In Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”, she lists the things she learned from Lorne Michaels.
‘The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30’
This is a testament to doing your best, getting it right the first time, but fine-tuning your work til the last possible second, and then letting it go.
You can’t be on that kid standing at the top of the water-slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute”
I have a big weekend coming up, two shows and a literary festival. While I’m excited at the possibilities, fear creeps into my head like a gas leak of self doubt. But then I think of Tina, who has done alright for herself, who also says:
What I learned about “bombing” as an improviser was that…[it] is painful, but it doesn’t kill you…you will still be physically alive when it’s over”.
I think about her metaphor of a child at the top of the water-slide, frozen with terror as everyone else zips by–gliding down the chute, and bolting back up the stairs for another go. I know that kid. I’ve been that kid. When my husband and I were traveling with my best friend and her husband in Prince Edward Island, we were in a hotel with an amazing pool and slide. Being wise, respectable adults, we naturally got a little bit drunk and made that slide our bitch. We were hooting and hollering, splashing and swimming, when a father came in with his young son. The boy looked in awe at the water-slide. It took ages for him to even get up the stairs but once up there, he just stared into the black void of the chute. The four of us rallied around the boy, explaining how fun (and safe) it was. But he just stood there, unable to scale the wall of his own fear.
I was up at the the top at the slide, alone with the serious looking boy, who had now grown a small beard. I leaned down to get ‘on his level’, and said “I understand why you’re afraid, but you should know that the other side of that coin is regret. You’ll regret not giving it a try–and that’s worse than being afraid”. His jaw slackened, his eyes widened. I was really getting through to him. This is when I noticed that my ‘getting on his level’–crouching down, leaning forward with my hands on my knees, meant accidentally squeezing my bikini-clad A-cups together. And this boy had never been so close to boobs before. Or maybe he’s around breasts all the time, and was horrified by how tiny mine were. (He strokes his beard, Really? That’s all you’ve got?”) Still, with my inspirational, boob-tempered speech, his confidence lifted, and he raced down the chute. There was this brief second where we all waited silently for the boy’s rebirth; and when he came out on the other side, splashing into the water, we all applauded his bravery.
And then there was five.
That little boy, having conquered his fear, made an endless circle: up the stairs, down the chute, in the water, and back up the stairs.
And when I think about fear, fear of failure, of choking, I just think about what I told that boy–and that it is something I must tell myself. The last thing I want to feel is regret for not even trying. And I think again of Tina Fey, and the phrase that I have tacked to the cork board above my desk.
You have to let people see what you wrote. It will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated”.
And this can apply to anything…but you never know, if you get over the fear, you might make a huge splash. You might even see some boobs. Anything is possible.