The Beauty of Discipline
Every artist (and those of us who have the arrogance to use such a term to describe ourselves), struggles with insecurity. I’ve spend much of my life alternating between the fear that my career is moving too slowly, and the fear that I have no talent and will never succeed at anything. But that anxiety has always been aimed towards my future work. I never understood what it felt like to be scared of your past work, until this past weekend.
Let me backtrack a bit. While I’ve written quite a few scripts, I only have one “real” completed artistic achievement to my name. It is an amateur TV pilot called SketchShow. Throughout high school, my best friend/writing partner and I dreamed of creating a fusion between a sketch show and a sitcom that was based on our unique sense of humor. We spent four years coming up with ideas for bits, and in January 2016 we filmed a half-hour pilot, certain that it would be our ticket to glory. It wasn’t.
The multitude of TV festivals and executives that we sent the pilot to did not show any interest, and we quickly wrote the whole thing off as a failure. An incredibly fun failure, and an experience I’d treasure forever, but a failure nonetheless. While it’s hard to have regrets, considering the pilot was an exact fulfillment of our original vision, we often cringe at the fact that we made something nobody wanted.
Over the weekend, as some friends were visiting our apartment, my roommate suggested rewatching SketchShow. I had shown it to him two years ago, and he remembered it being funny, and wanted to see it again. I wasn’t so sure this was the best course of action. I’ve evolved a lot as a writer since then, and I did not want to be embarrassed by the product and ruin the memory of making it. But I was outnumbered, so we watched it.
As the opening credits rolled, I think I was more scared than I was the first time I watched it. I had probably seen the pilot 50 times by now, but it had probably been over a year since the last time.
And I was pleasantly surprised.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great work of television by any stretch of the imagination. And if I was making it now, I’d certainly do a lot of things differently. But I was thrilled by two facts. 1.) Some of the jokes actually held up. And 2.) While it had its share of writing and directing mistakes, I was able to quickly identify those mistakes. The despondency I felt two years ago, when nobody enjoyed what I thought was a perfect product, were replaced by the realization that I’m much better at this now than I was then. The projects I’m working on now will likely avoid those problems. And two years from now, when I watch the things I’m currently filming, I’ll be able to identify newer problems that will make the next projects better.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t still fret about my career advancing quickly enough. But in learning to not hate my early work, I realized that the process I’m going through is working, even if it’s not at my desired speed.