The Censor is my most prominent critic. He often stands by, berating my work before I’ve even get a chance to start it. If I fall prey to him I never even pursue it. If I muster the courage to ignore him and move on with my project, he’s right there knocking it down, reminding me of my past failures and laughing at my progress. If I don’t give into his critiques and push forward, the final product is always a disappointment to him.
No matter how many positive compliments or how much praise I receive from others, the most dominant assessment of my work comes from the Censor. His words are always negative and it cuts me to the core, because he knows just the right words to say that will eat at me. He knows me so well. My Censor is me.
My Censor is not as mean and evil as he seems. Actually, his intentions are good as he doesn’t want me to make a fool of myself. He doesn’t want me to be too proud, so he keeps me humble by constant reminders of my shortcomings. He doesn’t want me to sing the wrong notes and embarrass myself on stage, so he tells me not to sing too loudly, not to take that gig, or to simply not sing at all.
He knows the play I wrote isn’t as good as the play I saw last night, so he encourages me to never produce it or simply throw it in the trash. I want to dance. I love to dance. He mentions my flat feet. I want to smile. I love to smile and laugh. “Don’t smile too widely. They’ll notice your missing teeth. And don’t laugh too loudly. You know you’re really loud, right?”
It’s not like he’s lying. I do sing wrong notes sometimes. Actually, I sing wrong notes a whole lot of times. And my plays… well, I’ve read better plays by other playwrights, so I’m just wasting words and paper. My feet are indeed flat. Maybe I’ll leave dancing to the professionals.
My teeth are jacked. I won’t smile until I get them fixed. And my laugh… If you know me, you know my laugh. It’s loud, strange, and borderline manic. It’s probably best that I keep it to myself.
I take his advice. I play it safe. I don’t sing. I don’t write. I don’t dance. I don’t smile. I don’t laugh. I don’t do much of anything. I become an observer, sitting in the audience, watching those who are doing and pointing out their faults. I shame them for being brave and knock them for not delivering a perfect performance. I wonder how they got where they are with all of their shortcomings.
I tell myself, “I could have done that better. They should have cast me. I would have nailed it.” But I didn’t go to that audition, because my Censor told me that I wasn’t ready. He told me that the role wasn’t right for me and that even if I went, they wouldn’t cast me anyway. Why bother?
As a result, I sit on the sidelines while others dare to move forward with all of their imperfections. I resent their fearlessness. I loathe their audacity. I mock the willfully ignorant who put themselves out there to be ridiculed. I wonder why they don’t have a dutiful Censor advising them and shutting them down.
In the end, I become a bitter, unfulfilled artist.
It would sure be nice to win the lottery one day. Just imagine a $50 million jackpot up for grabs. Somebody’s going to win it. I don’t know who will win, but I can tell with 100% accuracy who won’t: anyone who didn’t buy a ticket.
I know it’s corny, but, “You’ve got to be in it to win it!”
Whenever my Censor rears his ugly head, I remind myself to, “Just do it.” That’s the gist of it, “Just do it.” It’s easier said than done, but every time I shut my Censor off and simply go for it, I find that my Censor was not as right as he thought he was.
Every work I’ve created or performance I’ve made has not been perfect. There are many times when I’ve stopped a show in a good way. And yes, I’ve also embarrassed myself on and off stage plenty of times. I won’t be the first or last person to ever do that that.
I don’t aspire to be delusionally positive about failing. Yet, I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted going for it no matter how dreadful my performance was. I acknowledge my hot-messiness and take those moments as opportunities to learn, reflect, and develop as an artist.
My failures can serve as a good laugh. A loud, strange, borderline manic laugh.