I am also holding tight to the advice of a wise professor who was my adviser for my first documentary play I wrote in 2012. In my last semester of the Theatre and Community program at Emerson College, I was getting ready to put the last touches on my solo documentary play SafeGuard, which examined the experiences of women on the homefront while a service member in their lives was deployed. I had juggled student teaching with interviewing women across the country for the play, then added rehearsals and promotion on top of that.
Walking into my last meeting with my professor before the performance, I felt frazzle--to say the least. And worse than that, I felt this bottomless black hole of self-doubt. The deadline for finalizing the script and performing the play for my professors and my peers was fast approaching and I didn't feel ready at all. What if my play wasn't any good? What if the audience got bored? What if people wondered why I ever thought I was capable of getting onstage to perform something I had written (this was the first time I had ever done so)?
Is anyone out there familiar with these crushing voices of self-doubt and fear? I was terrified. I told my professor during our last meeting about the play that I was worried that the play wasn't "finished". Rather, than placate me and say that it was 100% done and not to worry, she looked me straight in the eye as she spoke.
"At a certain point in the process, your job is simply to put the play onstage in front of an audience and see what happens."
She explained that my job as an artist wasn't to guarantee perfection or present a "finished product". My job was to share the in-progress thing that I had created with real human beings gathered together in a space, and to see what happens. They might connect with a character, they might be confused about a monologue, anything could happen. I was not to judge these things as good or bad, but see them as new information that I didn't have before. Simply put, at the end of the performance, I would have this new information to work with going forward with the play. You can only work in a vacuum so long before you have to consent to sharing your creation with the world. Or at least a few trusted people in your circle.
Doubting at first, I have come to believe that this is our task as creatives: to make something that is precious to us, do our best, and then take that giant leap of faith and SHOW IT TO PEOPLE. It's not to perfect, to impress, to control how it's received, or to succeed--whatever that means. Let's face it, it's terrifying to be vulnerable in this way, but if we aren't willing to give people a glimpse along the way, we will fool ourselves forever into hiding our creations away in the dark until the day when we deem them "ready" and "finished". And surprise, surprise: that day will never come.
Here's to you having the creative courage to share whatever you've got, so you can experience the magic of seeing what happens. Is it scary? You bet. Do you risk a whole bunch of haters telling you why they think you could have done it better? Of course. But in the end, if you done it--you have made something--then dare to take that next step and share it with someone. See what happens.