This article is about improving your mind-set in order to make you a better creative. It might make you a more successful and happier person too. Personal development (becoming a better stand-up or whatever) is not domain specific. It is a holistic process, an ideology, a life philosophy. The ideas in here may seem tangential to what you are trying to do, but I believe they are crucial, and I’ll explain why. I’ll post this article in 3 parts over consecutive days.
I saw shows in Edinburgh this year that possessed something that I don’t have in my locker at the moment: conviction. This was vividly present in some of the best performers I saw up there: Daniel Kitson, Josie Long, Alfie Brown. In comparison, my persona and my material is slightly apologetic, needy, validation seeking. That is, it lacks a deep sense of confidence in the show or myself. This influences the content (you go for crowd pleasing, easy laughs) and the perception (conviction is seductive: stand-up, life indeed, is all smokes and mirrors, it is a magic trick).
In stand-up, people often perform to fill a hole in themselves. Your aim is to perform to fill a hole in other people. Find something worth saying, and say it with conviction.
Your hole cannot be fixed by performing. It can only be fixed by changing how you think about life and yourself. And if you leave the hole unfixed, you will have a tangible neediness which will affect the performance, your relationships, your life.
What is the hole? It is a lack of self-worth, which results in outcome dependency. It can be hard to admit to yourself of others that you have “the hole”, but an honest analysis of your current reality is the first essential step in self-improvement. This article is my admission, and it has been difficult to write.
We live in a society which attacks our self-worth pretty much constantly. Our culture convinces us that personal value and happiness is something that must be attained, that it lies outside of us, something that needs to be achieved, bought, worn. But that isn’t true. Who you are, the person you’ve become and are becoming, your vision: that is enough.
This all affects your creativity because it negatively colours your attitude to risk: you need affirmation so you don’t risk not having it. Therefore: you go for clichés, for the mainstream, you take a consequentialist approach. You end up with something boring, average, easy.
People often say “you must be confident! You’re a performer!” People think being a performer is a symbol of strength. It is often actually a symbol of weakness. Performance is an addiction (like alcohol, co-dependency, or drugs) that we use to fill the hole. Skill won’t fix the hole though, sex won’t fix the hole, getting bigger muscles won’t fix the hole, stuff won’t fix the hole: you can only fix the hole by changing the way you think about yourself and the world.