Putting It All Together

We’ve all done it.  Attended a conference, workshop or diet farm where we learned oodles of great tips and skills to help us get to the next level in whatever we are trying to achieve.  Our bags are stuffed with great ideas we have every intention of implementing the moment we arrive home.  This is a new beginning by golly and we’re going to just soar with all we’ve learned.  Then our feet cross the threshold of our homes and all that great knowledge, drive and determination go poof! right out of our noggin.  And before we know it, 4 months have passed, you’re cleaning out your office and what’s this?  Oh, it’s that stuff from that thing I went to back when.  What was it I was going to do with all that stuff?  I’ll just push it aside for a while longer.

This time, I’m really going to try to have a different outcome.  I’m going to put together a schedule for myself and make every attempt to stick to it.  It will take self discipline and determination and I know I may fall off the wagon but I’ll really try to get back on track.  Wish me luck!

Words, Words, Words

I’ve just returned from an extended holiday in the UK.  It was first vacation I’ve had in probably 8 years that wasn’t work related, even though there was a smidge of work done on the trip.  This time I went further than just the city of London, which is one of my favorite cities on earth.  Even though I was a French major in college and have a fondness for Paris, I absolutely adore and am in serious crush with England.  And it returned the affection.  The weather was fabby, the people wonderful and the sites everything I’d want them to be.

I’d hoped to do more inhaling of the accent than I was able to but circumstances prevented that.  What I did do was listen to all the talking going on around me, which was so easy to do on the tube.  And for a word junkie like me, it was quite the treat.  I’d read somewhere that Americans use about 2000 words but the Brits use approximately 5000 words.  Very soon I was suffering from word envy.  And it was a serious case of the green eyed monster.  They use the language so richly that I was embarrassed to open my mouth sometimes.  Not really but you get my drift.  When you are in the presence of someone who has more skill than you do at something, a shyness comes about when you realize that you don’t measure up to their expertise and you’d be a fool to even try.

Instead of letting this stop me, I’m resolving to try to increase my master of language and all the wonderful words we have available to use.  After all, I just visited the home of where so many words were created hundreds of years ago.  I wouldn’t be doing my travels justice if I didn’t at least try.  So fair warning dear reader, you may need a dictionary nearby in the future.

Recalculating

If you own a GPS, you know that word.  I don’t think the person voicing it meant to be as accusatory as it sounds when you make a turn contradictory to the directions the computer feels you should be following.  Sometimes you know where you are headed so you aren’t complying with the preset path, you just need the computer to keep you up to date on what your ETA will be.  Other times, you remember you need something and make a pit stop on the way.  Sometimes you genuinely get turned around and go the wrong direction.  Either way, you get the GPS all discombobulated and she’s clattering away, “recalculating….recalculating…recalculating”  I know! I know! you want to scream.  Just chill out while I get myself back on path.

It often seems this way with accomplishing our goals.  We think there is only one way to achieve them but then something or someone bumps us off that path and before you know it, your internal GPS is saying “recalculating” as you get your bearings and get back on track.  Being flexible enough to take this all in and not let it deter you from continuing on is key to making progress and not quitting.  There’s never just one way to get to your destination and knowing you just need to recalculate your way takes a lot of the anxiety away from those bumps and bruises.  And hearing a less obnoxious voice in your head certainly won’t hurt!

Finding Heroes

Reading biographies is something I truly enjoy doing.  I buy into the fantasy and believe these words just came flowing out of the authors mouth perfectly onto the paper.  Ghost writers?  What are those?  I choose not look behind the curtain to see the main moving the levers and pushing the buttons.  Reading about another’s journey and what got them to where they are today is very inspiring to me.  I usually pick up something that lights my fire and keeps me going in a forward direction on my own journey.  Usually these people have reached a level of expertise, celebrity or notoriety that would allow a biography to be written.

Every once in a while I come across a story that isn’t like this.  The subjects aren’t famous.  They haven’t climbed to the top of their field.  They may not even have a field.  They are simple people trying everyday to reach beyond their present circumstances.  And their stories are every bit as compelling and inspiring, sometimes even more so, than those of the celebrated.  Such was the case with a documentary I recently watched, Waiting for Superman.  It’s been on my video cue for several months but I kept pushing frothier fare in front of it.  But I found myself on a long flight and it was in my bag.  And let me tell you, it was gripping.  Several times tears were just streaming from my eyes.  My heart was breaking for these kids.  If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a huge favor and put in on your must watch list immediately.  You’ll thank yourself.  The struggle of parents to get a better education for their kids was heartbreaking.  And when things didn’t turn out their way, they didn’t give up, they tried another route.  Nothing was going to stop them from getting a better life for their kids than they had.  And you know this is going on everyday, in every home, with single or dual parents, rich or poor, PHD’s or barely GED’s.  Parents realize a good education is the ticket to success for their children and they were going to move heaven and earth to make it happen.

That single mindedness, resolve and quiet determination really hit home with me.  It’s so easy to point to the celebrity or sport elite for inspiration but the real heroes are those that just keep plugging away, day after day in their anonymity, doing the best they can with what life throws their way.  They are real heroes.

Security in Silence

No I’m not referring to the fact that it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted anything.  That is for another day.  This phrase came to me in a wonderful note from a friend, Jenna Johnson, who’s moved to LA and is trying to make a go of it there.  She meant it differently than I’m using it here but the the phrase was powerful enough to stand out on it’s own.

Finding the security in silence isn’t an easy thing to do.  So often as talent, creatives and simply human beings, we are very uncomfortable with silence.  How many times have we experienced the awkward silence in a conversation?  Or when someone falls silent, rushed to fill a perceived void with meaningless words that sometimes end up doing more harm than good?  Or when you think that nothing is happening in a situation, tried to make something, anything happen by forcing an action?

We are not comfortable with silence, especially in today’s world.  There is so much stimulation visually and aurally that this has become the norm and silence is almost abnormal.  I’ve really tried to make an effort to embrace silence when I work from home so I can let flow what needs to flow without the scattered focus interruptions these noises bring.  But it’s a never-ending battle against a very strong tide.

The even more difficult silence to handle is when you feel there is silence in your career.  You haven’t had an audition in weeks so you must be blackballed at the casting office.  Or your agent is on the verge of dropping you.  You haven’t done a voiceover in you don’t know how long so obviously your voice isn’t hirable.  You had no response to your latest marketing campaign so that was a big waste of time and money.  What you don’t know is what is happening in the silence.  What is transpiring behind the scenes in the big picture of things.  Trusting the silence, being secure in the knowledge that no news may really be good news, that you have planted and are are continuing to plant seeds of success is not easy.  It’s takes a lot of faith, trust and discipline to not try to make something, anything happen because of course that’s the only way progress is measured right?  Visible action must mean progress.  Not always.  Sometimes there’s plenty of action going on, you just can’t see it.  Just know that it’s there and find security in the silence.

Paying It Forward

Several days ago I mentioned an encounter with an actor who is consistently working in film and television in Los Angeles.  I found myself in the same elevator so the poor man had no choice but to endure my conversation.  At the time I didn’t realize who he was as I wasn’t the target demo for the shows he’s previously been on, I thought he was a sports anchor on a station I’d previously sold.  Anywho, he most graciously put up with my request to pick his brain and answered my questions for about an hour and a half.  The topics were all over the board from what he felt when a series was cancelled to are there any normal people in Hollywood and how do you tell if they like you for you and not for what you can do for them?  It was truly one of most seminal moments in my career to date.  The information he shared, the inside tips and the encouragement were early Christmas presents delivered at a time when I needed to receive them.  I had a smile on my face the remainder of the day that no lack of sleep from a red-eye flight could erase.

I don’t know if someone had done this for him early in his career or if he was just in a good mood and felt like talking.  I’m sure when he left to catch his plane back to LA he had no idea of the impact he’d left on me and of the ripple effect his words would produce.  I’m sure once he hit the terminal floor our encounter was forgotten as he moved into getting home mode. But I didn’t forget and I won’t forget.  I’ll think back to that conversation many times over the next weeks and months as I go forward.  And that’s the way it should be.  There is a saying that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.  I learned many lessons that early morning and am most grateful for the generosity and kindness shown to me by a fellow actor.  It was pretty amazing.

Staying Enthused

I’m in the middle of a big project.  One that has been in the writing and planning stages for several months now.  It’s a web series called Mags N Mel that I’ve co-written with Maritza Cabrera and we are co-producing and starring in it.  It’s been a lot of work to get to this point and now we are halfway through shooting all the episodes.  A feeling I used to feel when I was doing a play is starting to come over me and I’m a bit surprised at it’s appearance.

When you are planning something big there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm leading up to the commencement of it.  Months of planning, writing, rehearsing, what ifs and how abouts.  All leading up to that first day or first performance or first launch.  There’s so much energy in the air, you can feel it.  Then you start and that feeling carries you through the first day or so.  And then you realize, this is going to be a grind.  More so that I thought it would be.  And that feeling always surprises me because I don’t expect it.  It’s happened midway through the run of a play, when my closet contents are spread all over the floor and when I’ve commenced a complicated craft project.  That’s when the “ugh” factor kicks in and it’s not fun anymore.  It’s work.  I thought it was going to be fun!

We started this project for various reasons, to get ourselves in the Screen Actors Guild, put ourselves and our friends to work, create content and put our writing skills to use.  All of these objectives have been accomplished but the project isn’t finished yet.  Finding the enthusiasm and the drive not to mention the money to finish what I’ve started isn’t going to be easy but finishing it will be so rewarding.  This is usually when I wish I had Samantha Stevens bewitching nose to just twinkle it into completion!

The Truth Will Set You Free

Recently I wrote a post that was inspired by another blog written by Seth Godin.  In it, I was pretty harsh with my self criticism and received quite a bit of feedback saying I was too hard on myself and I should look at all I’d accomplished so far.  I was surprised at the reaction and wondered if I indeed had been too hard on myself.

I don’t think so and here’s why.  Humans are wonderfully able to fool themselves into thinking they are thinner than they really are, more wealthy than their bank accounts would reveal, are smarter than all others and work harder than anyone else around them.  We’ve all run into people who make you shake your head in their total lack of self awareness and the ensuing “Are they for real?!!”  All too often we fool ourselves into a reality that isn’t based in any truth.  And when you work for yourself and don’t have a boss or a spouse or some other accountability person giving us the stink eye when we say we’ve been working really hard, being brutally self honest is extremely important.  Let’s face it, no one cares about you or your projects more than you.  Ok maybe your Mom does but in her eyes she thinks you do no wrong.  Assessing your progress with honesty allows you to move forward with renewed purpose and vigor.

So I’m ok with what I wrote.  Just so you know, I’m firmly in the altered reality with regards to my weight but one reality check at a time please!

Just go

Serendipity is a pretty amazing thing.  Be it chance or luck or karma or the universe putting opportunities in your path, when it happens, it’s really cool.  I was traveling recently and had a layover from a red eye flight in Dallas.  Prevailing winds were so strong eastbound that we landed 25 minutes earlier than scheduled and I think we were the first flight into DFW that day.  I had a several hour layover so I headed to the lounge to freshen up, grab some refreshments and check my email.  Most airport lounges offer free wifi which is an awesome perk.  We were so early to arrive that the lounge still had a half an hour before it opened.  When the doors finally swung open, there were quite a few of us rushing them and the elevators were full with each trip.  I happened to notice the suitcase of one of my fellow stuffed in people.  It was from a now defunct network that was affiliated with several stations I used to sell.  I commented to the owner how much I missed that network and asked what station he was with.  He replied “no station” and I continued to babble on thinking all the while he looked like a sports guy I must have seen on a promotional piece somewhere.  So I then asked him if he was with the network and he replied no, he was on a show for them.  The elevator doors then opened, mind you all this happened in a 1 floor lift ride and we dispersed into the club.  Me to freshen up and him to parts unknown.

As I was de-stinking all my parts, I was thinking about the interchange that had just happened and what to do about it.  I’ve had several opportunities recently where I’ve been in the same place as a person of note but either because of nerves or shyness or respect for their privacy haven’t taken advantage of them.  And I’ve kicked myself each time.  So I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass me by.  I left the bathroom and commenced my search for this person.  I soon found him relaxing with a cup of coffee and approached saying “can I pick your brain?  Feel free to tell me to go pound sand but I’m an actress and I’d love to hear your story.”  And he most graciously said sure and put up with my questions for the next 90 minutes.

So this guy has had quite a bit of success in his professional life.  Call it luck, call it earned, call it whatever you want but one of the nuggets he shared in a bucketful of nuggets is something his Dad said to do and that was to just go.  I think the puzzled expression on my face spoke volumes so he elaborated.  Even if it’s a job where you don’t think it’s right for you, or the character is someone you don’t connect with or the pay may not be what you’re used to, just go, do your best as you never know what may come of that opportunity.  Resist the urge to say “nah” but instead jump at the chance to work.  There may be people at that gig that will hire you, finance your next project or recommend you for something.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “nah” in the past.  But in the future, I’ll be saying “yah” a lot more!

A Well Deserved Kick in the Rear

Seth Godin’s blog is something I read every day and have mentioned to here several times.  I have to say this guy’s writing is so on the mark.  He makes very relevant points more often than not and puts out an incredibly consistent amount of good content.  The consistent part is what I truly admire.

Today’s post was another home run.  He talks about the world’s worst boss.  And he’s telling me to point the finger right back at myself.  When I did, I didn’t like what I saw.  After reviewing my work this past week, I think I would have fired me, or at least put me on probation.  My organization, time management, productivity and employee (me) development was mediocre at best.  The only thing I have going for me is the amount of hours I put in.  But many of those hours were spent cruising websites and tracking down obscure info that really couldn’t be mistaken for revenue producing activity.  When I was managing, I would look very hard at my employees when they were goofing off for long periods of time.  Sure there were times that we were slower than molasses and this helped balance the crazier-than-a-loon’s-nest times.  And I am not inhuman enough to recognize the need to unwind a bit after an intense amount of activity.

But, I can honestly say I haven’t had that insane amount of activity lately, certainly not on a consistent basis.  I haven’t really earned the right to goof off as much as I’ve been allowing myself to.  My lack of planning my day has left me to flit from activity to activity in a very unfocused way with the results being haphazard at best.  To be fair, I have launched a major project that has taken much of my time and attention these past few weeks.  I’m starring in and co-producing a web series called Mags N Mel.  It’s my first time producing anything and it’s been overwhelming with all the details to take care of.  But we are only shooting 1 day a week over several weeks which is a very manageable shoot schedule.  Although I’m not getting paid (cheap producers!), this is an important project in that it has made me eligible to join the Screen Actor’s Union.

What I haven’t been focusing on are projects and auditions that will directly result in generating revenue.  And I knew what I was doing.  I wasn’t being honest with myself and calling a spade a spade.

So now that I know what I’m doing, the real key is to not continue the behavior.  They say the first step to recovery is to recognize the bad behavior.  The bigger second step is to not repeat the behavior expecting a different result.  That’s the difficult part.  First I have to get this big boot out of my rear though.