Over the summer holidays I delved into a few books on my kindle, between taking selfies with my nieces and getting sunburned whilst wearing the full piece with lots of straps on the back, the one that would give me the weirdest tan – obviously.
As a creative, yes – stand up comedians are creatives, albeit we’re the lurking creatives in the back of the pond – I read ‘The Artists Way’ and ‘Big Magic’. Both bestsellers, written 30 years apart, both by women. (The future is female, but so was the past…) And there was an interesting thread, that was echoed in both books – it was almost as if the books were written by the same person, even as if it was the same book. Uncanny. Two successful creative women, writing what they know to be true about their creativity – and those things echoing each other.
What is the secret to creativity? Well, it can’t be summarised in a sentence – that’s why I had to read two whole books – of which I am sure there are thousands more. Additionally, there’s nothing I read that I didn’t intrinsically ‘know’ – but to see it written out, helps to clarify. But there was an element that my cynical brain was initially a little skeptical about – a more ‘arty farty’ element. Of the Universe, a higher power, spirits, God. Aka The Creator.
Both books give over success of creatives to a higher power. An all present ‘creator’ – which we all immediately default into the box of what ever religion we identify (or choose not to identify) with. But if you (like me) reject that, it’s more conceptual than that. It’s so digestable, that my very pragmatic comedian, atheist bestie – didn’t argue with me when I explained what I had read. He agrees. There is an energy force that wants creators to create. Artists are creatives. Creativity is the purest form of living. Or closest to God, if you will. Creators need to exist, and the universe wants us to create. Whatever that means for you. Einstein said ‘Luck happens when opportunity meets a prepared mind’. And every successful creative will tell you that their success came from a string of ‘right time, right place, right person’ happenstances in their lives. (My life included). But they probably leave out the fact that they had done the leg work. Been Prepared. Taken the steps to be ‘lucky’.
I recently saw a quote that said “The butterfly gets all the glory but the caterpillar did all the work” and that’s what life really is about. We’re looking at the butterflies above us, wishing life was that easy – however, just keep eating your leaf, dear one. The universe, the creator, will throw the chances at you. “Luck” happens a lot more when you’re quietly working towards your goal. For every step you take towards your goal, the universe will be throwing chances at you. I know this to be true – because it happens to me. Often.
Here’s an anecdote: I went to New York City in 2016, a leap of terror as a comedian! I had no connections, per se, and I was just going to the Mecca of Stand Up to see if I could learn, watch and grow – and MAYBE – get on a stage, if I was lucky.
Oh, and I was oh-so-very-lucky. But was it luck? Or was it the Universe?
The Universe saw this leap of faith, and it caught me – carried me and I got so many lucky breaks, that it’s undeniable that it met me half way, and carried me through. (Every time I believe the Universe intervened, because I listened to that inside voice – I will add a *)
On my first night, in one of the biggest most sprawling cities in the world – I was walking to a comedy club (that my couch-surfing host and I had bought tickets to in Times Square that day, on a whim*) and as we were standing waiting to cross at the traffic-lights, one block from the club, someone hugged me from behind – it was two comedian friends from South Africa, who had happened to be walking past and recognised me*. Comedians who now live in New York City as writers for the Daily Show, with Trevor Noah*. (No, one o f them wasn’t Trevor). First of all, what are the odds? WHAT ARE THE ODDS!? Mathematically about 20 million to one. We were all very excited, Africans reunited in NYC, hugs, high fives and greetings passed, and they invited me to attend the Daily Show as a VIP guest in a few days time*, rather than a normal audience member (which I had already signed up for).
After that exciting meeting and exchange of phone numbers (which was more fortuitous than you might assume as both these comedian-writers don’t use Social Media much – one doesn’t even have a FB account – so had I not bumped into them, I doubt we would have connected.) I went to the first comedy club in New York City. I was so excited. Now, South Africa – we assume everything international is better, especially in the Big Apple, so believe me when I say I was underwhelmed. The comedy was ok, some of it was good. I’ve definitely seen better, though – at home. The South African level of stand-up is truly world class. We should be much more proud of our artists. Comedians, Musicians, designers – we are killing it. Seeing this comedy only helped to make me feel more brave. I could do that, I could do better than some of them. It was the first moment I allowed myself to dream that I might actually be able to perform here. I could hold my own, in NYC?! But now, I had to get stage time. Usually after comedy shows in SA, the comedians chill at the bar, and chat – so I had planned to go and introduce myself to the comedians after this show, and let the networking begin. But no. Clubs in NYC don’t work like that. They have about 5 shows a night, and hustle the audience out swiftly to bring in the next audience.
So, I was a little disheartened – at the end of that first night. I didn’t get to network, the comedy was only OK, and I didn’t learn anything. But I hadn’t accounted that I was now feeling more faith in my own abilities.
The next morning, my Couchsurfing host and I went to explore the city. We crossed the city, to the opposite side – sight seeing. Half-way through the day she recommended a burger joint nearby that she’d heard was good – so we stopped for lunch. And the waiter came and squatted by our table and WAS HE NOT THE COMEDIAN WHO HOSTED THE SHOW LAST NIGHT!!!???*
Right?! On the opposite side of the city! Thank you universe.
So of course, I introduced myself to him – and we swapped details and he told me about some of the more accessible, underground gigs he was involved with, and I should totally stop by and he’d organise me 5 mins. AMAZING. I was IN!
I stopped by, met more comedians, networked more – got given 5 mins, had some fun with the crowd, and was then invited back, with more time. A few days, and a few gigs later, I was asked if I would headline a show and be the featured comedian. Sorry what? I’m headlining in New York City? Granted, it’s the less main-stream clubs – But I’ll take it. We’re only a few days in.
Now things like this kept happening, and I’m not trying to write a novel. But from walking past comedy clubs, and bumping into people I’d met, who introduced me to more people, who offered me more opportunities, to going to the Daily Show with the SA writer friends, and meeting more Daily Show comedians at a baseball game*, who offered me more prestigious stage-time – the whole experience was a complete luck-ball.
Staying open to chance, saying yes to opportunities, meeting as many comedians (they really all bent over backwards to vouch for me), until I was performing at some of the most famous clubs in NYC. And also still jumping up at the dive clubs, to perform to 8 people at midnight. It was all stage time, and it was all golden. (And, one of those 8 people happened to be an international comedy club promoter, scouting NYC for comedians to bring to his country* … and he may or may not have gotten hold of me the next day, and we’re in negotiations. Watch this space.)
Looking back, and if those Creativity books are to be believed, none of it was luck – it was preparation meeting opportunity – Opportunity thrown at you by the Universe. Who will truly meet you half-way, when you try. When you push yourself into that area that you’re scared you might fail in.
And you might fail. But you might fly. Either way. You have to try.
Good “luck”, dear one.
(*This blog post is another attempt for me in re-embracing the steps to my creativity.)