I recently read Will Anderson’s “written during covid” book I Am Not Fine, Thanks, and his thoughts on creating versus re-creating really captured my mind and has occupied it for the past few weeks (emphasis mine):

I once asked the former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh what it was like to face the West Indian bowlers. How did you make the decision what shot to play when a ball was coming at your face at 160 kilometres per hour? He told me that you didn’t have time to decide. You just needed to train as well as you could, and then, when you were out there, trust your instincts that you will play the right shot. Try to get out of your own head and out of your own way. That is the approach I like to take with my stand-up. Part of the reason I normally like to keep my show a bit loose is that I have a theory that there are two distinct states of stand-up comedy: creation and re-creation.

Creation is coming up with the idea, the joke, the wording, the first time you say it on stage, the first time you get a laugh. Creation has an energy all of its own and it’s always been my favourite part of the process.

Re-creation, on the other hand, is when the jokes have been tested and you are trying to say it in a way that has worked most often, to re-create a night or moment when it worked well. I often say to people that if you want to see what I thought my show was going to be, you have to come on the first night. After that the show becomes what the audience and I agree it is. Re-creation is an important part of the process, but it has never been my favourite part, and I think—as well as lack of talent—it is the main reason I have never enjoyed acting.

I’m with Wil. Creation is my favourite muscle to flex and re-creation is my least favourite. It’s exactly why I was terrible on-stage at Esperance’s Bijou Theatre in their production of A Christmas Story back in 2010 and why I love listening to, and creating, conversational podcasts, not these well-scripted and well-produced podcasts.

And it’s what lead me to post this over the weekend.

Creating a ceremony

When I talk about being unscripted in a ceremony, people often misread that as the oral version of just shooting from the hip, seeing where the bullets lie. The truth is, I’m more likely to be more prepared, more nervous, more excited, and more rehearsed than the average celebrant.

I really, really, really, trust me, really value the art of ceremony. So much so that I believe that a script can actually hinder the beauty of it.

It’s not even really about the script, or the paper, or the iPad or kindle. It’s about being so engulfed in the value and the beauty of the ceremony that any words prepared before now would not be enough.

I think about my first trip to Iceland for a wedding in 2016. We had a spare day so we went adventuring. I’d been researching Iceland for a year, and a photographer friend of mine had shared some spots we should check out, but behind the wheel I was unscripted. I was in creation mode, not re-creation.

I suddenly see a small sign a few inches off the ground with the word “Háifoss” written on it by hand. I knew that Háifoss was one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland and I wanted to see it. The road looked rough but we gave it a shot (and punctured the sump on the way). At the end of the goat track of a road was the most amazing waterfall I’ve ever seen.

Off script, off plan, ready to respond to the moment because I’m completely in the moment, we found Háifoss.

Photo of Britt and I at Háifoss

Photo of Britt and I at Háifoss

Photo by Ben Karpinski. I was so enamoured by the view I didn't actually get a good photo of the Haifoss waterfall.

Photo by Ben Karpinski. I was so enamoured by the view I didn’t actually get a good photo of the Haifoss waterfall.

You could have easily experience Haifoss by planning the trip and re-creating the adventure. But the joy we had by following our nose and exploring random roads and being present in the moment was so much more fun than being on a bus with a bunch of tourists.

Creating a ceremony live in front of an audience and a couple who have hired you to be their celebrant might not be for you, but if you could experience it just once I think you’d never come back.

Re-creating a ceremony

Actors are clearly a thing. The movie and television industries are evidence as such, but actors are re-creating scenes written by writers and directed by directors. There’s still a beautiful and important art in being an actor, being a re-creator, but it’s not a skill that I enjoy or employ.

You might be an amazing re-creator, I hope you are. But even so, do you notice that when Tom Cruise is acting he’s not reading from an iPad.

He’s prepared and rehearsed.

Call me crazy, and please do so in the comments, but maybe some of the best moments in a ceremony occur when we don’t have a Kindle in our hands?

Start with an elopement

I recently saw a photographer of a skilled, talented, and expensive celebrant colleague of mine reading a ceremony from an electronic device to a couple who were eloping. No guests, the photographers were the witnesses. The couple know how they got together, they don’t need to be re-told. This is the most raw and most intimate moment and there’s the blue glow of a screen in the celebrant’s face in the ceremony.

Maybe we could start moving from re-creating to creating in our elopement ceremonies.

Or maybe I’m crazy and the thousands of people I’ve married and who have loved what I have made for them from Iceland to Ipswich, from New York to Newcastle, are wrong.

Seriously though, please roast me in the comments. I’d be an idiot to be so passionate about something if not to enter the conversation with you.