Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 40: Choice II

I am still struggling to make the final decision on what short pay to submit to the Samuel French competition. The decision I had thought I made (Shuffle) didn't stick when I got a recommendation from a director I've worked with to submit Spirit Dust instead. I was going to attempt to make some sort of pregnancy analogy for how difficult this decision is, but that was leading me down the road of hypothetical scenarios like if you had to choose only one of two twins to keep. Such a comparison would be a form of hubris that (fortunately) I don't possess.

But it does lead me to reflect on this process of choice. I believe there is a popular ideal in our culture of "listen to your gut" (an idea given special credence by Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking a few years ago). But when your gut runs up against input you're being given by others, and when that input itself is conflicting, how do you make a choice? How do you decide which voice in your head to listen to? How do you discern which voice is the "true" voice (if there is such a thing), which are the voices of fear and doubt trying to sabotage you, which are those of people who really don't know any better than you do?

If I gave you the impression that I would be postulating an answer to that question, I do apologize. Honestly, I don't know how one discerns between these voices. I proposed this question to my therapist this week, and she didn't have an answer either. Apparently, there is no formula to figuring out when you should follow your gut, and when you should carefully examine of all the facts and solicit all of the expert opinions you can find.
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
Sometimes, there is no right answer. But any step you take is a step down a path. A decision is better than no decision. I want to learn to embrace the advice I heard from Gretchen Rubin (of the Happiness Project fame) last night at her joint talk with Julie Powell (of Julie & Juliafame): to "enjoy the fun of failure". "This is risk; this is challenge. If you aren't failing, you aren't trying hard enough."
Julie & JuliaSo I'm going to try. I'm going to submit one of my plays - either Spirit Dust or All in the Shuffle -- to the Samuel French competition. Which one, you ask? The one playwriting teacher number two suggested? Or the one my director suggested? The one my gut tells me is the stronger stand-alone piece? Or the one that has been tested in front of an audience and I know plays well? I'll let you know as soon as I do. Feel free to let me know your opinion.


  1. no right or wrong answer, gut vs. analysis... gurrrrl, this is my life right now! I suspect it's most people's lives, most of the time. Taking the next step hoping it does not lead to a cliff!

  2. Hi Natalie,

    I am signed up for your seminar at Actors Connection next Wednesday and, in doing a little research on you (how creepy sounding!), I stumbled across your blog. I just spent the last hour and a half or so reading about your process from Day 1. I, too, am officially an addicted follower.

    I have to say that reading about your process, thoughts, struggles, discoveries, and attempt to be true to yourself and learn what that means, exactly, has been overwhelmingly refreshing. The challenges and emotions that you write about may be 'universal' but it certainly feels, when they come up, like no one could possibly understand the internal conflict that pulls you in a thousand different directions. Your optimism and honesty are unbelievably soothing and inspirational.

    I wanted to thank you for writing this blog - not only because your writing truly feels nourishing to read (if your blog is this wonderful, it is no surprise that your plays keep getting such praise!), but also because your story (birthing a play sans much knowledge or experience... although, I think you've got a more solid foundation that you think you do) addresses exactly what I have wished to pursue and, in just these past 90 minutes, I have learned an INCREDIBLE amount about playwriting, life as an artist, and life as a human being.

    I look forward to reading more and to meeting you next week.

    Kelsey Bevins

  3. Dear Kelsey,

    I am deeply humbled, honored and moved by your comment. Thank you for taking the time to write and let me know the impact my blog has had upon you. I feel like I'm living that moment in Julie & Julia when Julie Powell got her first comment from someone not her mother. It's so exciting and inspiring to know that people are actually reading!

    I look forward to meeting you next week as well. In the meantime, feel free to forward my blog to all your friends! :-)

    with gratitude,

  4. What a great place to BE in to actually HAVE TWO plays to submit! To have a choice... that is a blessing.

    Also, I can't believe you got to hear Julie Powell AND Gretchen Rubin! I love them both!

    This is so interesting bc one of my biggest goals is to to write a musical. A big one, A great one, A beautiful one.
    I am so excited for you, I'm glad you are living your dream!
    Jenny Shain

  5. I am enjoying your blog so much! One comment about contradictory voices: I have noticed that for most people, there is a reliable context in which the "true" voice is most clearly heard. For me, my yoga practice is the place where I can most clearly access my most heart-felt desires. Others have told me they do their best thinking while exercising, meditating/praying, spending time in nature, driving (that one worries me a bit!), etc. If you put yourself in the right context, you might find that one voice consistently drowns out the others. And I absolutely agree with your advice to take action...if you start to go down a path that the true voice doesn't like, the yelling intensifies!

  6. Dear Jenny and Janet --

    Thank you for your comments! Jenny, I love your abundance thinking, of being grateful to have the dilemma of choosing between two plays -- that is a great reminder. Best of luck to you on your musical project!

    Janet-- thank you as well for the reminder about yoga. I was an avid yogi for a number of years, but no longer have a consistent practice. Perhaps it is a good time for me to connect with that again.


  7. I only started reading today, so I don't know if you've addressed this. But why don't you submit both? The contest lets you submit up to three plays.

  8. Hi D. Train -- That would have been a great solution. However, I was invited to submit under the umbrella of the school where I study (HB Studio), and they chose to only submit one piece per author so they could submit more authors.

    It's all good, as they say. It was a valuable exercise, regardless what happens with my submission.