I would love to open this essay with, “During my tenure as a writer for Saturday Night Live, Lorne would often tell me…” But it would be a bold faced lie. However, according to my extensive research – aka reading Tina Fey’s book Bossypants – the long-time producer of SNL would often say this:
“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”
Since my writing credits currently include: my tiny college’s annual short-fiction publication, a website I started, and Thought Catalog (no disrespect intended), it is doubtful that I’ll never get the opportunity to hear Mr. Michaels say this to me in person. The best I can hope for is to hear him say something like, “How the hell did you get past security?” or “I’m flattered, but please put your pants back on.”
I get it, friend. You want to make “it” perfect. It doesn’t really matter what your “it” is exactly: that project for work, that essay for school, or that deck off the back of the house that you’ve been working on longer than we’ve been at war with terror; it won’t receive your stamp of approval until it’s flawless. I understand because I do it too.
What is this in us human beings that makes us want to do that one thing perfectly? Maybe we believe that if we can do this, this one thing, if we can get this right it will somehow make up for all the other less-than-perfect shit in our messed up lives. So when we get dumped (again) or lose that job or have yet another fight with our parents, we can point to that one thing and say, “At least I did that. I at least I got that right.”
So we become obsessed with getting that one thing exactly right. And there is nothing wrong with striving for perfection. It’s in that striving that humans have discovered and created things that have changed the world; like the George Foreman Grill or those light bulbs that last for 100 years or stuffed crust pizza.
But, as Lorne Michaels tells us, eventually it will be 11:30 and the show must go on.
You can agonize over every tiny detail, do 50 re-writes, and plan for every possible outcome. You can escape into the world of your “it”; leaving behind you all of the things in your life that you can’t control, if only for a fleeting moment. You can beg Lorne for more time, for one more run-through, or for a quick second to slide that plate to the left because it “looks funnier there”.
What Lorne Michaels can teach us about life is this: eventually you have to get on with it. Nothing will ever go exactly the way you plan. All of that stuff you were trying to escape will still be there when the curtain goes down. It’s won’t go perfectly and it might never feel “ready”.
But it’s 11:30.