Nick Ahad is a writer, broadcaster, playwright and stand-up. He has interviewed a number of authors and performers for the Huddersfield Literature Festival, including Sir Patrick Stewart in March 2018.
This article was previously published in print in the Yorkshire Post on 21 December 2018.
A few days before Christmas; that time of year when we look back and take stock.
As an early Christmas present I’m going to share a couple of moments from my year. I’m not arrogant enough (no, really) to use the word ‘inspire’, but perhaps the stories of some of my victories – and failures – of working in the creative industries this year might provide food for thought.
I’m still juggling what’s known as a ‘portfolio career’. I’m a writer and broadcaster, writing for the Yorkshire Post (obviously) as well as my work writing plays for various theatres. I also present my own show for BBC Radio Leeds.
In the middle of this year, June 3 (it’s seared into my memory) I took up stand up. It started out as a hobby, but as I am now being paid (sporadically and badly) I’m considering it another arm of my so-called career.
The first gig was to 300 people. It was a charity event and the venue was packed full of friends and family. In stand up vernacular, I ‘smashed it’ – and received a very false idea of what the world of stand up looked like from the stage. In Durham, a month later, I did my third gig, my first paid gig. I’ve been keeping a stand up journal. The (edited for language) entry for that gig reads: “Horrific. They. Hated. Me.”
Fortunately, I have the hide of a rhino (short, working class, mixed race; it’s like Frankenstein created the perfect creature to absorb criticism). So after that horrific third gig, I kept going. I know that the only way to get good at something is to be really bad at it for a long time. My early articles make me cringe, my first plays were navel-gazing nonsense and long abandoned novels read like diary entries.
That’s what I have kept in mind while attacking stand up comedy. It’s getting better. I’m getting better. I still die on stage, I still pick myself up and go to the next gig.
I’ve also juggled two major new play projects this year. One of them is already announced, it’s called Glory and it’s a state of the nation drama set in a wrestling ring. I love the play and hope you get to see it when it comes to Scarborough and Hull early next year. It’s been a joy and the producers have made me feel like some kind of playwrighting genius.
Then there’s the other play. I can’t tell you what it is yet, but you will be hearing about it. My first draft was rejected out of hand and I literally had to go back to the beginning and start again. The first draft of the next story needed a lot of work. I’ve felt constantly like a pupil handing in disappointing homework with this play.
In those moments I remember that you must fail again and fail better. It’s all we can do in the creative arts.
It’s the lesson I take from the victories and failure of the year, that you keep creating, put one foot in front of the other and believe in the why of what you’re doing.
If you’re creating something, anything, I hope these stories from my own journey through 2018 provide succour. Merry Christmas!