No Shortcuts

I have auditioned lots of possible topics to write about for this piece and none of them stuck. I ran through that list again but then I looked up at my bulletin board where I keep quotes, thoughts, and reminders posted. Today, one particular post-it caught my eye. It says, “the are no shortcuts; the joy is in the work.” I wrote that to myself a few months ago and I need that reminder often.

This entertainment world I have chosen to enter can be very seductive. It looks glamorous and stylish and fun and celebratory. The most public face of this world can seem like a pretty cool way to live. It is not hard to be seduced by the glamour and riches and think that’s the goal. 

This world is also full of rejection—often cold, hard rejection. It can be full of judgement and seemingly impossible standards to live up to. It can feel very competitive and cutthroat. It can be isolating. 

For me, I work on a daily basis to stay out of those two contrasting, limiting places. I remind myself that the joy is not in the results or the outcome. The joy is in the work itself. It’s in the moment when I solve a plotting issue or I find an insight into a character I’m building. The joy is in the creation of a backstory that allows me to bring life to someone who seemed distant and unreal before.

The other half of that truth for me is that there really are no shortcuts. And because there are no shortcuts, I sure as heck better find joy in the work! I have experienced the vast difference from when I try to take shortcuts and spend a minimal amount of time building a character for acting class. Those performances are stale and lifeless and I always hear about it from my teacher. I’ve learned something I don’t like about myself when that happens: I get defensive and sulky. It hasn’t been the easiest lesson to learn because it involved falling on my face and embarrassing myself but it has been incredibly valuable.

I have realized that I likely would have left this work behind by now if that was possible for me. It asks so much of me: to be honest and vulnerable and leave myself open to criticism. It’s really challenging to feel so exposed and acknowledging that it’s a part of the process. Yes, I can choose to create purely for my own viewing but for me, that doesn’t feel complete. Part of seeing projects through is sharing them publicly. I have questioned why I do that to myself again and again. The answer is that I have to. It’s how I make sense of the world and how I make sense of myself. It’s how I connect to the world.

The other answer is that creativity also gives back unbelievable gifts: self-knowledge, connection, and vitality. I know what it means to live out loud. I know how it feels to really feel alive. I can’t trade that or go backwards. So, I plug away and remind myself: there are no shortcuts; the joy is in the work.