I sometimes delude myself into thinking that January starts off so brightly, with everyone trying to better themselves, at least for the first couple weeks. If we go out and face the world and/or ourselves despite the cold, then we'll have proven something even more to ourselves because it was just a little bit harder. Then usually, the dust, or in this case slush, begins to settle, the resolutions taper off and we're still in winter. It's still cold, we're still fat or non-confrontational or unable to speak fluently in Spanish. Everything remains in its standstill.
I love the symbology of seasons; and for me the winter is the dead time, the sleeping time. I look forward to the spring and see all the great things that inevitably must be coming along with the new growth. In my mind, that's more of a new year than whatever the fuck January is. January is just extra last year. Or so I often hope.
I use new years resolutions every so often. This is the first year I didn't really have one; I made a decision to do certain things starting at the beginning of the year, but it wasn't a resolution; it just seemed to coincide as a starting date.
One of the best compliments I ever got was from my oldest brother. I don't remember what we were talking about or if it even came to fruition, but he told me,
"When you say you're gonna do something, I believe you."
I think about my brother saying that to me, though I have no idea what we were talking about at the time. I didn't view it in a "woman of my word" context, because I'm not. I'm flaky with friends. I have a tendency to pile on too many tasks and then fumble as I try and get them all done in some half assed way before I get in trouble. I'm not really sure where I got that mentality, but I'm sure I'll overanalyse the fuck out of it and write about it later.
What I took from that compliment is that I do things with purpose, even if they don't work out. That's why I've always thought New Years resolutions tend to fail, or any other change you try to make. If it lacks purpose, there won't be much of a reason for you to do it. Likewise, if you're doing it for the wrong purpose, you're likely to become discouraged and unmotivated.
This brings me to some thoughts I've had about standup, about success and failure. All three of those things are pretty closely knit to purpose in my mind.
I had some very cool things happen for me in Denver this year; I got drafted for ComedyWorks' Funny Final Four (That's a comedy competition show thing for those outside of Denver--thankfully I'm not on a competing team), and I got nominated for an award for Favorite Newcomer by Sexpot Comedy. Both of those are awesome and I'm happy and grateful that somebody thought of me.
That being said, for the first time since I've been doing this, I realized that had I not been recognized for either (I actively avoided the nominations because I didn't want to get invested), I would have been fine with that. Or, I should rephrase, nothing would change for me. I would still go out to open mics, tell jokes and work to get shows and hopefully make some money so writing becomes my pitiable but manageable living.
I would have felt some disappointment if I'd been overlooked, and even now if I put my demons to it I could find reasons to be dissatisfied. I completely empathize with anyone who's pissed that they didn't make it; this is rough and competitive and you're working hard. It sucks not to feel recognized for it. And those negative thoughts, while not healthy in large doses, can be very powerful motivation, that's why we root for the underdog, to spite everyone else that made it with seemingly less effort, or at least less recognition.
That feeling of spite can't be about wanting awards or recognition though, not if you want it to work for you. You can't only tell jokes, paint pictures, sculpt whales or bake pizzas because you want awards for doing those things. You have to do those things because they give you a sense of purpose in and of doing them. If spite motivates you to spend more energy on what gives you purpose, you're doing it right. Recognition is a perk, and a damn nice one, but it doesn't really matter. Same with failures.
Last year I entered into a contest and got knocked out in the first round. I was wrecked about it; I'd had a bad day to begin with and I'd felt like I needed the validation of at least advancing in order to feel good about deciding to do comedy over any other walk of life. I didn't get that sense of validation, and I may have faltered a little but I didn't stop performing. I also got a chance to feel closer to some other people in my field who also didn't make it. Failure, in its own weird and less flashy way, was strangely comforting.
Losing didn't give me validation of a comic in terms of talent, but it did in terms of finally having a peer group that I felt good to be around, and that made me want to work harder. I got a lot out of losing and while this might be cognitive bias talking, but I wonder, had I even so much as advanced, if it would have went to my head and I would have held on to that sense of entitlement that would make recognition seem more important and failure more foul. I might have made efforts to distance myself from "lower peers" or something disgusting like that. I don't know, it didn't happen. I know I'm not above hubris, though.
I don't think I've been doing what I have been long enough to be able to impart any sort of wisdom or advice on how to make it work. If anything, take this as encouragement. If you find what you want to do in life, consider yourself very lucky; not a lot of people get that. We're not told to look for it; not if it doesn't fit the norm. I hope you do whatever it is that you're doing because it gives you a sense of purpose and not because you want validation from it. The farther you can distance yourself from that the better, and, unless my experience is just an illustration of coincidence, the farther you distance yourself from validation, the more of it you'll receive.
I don't know if that's one of those concepts someone can just say to you and it sinks in. I think we all come to that in our own way and time, but maybe the more places you see it, the more it'll ring true for you. Be deliberate, have purpose; there's no way to lose if you do.
If you resent the fuck out of being told you're not getting shit done because you don't have the right mindset, don't worry, I have some other, more practical thoughts, too. Organization certainly isn't my strong point and I have a tendency to get overwhelmed and freaked out pretty easily. Here's a few things that have worked for me, some practical, no bullshit advice that helps me do what I need to. These are in no particular order because I don't find any one more valuable than the other; they're just helpful.
1. Do things when you think of them.
This is one of those modern age-isms that wasn't available before. When you remember that you haven't called someone, paid a bill, or whatever little task it is, do it at that moment. Even if you're at work, or out at a bar or masturbating, whatever you do with your free time. I find this helpful because if I don't put off doing things when they pop into my brain, I've effectively given myself the outlook of doing things when I sit down and want to do them. You're less likely to let your mind drift off and wind up doing nothing at all.
Chunking is something that helps you commit information to memory, but the system is insanely effective. One of the classic methods is pomodoro, where you work on something for 25 minutes, take a short break, work for 25 minutes, take a long break, and so on and so forth. This sort of sets your brain up to be willing to work on something, because yourself out before you wind up fatigued and uninterested in doing it any more.
Personally I do sessions of about 20 minutes, then give myself 5 minutes to dick around; I've never found the long breaks useful, personally. I also like to have a rotation of different things to do; IE 20 minutes writing articles, break, 20 minutes doing art or something completely unrelated, break, etc. It helps me feel stimulated and I want to go back to working on each thing because none of them dominate the time.
3. The right friends are worth a thousand day planners.
I feel insanely lucky to have met so many great people. I may take them for granted and my friends can tell you I'm hard to pin down; I'm flighty and I can seem almost exclusively self motivated (I usually am, unfortunately. I'm working on it); but I choose my friends very carefully. I try my best to surround myself with people who are motivated and driven to do what they want; it doesn't matter what your craft is, if you're pushing yourself, you'll motivate other people to pursue what they love, as well. The fear of seeming like an idiot in front of your friends is a great way to force yourself along.
4. Write shit down.
Some people voice record or use their phone, but I find that I'm never more inclined to stick to finishing something than when it's written down. Maybe that's not the most environmentally friendly option, but it's the most effective. You can make lists or not, but usually this ends up in the same category of "do things when you think of them." If you write down the seed of an idea or something you want to do when you think about it, you've given yourself incentive to keep working on it.
You'd think there'd be more than four, but those are the only real rules of productivity I follow. And that being said, sometimes you don't win. I'm not a superstar about it by any means, but maybe it'll help you out. I guess this is just some basic existential nihilism with a bit of lifehacking at the end, but strong conclusions are for suckers who aren't about to go to their day jobs. Have fun my friends.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.