I’m less than three weeks from my show, Everything I Don’t Know. Because this is the first time I’m doing this show, it’s difficult to tell whether I’m on track for completing this in a timely manner, or whether it will be a mad dash to the end.
A few days ago, I had a particularly stressful rehearsal. The routines weren’t going as I hoped and I felt overwhelmed by the things I had to do (in part because I added 13 items to my to-do list in one go). I found that the solution was not to keep pounding away. It was to stop and cultivate stillness.
In any long term creative project, there will be challenges, but they are not insurmountable. Any amount of stillness, even five minutes of sitting quietly with no interruption, is enough to let your thoughts settle.
For example, one challenge of this rehearsal was that I found a major structural problem in the show. I had two back-to-back tricks that were way too similar. Both tricks were integral to the show, and the rest of the setlist had to stay. It seemed like an insurmountable problem–I couldn't eliminate a trick, and I couldn’t change their order. After ten minutes of quiet thinking, I realized something that I could change. The script.
I essentially combined the two tricks into one, so that the second was an extension of the first. It only took me a few minutes to figure this out, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I kept tediously working. I needed stillness to see the solution that was right in front of me.
Why does this work? Brené Brown says that “Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing.” Stillness is letting all the clutter fall away so that you can clearly see what matters.
If you’re burnt out. If you’re stressed. If it feels like the world is crashing down. This means that at the current moment, you’re probably doing too much. Yes, eventually do the work. But first, stop. Breathe. Go on a walk. Let your thoughts fall away and organize themselves. Don’t overdo it. Stillness wins, every time.
Thanks for reading! By the way, if you're in D.C., make sure to grab tickets to my LAST SHOW at GW, Everything I Don't Know, on April 23rd. See you there!