Being alive is a very hard thing to do and trying to make art on top of that is harder.
I am a writer, comedian and a maker of things. I take what I do very seriously, by which I mean I spend a lot of time digesting how to best actually produce work. How to spend my time, who to have around me, how to be quiet and how to get out of my own way. How to do the work I must do.
This isn’t advice about how to write a novel in a month or get published or whatever. That’s not advice I have, but what I do know for sure are the things that help me to foster my process.
Here they are:
1. Seriously, get out of your own way.
“If you want do any of the things you say you want to do, you have to quit drinking.”
– My therapist from exactly two years ago
I recited a list of everything I wanted from my life to my therapist: to write, to keep getting better at stand-up, to be honest, and vulnerable in relationships, and to be impeccable with my word always. You know, all sorts of other shit you say when you’re trying to impress a therapist. Things that felt impossible.
When I was drinking, ideas for essays and stories sort of sifted through me. I couldn’t hold on to anything enough to actually do anything with them. In part, I couldn’t write because I couldn’t truly see myself. The other part is that I spent my writing hours pretty drunk.
All sorts of things can stand in the way of the stuff we really want. If nothing else, move your furniture around.
2. Self-doubt is part of the process.
Margaret Malone, a writer drew it out for me in the clearest way possible.
From this I learned that making art means occasionally feeling like you don’t know shit and occasionally feeling like you know everything. You are never stuck on either side of it. Be patient, do the work, things will make sense again.
Check out Margaret’s collection, People Like You, here.
3. Find your people.
Find the people that are going to support your art. Don’t waste your time with folks who will never get it. Take classes, join groups, introduce yourself and be fucking nice. Invest in other’s work and they’ll invest in yours. This advice is from me, but almost anyone who is making cool art is standing on the shoulders of a supportive community. I am a total weirdo who only recently learned how to talk to people at events, which is just a sliver of evidence that being social is a skill just like anything else. Learn to ask questions.
Don’t know where to start? Check out the event calendar on this website that you are on right now!
4. Finish the project. The rest comes later.
This comes from writer Richard Chiem. Basically, he was saying that fixating on creating the perfect work, or your dream novel, or dream whatever art can stand in the way of creating the art that is going to move you to the place where you can do the work you want to do. Don’t stall. You have to be producing and completing projects and they have to see the light of day before you can do the Big Project you’ve always wanted to.
I am presently at work on accepting this advice. Check back in with me later.
Buy Richard’s brand new beauty of a novel, King of Joy.
5. Be nice to yourself.
There’s no point in lamenting how much work you aren’t doing. There’s less point in buying into the poisonous anxiety cycles of creating art. Good enough is better than none at all. Keep going.
Alayna Becker is a writer and comedian livin’ and lovin’ in Seattle. She’s been featured as one of the best of PDX at Helium Comedy Club, done some cool festivals and other things that would totally impress you. Her writing can be found in Manifest Station, Shout Your Abortion Anthology, The Inlander and more. Follow her: Instagram: dudelookslikealayna_ Twitter: Alaynaokayna