I’ve started a lot of projects recently. That’s something I almost can’t help myself with; I need to keep myself busy or else I’ll catch sight of that void that lingers inside of me. At the beginning of the year I made a goal to write two articles for this site every month; every other project was fine to start and/or fizzle and fade, just so long as I managed to crank out somewhere in the ball park of 3500 words a month. Which, at the beginning of the year, didn’t seem difficult. Why not? Because I’d been thinking about things to write about, and never had the pressure to flesh out the ideas entirely. I had a whole reservoir of topics that I was certain would send me through 12 months of writing, easy.
Unfortunately, Just like my ideas about most things, this one was also ill-thought out.
I’m not sure if motivation is the problem. One thing I am grateful if not downright proud of being is driven. If I want something done, it will happen. It may be amateurish, half-baked and poorly edited, but it will get done. I’m one of those “well, at least I tried,” folks. Maybe that’s a bad idea. Maybe that just leaves a giant trail of things I haven’t done well. For whatever reason, that isn’t enough incentive for me to stop trying, or, perhaps more vexingly, to stick with things and try and make a messy and amateur thing into something a bit more refined and mature. What I will tell you, my friend, is that after committing to writing every month and so far being successful in terms of producing something, good or not, I have learned a lot. The discipline has been a little tricky, even today I’m forcing myself to sit down and write just because I know I haven’t, and if I don’t today I’ll probably wind up failing.
I have been thinking a lot about setbacks. Comedy is chock full of them. For every week I have a few shows and some self confidence in my choice to do this, there’s another four days of absolute dread that I’m awful and deluding myself and that my limelight is running out. I worry that I can’t write anything else as good as what I have written. I wonder if by forcing myself to write so much I’m actually draining my funny jar more than is necessary, like comedy isn’t a muscle so much as a rainy day fund you should only tap into when necessary. I worry I mix metaphors way too much.
Every time I do a show and it doesn’t feel right, or I post an article that I don’t think is well thought out, researched and entertaining, I feel like I’ve gone backwards, or maybe worse, downward somehow. There is so much struggle involved in what we do as humans, that’s the beauty of it. As much as I would like to say that comparing oneself to others isn’t healthy and a dumb gauge of where you are in life, it’s difficult not to do. I feel like I repeat myself a lot here. I like to think we all do, that our brains only have a limited number of things that are deemed important and we tend to marinate in them.
For a lot of us, this typically entails relationships, romantic or otherwise, our future, having kids or not, self image, success, global impact, religion...
What I’m trying to do right now is take a step back and separate my ideas about how well I’m doing and focus on what I’m doing. What I’m doing is writing, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Comedy is just a continuation of that. I have no idea if all this documentation is necessary or interesting, but it feels very natural. I’m about to take my first trip out of state for comedy in November, which is pretty exciting. I started a show and I’m working on several different projects, both on this site and around Denver. These all feel pretty big to me, but on a day-to-day basis, they’re just background noise. I promised myself to start small, just to keep writing and not worry about or focus on anything else, and if I could handle that for a year, I could take another step, add more fuel to the fire.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s how life works. I’m still going to write this out for the year, but as much as I like the idea of self-discipline and being able to build up a repertoire of things I’m capable of doing, I don’t think it’s plausible, and it’s a dangerous trap for many of us.
Lately I’ve become almost offended by the word “balance”, at least in the way people use it. Balance implies that you’re able to handle your shit, that you find time for work, school, friends, sex, relationships, pets, hobbies, food, fitness, everything, and you do it without working yourself to death or sacrificing sleep because, well, that would be imbalanced.
Time is fluid, and as boxed in and symmetrically as we measure it and portray it on calendars, not every day holds the same possibilities, and I wish we’d stop deluding ourselves. Some days I sleep. Almost exclusively sleep. Other days, like today, I get a lot of shit together, make myself finish projects albeit shakily, because I know that the next time a day of this much energy and time is unpredictable. Sometimes I’m a terrible girlfriend, detached if I’m present but more than likely just not at home, fully aware of what kind of strain that might do to my relationship. Often I’m a flighty friend, I’m difficult to get a hold of for more than a few minutes a day. Sometimes I’m a bad employee, too tired from bad decisions to really put effort into a job that I actually like (comedy or the bakery. I’ve gone on stage and simply felt like I had ED of the humors).
Then there are times when I’m on fire. I write music, new jokes, clean my house, touch base with everyone I know, cook dinner, work out. I go to an open mic and bring down the room. I like those days, but they’re admittedly infrequent.
Maybe this is what bipolar disorder looks like, but honestly I think I just recognize something about being human. Not to mention, both of these are extremes to illustrate my point; for most of us, on most days, we’re somewhere in the middle of impossible and unstoppable.
My point is that coming up with this idea that everything is possible if you just learn to balance it is strange and upsetting. You’re not capable of doing everything, not all at once and certainly not every day. This isn’t laziness or procrastination talking, I think those attributes may be some kind of backlash for the kind of hectic, over stimulated world we live in, or maybe I give us all too much credit. I think people get lazy if left to their own devices (now more literally than ever), without a sense of direction or purpose. If you don’t have that sense of direction, unfortunately I have no advice for you except to look for it. I didn’t know what I wanted from life until I was 24 and a soon-to-be triple dropout. Now that I have a direction, there’s nothing that’s made me feel more alive and ambitious. I don’t fear having a couple days of down time because I’m practically addicted to doing what I love. I don’t feel the need to “balance” my comedy and writing with the rest of my life; the scale is tipped so far it’s basically useless. We aren’t machines, we’re creatures of novelty and understanding each day is, by and large, independent from all the others in terms of our well being and capability, is important in order to crawl out from underneath a heap of illogically held expectation.
Do you think I’m funny?
No matter how you answer that question, I do. There’s probably a portion of people who read that sentence and had an automatic response of disappointment or even disgust. The reason why is I’ve just qualified myself; I have asserted an objective stance about something relative. I can think I’m funny, but that’s only true if someone else thinks I’m funny.
Relative qualities are tricky. We all have them to degrees; creativity, intelligence, beauty, sense of humour, everyone believes they have some, at some level. Not all of us believe we’re Chopin or Carlin, but we all have our secret belief of how good (or bad) we are at things. Not only do we believe that, but other people believe that about us as well.
We judge everything, despite our resentment of jury duty. We all have our taste in movies, books, friends, clothes, opinions, you name it, there’s a niche for everyone. We judge ourselves too, of course, we gauge our own strengths and weaknesses. But should our self assessments be brought to the attention of another person, who undoubtedly has their own ideas of our strengths and weaknesses, we’re brought to some bizarre psychological quagmire, uncertain of who’s correct.
We can’t qualify ourselves in the eyes of other people. Even as someone who plays music professionally, there’s still some expectation that you express humility; that you don’t consider yourself among the best at what you do. The second you transpose a judgment of quality on yourself, people around you aren’t totally sure what to make of it. Either you’re conceited, or not giving yourself enough credit, and it seems like there’s not a great deal of middle ground.
What is a relative quality, and moreover, why is our opinion on it for ourselves so poisonous to some? Is that a reflection on them or us? What is this knee jerk reaction we have to recoil at someone’s confidence, at the very least until it’s proven to whatever our degree of judgment calls for? Seems like if you tell someone that you’re funny, the next joke out of your mouth better have them in stitches or they’ll remain remarkably unimpressed and secretly annoyed with you.
I wonder if there’s some level of projection here. This is all personal, relative experience, but it’s hard for me to believe, having been in both positions, that this isn’t some intrinsic, human behavior. I don’t know folks, I don’t have a degree, just a search engine.
I guess any assertion you make about yourself seems inherently biased in your favor, even the negative ones. Some of us appeal to shrinking violets, or maybe we perceive that the person we’re talking to wants to encourage someone, because that’s a familiar form of support. To encourage someone who seems confident comes off as some kind of rank fandom, and a lot of us don’t want to feel reduced to idolizing someone that we’ve seen miss the straw when they try to take a sip. Maybe that’s why we’re loathe to someone’s judgments of self; they’re a beacon of manipulation, because invariably you have to challenge your internal bias, or view of that person, in order to accommodate this new and entirely subjective information.
After you figure that out, the next question becomes, so what do we do about it? Here’s where my knowledge falters a little. In my own life, I’ve learned to question any judgment I have about anyone, given my overwhelming tendency to be wrong in how I perceive people at first. Maybe a better question would be, is there anything to be done about it? Most of us can acknowledge when we’re wrong. Is it possible to simply concede that maybe someone can have a pretty accurate self perception, to simply bite our tongue and move on? Do you gain anything from pointing out the discrepancy between your opinion of someone and their own? Do they?
Our brains are constricted to biases; it’s not unnatural and it doesn’t make you stupid. Being aware that these traps exist allows you to examine them, and this example isn’t any different. Maybe someone thinks they’re a brilliant artist, because in terms of what they like, they’re doing it quite well. Sure, naked women with a face like a puzzle aren’t your thing, and you find the whole style rather unappealing and puerile. Could you do better than that person at it, and if you could, what would the point of being good at something you don’t enjoy, simply to spite someone?
Shit, there’s another relative quality; style. Style is tricky because it’s a fascinating look into how we create and attach ourselves to in groups. Style speaks volumes by simplifying us; those who try to be edgy because it’s our ‘style’ are letting the world know many things about our perceived sense of self, sense of others, and views on the world. Anyone who’s edgy has an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality, a feeling of being outside of some larger spectrum and therefore having a different (and correct, if you’re a narcissist) view about it. Considering something done well for it’s style is another way we can soften the blow of our idea of quality. You can’t compare a Jackson Pollock to a Botticelli, even though most people will agree the skill set to create the Birth of Venus would, at a glance, appear vastly more refined than that of Blue Poles (Google it).
I don’t know if there’s any conclusions to be drawn here, it’s just an observation. We have to project a sense of self that is clueless about our own self-worth in order to let people preserve their perceptions about us; assuming that’s what we want. How much we’re defined by other people’s perception is in direct proportion to how much we’re defined by shaping other people’s perception of ourselves. Put that in your pipe in smoke it.
Consider this a starting point for dialogue; I got nowhere with this article. I frequently end up nowhere with my articles, because it’s half of a conversation. It’s my perception, and as I just stated, that perception is genuinely influenced by that of others. Without other people to work things to, it’s hard to believe one’s sense of self boils down to anything but a hall of mirrors, courtesy of your gray, lumpy head puppy.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.