Annual Navel Gaze 2019

As I say every year, I don’t do New Years resolutions. Instead, I take a look back at the past year and take stock of the things that happened, the things I accomplished, and then look a head to the new year and see what I want to accomplish. Its a great way to take stock of the year that was, and to both put what i want for the new year into the universe, as well as create accountability by putting these goals out for public viewing.

This year’s accomplishments:

  • I was finally able to perform The Commandment at home, at the Toronto Fringe. It was a real joy to be able to share this play with the home audience. We won North (519) Best of Fringe, and performed the play three more times in Orangeville.
  • My theatre podcast Stageworthy crossed the 200 episode mark, and turns four years old in the new year!
  • The podcast for introvert’s (The Introvert’s Guide To…) that I co-host with Jess McAuley continues to grow, and crossed the 15,000 listens mark this month.
  • I got a bunch of writing done.
  • I got a tattoo!
  • I did a little travelling. The highlight was a trip to Quebec City, though I would have enjoyed that more without the fractured rib I got two days before!
  • I started a monthly pub night for creative people. This came from my noticing that I am more creative when I surround myself with creative people. So I launched a very informal monthly night of getting together and talking about whatever comes up. And while the numbers of people have fluctuated, the conversation has always been good!

Last year, I set myself some challenges like “be nicer to myself” and to lean into my introverted “stay home all the time” nature. I had limited success with those. I don’t think I was as good to myself as I could be, I think in the later months of the year, I made some strides. I did not do very well at getting out and not isolating. For example: after the Toronto Fringe, I spent almost two weeks at home not talking to anyone.

So, for the year ahead:

  • My 50th birthday is coming up in April. I want to do something to mark and celebrate it. So my plan is to go to London, England (I’ve never been and always wanted to go).
  • I want to continue to find performance opportunities for The Commandment.
  • Last year, I said that I was going to finish my Christmas play and perform it this year, which you may have noticed I did not do. I’m still working on the play, and it continues to evolve. But I am getting there. And while I’m impatient to be done, I have to remind myself that The Commandment took me a long time to write too.
  • Keep growing Stageworthy and The Introvert’s Guide To…
  • Keep writing, and do it more. While I have written relatively consistently, I haven’t done as much of it as I want. I’m a pretty good procrastinator, so I often find things to do that aren’t writing. I want to get better at not doing that.
  • I have had an idea for a new play for Keystone Theatre, and its high time I pitch that idea to the gang (and also, it would be great to get the band back together).
  • I have also had an idea for a musical for a while, so it’s time I started sketching that out. I don’t write music, but I want to have the idea straight when I find a composer/collaborator.
  • Be more social. Get out to some events now and then, even though I am more comfortable staying home. And not to talk myself out of going (like I often do).
  • I said this last year, but I’ll say it again: do more things with friends. Yes, being a homebody is nice, but you have to go out sometimes. It’s better to connect with people in person than digital.
  • Take more photographs.
  • Post on this blog more. I realized as I was writing this that the 2018 Navel Gaze is the last time I posted.

How was this year for you? What are you most proud of? What are you looking forward to next year?

The Annual Navel Gaze 2016

As I say every year, I don’t do New Years resolutions. Instead, I take a look back at the past year and take stock of the things I accomplished, and then look a head to the new year and see what I want to accomplish.

There’s quite a few things to list for the highlights of the past year.

  1. I launched my weekly theatre podcast, Stageworthy. The show has been picking up momentum, and listenership has grown over the year.
  2. I premiered my solo play The Commandment at the Hamilton Fringe, and was named a Critic’s Pick by the Hamilton weekly.
  3. I had a pretty prolific writing year. The priority was getting The Commandment into performance shape – that and the rehearsal and production of that play took up the first half of the year, but after that I wrote a new play at the Red Sandcastle’s annual “100 Monkeys 24 Hour Playwriting Festival”, worked on revising an old draft, wrote a scary Christmas poem, and have begun work on something I’d like to perform next year at Christmas.
  4. Travel: Sarah and I went to New Orleans last year in January, explored the French Quarter, saw our first ever Mardi Gras parades and had a great time. We also spent a lovely long weekend in Prince Edward County at a lovely little boutique hotel, and took a weekend away to Port Hope to write and relax. With work, I spent some time in San Diego, Boston, and Dallas.
  5. I hosted my second Spring playwrights retreat on Toronto Island at Artscape Gibraltar Point. Again it was great to spend some time writing with another group of writers, and get away from the usual routine to focus for a few days.

For next year:

  • I want to find more opportunities to perform The Commandment, as well as try to perform some other new works. I know at least one piece I want to do in November or December, but there’s another piece I’m working on as well that I’d love to perform sooner than that. Of course, that means I’ll have to do some fundraising, but if I can swing it, both of these pieces are things I’d love to present.
  • I’ll be hosting a third Spring playwrights retreat on Toronto Island. Details on that will be coming in the new year.
  • I’ll be spending a few days in New York with Sarah in March, where we’ll get to see Hamilton on Broadway, and do a bit of exploring in NYC.
  • Heading to New Brunswick to see some dear friends get married, and then spending a week in a cabin with Sarah writing and relaxing.
  • Continuing the Stageworthy podcast into its second year.
  • More writing, more creating.

That Social Problem

Recently, I figured out a long standing problem I have been having. It turns out that I have social anxiety. As it happens, it’s a pretty mild and it isn’t in any way debilitating. But it does affect my life in some profound ways.

This is how it works: There is a little voice in the back of my head, and it tries to tell me that I’m not worth knowing. If a joke falls flat, or I say something that doesn’t quite come out the way I intended, the voice says something like “and that’s why people don’t like you.” It analyzes everything I do, and puts the worst possible spin on things. Given the opportunity to go out to some gathering where I don’t know many people, the voice tells me that there is no point in going since no one likes me anyway, or that I have nothing of value to offer. The voice has a comment for every situation, eroding any confidence I have managed to build.

And its there all the time. I can’t escape it. It’s there when I walk down the street, it’s at work, it’s in casual conversation. It follows me everywhere. Its as though my own mind is constantly urging me to just shut myself away to spare other people the difficulty of dealing with me.

And the worst part is, that I know its not true. My rational brain says that its not that bad. That other people don’t find dealing with me painful. And yet, that’s the first thing my brain says to me when I enter a social situation: “this is why people don’t like you”.

I am not writing this for pity, or to lament my lot. No. I’m writing this in defiance of my social anxiety. Because I am not going to let it be the way I define myself.

I started the podcast to force myself to approach and meet knew people. It’s a small thing but it’s a start.

The next step is in large groups, which is where that voice really has a field day. But here is the thing: I taught myself to accept imperfect writing when working on a first draft. I learned not to self edit. Is there any reason I can’t apply this to life? It used to be when I wrote, my inner critic would tear apart what I was writing as I wrote it. It was more than a little debilitating as far as writing goes. Because you can’t write well, when you think everything you write is shit. This has helped me to write more. I have allowed what I write on the first pass not to be completely amazing because I know I will fix the problems when I revise it. But I have managed to give myself permission for the writing to suck when I write a first draft. I allow it to be less than perfect, because I know I will fix it later. And I have learned not to listen to the voice of the inner critic.

The inner critic used to be a voice saying similar things to my anxiety voice. And I learned to put that voice in a box, so that I could get on with the things that mattered. So why can’t I do that with this?

So, that is my goal for the next little while. To learn not to listen to that voice.

Have you ever tried anything like this? How do you deal with social anxiety?

The Annual Navel Gaze: 2012

This was a big year for me. I did one of the scariest things I have ever done: I left my job and went on tour with Keystone Theatre. The tour took our show, The Last Man on Earth to Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. It was, as you might expect, amazing.

The play received great reviews everywhere we went, and I was able to see parts of the country that I have never seen before.

I returned to Toronto, and began the hunt for an awesome new job to replace the old awesome job, which continues even as I write this. I’ll admit that it has been difficult job hunting for this long, and that I’ve been struggling against feeling discouraged. I don’t know what the next year has in store for me, but it will be something great, I know that.

Job hunt aside, the last few months have been pretty awesome for my creative life. I finished writing a rough draft of a play. I had decided to write a play about a period of Canadian history, but to do so in a Shakespearean style, which was quite the challenge. For a while it looked like I might not finish the draft and then finally…I did! And then I put the play aside, to give myself a rest from it for a while. I have a couple more plays I am working on at the moment: an as yet unnamed play set in WWI, a one man play called A Murder, and a Christmas play that is something of a story telling venture (at least for now).

So, now to set some creative goals for myself for the next year:

  • Finish the WWI play and the Murder play.
  • Go back to work on the one man play The Commandment, and look at staging it for a limited run.
  • Complete and polish the Christmas play, and stage it next December.

And of course, there’s the other thing:

  • Find an awesome new job to replace the old awesome job.

Let’s plan to meet back here at this time to see how I did.