Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment (#14: Necessary Self-Delusions)

by Pam Victor

[The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment is my one-year challenge to make a living through creative pursuits. Read all the updates here.]

"Confidence is 10% hard work and 90% delusion."
- Tina Fey

You have to be at least 90% delusional to work in any creative field. You have to delude yourself that you're not wasting your life, no matter what your parents tell you. You have to delude yourself that you're not pissing away your cum laude from Smith College. When you get onstage, you have to delude yourself that you're not some two-bit hack. Every time you stand in front of a class or write an essay, you have to delude yourself that you have something worth listening to, and it's not just a gooey stream of caca, marbles, and bottle caps pouring forth from your mouth and fingers. To get anywhere at all, you have to delude yourself that the impossible is possible.

We pretend, and therefore we are.
Just me talking about improv for a
mili-second with Tina Fey
when I accosted her at 30 ROCK.

Over the course of this Experiment so far - actually, over the course of my entire creative career - I've had to buy 110% into that whole menu of self-deception in order to have the confidence to make any of these jobs happen. Pretty much 95% of the time that I've gotten onstage, it's in a job that I booked and produced myself. I'm not saying I'm such hot shit. On the contrary, I'm saying that I am very rarely invited to perform in a show. (I try very hard not to think about whether this trajectory has anything to do with my talent and desirability as a stage partner.) Way back when, as a newly hatched improviser, I waited in vain for the resident improv troupe to cast me. When they didn't - because why would they? - I ended up putting together my own team and booking my first show. (Actually, it was in the reverse order: I booked our first show on a whim, then hastily put together a team.) Fast-forward a dozen years later to this weekend -  when I get onstage this Saturday, it's in a show that I conceived, produced, directed, promoted, and, not coincidentally, perform in. 

Maybe this trend is just my lot in life. Maybe it's the way things go for some people. Maybe I'm a big, fat loser without an ounce of talent who nobody wants to play with??? Who knows? All I do know is that the vast majority of the time I have to bust my ass to make the gig happen, beat the bushes for more gigs, create opportunities where none existed before, ask for the inconceivable, get shot down, dust myself off, ask again. (Again, I'm not hot shit. Not by any means. Just desperate, determined, an delusional.) I wouldn't be able to get out of bed every morning if I didn't buy into the lie I tell myself that anything is possible. And then spend the day working hard making it so.


It's the beginning of the month, so a time to look back at the previous month. I made my monthly goal of $1,334 (plus a little) in October because I got paid for a six week-long teaching gig. Here are all the jobs I got paid for in October:
  • Facilitating two workshops
  • Producing a show
  • Teaching a workshop to a local college improv team
  • Teaching the next round of six-week improv classes
  • Managing my improv troupe for Sept. and Oct.
  • Performing in four improv shows
I am so very not in the Tina Fey-level tax bracket, but even so, that last one never gets old. :)

Ok, I gotta go. It's time to screw up my courage to send out resum├ęs for jobs that don't yet exist...

* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs  "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is finishing up work on "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ and Dave Book" with co-authors TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. Read all her nonsense at www.pamvictor.com

1 comment:

  1. Hi Pam,

    There's a clinical term for this - adaptive grandiosity. I wish I could say that I had made it up, but I didn't. And all that hustle only speaks well of you.