This article is part of the Stage to Page series, lessons in writing and life that I’ve learned from stand-up comedians.
One spring Nick Hart and Stefan Davis drove 27 hours back and forth between Madison, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota over 3 trips, and earned between them a total of 6 minutes of stage time at Acme Comedy Co. The club is a major name in the Midwest, and it doesn’t take too kindly to out-of-towners. Despite their long trek, the boys were refused a spot in the open mic on their first two attempts.
But, when asked for advice, they still recommend this club to beginners.
“It’s stage time.” Living in a household of comedians, I probably heard these words once a day.
Three minutes on stage was three minutes in front of a two hundred people who had never seen them before. Worth it?
If you’ve got the time to do it, don’t turn down an opportunity to be seen. Prioritize, of course, when you’ve got options; but don’t be picky if you don’t. And don’t ignore bigger opportunities because you don’t think you’re worthy. Give it a shot; the worst you can do is fail.
More importantly, treat every single time like it matters. Don’t phone in an assignment because you don’t think anyone is reading the blog, don’t forgo editing because you’re not with a big-name publisher. Everything you write — every time you perform — is a chance to be seen by someone new, and a chance to make a first impression. Cherish it.
Remember, everything you do now might still be around — and easily accessible — in a few years when your career is well underway. Having a rich history of strong media could come in handy when future readers start googling your name.
A few opportunities of stage time that you can take right now as a writer:
- Start a blog.
- Start an email newsletter.
- Pitch your existing fiction to journals.
- Publish well-crafted content to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
- Post your writing to critique groups — or join a real live one in your town!
- Be brave! — get on stage and read at a literary open mic.
- Enter writing contests.
What untapped opportunities do you see for writers to gain exposure? What factors hold you back from accepting an offer of “stage time”?
Photo courtesy of Dave Pickett.