Click to hear me read this post:
You put yourself in front of them and you forgot your lines.
Who do you think you are? How could you do this to us?
What gives you the right to put yourself in front of us?
This is why we worry about taking the stage. We fear we’ll be all shaky and nervous and clumsy and in the spotlight and everyone will see our ridiculousness and we’ll get hot and red and sweaty and then we’ll freeze.
So, afraid to freeze in public, we freeze instead in private. We stay stuck, we don’t move, we stiffen instead of reach.
We fear we won’t be able to deliver. To take the stage is to engage in a promise, we imagine, a promise to some how be worthy once we get up there, to prove we had the right to do this. To not let people down.
There is some unwritten, unspoken pact in the realm of creativity and art and beginning that says if you take the stage, if you dare to begin, you owe us. You owe them, you owe an explanation, a reason. And it better be good.
Making your art is taking the stage.
It’s not ‘being given the stage’ – it’s taking it. Of your own will, of your own decision, on your own time. Uninvited, unscripted, and in some cases, unwelcome.
There is a vague sense of something within us that convinces us that to publicize our art we have to be legit. You have to do it correctly and you have to earn the right. Somehow, it’s up to you to figure out how to do a brand new thing – begin something never done or seen or heard before in your own way – and before you even try you also have to be sure.
This, of course, is backwards and illogical which is probably why it’s a very effective way the fear-strung-ego keeps us paralyzed from seizing the doing of what we love. But the only truly legitimate claim we can ever honestly make is that doing our art, being creative, is what we love.
And that is enough to make sharing what we love acceptable and important. And because we love in constant, that makes any time the time to begin. Our love of art and of sharing makes now the time.
Taking the stage is about bringing our love forward and exposing our vulnerable bits, our fleshy, tender stuff. It’s daring to allow people to see what matters to us. This takes courage, this takes willingness to put ourselves in front of others not because we promise to live up to their expectations but because we value the experience, the connection, the exchange.
This is about allowing the stuff that connects us to ourselves and to each other to be put on display.
It may not be in a theater, it may not mean playing in front of a crowd of thousands, but it does mean sharing, inviting, interacting. It does mean that to make better art, we need to begin to let others see us doing it. It does mean we grab the mic and start to speak.
Taking the stage could mean writing or publishing or putting your music up on Bandcamp. It could mean putting your video up on YouTube or playing in the marching band. Or singing an original song at a local bar. Or telling your friend / boss / lover / child the truth.
It’s going somewhere new and being the one who changes the dynamic of the relationship(s). Whatever it looks like on the outside, it’s a beginning on the inside.
And beginners fear forgetting our lines and we fear feeling like a fraud and we fear not being ready yet.
“People working in the arts engage in street combat with The Fraud Police on a daily basis, because much of our work is new and not readily or conventionally categorized. When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.”
– Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking (also, here is Amanda’s TED Talk)
So – we just start. Without having all the answers, without knowing all the hows, we begin.
To a very great and real and glorious extent: We are winging it.
And [SPOILER ALERT] so is everyone around you who is actively engaged with their art.
When I announced this series, The Beginner’s Luck Series, more than half this shit wasn’t written yet. I knew what the concept was overall and I knew the themes and what I wanted to offer to you guys. I knew it would get written and I knew I would deliver the very best I knew how.
But I didn’t know if it would work. I didn’t know if I got up on stage and offered this if you would like it, if you would embrace it. If you would embrace me. Taking the stage is a vulnerable thing.
The good news is the more you do it, the more you understand, the more you have to offer.
It’s worth it.
Despite not being prepared, despite the exposure and potential embarrassment, we reach in deep and grab onto trusting ourselves to figure it out. We trust ourselves to be our own wing man.
‘Winging it’ is a theatrical expression which refers to impromptu performances that are given by actors who had hurriedly learned their lines while waiting in the wings and then received prompts from there.
This phrase dates from the late 19th century and the verb ‘to wing’ was defined in an 1885 edition of Stage magazine:
“‘To wing’… indicates the capacity to play a role without knowing the text, and the word itself came into use from the fact that the artiste frequently received the assistance of a special prompter, who… stood… screened..by a piece of the scenery or a wing.” (source)
We think we’ll know.
Right? Like when it’s time to move, or speak, or try, or create, or build – we’ll know. We’ll know the time has come because one day someone will ask us, will invite us, will tell us it’s time to do our beautiful, imperfect, original, genuine thing out loud.
Someone will tell us it’s now the right (acceptable) time to make space in our lives for our art. They’ll tell us we’ve finally earned the stage; that we are now ready and they are now ready.
But we won’t be. And they won’t be. Because just like us, they are afraid, too.
Most people are afraid to begin because they feel like a phony and a fake and illegitimate. But the truth is, we all feel this way. All of us – beginners, pros, amateurs – are a work in progress, learning as we go. Starting before we are ready.
Those who take the stage have decided it’s worth it for themselves to break the silence of keeping their creativity locked away, it’s worth it for the sake of their art and their lives, to say something.
“We are unprepared to do something for the first time, always.
We are unprepared to create a new kind of beauty, to connect with another human in a way that we’ve never connected before.”
– Seth Godin, What To Do When It’s Your Turn
Put yourself in front. Take the chance, take your place.
Take the stage before you can forget your lines.
Take the stage while you’re still writing them.
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© 2014 Allison Marie Conway at Glory Begin