WRITING: On Bravery
November 15, 2013
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Recently, a friend did something that I would never be able to do: she got up on stage and did stand-up comedy for the first time. Not only that, but she did another set only a week later, giving herself no room to retreat if the first didn’t go well.
And of course, she was great. I didn’t see her first performance, but her second was hilarious and unique, standing out from the crowd at its very foundations of tone and performance. Instead of the typical bonding with the audience in a chummy performance that was more about fighting anxiety than anything, my friend used anxiety as a performance, offering awkward silences, tentative readings and scrambling through note cards to double the effectiveness of the jokes. A risky idea that could backfire in a show aimed at showcasing newcomers – and yet it was a roaring success.
When I went to the Banff World Media Festival in June, I was terrified. I’d received my ticket as a gift, and despite dipping my toe into networking with some reward, I’d never been successful at launching myself at strangers and convincing them that I’m worth paying attention to. But on the first day I talked myself into it, buried my terror inside, and made boring but friendly opening comments to a handful of strangers. Not only did I make some friends that day, but it launched what I think was a fantastically successful Banff trip. I made connections I wouldn’t have thought possible the week before. The trip took a lot of help from family and friends, but my current point is, it also took bravery.
You won’t get anywhere if you can’t bet on yourself in a risky situation. Sometimes it’s small: going up to a guest lecturer after a class to thank them and chat (which once scored me an internship). Sometimes it’s big: spending hundreds of dollars to fly across the country to try and make a mark, or taking on a big project because a mentor believes in you. Your career needs you to do this. Not just to get opportunities, but so when offered a huge opportunity, you can look it in the eye and say: I’m ready. Even if you’re not.
You’ll probably surprise yourself.