Lost in Creation

Sometimes in one of my improv classes, a student will say after doing a great scene with a strong character, “I felt lost. I did not know where the scene was going.”

“Good,” I will say in an ironic way. “Stay lost. It’s working for you.”

In our creative process, it’s a good thing to be lost. It means we are learning something new, and it’s right where we need to be. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and painful, but both can be great motivators. The creative process is not a straight line from point A to point B. We are attempting to make art, and sometimes we need to be lost, not knowing what the hell we are doing or why we are doing it. That is incredibly messy and hard to explain, not only to ourselves, but also to others.

It’s much more comfortable when life is predictable, but predictable and art don’t go together.

It’s kind of like if you were a sculptor and were making something out of clay, you need to get in there and get your hands dirty, molding the clay until it takes a shape. At first it just looks like a blob, and you wonder if it’s going to turn into anything, but eventually you reach a point where you stop and call it art.

Recently, I’ve been going through a similar process. For a couple of months, I had been posting on my personal Facebook page like it was my full-time job. I was posting 15 to 30 times a day, sometimes more, jamming up people’s news feeds. Whenever I had a thought, I put it on Facebook. If I had sex, I put it on Facebook. If I hated myself that day, it was on Facebook. Loneliness? Facebook. I had found a character, and I loved writing in that voice. I felt freedom. I felt I was becoming a better writer. I was enjoying it.

Some people liked what I was posting and others hated it. I was polarizing. At the same time, I was starting to feel resentment that I was working so hard and not getting paid. I was hitting a wall or hitting rock bottom, depending on how you looked at it.

I brought it up to my crazy shrink in group therapy. He suggested I stop writing on Facebook, and instead write the posts down in a spiral-bound notebook and save them for another one-man show, because at least then I could make some money off of them.

I got off Facebook that night, and since I didn’t have the instant gratification of an audience, my writing seemed to stop altogether. I was bitter and angry, like I had lost my best friend. I was detoxing. Two weeks later I found my muse as I was on the L heading downtown. I quickly wrote 20 or so posts in my spiral-bound notebook and I brought them into the session and read them out loud. I read 15 or so, after hearing them, the crazy shrink had another crazy suggestion. He encouraged me to get two separate spiral-bound notebooks, one for my “ironic posts” and one for my “sarcastic posts.” What the hell…? (I have neither written any new posts or brought the notebook since then. By telling on myself in this blog, I am hoping that I will get the willingness to go out and start writing again).

For a few seconds, after the crazy shrink said his crazy idea, I felt some shame, thinking that posting like a mad man for the last few months was a waste of time and in the end it had caused more harm than good. I can’t tell you if I am ever going to write another one-man show again, but to me, that does not matter. Because when those six seconds of shame had lifted like a fever, I realized I needed every one of those Facebook posts to get to this point in my creative process.

I am still lost, scared and confused, but one thing is clear: I don’t where the hell this is going to lead me. All I know is I am totally lost in this new process, and it’s exactly where I need to be right now.

Want to study with Jimmy Carrane? Spots are still available in his next Fundamentals of Improv Class starting June 28. Or, you can take his one-day Art of Slow Comedy Intensive on July 6. Sign up today!

9 replies
  1. Megon
    Megon says:

    Jimmy, I love your process, and I support you. In my song “Mood Swing” I say;
    So now you know
    It all goes ’round and ’round
    Being lost is way more fun than being found
    At least in the valley, you’re on solid ground
    Things are looking up when I get down.

    I love your crazy shrink too~

  2. Chris
    Chris says:

    Why do I hate so much (sometimes, not every day) being right where I’m supposed to be? Ugh! Apparently I’m learning things about myself. Apparently my Higher Power is surfacing these things so they can be healed. Well, that’s my hope, anyway. I’ve been listening to a Buddhist. “No mud, no lotus.”

    P.S., Thanks for putting all your “stuff” out there, Jimmy. Gives me courage to do the same. Helps me know I’m not alone.

  3. Stuart Green
    Stuart Green says:

    Jimmy, It’s an interesting thing on Art and Predictability – when you go up on lines in performance or walk that narrow tightrope, it’s amazing how clear and present things feel. There’s no way to move beyond that moment than to trust yourself and create and find out what’s really going on in the process. The best part is that you eventually find it, with the audience. Also, there’s something to be said for writing things down – I’ve been doing the same thing and feel that process, whether “analog” or “digital” (pen or keyboard) will bring us closer to the light. Good luck and I’m curious to hear more about when the next fever lifts and things, somehow made sense all along.

  4. Greg Morelli
    Greg Morelli says:

    When you did your first one-man-show, I was living in New York City, as far away as I could get from who I was raised to be so I could figure out who I was meant to be.

    Consequently, I missed “I’m 27, I Still Live at Home and Sell Office Supplies.” I won’t miss your next show. Don’t care where I’m living. For you, Jimmy Carrane, I’ll even fly Spirit Airlines.

    And if you don’t write another one-man-show, that’s okay, too. Who knows where your notebooks will take you?

    Maybe you’ll stick with one notebook. Maybe the magic number is two notebooks. Maybe three, since “the rule of threes” is an inside improv joke.

    I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. No one does. Anyone pretending to have the answer is selling you something – put that in your sarcastic notebook.

    It’s hard knowing when a character has exhausted itself. This is what happened with “Dexter.” The show went on for too long, unlike “Breaking Bad,” which ended perfectly.

    Here’s the problem with facebook: you’re the character, so how do you know when to stop?

    Well, the nice thing is how little people actually notice. Or remember. Or care. Day 1, you’re the lead story. Day 2, you’re page 6. Day 3, Chelsea Handler is quitting her show because she’s sick of talking about Justin Bieber, and like the rest of us, you’re irrelevant.


    Shame is temporary. So is loss. So is joy, for that matter. But they’re all part of the magnificent complexity of adulthood – put that in your corny notebook.

  5. Deborah Dopp
    Deborah Dopp says:

    I actually love being lost. It means there is an undefined eternity of possible directions to explore. It forces me to free up my vision and perceive my immediate truth. My creativity runs with that truth until the next one surfaces.
    I’ve come up with a completely disorienting musical, a pretty ‘lost’ form; musical or vocal ability is irrelevant. Extreme courage is the key. Every show is breaking convention and pure creativity.
    ‘Lost’ can be so amazing and it seems a necessity for explorers and discovery.

  6. Jordan Weimer
    Jordan Weimer says:

    Facebook is writing in a notebook, tearing the page out, and passing it around class.

    If you consistently pass around funny stuff, your notebook starts to make people interested in what you have to say.

    And, your first draft is rarely as good as the subsequent rewrites.

    So, if you take your notes and put them on stage, whether they were passed around Facebook or not, they will get you paid.

    And, generally, the more people have read your notes, the more likely they are to come out to your show.

    And, the only way passing around notes becomes a distraction is if it’s fulfilling enough that you never step on stage.

    The second you step on stage, writing in your notebook or Facebook becomes a part of your process to make art and get paid.

  7. Verne
    Verne says:

    Thanks for the post Jimmy – it’s more poetry to me than prose… Hey!! Maybe you should get one notebook for poetry and another for prose??? Or maybe I should? Hmmmmmm


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *