Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: Why Are You Hitting Yourself?

Is Claire Rice her own worst enemy?

When I started this column it was with the directive that it could not be a place where I berated myself for not being “the wisest of us all.” Now, I am very good at berating myself. I’ve done it for years. One of my favorite things to say is “Alright, I’m the asshole here.” This is both a line from a movie I watched over and over and over again in high school and a funny way for me to take the blame foreverything that’s gone wrong. Everything.

KWOCK! is the sound my self-deprecation makes

KWOCK! is the sound my self-deprecation makes

Recently my therapist told me that was unhealthy. And by therapist I mean the internet. And by internet I mean Buzzfeed. And by Buzzfeed I mean I zoned out in front of cat gifs and now I feel like Buzzfeed is the new opiate of the masses and controlled by the devil. So, can anything really be my fault entirely?

Nope.

I feel like maybe in the future I’ll be able to not call myself an asshole every time something in my vicinity goes awry. Still, there are a few things about this past year that are irking me. Things I’ve said or done that I’m not proud or I’m still kicking myself for.

So I’ve gone back in time to January 1, 2013 and I’m having a good talk with myself over a healthy salad at a reasonably priced restaurant about what to do when those things happen.

When You Find Yourself Working With Someone Who Doesn’t Like You
He doesn’t like the show. He doesn’t like you. He has other priorities. He just wants this to be over. You can’t avoid it or change it and you shouldn’t try. You can’t go back and make a better first impression, you can’t impress him with your prowess in theatre because he already thinks you are full of shit, and you can’t pretend to be his friend. It just isn’t going to happen. It’s fine. Stop worrying. You won’t always get to work with people who hang on every word you say. Sometimes people will disagree with you for more than just aesthetic reasons. Sometimes it will be personal. Stand your ground, but don’t kick the beehive. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it, it will only feed his theory that you are a fake person. Don’t hate yourself because you can’t make him like you even though you don’t like him. On opening night he will sit in the back row and talk through the show, he’ll laugh at your work, he’ll make fun of the actors, and he’ll annoy the audience. You’ll feel stupid for trying to get him on your team and you’ll feel vindicated because you never liked him in the first place. Here’s the thing: there’s nothing that says if someone doesn’t like you it means they are bad or you are bad or anyone is bad. The work comes first. If you aren’t both on the side of the work, then there is trouble. Recognize when that happens and be strong. It’s great when we all get along and are friends, but don’t work harder on making that happen than putting up a good show.

When the Playwright Doesn’t Like Your Concept
Communication. Communication. Communication. Communicate often, clearly and early. You can’t compromise or even create better art if you don’t understand each other. Honest and open communication might prevent a late night talk where you end up changing something you aren’t really prepared to change. I mean, maybe you should change it, but you need to do so with a clear head. Your visions of the play might also be utterly different. You are so enamored with her and her work you would do just about anything to make her happy. When you find yourself at a late night meeting with her over whiskey you will be willing to do just about anything for her because you haven’t eaten anything all day, you just got through three days of stressful tech while working a full time job, you’ve been worrying about ticket sales, and you are worrying about how long it’s been since you spent meaningful time with your husband; so you have no real brain. If you had communicated better earlier the conversation would have been different, but it would always have been stressful. Go home. Sleep. Sleep well. Take the next day off from the day job to have lunch with her. Use this as an opportunity for meaningful creation through collaboration. She’ll feel better. You’ll feel better. They play will be better. Everything will be better.

When You Say Something Stupid On The Internet in a Networking Group
By the end of the year you’ll be the only one who cares any more. Everyone you talk to about will just nod politely and wait until the topic changes. Seriously, you’ll really be the only one who cares. Get over it as fast as you can.

When You Refuse to Answer Your Emails Because You Are Overwhelmed With Anxiety
I’m not going to lecture you about how you shouldn’t procrastinate. I’m not going to coddle you and lie and tell you that procrastination is a sign of an artist. I’m not going to tell you to get over it. You just need to figure out how to work better, smarter, and with less anxiety. My instinct is to remind you that when you don’t get back to people in a timely fashion they think you are an unreliable jerk, but I’ve come to understand that berating you only leads to more anxiety, more stress, and more procrastination. Let me just say this: there are bigger, better and more fun problems that are worth stressing about. Hit reply. Say thank you. Put it on your calendar. Move on.

When It Feels Like You Aren’t Making Enough Time to Write
It’s because you aren’t. Sit down and write. The more you beat yourself up about it, the worse it’s going to be. And every time you get jealous of other writers who are always writing and you say “Ugh, I hate you” you are really saying “Ugh, I hate myself.” Stop it. Sit down and write. Or don’t. Whatever. Just stop hating yourself for it. It isn’t productive, it isn’t fun, and it doesn’t make the writing any better. And when you don’t like what you wrote, just write more. You aren’t going to be a better writer by watching shitty reality TV and hating yourself because you should be writing but feel like everyone else in the world is so much better than you are. Pick up your laptop, take out that composition notebook, scribble on a napkin; whatever. Just write.

When You Throw-Up in a Cab
Don’t. You are thirty two, happily married, have a good job, you are proud of your directing work, and often you are very proud of your writing. Hooray! That will all suddenly, and ridiculously, feel utterly unimportant when you can’t keep your food down. You will feel cold and sober and shocked at your own stupidity. Congratulations. You aren’t perfect and it was trying to be perfect that made it worse than it should have been. Sit down on the sidewalk in the rain like a good girl. Throw it all up right in the street then walk to the muni station. You’ll still be embarrassed, but it’ll be cheaper. Oh, and maybe eat before you drink. And maybe don’t drink as much. That night.

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