The Comedian And The Butterfly

If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’ve probably struggled with this fear of failure on far-too-many occasions. Most people think fear of failure only applies to stage fright, but this isn’t the case. It affects your writing, performing, and marketing efforts. In this article, I’m going to address how the fear of failure takes us out of a creative flow. How does worry of failure affect your writing? If you’ve read any of my articles on the importance of creativity in stand- up comedy, you’ve been introduced to the idea of “differentiation.” That is, the ability to be different from all the other comedians working today. Without it, you’re set blends into the 20 other sets that an audience saw the same night. But once you differentiate yourself, fans start seeking YOU out. If differentiating yourself is important, what does that imply? It implies that you must be unique and different. In short, you need to try new ideas out that other comedians aren’t doing. If you have a fear of failure, you’re simply not going to take this action. Unfortunately, the best way to break through a fear of failure is by blending into the crowd and doing what everyone else is doing. If you don’t stand out, there’s very little chance of doing something “dumb” or “embarrassing.” But there’s also ZERO chance of doing something amazing, which is exactly what the audience remembers at the end of a show. This same principle applies to your actual performances . Are you scared of moving off-script? I’ll tell you from experience, the times I’ve improvised on stage have been some of the most memorable moments of my performances. But how does having a fear of failure take you out of flow? First, you continually destroy your momentum . Would you be an effective stand-up comedy writer if someone busted into your room every 2 minutes and asked “bros how far?” Of course not. But most comedians do this to themselves constantly. Every time you break your momentum it takes time to get back into it. When there’s fear of failure (specifically, when you continually ask yourself questions due to fear) you interrupt your momentum. In fact, it becomes almost impossible to build momentum because every time you think of a new joke/line/etc. it instantly gives you something new to worry about, which stops your momentum yet again. If creativity is 5 gear in your car then asking yourself “worry questions” is like jamming it into 1 gear on the highway. Second, these questions continually distract yourself from your work. If you’re asking yourself “worry questions” than you’re not actually thinking about comedy… you’re thinking about fear. If you spend an hour writing comedy and 45 minutes of it worrying and analyzing yourself then you didn’t spend an hour working on comedy… you spent 15 minutes (actually, it’s lower because you interrupted your momentum and had to keep rebuilding it). Last, fear of failure makes the process of writing NO FUN! If a comedian doesn’t have fun writing their comedy, what’s the chances that the audience will actually enjoy it? It’s extremely low. Isn’t it true that the jokes and bits that you had the most fun writing were also the ones that the audience enjoys the most? It’s not a coincidence. How can you have fun while you’re continually second- guessing yourself? Is there any activity that you enjoy where you do continually worry about failure? Probably not. That’s because it’s impossible to get into flow when you’re worried about failure.
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