Curtain Time

Day 324 Week 47 Q4 Tuesday, November 21, 2023

There comes a time for every creative outlier when the curtain goes up. This is not only for performers but for anybody who’s having an interview, a first date, or any place where you need to tell the story. And by a story, I don’t mean something fictitious; I mean the narrative of what’s actually going on. In order to engage life, you have to show up. And when you show up, you had better have a story. And it certainly helps if it is accurate and if you know it to be true. Some stories are meant to manipulate, but I am not encouraging those. I am encouraging you to tell a story to yourself to understand who you are, what you’re doing, and why you are doing it.

There’s a compelling reason why you need to have a clear and consistent story.  If you spend all of your time acting and pretending, you might lose track of who you are. Have you noticed that most famous actors’ marriages don’t last very long? Perhaps this is because they become so facile at telling a story that is not theirs. In any case, from the creative outlier perspective, there is a time when the curtain goes up, and that is when you have to perform if you are a musician or make that pitch if you were an entrepreneur or a pitcher. 

In order to get anything done, it will take more than you, which means you need other people who have some stake in what you are doing or in you. These people are called stakeholders, and they can be your boss or your subordinate, or your peer; in all cases, they still need a story.  For me, I have found it’s best if they will receive the same story so that I don’t have to remember what I said to which person. And even more importantly, then, I don’t have to remember what to say to myself.

Shakespeare said that life was a stage, and if so, there is a time when the curtain goes up, and the performance begins. Of course, this can be a metaphysical curtain, and it does not have to be an actual curtain. But there is a time when you have to begin your narrative, and sometimes you can delay this, perhaps of your entire life, or just for a minute. But curtain time always comes, and it’s best if you are ready for it.  And as in all performances, practice is helpful. Not practicing a script for you all comes off as canned and inauthentic. You do not want to memorize the presentation. It is not like playing a piece by Chopin or any of the great classical composers, where all the notes are expected to be in the correct order at the right intensity and at the right tempo. It is more like singing the blues using easy chords, but the notes are hard, and the feelings are harder.

By the way, you can practice in your mind. You do not have to speak out loud or play an actual instrument in order to prepare your brain for the patterns that it will go through. I know that some musicians memorize their solos constructed from multiple takes and patiently glued together, like cutting and pasting, but that’s not my style. I think that life is a gigantic improvisation and that if you just cut and paste everything together in the same order all the time, it is too dull for me.  I know people construct performances so that they will look like they are extemporaneous. Still, I’m actually a believer in the real extemporaneous because life impinges upon you in unpredictable ways. You have to be prepared no matter what happens, and you do not know what is going to happen.