Every Page is a Stage

Most shows I have performed are little more than vague impressions of memory.  What I do remember clearly, however, is the sensation of stepping out onto a stage.  Exhilaration and trepidation.  The desire to give a good show and not let my audience or my fellow players down.  No matter how experienced I became or how hard I trained, it was always the same.  One instance in particular has stuck with me through the years.  I remember standing in the semi-dark of backstage, listening to the crowd noise build beyond the curtain.  It was a festival performance, so I wasn't hearing just any audience, but rather an audience of players, people who would know craft as well as I did and notice every mistake I made.  Nearly paralyzed with nerves, I asked an experienced player, whom I admired a great deal, if those feelings ever changed, if the fear ever went away.  His response?  “Not if you love what you do.”

As I gained more experience with improv, I stepped out onto many stages and made many weak choices.  Through this, I have come to grips with a simple fact.  I will never, ever be perfect.  Not only do I need to live with that, but must also give myself permission to be imperfect.  Writing is a performance art projected over space and time and as such, I step out onto the digital stage every time I pick up my laptop.  Now, however, I have the dangerous temptation of backspace.  When performing in front of a live audience, I could not go back on decisions, I could only move forward.  When writing, however, I can erase and rewrite almost indefinitely, spinning my tires and failing to attain creative traction.  Don’t get me started on the lure of the internet.

Fear of imperfection has cost me countless otherwise productive minutes and words.  These days, when I find myself falling into the trap of self-doubt, I remember the advice of the player before my first festival show.  I am struggling not because of a lack of ability, but rather because I love what I do and I want to give my best to my audience.  I need to accept my imperfection and maintain my forward momentum, as only then will I be able to create.  Eventually I will have to let go of my creation and allow it to be consumed by an audience.  Will it be perfect?  No, but it will be.  But only then will my efforts have meaning.


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