So I have a terrible habit.
When I am the midst of some sort of action, whether it be brushing my teeth, cooking dinner or climbing up stairs, I think, “What would be the worst possible thing that could happen to me right now?” What if, while handling this boiling water, I lose my grip and it splashes all over my feet. Or what if, while walking down these steps in the rain, I slip, fall forward and crack some teeth on the steps.
Yes, I know it’s pretty gruesome. I am very viscerally aware of that as the image of falling, cracking, enters my brain. To the point that even though I know I am perfectly capable of walking down stairs, my grip tightens on the railing, my steps become more careful and I immediately engage all appropriate muscles to keep my balance and equilibrium. A panic response really. All because of that pesky, what if.
In theatre, (or any type of art making) the magic “what if” is supposed to be liberating. It’s the chance for possibility, for anything to happen. And sometimes that’s scary. It can be downright terrifying. But we have a responsibility as artists to continue to dive in and explore potential.
It’s a responsibility that I have trouble upholding.
I can’t count how many opportunities I may have missed because the thought “what if” brought on something to be feared rather than something to be celebrated. My creativity and my ability to put myself out there becomes crippled by it.
What if what I create isn’t what I hoped it would be? What if I screw up the audition? What if they don’t like my headshot, or the way I look? What if my opinion isn’t helpful or worth stating? What if what I offer isn’t up to par with what it could be? What if my writing isn’t funny? Insightful? Heart-breaking? What if what I create doesn’t make the desired impact? What if what I have to say falls on deaf ears? What if my artistic choices fall flat? What if my acting, my input, my personality isn’t enough?
What if my art isn’t good enough?
Before I drown in all those doubts and fears, I force myself to think back to the stairs. I think back to how even though I see the horrible images of everything that could go wrong, I move forward. With anxiety and panic and fear, I still take the step. I may be clenching the rail for dear life but still.
I keep moving forward.
What if I tried? What if I never held back? What if I was an advocate for what I believed in? What if I’m the only one who thinks this way, and therefore the only one that can offer a certain insight? What if I took up space? What if I demanded to be in the room? What if I stood by my artistic choices because they came from a place of passion and need to speak? What if I gave myself that space? What if I failed? What if I got up and tried again?
What if I always kept going?
What’s the worst that could happen?