The following is an exercise, one shared with fellow blogger (and awesome girlfriend) KillerB (see her post on the matter here). One inspired by discussion following a reading from Judy Carter‘s Stand-Up Comedy: The Book (and, possibly, a few adult beverages).
I emphasize that this is an exercise because I want to fend off the impending “are you OK” messages; the “don’t be so hard on yourself” comments; the worried phone calls from mothers (hi Mom!). We’re stretching muscles here.
We all have that inner nitpicker in whatever we do in life. The Critic. It tells us we should have done better at work. That we’re a poor parent. A bad artist.
It often feels that the best strategy is to simply ignore the Critic, to brush aside it’s comments and push forward into life.
But it never quite goes away. I have to wonder if the better move is to give it a platform. Let it rattle on. Dump it all out on the floor, pick out some pieces of value in its review, and realize how ridiculous the rest is. Let it vent all that hot air. Allow it to deflate itself. So…
The Critic gets its say.
But no worries. I get to reply.
What are you doing? You’re 30. No, 31. You’re old. Done for. It’s too late. Whatever you wanted to accomplish, that ship sailed when you decided not to go to film school. To pursue your writing. To do anything extreme and adventuresome and outside the norm.
Face it. You’re That Guy. You’re the one that had some potential; the guy who was different but likable, a friend to everyone; geek, jock, hippie, dopehead. They all found you to be pretty cool; diplomatic, non-judgemental, interested in bigger things. Maybe you’d even take those things somewhere. You were the “movie guy.” The dude who was deep and thoughtful. But that was years ago.
The ship has sailed, man. All of the people you grew up with who were going to do cool things…they’ve started them already. All of the ones who wouldn’t…the townies, the tragics, the ones who were married and knocked up before 25, that’s where you belong. The difference is that they’ve all accepted their role. You, you seem to think you can still do something. Still go somewhere.
You’re never going to go on stage. Tell a story in front of a crowd. Make them laugh. No one is ever going to see a movie you make. Read something you write. Sorry, bud. Ain’t happening. You’re not funny. You could have been, maybe, but you were too scared to try and now you’re too old to try.
And don’t even get me started on your “movies”. What do you have? The two? Stacking up to less than fifteen minutes of poorly thought out footage. And the sound on those things? You should have gotten a guy. They have those. Sound guys. You always get a guy. But you were too scared to get one. And really, now, you’re too old for a guy.
You should have gone to a city. Gone to an art school. Gone on a road trip. Anything, man. You should have gotten out of Michigan. Smoked some pot. Traveled overseas. Instead, you worked a video store and went to community college. Stumbled into a relationship. Stumbled out of that (Good call on that one, though. Never give in.)
And then what? You followed your friend on his path because you didn’t know what the hell to do? And then bailed on that and bought a house? You bought a fucking house, dude. You committed! Do you know any other artists that committed? No! Because you don’t know any other artists. Because you’re not one.
You’re a dude who works retail with delusions of grandeur, but who really will just end up with a steady job (once you get that degree) and a normal life.
I’m not trying to be a hater. Normal life is OK. You’ll probably have a family. You’ll have some kids. You’ll survive. But you’ll never be cool, man. Sorry. That ship has sailed. So stop trying. Just stop. That’s all I’m saying.
Your Inner Critic.