They just weren’t ready for you yet

Last night I sent an article, I had written a while ago and just edited, to an online women’s magazine and got an email back just a few hours later to say it hadn’t been accepted. This is the same website that I applied to work for about a year ago and was not successful, but they encouraged me to submit articles on a freelance basis. It upset me that they were not taking it, and reminded me of all past creative rejections in the past (including their previous rejection) so I felt it even more strongly than if it was just a single incident. I may have cried a little, while listening to ‘You just haven’t earned it yet baby’ (the Kirsty MacColl version).

The article I wrote is not really in my usual tone of writing – it’s a bit more adapted for the tone I have seen their articles written in – way more cheesy  women’s magazine style than I generally write. That’s why I sent it to them. It’s frustrating when you see articles that you think are of a similar standard (or even not as good), and you think ‘if they take that, why won’t they take mine?!’

I recently went for an interview for a marketing job in a theatre and I didn’t get it – they said I was great but there were people with more specific experience. I wasn’t as bothered by this, as I knew only one person could get the job, and I know there wasn’t much I could do about it. But the writing rejection annoyed me because they publish lots of articles, rather than just a situation where there is one job available.

It’s the same doing stand-up – sometimes you see people doing gigs that you can’t get on that you don’t think are funnier than you. That’s the problem with writing and doing comedy. Applying for the same job over and over, and then comparing yourself to other people. Ah, high expectations followed by self-loathing.

I read something recently that said you should aim for 100 rejections a year because you will surely get accepted by some of them. I like this logic and plan to follow it more, for both writing and applying for gigs. I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive as well – J K Rowling received loads of rejections before Harry Potter was published!

Maybe I will also not try to change my writing to fit a specific style that I think someone wants, and just be myself more. Then if people hate my writing or my comedy at least I know they will be hating me for who I am.

I went to a life coaching class once and they taught us this mantra to console yourself when you are rejected from a job, or an opportunity, or a romantic partner – ‘They just weren’t ready for you yet’, and I have to try and remember this when I feel like I’m not good enough. Because if i keep going, there will be people who are ready for me. And I will be ready too.

How to write a comedy show

The longest set I’ve done is 20 minutes, but next week Friday the 16th of September, I am doing a half an hour work in progress at Laugh and Cry at The Lion and Unicorn Pub in Kentish Town. But how to do it? Should I treat it like long set, just doing more jokes than usual, or give it a narrative?

Most comedians tend to centre their shows around a theme or a story, this involves writing specific jokes to fit with that story, so is it easier for your first show just to get all your best material together and screw the narrative arc?

I thought about doing a show about my father’s death (I’m sure I heard somewhere that Stewart Lee thinks this is one of the main reasons Edinburgh shows have become hack), but I don’t know if that’s too personal, or worse, too reductionist. I don’t want to have to leave out some of my best jokes, or force the show too much to fit to a theme.

Sometimes a show’s theme or story can change along the way as well. When I went to see Bridget Christie’s preview (which was hilarious), the Brexit result hadn’t come out yet, as it was on the day of the referendum, and she did make some jokes about it, but apparently after that happened, her show became much more focussed on Brexit. I might have to see it again now.

I do think that having a ‘schtick’ or a theme can make audiences more inclined to come and see your show, but on the flip side, if it’s a good show, it doesn’t matter. Some of the best shows I have seen have had a story, and some of them haven’t. Some of them are a collections of little stories; snippets into a person’s life. I’m going to spend some time writing down all my ideas, and jokes I already have, and see what happens. Maybe a theme I hadn’t even thought of will come out of it…

Part Time Blogger

I love blogging. I love writing. But you may not know, because I haven’t written on this blog since October. I say it’s because sometimes I find it hard to think of topics to write about, but I do have ideas and even start writing about them, then abandon them because they’re not ‘good enough’ or ‘not the right style’ or ‘not relevant anymore’ or…I don’t know WHAT’S THE POINT OF ANYTHING?!

I posted on Facebook last week asking for friends to suggest topics they would like to see me write about and received a few ideas, but there was one comment which said ‘My advice is to work out why you want to write a blog in the first place’.

My immediate reaction was ‘That’s not what I asked for!’ The comment was from my ex-best friend, (we’re still friends, but no longer best friends), with whom I have a wonderful yet tumultuous relationship with. I used to write poetry a lot, but since I started doing stand-up I don’t write poems as often. Then she started writing poetry a lot and set up a blog with poems on it, and there has been a bit of ‘It’s my thing!’ ‘No it’s my thing!’ between us in the past, so I initially reacted in a less than positive way.

Perhaps I envied her dedication and self-discipline. She gets up early, walks for hours and writes on her blog almost daily. Just to give you an idea – I have to start my alarms an hour before I actually want to get out of bed, and I’ve used forks as knives in the past because I can’t be bothered to wash up.

I thought about the comment some more and I realised that tone doesn’t come across well on social media, and that she was probably only trying to help. I decided to write on my blog about why I blog.

So why do I want to write a blog?

1. Love

As I said at the beginning of the post, I enjoy writing a lot. From a young age, I was interested in creative writing. I found it the best way to express myself and I even won two story writing competitions at primary school. As I got older, I became obsessed with the English Language and good grammar in particular. Reading or writing something with no mistakes makes me feel warm and happy inside.

2. Career

I would love to do more writing for other websites, and work in marketing/social media/editorial, so this blog is a great way to show off my writing skills and write articles on my own terms. Being able to direct people to a blog that you write on regularly (from now on!) is invaluable.

3. The desire to make my voice heard

As with stand-up, blogging is a great way to communicate your feelings about the world and attempt to bring about positive change. I can write posts about feminism or social injustice/inequality, which are topics I feel strongly about.

4. Validation

Honestly, it makes me happy when I get a lot of hits on a blog post or when people tell me that they appreciated something I wrote or found it amusing. It’s like doing a gig where the audience laugh at my jokes, I feel like maybe I haven’t failed at life after all. For a bit.

What is stopping me and how can I overcome this?

1. Confidence 

The confidence to go for an idea I have even if I’m not sure it will be good, or people will agree with me, or anyone will want to read it. Some blog posts are better than others. Like this one is probably a ‘7 out of 10’ at the most, but I needed to write it for me, and I can’t use self-doubt as an excuse not to at least try and write something amazing.

2. Time

A common reason I use is that I don’t have enough time to write on my blog. But this isn’t true. You make time for things that are really important. If I can spare 45 minutes to watch an episode of Vampire Diaries, then I can write a blog post once a week. My writing career is way more important than a show basically made for teenage girls that makes me cry every episode, right?

To be continued…




Lost my Mojo

I feel like Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me. It just disappeared. Perhaps a fellow evil comedian stole it. Or perhaps I just got bored.

The problem with comedy is repetition. You have to tell a joke a certain amount of times to get good at telling it, and by the time you’ve nailed it, sometimes you don’t even want to tell the joke anymore.

I’ve been told a few times that I sound too rehearsed on stage, like an actor who knows their lines too well. This means gigging has become a bit monotonous and mundane. I thought about giving up comedy, or at least maybe taking a break and not booking anymore new gigs while I figure about what I’m doing, which I may still do, but here are some other things I intend to try to get my mojo back.

1 Watch more comedy (not just stand up)

It’s easy to feel like you are going nowhere and forget what’s enjoyable about doing comedy and making people laugh, and how it is possible to become successful at it, it just takes time, hard work and not giving up. I didn’t watch enough shows when I was Edinburgh Festival so am going to try and watch more online and go and see shows every now and then when I am not performing. Not just stand up though; sketches, comedy movies, interviews. Someone posted this earlier on Facebook and it really made me want to get back into it.

2 Watch different art forms too

A comedian at Edinburgh Festival said he deliberately wasn’t watching any comedy shows, he was going to see art like dance and circus skills for inspiration. Sometimes you are surrounded by so much comedy that you need to look at creativity from other places to open up your mind.

3 Try new jokes more often

Trying new jokes is hard. Especially when you know you have jokes that work most of the time. But what is the point of doing it if it’s not hard and there isn’t the risk of failure? I need to try more new jokes more often, maybe at least one at every gig that isn’t an important one.

4 Write more new jokes

How am I going to try new jokes all the time if I don’t write any new jokes? In terms of joke writing, my technique is generally more ‘wait until something comes to me’ rather than sit down and write, but I think even just writing for 10 – 15 minutes a day will help me come up with new ideas. Some of them might be genius. You never know!

4 Leave jokes I’m really bored of for a while

Bored of my jokes? Well I’ll stop telling them then. Particularly the ones that don’t get as many laughs as they used to, because when I tell them, I sound like I’m watching paint dry in a hospice. Well they can just die, for a while. Then maybe I’ll resuscitate them when I get bored of all the new ones.

5 Bring back jokes I haven’t done for a while

Because I’m not bored of them anymore, they will be new and awesome like the first time I told them. At least for the next 5 gigs anyway.

6 MC more

I wrote a post about MCing recently and how much I enjoy it, because of how conversational it is, so I am trying to do more of this. I’ve got one MC gig booked for March next year but am definitely going to make more of an effort to apply for them.

7 Improv more

Similar to MCing, I am going to improv more during my stand up – which can either be brilliant or disastrous, but I find when it really works, it is worth it. My aim is to be able to shift seamlessly between chatting and material, and eventually I will sound more natural on stage.

I will let you know how it all goes…