Writing to you today from the other end of the tunnel, as it were. I headed into 2019 with my sights set on June, when my latest play YEAR OF THE MONKEY would take its first breaths in New York. By the time you’re reading this, the show will have closed, and we’ll all be on to the next endeavor. As Tamara and Brook North recently recounted on Episode 077, now comes the necessary period of forgetting how much work went into this!
On this blog, we’ve talked about making a plan, showing up for the work and taking the next obvious step. An artist friend recently shared her experience with deadlines. She said, “Being forced by accountability into finding time is a positive cycle because once I make time, I realize there was time to be made, and I am good at this and enjoy it. It’s worth the exhaustion.” For her, for me, and maybe for you, too, creating is necessary.
Sharing your creation, on the other hand, now that can be downright terrifying.
The Scriptnotes podcast recently shared some insights into what happens in writers’ brains when they receive notes. When our work is critiqued, we feel emotional pain. Emotional pain responses come from our limbic system — our “lizard” brain, the part of our system that controls the fight/flight/freeze response. Its primary concern is our survival and does not have the nuanced capabilities of our neocortex. The lizard brain perceives our creations as extensions of ourselves, and doesn’t see the difference between a critique and a threat. So, “This monologue isn’t working” becomes “YOU ARE ABOUT TO DIE.”
When I’m in those situations, I’m emotionally diving under the nearest table or clawing a 20-foot hole from which I never want to emerge. Through the many drafts of the script, our crowdfunding effort and up through the production itself, I have had the pleasure of confronting my insecurities over and over again. And it was painful. Every time.
Why would a person do this to herself?
How did I, a sensitive-as-they-come introvert (I’m a Cancerian for crying out loud), make it through this?
Necessity and trust.
Scary though it may be, I cannot opt-out of creativity and expect to be happy. Self-expression is my one of my biggest mental health resources as well as my antidote to repression. Also, I’m fortunate to have a collaborator (hell, a co-parent) that I trust completely. In her own words about the creative process, she says, “The first step is building genuine trust. It means we can do just about anything creatively because there’s a foundation of trust from which to play. If we’re not invested in each other, how the heck are we gonna do good work together?”
I trusted she had my back. I trusted that any feedback she offered was in service of making the show better. I trusted that I could disagree with her and it wouldn’t jeopardize our collaboration. I trusted her vision and experience. We both trusted that our community would support us. We both trusted that even in a new, unfamiliar city, we could find genuine, kind souls to help us bring this creation to life. Despite the exhaustion and the stress and the not-knowing, I trusted that this would be worth the time and effort.
And it has been. Though I’m sure we could both use a bit of that “forgetting” time that Tamara and Brook mentioned.
2019 has been off to the races creatively (and I’m actually flying to Minnesota tomorrow to run a marathon, I mean whateverrrrr). The second half of 2019 begins with an ASBX workshop at the Women’s Theatre Festival in Raleigh on Sunday July 14th. Tamara and I are facilitating a session on Functional Feedback — ways to make giving and receiving feedback less hide-under-the-table inducing and more constructive and inspiring for all involved. Please join us!
Thanks for joining me on this journey, Soapboxers. I’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
‘Til next time!
*Mara has a website! marathomas.com
Hear Mara on Episode 076, Episode 064, Bonus Episode 002, Episode 017 and Episode 001 of the Artist Soapbox podcast.
Mara Thomas is a Durham-based playwright, actor, musician and teaching artist. Her original theatre piece, YES TO NOTHING, was commissioned by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and played to raving crowds at music venues in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham in fall 2017. Mara’s new play, YEAR OF THE MONKEY, recently premiered at The Tank NYC.
Blog posts and podcast episode about the Creative Accountability Group:
- Take your work seriously: put Creative Resistance on notice!
- Better together. A Creative Accountability Group debrief with Mara and Tamara
- Ask WHY to create opportunities for compassion
- Map your dreams
Blog posts about creativity resources:
- Cleaning house: Making space for creativity
- Nourish your creative self: Give your creative self a lift with something beautiful
- The importance of physical practice: Get out of your head and into your body (And here’s another)
- Community Building
- Preparing for a Creative Residency
Blog posts about creative obstructions that present themselves when you’re on your creative path.
- Imposter Syndrome: Who do I think I am? Why even try?
- Perfectionism: I’m so afraid that my creation will not be perfect that I never actually do it. And another one about perfectionism!
- Comparison: I’ll never be as good as that person. I should probably quit.
- Distraction: I’ve convinced myself that all these other things have priority over my creativity.