Page Fright!

I’ve found when I’m feeling tense before a gig, the only cure for it is to do the gig. In twenty minutes, I’ll be feeling different.

There’s a different kind of stage fright for writers. The scary venue is a blank page, and the gig starts when you sit down to fill it.

Unlike live gigs, nobody knows about this gig. There’s nobody there to impress, no friends to egg you on. You can just walk away from it. The person who booked you (you) will understand. Unfortunately.

You won’t tell yourself you got stage fright and chickened out, you’ll tell yourself the dishes needed doing, or you needed to send some emails, or…

How to beat the blank page?

Maybe a way to deal with it is to actually treat it like an actual gig.

Like with stage fright, the only cure for page fright is to do the gig. Like with live performances, when you start it’ll be awful, and then it’ll be awful some more, and then there’ll be moments where it’s not awful and you realise you were learning something all that time you were suffering.

You might actually find these gigs are way nicer than live gigs. At writing gigs, when you’re a struggling open spot, nobody sees. When you start ripping it, you can make it so everybody sees.

(I remember one comic I talked to describing writing as the actual job, and the gig as the drive home after the job…)

Like with your live gigs, the first rule is show up. Regularly. Pull some strings and book yourself for a residency.

Note, I said the gig starts when you sit down to fill the blank page. That’s when it starts. The mission is to sit down and write. Not to write The Greatest Thing Ever. Just show up. The masterpiece will follow.

Don’t leave me hanging!

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Audience = Gift, Deadline = Gift – A Cure For Writer’s Block!

People think comedians are crazy, but I feel sorry for people doing projects that don’t involve an audience.

If I have a stand-up idea like, now-ish, I can put it on its wobbly feet in front of some people like, tonight-ish.

The way tonight goes will change the shape of the idea for the next time I try it out. This process can repeat until we’re all happy with it. Having an audience is the gift that gives me an opportunity to take a chance…

Well, thanks for the gift, audience, but why do I want to get out of my comfort zone when you’re around?

Just a thought, but I reckon the gift of an audience won’t come to much without the gift of a deadline.

That’s the gift you have to organise.

Unlike a novelist who has to be really disciplined (or has the gift of a caring publisher breathing down their neck for a manuscript), stand-ups can commit to (say) an Edinburgh Festival run. That’s committing to a new hour of material or August is going to suck. Now those try-out nights really need to count.

The best deadlines I ever had were recording dates for radio shows (lucky me), or podcasts (don’t have to be lucky to do those). That mike is going to go live at that particular time, better have something to say into it…

Yes, going to Edinburgh in August is expensive (except when it’s not – be part of the Free Fringe!), but podcasting (for example) isn’t. The Camden Fringe or The Leicester Comedy Festival are also ace and may be nearer and less expensive for you. The Sheffield Comedy Festival is ace squared.

Yes, there’s a cost in time and effort; but whoever you are, what’s the long-term cost of not creating?

PS. Maybe the idea for non-performers is to find a way to involve an audience in your project, whatever that might look like.

How about this for novelists with writer’s block:

I had an idea to start a web company along these lines: You promise to help an author produce a manuscript by date (x). You get the author to give you, say, £1000 (more if you think they’ve got it). Both parties sign a legally-binding contract that you get to keep the money if you don’t get a manuscript of (n) pages on date (x).

I think this will result in a delivered manuscript 100% of the time. The reason that it needs to be a business is that it won’t work if you’re friends with the author. It has to be like “Strangers On A Train”. Maybe authors who don’t know each other could do this for each other via the web – each egging the other on to not complete!

Sounds sadistic, I bet someone’s already thought of it!

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