Saturday, March 5, 2016

So Many Different Ways to be False

"Well, I’ll tell you: I took a class. I was having trouble writing, which is scary, and I thought to myself because I’d done it long enough, OK I can tell I’m lying about something. There’s something I must be holding back. That’s usually true. When you get writer’s block it’s because you’re doing something false. There’s a billion ways to be false. You can be writing a story one way when it really wants to be a different way. You can be trying to protect yourself — which is even worse. Or you can be showing off or whatever. So many different ways to be false. And I was really concerned because I couldn’t finish a story. I thought, what is it? What am I doing wrong? What am I holding back? And I was interested in comedy because it seemed to me as I went to various clubs in the city — which of course we didn’t have in Maine or New Hampshire or at least not the Maine or New Hampshire I came from, nor would I have been allowed to go if there were — but here I was in New York comedy clubs and people are laughing when they hear something true. And so I thought to myself, what would come out of my mouth? Because you know as a writer we get to stay in the house, be real squirrelly. I wondered what would come out of my mouth if I was responsible — directly responsible — for making someone laugh. Strangers, not friends when you know what their funny bones are, but it seemed to me to be like putting myself in a pressure cooker. So I signed up for a class at the New School in stand-up comedy. Oh my God, it was so frightening. You’d see people outside of class in break times just eating cigarettes, and every week attendance would be smaller. But I made myself stick to it. And those of us who made it through that class — probably half of us dropped out if not more — those of us who made it through performed on the Upper East Side here. I wouldn’t let anyone come who knew me. I’ve never been so frightened in all my life. It was horrible how frightened I was. But I did it, and I got laughs."

Elizabeth Strout 

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