The past three years have been tough on all of us. The pandemic, the insurrection on January 6th, the horror of mass shootings and senseless murders at the hands of police officers, and an incomprehensible war in Ukraine represented but a few of the headlines in the global news. Add to that our uniquely individual silent traumas, and I think the word tough might actually be an understatement. But wait, this blog post is not going to be about wallowing in negativity. This is a positive blog post.
Stay with me on this, for I am about to share the secret of how I recently switched from a negative belief system to a positive belief system, based on words of wisdom shared by a couple of master creatives. One is a new-to-me discovery; the other a venerated Wizard of Words.
It all started a couple of months ago with Amazon Prime. I got a recommendation (as we do) based on my shopping history (which, best as I could tell, was prompted by recent purchases of Ray LaMontaigne’s Trouble and Ouroboros CDs as well as a new The HU, Rumble of Thunder CD (Mongolian throat singing heavy metal rock– I kid you not, these guys are fantastic in a very primal way).
My taste in music is eclectic to say the least, so I am thinking that maybe the Amazon bots thought my choice in music was a bit on the dark side and figured I should lighten up a bit. Anyway, they popped up with list of comedian videos, one of which was Eddie Izzard’s Emmy-award-winning 2002 performance, Dress to Kill.
With a few exceptions (Robin Williams, Steve Martin) I don’t normally enjoy stand-up comedians; they mostly seem angry and shouty to me. But I watched the Dress to Kill preview and was hooked almost immediately. Needless to day, I laughed myself silly. I spent the next several weeks binge-watching his videos, from the earliest to the most recent. I even watched the 2009 documentary on his life, Believe, which was nominated for an Emmy for best documentary. Eddie Izzard’s comedy style is surreal and apparently, so is my taste in comedy (your funny bone mileage may vary). I watched and rewatched and laughed my head off every day. It felt good. And the thing is, the good feels stayed with me, long after the videos ended.
I realized that I hadn’t laughed much in a very long time.
But beneath the humor, I marveled at the word choices, sentence structure, em-PHAH-sis and rhythm of his chatty style of humor. The more I watched the performances, the more certain I became that I was enjoying a master class in writing (as well as performance). Although the medium of stand-up is different (and obviously more challenging), all good comedians necessarily have to be good writers.
Not so different from me.
Yeah, yeah, I know you (writer peeps) already know this from comedy TV shows and Saturday Night Live, but for some reason it didn’t really hit home for me until I read Eddie Izzard’s New York Times bestselling autobiography, Believe Me. Here is a creative (transgendered) person who knew exactly what he wanted to do in life from a very young age, but for whom the path to success had some hugely daunting obstacles to overcome and decades of ‘no’ to endure. For me, the key takeaways were having a rock-solid positive belief system (oh yes I can!), stamina, patience, and determination (and a dollop of courage) that will (eventually) get you where you want to go. I found the book to be to be supremely inspirational. And then, because he is a performance artist, I bought the audiobook as well, which has many additional (and fascinating) footnotes that the printed book did not have. It became evident to me that Eddie Izzard does so much more than ‘just’ act or write or perform. He/she has a vision of a better world and backs it up as a dedicated activist for causes that are important to him/her. I am awed.
After this glutting myself on laughter and inspiration, I also reread what I consider to be the best book on writing ever written: On Writing by Stephen King. Two hundred and eighty-eight pages of wise words. Yes, I reread this on every year and every year it’s chock-solid full of advice to writers and an account of his experiences coming up as one of the best (and one of my favorite) novelists of the past 50 years. I reread this book every year, and every year (as my craft improves), I get more out of it.
Re-connecting with laughter over the past several weeks and reading these two books has drastically rebooted my outlook on life in a purely positive way. I feel freshly enthusiastic again about my plans and dreams for the future. My well of positivity, determination and yes, even stamina has been refilled.
And thus, just this morning, I reached an epiphany:
– All of us need more laughter in our life; I don’t think it’s possible to kill people, plan an insurrection or invade a country when you’re enjoying life. Glut yourself on funny movies or videos or whatever tickles your particular funny bone. I recommend a two-week binge, at least.
– Make a daily affirmation to embrace a positive belief system. One where you look forward to reaching every goal and imagine the feelings of how wonderful it will feel when you get there. Wean out the nay-sayers in your life. Dream great good things for yourself.
– Remember the golden rule and treat others as you would prefer to be treated. What goes around, comes around, and change is the only constant in life. Kindness and politeness are an essential part of a positive belief system.
– Acknowledge that every little step you make towards that goal is progress. I believe that when we marry intention with action, miracles happen.
So yeah. My positive message distilled from two masters I admire greatly: Laugh more. Embrace a Positive Belief System. Dream big. Practice the golden rule. Aim to take a step closer to your goal every day. I hope my epiphany adds a bit of positivity to your day.
Welp, that’s all I’ve got.
Oh, and read (or listen to!) good books.