Saturday, June 27, 2009

Getting off the Couch: Part 2

The thought of not doing something that a huge part of me (that doesn't even feel like "me" necessarily because the desire isn't manufactured or dreamed up but just there) became more awful than the thought of doing the "something" and doing it badly.

Ryan Kasprzak on So You Think You Can Dance was interviewed right before he got cut (his brother, Evan, made it and is now in the top 14). [You can go here to watch highlights of their auditions from this season...really fun!]. Ryan does Broadway tap. He said that he heard over and over from teachers, producers, choreographers that he was too short, too chubby, too bald, too whatever to be successful in the kind of dance he wanted to do. "That shit kept me on the couch for four years," he said. He's done all kinds of things since he got off the couch. And he just auditioned for the next season of SYTYCD and will be going to Vegas for another shot.

At the end of graduate school, during my thesis defense, which marked a four-year MFA endeavor as well as a major shift from writing fiction to writing mostly poetry, one of my professors told me and the committee and those friends who'd gathered for the event that she almost fell asleep reading my thesis (a collection of poems).

Once you start, you have to deal with that who-are-you-kidding-anyway voice—and not always just from inside yourself. Then you have to actually keep doing the thing you got off the couch to do. You have to do things badly and deal with that. You have to hear criticism and experience rejection.

It's good for the bones is what I say—because you discover (or I did anyway) why you are actually doing something (i.e., Not so a certain professor will like your work). You find the you you are doing it for. You find that there is no Ultimate Final Approval. There are moments of glory—when you get published, do the performance, etc. But like artist Mike Mills says (see video on "outloud" blog June 19):
You just work your hardest and you do whatever the best is that you can, and you don’t like don’t think you did very well so you do another job to prove that you're better than the last job you did and then the same thing happens and you do another one and then all of a sudden you're 41...and then you think I’ll do better on the next one and I’ll totally prove to everyone that I’m okay and you keep going and going...
It's more a lifestyle than a means to an end I guess is what I'm saying.

And the only way to get confidence—creative confidence—is to make things and keep making them—muscles, books, blog postings, photographs, dances, WHATEVER. And stick with the people who will cheer you on while you do it—but do it even if you can't find those people.

The best things I've heard from people after I've read my work in public are 1) they were moved and 2) it made them want to write and make things. That's not why I do it of course—any of it. I do it because when I'm not doing it, I sink deeper and deeper into my couch, wonder why I'm here, forget what the point is... Participating in the way that I do is the point. It's what gets me up every morning, makes me eat, post to my blog, go to work, see films, write poetry, go listen to live music (and exhaust myself in large rowdy throngs of other participants), be an extra in a video of your favorite band (see opening picture above)!

My friend KO was clearly inspired in a new way by Every Little Step. We had coffee Friday night and I saw it in her eyes. Something is changing and it's a beautiful thing to see.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Hi, I followed your link from She Writes. This was a good post for me to read right now; I'm getting ready to start an MFA program and I am starting to fear that I'm not "good" enough. This was a good reminder about doing what we love BECAUSE it's what we love. Thanks!