Writing is a Journey into the Unknown

About once a month or so, there is a night where I don’t sleep even for a moment. This is one of those nights. It’s like when you’re at a concert and a speaker burns a high pitched squeal and you think your head is going to explode. I don’t actually hear the high pitch but everything else feels the same and the sleep function becomes unavailable. I even took drugs. Second day of rehearsal and I am in this place.

I am fairly certain that it’s happened because of writing this blog. I wonder if you think this is not at all revealing and are wondering what the big deal is. But my innards are going crazy right now and there is a hyper-vigilant infant made of stone who is telling me that I am tearing it all apart. Go back into hiding before everyone discovers the profound depth of your imperfections.

Well that’s that. A whole sleepless night. This feels utterly impossible. My brain is not functioning in coherent thoughts so here come some incoherent ones…

I keep referring in myself to the movie Adaptation. It is a comfort that it exists and that I know there is at least one person who experiences creativity in this way.

I found the quote from the film that I was referring to yesterday:

“Look, my point is, those teachers are dangerous if your goal is to do something new. And a writer should always have that goal. Writing is a journey into the unknown, not building a model airplane.”

I’m having this argument with myself right now. What have I really invented in my first day?

Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse. I took an acting class once, here in San Francisco actually, and one of our assignments was that we had to sing a song a capella in front of the class. I wanted to do well, desperately. I’m not a singer, but I wanted to sing the best that I was capable of. I practiced non-stop for a week, made friends listen to me. And when the time came to present, I had built up so much energy around it that I couldn’t breathe. And I did terribly. It smashed me.

I called the teacher the next day to try and make sense of it and what business did I have studying acting if I couldn’t even do this one exercise in a classroom setting? And her response was simple. “Stop being so hard on yourself. This is ridiculous. No one could survive this level of scrutiny.”

It was an unsatisfying response. I wanted to hear some magic wisdom that would be the seed of getting it right and opening everything up. Instead, she told me it was ok to not be perfect. The desire for perfection drives me to always be better, but in the process, can be and is, crushing.

I was laughing going into rehearsal because I could barely stand up. Surely I would pass out…or throw up. I would definitely end up insane. Or fall into a blackhole. Maybe die. But…everything was (drumroll) great. Really (eggroll) great. A highly productive and satisfying day, just like yesterday, which confirms what I see time and time again: it does not matter how you show up to rehearsal, only that you show up and be true to who you are in that moment. I have had so many days that feel horrible, that allow work that is inspired. I have had so many days that feel free and easy, only to make long sections that need to be thrown away. There is no perfect person to create from.