mike birbiglia, a human + comedian i admire tremendously, recently wrote an article for the new york times entitled ‘mike birbiglia’s 6 tips for making it small in hollywood. or anywhere’ and it’s really good and contains a big piece of reality pie.
[before i continue rambling about my personal problems and posting them on the internet, i want to write a quick love letter to birbiglia’s new movie. it’s called ‘don’t think twice’ and it’s about an improv group struggling with one another’s simultaneous successes and failures. i love mike birbiglia, i love his stand-up, i love his debut feature ‘sleepwalk with me’, so naturally i was giddy for this film. i saw it with my brother a few weeks ago and when the credits started rolling, i turned to tommy and said ‘i’m so sad that’s over i never wanted it to end.’ it was a perfect movie. not a totally happy movie, but a perfect one. please go see it and treat yourself to some cinematic joy.]
back to the nyt’s article. #1 on birbiglia’s list of advice is as follows; don’t wait. write. make a short film. go to an open mike. take an improv class. there’s no substitute for actually doing something. don’t talk about it anymore. maybe don’t even finish reading this essay.
i spend a lot of my awake hours talking about what i’m going to do when i grow up. thanks to my inherent inability to keep my mouth shut, particularly when feeling distress, everyone is aware of my aspirations. i want to write for a television show, i want to produce, i really enjoy writing prose, i’ve recently uncovered tangible careers in the theater industry and now i’m looking into that too.
i talk about my future a lot because so much of what i want to do in the future is important to me in this current moment. i willingly, actively, and eagerly read the hollywood reporter + vanity fair + variety every day. i have happily watched nearly every video produced by broadway.com. i re-watch my favorite tv shows [most recently ‘crazy-ex girlfriend’! go watch! it’s on netflix!] and study them and laugh to them with gusto. i love a lot of stuff; i especially love being an audience member to a lot of stuff.
because of that, i’m struggling to determine which of my interests to keep to myself, to enjoy solely as a spectator, and which ones to seek professionally, to throw myself into, full force. so while i really want to listen to birbiglia’s call to action, i don’t know how to practice + pursue something when i don’t know what thing i want to practice + pursue.
should i be writing? if the answer is yes, should i be writing scenes or essays or poems or what? what should i be doing? should i be filming? how do i practice producing when i don’t have access to a set? should i be backstage? how do i get backstage when all of my time is spent in communication classes, writing research papers?
i’m very aware that all these questions are coming from a place of fear. and laziness. but mostly fear.
i feel so much pressure to be practicing what i preach, to be practicing what i dream. and that pressure has kind of paralyzed my creativity. i’m paralyzed with fear. i don’t want to spend too much of my time doing one thing when i’m not even sure if that’s the thing i should be doing. when i’m not confident that i’m even good at that thing that i think i want to be doing [read it a few times, you’ll get it]. so lately, i’ve kind of just been doing nothing. it’s my way of not choosing a path. i’ve decided, both consciously and unconsciously, to stay at the starting line.
and it’s not that i’m not doing anything. i am doing things. i’m back at school, i’m reunited with my people. i’m going out and going to class and catching up with the friends i missed the most, in a place i really love. i’m babysitting and i’m about to start working at a coffee shop. i’m doing things. my life is full. at least that’s what i keep telling myself.
but then i come across something like birbiglia’s article and i’m reminded that i’m not doing enough. that instead of filling my time with lazy nights chatting in the living room + drinking wine, i should be writing more. i should be filming more. i should be focusing on my future.
i feel really guilty that i’m not trying harder.
it’s funny [and annoying] that the second i feel fairly content + present in regards to where i am, i conveniently discover a reason to feel concerned + anxious about what i’m doing.
how do i get out of this slump? should i work towards reassuring myself that how i’m living my life, right now, is totally okay? or am i supposed to push myself further, make myself write more, remind myself of where i want to be in a year?
someone tell me what to do!!!
i think that i’m in a moment of transition. transition back into my world, and away from my eight months of crazy + wonderful + new. i’m very happy to be home, but i do think that this stagnation could be a reaction to being home. i just spent months filming + writing + editing + talking about television and broadway everyday, because that’s all i had to do. my assignments at tisch forced me to be creative, they made me challenge myself in a way that felt really good. the kennedy center will kick you out if you don’t talk about three broadway shows a day [not true but also i feel like it may be an undercover rule]. everything i’ve ever dreamed of doing was handed to me on a silver platter, welcoming me with open arms and a camera in hand. i didn’t have to go out of my way to try new things. they were right in front of me. my daily life was my future dream.
and now that i’m back at butler, i don’t know how to afford myself the same opportunities i had when i was away.
i had a friend who i really trust + admire reach out to me when i was just about to leave new york. he and i are interested in a lot of the same things, so i really value what he has to say about my future plans + how to go about achieving my goals. he said,
keep working. keep writing. keep directing. keep acting. it takes 10,000 hours to become professionally competent in a skill. start putting your time in now. get the hang of telling great stories. make sure that camera never leaves your hand. watch an immense amount of movies and tv shows with a critical eye. keep learning and working.
i have his entire message saved on my desktop and i read it often. for a long time, it truly pushed me to keep writing + watching + learning. it was exciting. but right now, it’s kind of terrifying for me to read because i’m not doing any of this stuff. and i know i should be.
but should i be doing these things even if i don’t feel like doing these things? like if going out and randomly filming my friends and campus sounds like a glorified anxiety attack, should i be forcing myself to film? i know i want to film, eventually, in the right setting; butler just doesn’t feel like the right place to film.
and because i don’t want to film right now, does that mean that i’m serious enough about this whole thing? is it for me? according to people that i really trust and respect, i should be pushing my creativity, in all directions that interest me, always.
what if all of this worrying and planning and talking [i never stop talking] is for nothing? at this moment in time, i’m committed to moving to new york, i’m committed to applying for jobs, to fighting for a spot. but what if i don’t get a spot? what if i don’t get a chance? what will i do then?
i need a nap. xx abby