually thinking that everything I do is awful, it’s more about the idea of: how do you really know if what makes sense in your head will make sense to anyone else? I’ve been thinking about this idea for a few weeks now, with the thought of writing a blog post, and realized that the answer is: you don’t know. Until someone gives you legitimate feedback, someone whose opinion your trust and who isn’t going to sugarcoat what they think, all you have is what makes sense in your mind.
It’s like the other day when I was whistling that song from Fun Home from the Tony’s and Ben came in and said, “Why are you whistling ‘A Horse with No Name’?” Now does this mean I’m a really lousy whistler? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just one of those things where I hear one thing and everyone else hears something completely different. That’s how I feel about my play. I think I just need accept that when people read my play for the first time, they may hear something other than what I hear. And there’s a chance that what they hear is also not crap.
Ego vs. Confidence
I may get several very sweet and encouraging messages from this post about how I should have more confidence in my writing, and yes, please believe I deeply appreciate those. They have really kept me writing this blog. But it isn’t really about confidence here. I like my writing voice, and I am happy that I’ve had a place to develop it so I can work on all these different projects. This is more about finding that middle ground between having the confidence to write genuinely and being an egotistical writer that refuses feedback.
So many times, Ben and I have come across playwrights or actors that simply say “no” to any constructive criticism. As soon as they do, we both get a wave of, “Oh what a shame.” Because you know they will only get so far with that naive attitude. You can stand up for your work, of course, and at the end of the day, no one can make you do anything. Also, no one is forcing you share your work at all. But if you truly don’t want to change it, then why let anyone hear it in the first place? You might as well just line up all your stuffed animals, give them the voices of your characters, and march them around your living room.
On the other hand, I tend to cringe during talk-backs gone rogue. Ben teases me for my terrible poker face that develops when a group discussion about a play goes on too long or when the moderator loses control of a few audience members who are trying to turn the play into a whole new story (that maybe they should just go home and write). There has to be a balance between “this is the story I want to tell” and “I want the story to be clear enough so that others can relate.”
So why do it?
Perhaps the real question is: why are your creating that particular project? If it is 100% for your own fulfillment, there is nothing wrong with that AT ALL. At least you know what you want and there will be great passion in what you make. Many will naturally relate to that. But if you want others to connect with a story you’ve created or a character you are representing? Then you have to learn to let your ego take a seat. If we want to create a human experience, you need other humans to help bring that story out of you.
Ginny, you’re holding a blanket
So before I jump off that terrifying cliff and share my first draft with a group, I would like to find that middle ground so I can at least write the damn thing without judgement. I don’t want to hand off something that I think is very special only to have the world say that it isn’t even workable. Or worse, have everyone pretend it’s perfect when it’s not, just to protect my feelings.
Thoughts? Mutual anxieties? Whiskey suggestions? I’m open to anything that will help me finish this draft. Thanks for reading, everyone!!