“Why,” said Ford, “are you lying face down in the dust?”
“It’s a very effective way of being wretched,” said Marvin.
from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Ok, confession time. After I posted my last post, accidentally deleted it, panicked, didn’t realize I could un-delete it, posted it again, then discovered that I’d forgotten to title it—right in front of everyone and their kittens—I’ve been wrestling with a crisis of confidence about this blogging thing. I tried to get back on the horse by writing the second half of the post, but I had so many different ideas, it was like trying to make a pie crust with wet dough—it stuck to everything but itself. Eventually it all spiraled into an extravaganza of self-criticism: “I’m a spaz and my baking skills suck and I’m not smart enough and I’m not funny enough and my titles are dumb and I can’t remember how to use commas or quotation marks or how to spell ‘vacuum.’ Why am I littering the inter-webs with this incompetent drivel?”
Then out from behind all of the negativity peeked this faint memory of Stephen Colbert talking to Terry Gross on “Fresh Air.” The conversation seemed naggingly relevent, so I rummaged around the web until I found it. (Hooray for podcast archives!) It’s from 2016, and Stephen was discussing his transition from “The Colbert Report” to the “The Late Show,” which meant having to shed the Colbert Report character and just be himself.
Terry asked, “…did you know what your authentic voice was going to be? You know, what your voice, like the actual Stephen Colbert, was going to be…?”
And he replied, “Um, I don’t think so. I knew that it would be a little bit of a public discovery. You know, what’s the—it’s somebody else’s joke—but, ‘Life is like learning to play the violin in public. You don’t know what you’re doing until you do it.’ I knew that there would be a learning curve that had to happen in public on air.”
He went on to say that it took him “half a year” to figure it out. Six months at 20 nightly shows a month is 120 shows. It took him 120 shows to discover his voice. That’s a lot of shows! He seemed very accepting and matter-of-fact about the whole thing too. No apologies. No self-flagellation or embarrassment. Just, “Yep, that’s what it took.”
I found that so comforting and reassuring. I can reevaluate the blog after 120 posts, but not before. Like chugging through an intersection when you’re learning to drive a stick shift, this painful learning-in-public phase is just an unavoidable part of the process. As my dear husband is so good about reminding me, “It’s a’ight, it’s a’ight.”
And now I know not to believe the WordPress App when it tells me that my published post is still in the draft box.
. . . . .
(Google says that the quote Stephen was paraphrasing was by Samuel Butler: “Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.”)