Processing A Milestone

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 24 June 2019

Greetings, Soapboxers!

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 planshowing 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 artistsoapbox@gmail.com.

‘Til next time!
MT

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