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Joz Norris


Tape 80: Your Rhythm; The World’s Rhythm

  • Tape 80: Your Rhythm; The World’s Rhythm

Your Rhythm; The World’s Rhythm


This week, a few thoughts on creative rhythms, and getting them to line up. In order to talk about it, I’m going to have to allow myself to be more pessimistic than I usually aim to be in these newsletters, or at least to give voice to a period of time where I was finding it hard to not be pessimistic. From the end of October into the start of November, I was finding it quite hard to feel motivated creatively. I mentioned in this newsletter around that time that I was consciously shifting back from “Output Mode” to “Input Mode,” having completed all the work on two major projects that had taken up the best part of two years in the forms of the Edinburgh show Blink and the radio show The Dream FactoryMy aim was to return to the more creatively expansive, less results-oriented mode of starting to explore new ideas that might turn into finished projects of their own a year or so further down the line. Sadly, as the days and weeks went by, I found it difficult to do this because I was kind of blindsided by how little work came in off the back of those bigger projects.


There’s a saying in creative freelancing that your job is always to get the next job. So, while I was enormously proud of those projects, of their quality and the extent to which they fulfilled the creative goals I set for them, and I was really glad they existed in a finished form in the world, one of the objectives I also had in mind for them was that I wanted them to create a slight shift in the type of work I ended up doing over the subsequent weeks and months. I deliberately made a live show with a much stronger character at the centre of it, and with a clearer narrative spine than in my previous shows. And the radio show was the culmination of a lifelong dream to make and act in scripted narrative comedy. The combination of the two projects, I hoped, would mean that more work in that world might start to trickle in, whether that was in offers to develop my own scripts, to write on other people’s projects, to audition for TV shows or films, whatever it might be. While working on those two big projects, I half had it in my head that those would be the kinds of things I wanted to be doing next.


It therefore hit me very hard that both projects went out to, in career terms, relative quiet. Not necessarily in terms of the reaction and response to them – both had really nice things said about them, either in reviews or features, or via direct feedback from both friends and anonymous listeners and audience members. I couldn’t have been happier with how the world seemed to react to them. But still, the signs of any of it creating new work for me, or changing the kinds of work I was being asked to do, was vanishingly small and I couldn’t help but take it as evidence that perhaps they weren’t that good after all. That while I could point to plenty of evidence that people had enjoyed them, the “powers that be” had still ultimately decided they weren’t worthy of their attention, and had decided not to bother with me. I won’t lie, it was a tricky few weeks, as time went by and the inbox remained completely empty in terms of signs of what the next job was going to be.

A photo of me checking my inbox in October


Then it hit me – why was I expecting the world to be following exactly the same rhythm as me? My own creative rhythms were entirely out of my control, dictated by random external deadlines and schedules, and significantly affected by my own moods and fluctuating productivity as well. Why should I expect the world to be any different? Why would it be reasonable to think that, of all the people that live in it, I should be the person whose timetable it syncs up with? It was outrageously ego-centric behaviour. I had set myself some sort of mad expectation that, purely because I was finishing up two big projects of my own in September/October, a whole bunch of other people would be just starting to work on projects of their own that I would be a perfect fit for at exactly the same time. Not only that, those projects would be arriving at the stage where it would be time to secure my involvement in them miraculously just as my diary cleared. Oh, and assuming that all the people making such projects had obviously been made aware of mine, and could see from them what a perfect fit I was for them. Thinking about it like this, my entire thought process suddenly looked ridiculous – what was I on about? Of course nobody was just going to emerge out of the fog at exactly the right moment and hand me a job I hadn’t been expecting. But I’d made the mistake of thinking that meant that all my work had been for nothing, and failed to achieve any of the forward steps I’d been hoping it might. The truth is, the rhythm of my own creative process is different from that of the rest of the world, and when the rewards of this year’s work do eventually come in, I might not even necessarily know where they’ve come from.


The amazing writer Jon Brittain, an old friend of mine to whom I owe a great deal as he helped me to find my feet in the comedy world and still does, recently gave me a way of looking at all this that I found really helpful. He said:


“As writers and creators, all that our work really does is gets our name put up on a few more whiteboards around the country. We don’t even know which whiteboards it’s on, or why. But at some point, people will be working on something and they’ll look at the whiteboard and go “Oh, they’d be good for this.” It’s just a case of carrying on working until your name is on the right whiteboard at the right time, but the frustrating thing is that you never know where it is at any time.”


That frustration, and that sense of your own rhythm being slightly out-of-sync with the rhythm of the feedback you seem to be getting from the world, can often lead to the sensation that you’re creating work in a sort of vacuum, completely cut off from any sensation that any of it is leading anywhere. But as I’ve come to realise in the last couple of weeks, any expectations that that external feedback will come in exactly according to the schedule you have in mind for it is a form of egotism, really, of imprinting your own inner world onto the rest of reality and expecting it to match up, then getting grumpy when it doesn’t. Far better to wait, to start creating anew, to fill your life with interesting and unexpected things, and then wait until the right people glance at that whiteboard at the right time. Since accepting this, I’ve already been surprised to see small offers of collaborative work start to dribble in, as though the universe just needed me to get over myself before it handed me any rewards. It’s a lesson worth bearing in mind, I think.


On a completely unrelated note, a quick plug for Dinner Time tonight at the Glitch, Lower Marsh – I’ll be trying out a new short film script, and Ben and Miranda will be exploring new ideas too. See you there if you’re free and fancy popping along!


A Cool New Thing In Comedy – The programme for VAULT Festival 2023 just launched! Provided this one doesn’t get cancelled like 2022’s did, this will be the first VAULT Festival since the heady days of 2020! It’s a festival I really enjoy, and I’ll be revisiting Blink for two final performances in early February. If you missed it, I’d love you to see it! And if you saw it and liked it, I’d love you to spread the word about these lives shows!


What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – Auditioned for something this week and was handed a script whose front page included a print-off of an email from the casting director that I wasn’t supposed to see, slagging off everyone involved in the project. Really tickled me.


Book Of The Week – I just finished Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. by Rob Delaney. It’s a bit bitty and fragmented, but is a really funny comedic memoir, and eventually explores depression and recovery in a really frank, honest, touching way.


Album Of The Week – And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, the new album by Weyes Blood. Her 2019 album Titanic Rising was the best album that year, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this. It doesn’t hit the highs of that album, or hasn’t done for me yet – maybe I need to give it more listens. But her voice is incredible and the songs are lovely, so it’s just good to have her back.


Film Of The Week – My Neighbour Totoro. I’m seeing the live version of this in a couple of weeks, so thought I should probably watch this to prep for it. It’s…good? It nails childlike imaginative play really well, and it’s beautiful to look at. It doesn’t really have a plot, and I was pretty surprised by the fact that Totoro isn’t really in it, or ever really become part of the story. Fascinated to see how they’re gonna make any of it work onstage.


That’s all for this week! Let me know what you thought and, as ever, if you wanted to recommend the Therapy Tapes to a friend or encourage others to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it. Take care of yourselves until next time, and catch you next week!


Joz xx


PS I went to an exhibition by the painter Forrest Bess last week, and I liked his painting of shy eggs hiding behind stalks of corn.

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