Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, That's Not Entirely Accurate

There are a handful of improv groups in central CT. Last week, I auditioned with one for which I felt I might be a good fit. After a couple minor hiccups early on, I thought I did quite well, certainly well enough to guarantee a callback.

I was wrong.

This is becoming somewhat of a theme for me. Apparently, I came across as nervous, undecided, and occasionally frustrated, although I was none of these things.1 Clearly, there's some disconnect between what I think I'm doing and what I'm actually doing.

I was under the impression I'd gotten pretty good at improv — at least on par with my fellow improvisers who keep getting snatched up for spots in established groups — but if I've learned anything over the past few months, it's this:

I'm not good at improv.

That's not to say I'm bad at it. I've been in some great scenes, and gotten plenty of laughs. But whereas a few days ago I'd have said I was pretty good, this latest setback (in a series of many) has finally made the truth sink in: I'm mediocre at best. It's become abundantly clear I'm not fit for any improv troupe.2

It's okay, though; I've already come to terms with this. In fact, I think it might be for the best. In their rejection, the group said I showed potential and should keep at it. And I will, since I enjoy it. But this rejection may be just the impetus I need to shift most of my focus back to something I know I'm good at: writing.

Then again, if I was so far off regarding my improv abilities, I might be deluding myself about my writing, too. After all, I've really only shared my fiction with friends and family, and it's not like they're going to say it sucks.3 The novel I'm writing might be utter tripe. I have no idea.

And that got me thinking. I soon realized I'm probably not as good as I think I am at a slew of things. In fact, I've put together a list:
  • Improv
  • Novel-writing
  • Web design (yep — my day job)
  • Volleyball
  • Imitating accents, eh?
  • Hostage negotiation
  • Self doubt
  • Making lists
Luckily, there are still a few things at which I'm exactly as good as I think I am:
  • Being a dad
  • Husbandry Being a husband
  • Scrabble
  • Photoshoppery
  • Juggling knives
  • Humorous footnotes4
Of course, I won't know if I'm actually bad at novel-writing until people read my novel. And I won't actually let people read my novel until I've finished the thing. So, I'd better stop lolly-gagging around here and get back to the word mines.5

Wish me luck!


1 Except for one brief bout of indecision during the first warm-up exercise, when my brain wasn't yet firing on all cylinders. (Actually, my brain never fires on all cylinders; I always leave one cylinder alive to spread the word of Nate, the Geometrical Killer.)
2 Well, unless they're Damn Fools.
3 Sure, a few in the local writing group gave negative feedback, but I'd already learned not to trust their opinions.
4 As opposed to humerus footnotes, which I'm no longer allowed to do, ever since they discovered my medical credentials were courtesy of Milton Bradley.
5 Stepping on one of these causes a literal explosion.

29 comments:

  1. 1) Groan! So many puns!

    2) Send me your chapter one and I will edit it with the red pen of doom. The more red ink there is the better writer you are. I don't waste time with tripe.

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    1. 1) 4 out of 5 footnotes agree: horrible puns are awesome. Then again, I've done worse.
      2) Thanks for the offer, Joe. Of course, I know for a fact my first chapter is rubbish. I wrote it years ago, so it's a) not as well-written as my latest material, b) not up-to-date with how the story has evolved, and c) holy exposition, Batman! But, if your offer's still open once I get going on the rewrite, I may have to take you up on it. (I suppose I could send my best short story instead, but thanks to a pompous character the puns are strong with that one.)

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    2. The red pen waits. It demands a sacrifice. Get to work!

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  2. Don't delude yourself, man. You excel at writing!

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    1. I know my blog posts are well-appreciated, and even some of my short (or flash) fiction, but I haven't yet tested the waters with a full-length novel. Until I do, the jury's still out. (Lazy jury. They just want to keep getting free food and hotel rooms.)

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  3. Sorry to hear about the audition, but YOU ARE NOT BAD AT IMPROV!¹ Who knows what they were looking for in those auditions, maybe they were just holding them to see if any celebrities would show up.

    ¹ Unless I have terrible taste

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    1. First of all, I can say with confidence that you have fantastic taste.¹ And I know I'm not bad at improv. But I no longer believe I'm good. Not yet. I'll keep working at it, though. I just felt this rejection (and consequently, this post) was the perfect motivation to get me back writing again.

      ¹ Unless I have terrible taste

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  4. If you're drawn to something, like improv, it is your thing. You can work on the skill, or try again. Kevin is right, they might have been looking for a certain type to fill a spot. Who knows? Your writing is fabulous. Write on!

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    1. I don't know if I'd say it's "my thing," but it's certainly one of them. And I'll continue to improve my skill, just not with as much gusto; I'll be too busy focusing my attention on one of my other "things." And also, my son.

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  5. You would have made the troupe for sure if you'd brought your trusty improv partner--the bat--to the audition.

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    1. But alas, I didn't have such foresight, instead shooing it through the window to safety, away from the horde of screaming children, yes, but out of my life forever.

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  6. Don't let rejection get you down. I've always had fun playing with you (even though I'm not too good at improv myself) and you were one of the best in our class! I think that with improv, it's important to find a group that has great chemistry with each other as much as being talented. But as someone who's seen you and played with you, I would never say you're not good at improv.

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Tianna, though don't worry; the rejection isn't getting me down. I'm a little disappointed, sure, but more than that it's motivated me to stop spurning my earlier love. Now I'll finally get my novel finished. (That's the hope, anyway.) As an added bonus, Denise is happy I'll be home more, even if I'll be spending the time holed up in my office.

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  7. Oh, man--sorry it didn't work out. I think that is probably one of those things you get better at as you practice, so I'd keep at it, regardless. And novel writing is one of those things EXACTLY. First novels mostly suck, especially first drafts of first novels. But as you go through drafts (especially if you get helpful feedback) and as you write more books, you get much better at it. My 7th book was my first published and I think it's pretty good, but I'm writing #14 now and it is still the only one published.

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    1. Yep, both improv and writing are definitely things you improve at with practice. In this case, I think my biggest problem was that my perception of my abilities was so far off from the reality. But just like writing (I'm still holding out hope my first novel will catch on -- once I've finished writing and rewriting it), I'll keep at it.

      (By the way, being a long-time reader of your blog, I have high hopes for your other novels as well... maybe not all of them, but certainly better than 1 in 13.)

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  8. I guarantee you're better at improv than I am. I always think of the most awesome, hysterical comment to add about an hour after I had my big chance to put it to use. I'd never even get up on stage until everyone else had turned the lights out in the theater and gone home for the night. I am waaaay too slow with the snappy comeback.

    And are you good or bad at juggling knives? I know I'm exactly as good as I think I am at lots of things. I'm absolutely worthless at most of them, including juggling. :D

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    1. Whether or not I come up with snappy comebacks in the moment, I always come up with better ones after the fact. Luckily, with improv, there's always the chance (not a huge chance, but still a chance) you'll be presented with a similar situation in the future and can trot out the comeback then. (Or, as I expect will happen to me, I'll do something completely different and then realize my missed opportunity afterward.)

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  9. Dear Grasshopper,
    You forgot to add procrastination to the list of things you are exactly as good as you think you are at.
    Love, your Ant

    P.S. you may actually be better at being a husband than you think ;)

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    1. Dear Ant,
      I didn't forget. I just hadn't gotten around to adding it yet.
      Love, G-Hop

      P.S. Ah, but don't forget my many puns, which drops me back down to being just as good as I think. ;)

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  10. GOOD LUCK!
    And the best thing about novel writing is, the more you do it, the better you get. I'm willing to bet improv is like that too, but i don't know for sure and my sis is in Chicago so i can't, like, ask her

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! And yep, improv's exactly like that. The more you do it, the more you know what works and what doesn't, your instincts and technique improve, and everything starts to jell. That's what I'm aiming for.

      Of course, if I try for more more more, that means I'm writing less. What I'm seeking is balance, so I can become both the best writer and the best improvising lunatic I can be.

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  11. There are still such things as imrpov troupes? I would have thought things like Xbox, Netflix, and the internet would've ruined them by now.

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    1. Surprisingly, there are still some of us who like to get out of the house, pretend to be someone we're not, and get laughed at for our troubles. Come, join us! (Um, not literally; that would be one heck of a commute.)

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  12. I don't think I'd be too good at improv. I need time to ponder before I tell a joke or two. Regular stand-up? Probably better, but I would still like time to prepare. On the other hand, I like telling stories to people in a group. So, who knows?
    Juggling knives?
    Nope.

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    1. I actually think you'd be pretty good at improv. It's not all about the jokes; I find it's often more about finding yourself in quirky and unexpected situations. Nevertheless, storytelling and stand-up are great alternatives if you prefer to come in prepared. As for me, I like the challenge of making stuff up on the spot.

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  13. Nate, don't sell yourself short...your Canadian accent is great! Hoser!!

    Please post video of knife juggling ASAP.

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    1. For the video, do you want footage from during the juggling or after? (I'm not sure why I'm asking, since there'd only be aboot a half-second of during...)

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  14. I still think you're the funniest guy in the blog-o-sphere! In fact, I barely visit any blogs these days (just moved in with demented parent, literally [big time and brain cell suck), and your blog is one of the few blogs I'm actually commenting on because you make me laugh.

    ...and besides that, I'm looking forward to the someday release of your 'monkeys in space' novel. ...oh yeah, and for what it's worth, I think you should keep your finger in the Impromptu because creative endeavors feed creativity which is great for writing! :)

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    1. Well, I don't think I'm the funniest, but then again, as this post proves, I've been wrong before. Perhaps you're right.

      And yes, creative endeavors certainly breed creativity. I'll keep my finger (or perhaps my foot or my spleen) in the impromptu improv.

      But what's this, now I have to set my novel in space? Actually, that's not a bad idea. I thought invisible monkeys might be enough to sell the thing, but invisible floating monkeys? It practically sells itself! (Don't worry, if I move the setting to space, there will also be pigs.)

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