Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sea Change

The last months have been haunted by a mixture of change and stasis. Just when I thought I was on the right path in stand-up comedy, shit happened and I stopped. I had to suddenly move house and that had a nice financial impact on my career (attempt) boost. The fact that I live more than two hours away from London, far far away from the city life, certainly doesn't help either. I came to a standstill.

My last gig was a disaster. I bombed big and felt that was it. It's the worst thing, when you finally have your material starting to flow, your timings improving, and then - ta-da - you're shit. But nobody is really suddenly shit. To me, bombing is just something that happens when you and your audience are not made for each other. You are mutually shit. It's the opposite of love, and it's not hate: it's a mutual lack of attraction.

So I stopped, then I started again. Somewhere else. I decided to focus on the things I could do now, even though my love of stand-up remains unchallenged, relentless. Suddenly I found myself in two musical projects where I'm singer-songwriter.

I had no clue I could write or sing songs. But the strangest things happen, and the music has given me a boost, a magnitude of hope I so needed. Every song I complete, no matter how flawed, is an accomplishment, a small piece in my happiness puzzle.

Burger Queen from Ruben on Vimeo.

This led to an urge, and I started working on other things. My routines changed. My bedroom became a workshop. And for that I have to blame Austin Kleon, whose two books 'Steal Like an Artist' and 'Show Your Work' I found in a Manchester indie bookstore laid ground for the work I started doing. I got back into drawing. I started writing again and filming stupid videos. An urge became a routine - shit just got real.

In my workshop, and have two main walls, The Wall of Masters and The Wall of Guidance. The first, is composed of a set of pictures from my favourite artists so that I remember why I'm here, based on Kleon's tree of artistic influences. My friend Ricardo prefers to call it The Artistic Boob (as it turned out, it ended up looking just like one).

In this boob, I'm the nipple.

The Wall of Guidance has quotes from some of my favourite people and others who happen to just have good advice. Louis CK, Ricky Gervais and many others have a place there. It helps me stay on the path. Every morning, even when I don't read it, the words on the wall stay in the unconscious part of my mind.

You probably can't read it, but it's all there.

 So as projects go, apart from the music, I'm writing some poetry. When I went in my garage one of these days to clear out some old stuff I found some magazines, and decided they were going in the bin. But then I decided against it. I remembered Austin Kleon's 'Newspaper Blackout' and how he was using something somebody else wrote to make his art. So from here, and for the last four weeks, every day 'Scattered' is what I'm doing. One poem a day, non-negotiable. The words come from those old magazines I was going to get rid of.

Words waiting to be part of something.

Yes, my words come from a box of deodorant.

After I cut the words out, I put them in a box, which, for the sake of things, I called 'Wordsmith'. The words or wordsmithereens, go in there and only come out when it's time to make a poem. I never have any idea what I'm writing about. The words decide that for me. I'm not writing here, I'm rearranging, I'm completing a puzzle. The words find me and the poem is born.

One of my recent ones, 'Alchemy'
Every end is a new beginning. Things change, it's no big deal. My favourite advice, straight from the Wall of Guidance:

Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work