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There Is No “I” in Team? Well, Maybe There Should Be…

I like clean things.  When I say clean things, I mean things that don’t involve too many props.  For example, writing and WordPress.  You don’t need much.  To write, you only need a pencil, paper, and your head.  To write on WordPress, you only need a computer, your head, and a free template.  It’s really simple.  To me, it’s CLEAN.

 

I think that’s also why I like comedy.  It’s a clean art form.  You only need, you and the microphone.  Well, that’s not totally true.  You also need an audience.  But, it’s cleaner, let’s say, then a band.  If you’re in a band, you need your guitarist, singer, bassist, drummer, and sometimes – keyboard player.  Unless, you’re the White Stripes.  Then you only need your sister on drums.  I do wonder, sometimes, if that’s how Jack White formed his “band” by getting clean as possible.  What do I need to perform?  How can I perform with the bare minimum, so I can concentrate on the performance or the art itself?

 

That’s the question I have today.

 

I have been bogged down before with more than what was clean, meaning more than what was necessary, many times.  I ran shows in New York city.  All I wanted to do was perform – to make a place for myself to get up and get some stage time.  I did that, but in the process I gave stage time to a lot of other people.  The shows I produced were almost always group shows.  Some of the other acts were grateful for the stage time, some of them not so much.  A smarter version of me would’ve started a show just for myself.  There are performers who start one-person monologues, they find a space – only for themselves – and they hone their own personal performance, over and over.  Lewis Black comes to mind.  As the story goes, Lewis found a willing stage on the Westside of NYC and worked on his performance night after night.  Is there a correlation between this chiseled solo performance and his success?  I think so.

Lewis Black, a success of his own making.

 

Around the year 2000, I also put together a website.  It was called, girlcomic.net.  It got a lot of publicity.  We interviewed Amy Poehler, Janeane Garafolo, Margaret Cho, Joy Behar, Judy Gold, Gloria Steinem, Susie Essman, Sarah Silverman, and many others.  I “edited” the site and wrote my own pieces, but you know what suffered?  My own pieces.  There was too much “other” work to do.  There was the securing of interviews and the editing of other writers’ pieces.  In the end, I was left unsatisfied.

 

Later, I ran a second blog for a year or two called, “Coffee and Showbiz.”  I created it as a companion piece to my show in New York city.  On the site, I gave a lot of industry specific “advice.”  I wrote a few pieces about the business that were even pretty widely circulated.  One piece was called something like, “Kathy Griffin Says Get Your Finances in Order.”  It was all about how it is STILL important to be financially competent even when you are an artist.  What I remember most about coffeeandshowbiz is two-fold.  I remember that I spent a lot of time trying to figure out html.  I would spend hours just trying to figure out how to get a box in the sidebar to look okay.  The second thing I remember is pulling teeth to come up with topics.  For the most part, I didn’t enjoy the experience.  Why?  Because I was writing for other people, again, and not for me.

 

Now, this blog – as I’ve said time and again – is entirely written for me.  I can feel this definitive and clear shift that has come with writing content FOR ME.  All of my brain power and focus is now on creative ideas that I enjoy and find exciting.  That is such a shift.  Yet, at the same time, I feel like other people realize this concept much earlier on and that I am very late to the party.

 

It took me a long time to truly realize what creating something for yourself is and how when you focus on something for you, it actually ends up being a better experience for the reader.

 

I don’t know if this is a women’s issue – always looking towards group projects and group goals, as opposed to putting yourself first – or if it’s simply my issue.  Perhaps, there’s just something in my psychology that thinks I have to rely on other people to accomplish something creative or at least something in my psychology that USED to think that way.

 

The other day I had an exhilarating conversation with an old friend of mine who is also a comedic performer and a very good one.  I was talking to her about this idea I have that I’m really excited about.  It’s something that I want to start filming in September.  I’m really excited about the idea in a way that only the creator of the concept can be.  When I tell other people the idea – some of them get it immediately and laugh hysterically, while others stare and blink.  I don’t care.  I know the idea is good.  However, even with that confidence in my idea, I felt that I couldn’t do it without a film crew and a lot of assistance.  There I was again, back to my old devices.  I have a great idea, so now let me give it over to everyone else.  Stupid.

 

Honestly, you don’t need all these people to get where you’re going…

 

My friend shifted my perspective back to me, in a way that I truly needed.  She said, “You know, I did the same thing once.  My project X that I had been working on for years, someone came up to me one day and said, I can help you with that.  So, I took him on and accepted his help.  The idea ended up changing completely with his input.  I realized that the idea was my baby.  I realized that I could pull it off without help.  And, finally, I realized that I took his help in the first place because I thought that my ability wasn’t enough.  It is enough and so is yours.”

 

I can’t tell you how illuminating this conversation was.  I had just come off a meeting with a “film crew” that left me uneasy in my gut.  These were people who I was going to contract (pay) in some way to help me get my project off the ground.  Yet, immediately after the meeting, I felt a pit in my stomach.  As I processed it, I realized it was because it was clear to me that the “crew” was going to try and exert as much creative control as possible over my idea.  The film crew’s supposed “help” was going to change my idea and I did not want my idea changed.

 

My friend said to me, “You are enough.  You can get this idea off the ground, your way.”

 

She was right.  I’m so glad that I’m finally getting the message.

 

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LewisBlack, crewteam, feature-pic

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39 thoughts on “There Is No “I” in Team? Well, Maybe There Should Be…

  1. Moms, I loved this post. Thank you. You’ve encapsulated what many creative people feel and I think the “woman” thing you mentioned has some truth to it as well. “Something” is nudging you in the way you need to go. Listen. Wonderful, inspiring post — thank you, I needed this.

    1. thank you, brig. this one felt, truly, good to write. i think i needed to say it. and each time, when i write something like this, it solidifies the concept for me. do you know what i mean? that has to be a good thing… much love, sm

  2. I think it’s to do with a fear that begins in childhood. There’s a certain safety in sharing blame and guilt. How many times did I tell my mother “He did it too!” :D
    In real life I’m rather anti-social so this isn’t a big issue for me. I’m the decider. Did I just quote Bush?

    1. loooool. you may have. quoted bush, that is. you may be right with it as a concept that began in childhood. when it’s all you – it’s all your victory and all your defeat. i don’t know what it is – but, i have a ‘thing’ that is two-pronged – 1, i’m always trying to lift those below me up, and 2, i think – deep down – that i need all this ‘help’. when in reality you really don’t. actually, i don’t think it’s the needing of ‘help’. i think it’s more…’oh, the idea makes me nervous. i know it’s good, but i’m not sure it’s good. so, if i enlist these other people and they sign on, it must mean it’s good.’ meanwhile, i’m strong enough at this point -as a comic- where if i say to the right people, ‘i need help with this idea of mine’ – that will be enough for them to sign on. i’m working through it all. but, i KNOW that i’ve got to do my ideas. got to. and this ‘short film’ idea is a good one. so, finally, do it, i will. xoxoxo, sm

      1. I’m sure it’s good! I’ve told you before that Mike thinks you’ve got fantastic presence and timing on film. He knows what he’s talking about too because he’d been successful enough by the time he was 35 to retire from acting ;)

      2. and that is success, indeed. i feel like as i’m ending my 30s, i’m only getting started! but, like my friend also said (the one i mention in the post), “what we do is art and you can’t rush art. it comes together at different times for all of us.” she is very, very smart that one. much love, pinky, much love, sm.

  3. I think I’ve said this before, but one of the reasons why your blog is so dang good is because it’s stripped down, not gimmicky, and completely you. Like you said, you’re not writing for anyone but yourself and no one has their sticky fingers in what you’re doing. (Plus, there’s the whole you’re an awesome writer thing.)

    1. “sticky fingers” is such a good way to put it. i don’t even think this ‘film crew’ meant to pour their doughy substance all over my idea. however, they don’t know me and they don’t know that i am good. and in the end i have a TON of comedy experience, far more then them. i think it comes down to TRUSTING MYSELF. and wow, do i fight with that sometimes. thanks for saying all that, ems, i really and TRULY appreciate it. if i didn’t get comments from people who were smart and talented, like yourself, i’m not sure i’d continue this at all. so, thank you. xo, sm

  4. I find a similar vein in most of the writer’s here that I love, do your own thing even if it means bucking convention. I’ve lived most of my life doing the “right” thing and it didn’t result in happiness. It was only when Little One was ill and we decide to homeschool him that I really started to embrace our quirkiness. So many people were rabidly opposed to our doing it, but it felt so right. It’s scary doing your own thing. I always try to remember that quote, “fortune favors the bold”. You are bold SM and I love it. :-)

    1. “fortune favors the bold.” such a brilliant quote, fishes. such a brilliant quote. and the ‘it’s scary doing your own thing.’ it is, now, isn’t it. like i said to waiting, i think my lesson here is in TRUSTING myself. this blog has been nothing, but re-affirming in that way. thank god. the best thing i ever did for no money. well, the second best. ;) i also loved what you said about ‘after homeschooling your little one, you embraced your quirkiness.’ quirkiness is everything. it’s the beauty in great character, i think. thanks for such a great comment, fishes. seriously. much love, sm

  5. I think there’s something ingrained in women that tells us to work as a team, not assert ourselves too much and believe wet T-shirts contests are empowering. I am excited to learn about your upcoming project. If it’s anything like this blog, it will be outstanding.

    1. so, it’s a vag thing then, huh? i have such a hard time separating what is vag related and what is part of our human-thing. tho, i am SOOOO with you, i think dudes have a much easier time asserting their own ideas, if that makes sense. see, i’m even questioning that statement? time to go yell at my lady parts. honestly, if my vag could just grow a set of balls, i think we’d be alright over here. sigh. i think only jamie lee curtis has that answer. xo, sm

  6. Great revelation! It doesn’t really matter when it comes, what is important is that it does.

    I can’t wait to see what you’re up to, because if it’s half as good as your blog it will be a raving success.

  7. Oh Sweet Mother of Infinite Wisdom, thank you! I feel like I just got an ‘atta girl’! I’m not a writer by trade, but (and please don’t gag) a computer geek who has to seek her creative outlet in as many ways as possible. Believe it or not, writing and configuring software can be VERY creative! I just spent the morning working with someone who could potentially make or break the biggest deal my small little software company has ever seen…or even has possibly fathomed. And the reason the decision-maker I’ve been working with is probably going to choose us is because of what I did today…which ‘I’ did for the ‘TEAM’! Maybe I’m a little off topic, but hey, I’m on a huge high right now! Thanks for the great post!

    1. hey ramelles, no, no, no, computer stuff is WAY creative. it’s just not the creative place where I excel and I tend to do things like trying to teach myself russian when I’m half fluent in spanish, you know what i mean? my piece was more about playing to your strengths and not getting f’ed by distractions. regardless, congrats on the deal! and lord knows i will NEVER stop working in teams and in group projects – the upcoming canadica blog is one of them – however, for ME, i need to make sure i don’t excuse or distract myself from the projects i should be doing based on the fiction that i need ‘all this help’. you know what i mean? much love, sm

  8. Bill Burr said once that stand-up comedy is unlike any other art form because you can’t practice it alone in a room. There’s no way to know whether you’re funny other than getting up on stage. What I love about it is that whether I do well or suck, I like it (I’ve been to a few open-mics.)
    I’m addicted to stand-up comedy. The only thing I love more than watching it is doing it myself.
    I liked your friend’s encouraging words. And they’re true of most of us. I know I believe in myself a lot less than I should.
    Nice post.

    1. i love bill burr. he’s one of my fave comics and i’ve performed with him many times back in ny. he’s also a good guy and not a douche. one of my fave performances of his is when he’s getting heckled mercilessly in philly. youtube it. it’s worth it and it is legendary. are you watching him in ‘breaking bad’ at all? he’s got a significant part and he’s nailing it. i do love the solo-ness of stand up. it’s you and the mike. that’s it. writing is like that too, me thinks. much love, sm

  9. You’re like an army of 1 who’s just realizing that you aren’t just the buck private but the 5 star general as well. Easier said than done, but never likely to be done without effort and self-realization

    1. true dat, one point. true dat. also wanted to ask you if you wanted to write a post for canadica. on the yankee side, of course. no sweat if you don’t and no pressure. this is the gist of it: https://sweetmotherlover.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/i-have-an-international-blog-challenge-idea/

      if you want to do it, shoot me an email here: sweetmotherlover@gmail.com and i’ll get you on the schedule, first opening is the second week in jan, right now. much love, sm

  10. I have said many times, my blog is for me. I do not write it with others in mind. I try not to hurt anyone, or put anything out there that might hurt others, but I do not write to or for others either. I try not to edit for an “audience,” but work in real time… putting it out there the way I think and feel in the moment. I think it works. The feedback I get seems to confirm that it’s the right approach. Nice post Mom.

  11. I think we all suffer from that “put the needs of others first” crap. And it doesn’t occur to us until we’re completely drained that hey, our needs haven’t been met at all! So enough of this whole subjugating ourselves in favor of others. Go with your gut, Momma. You can do this on your own, You don’t need to work with people who are going to take your baby and dress her up in weird ugly clothes. Sometimes a Team of One is best.

  12. Well you KNOW I’m all for honouring that pit of the stomach feeling.
    Go, Sweet Mother! Go, you good thing!
    Do it your way. I know it shall fly.
    Because a) you rock, and b) being psychic, I have an edge you see, when it comes to knowing stuff…
    Much love to you xx

  13. This is what I love about going therapy– that, at its simplest, it’s CLEAN. All I really need to do my job is two chairs and a box of tissue. One time I arrived at work and the power was out and so the boss was sending everyone home, but I was still able to stay and do my job. Felt pretty awesome.

  14. Amen, sister! I think this is a very common issue for women. And I think you are a helper by nature. It’s evident in the generous advice you graciously extol, almost as if you want others to be successful too, which is a very strange concept in LA.

  15. I had to go away and get a cup of coffee to give myself time to think on this one. I /think/ as women we instinctively know the value of collaboration but there is a difference between asking or paying for help and asking for collaboration.

    Asking for help implies that we know what needs to be done but lack the specific skills to do it ourselves. Asking for a collaboration however implies that change is /invited/ and welcomed.

    Blurring the lines between help and collaboration is asking for trouble but we do it all the time. Maybe that really is a girl thing.

  16. Being yourself and doing it alone is hard for many but if you know what you want then you should go for it. Sometimes I wonder if I am saying/doing things just to keep people happy but at the end of the day it’s me who has to decide. Your idea sounds great. Also your blog is easy to read because you don’t have all the extras. I like it. :)

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