What’s In Your Toolbox?

Recently I reread The War of Art by Steve Pressfield and picked up things that I didn’t catch the first time around.  If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s about the resistance every creative feels as they pursue whatever discipline they’ve chosen to work in.  For writers, it’s the infamous blank page syndrome, for actor’s it’s the always prepping-never doing syndrome, for all of us it’s the getting ready to get ready to think about doing something problem.  In fact I was so impressed by my second reading that I immediately went to Amazon to purchase the follow up book Do The Work.  So I logged on to Amazon and put the book in my cart.  When I went to check out, Amazon gently says “Ummmm, you’ve already purchased this book”.  I did?  I don’t remember getting it as I didn’t recognize the cover art in any of the books I owned.  So off to my past history of purchases I went and doggone it, there it was in my Kindle books.  Seems I’ve owned this tome for almost 2 years.  Boy did I feel foolish.  It made me wonder what other great tools I’ve purchased or obtained one way or another and haven’t made use of.

After pursuing a career for many years, we accumulate resources, contacts and guides that may get lost in the shuffle of the everyday of our business.  Pulling out long forgotten notes from a conference or weekend workshop is a great way to mine new tidbits of knowledge that may not have resonated when we first heard it.  It’s like cleaning out your closet of clothes you don’t wear anymore and finding that awesome pair of shoes or jeans you totally forgot you had.  Bang!  New outfit and it didn’t cost you a dime.

So I’m pulling out my notes from various conferences and workshops and seeing what I can glean from them before I sink another dime into buying that awesome thing guaranteed to push me to the next level.  I wonder what else is in this toolbox?

It All Comes Into Play

Working in the entertainment world in a secondary market means that you will work with and come across a lot of people who eventually move to either New York or Los Angeles.  Sadly it’s kind of a given as there isn’t enough work in a secondary market to financially sustain most people full time.  So most will make the move to the factory town, either New York if they are interested in theatre or Los Angeles if their goal is film or television.  Even voice artists may have to make the move.  While being able to work anywhere due to advances in technology, if you wish to pursue voicing animation, gaming or looping, you kind of have to be where it’s being created and that means LA.

What it means for me is I have a lot of friends and colleagues who now reside in LA.  I had the chance to catch up with one recently.  She made the move 2 years ago after graduating from college and was living the stereotypical actors life, waitressing to sustain herself while pursuing auditions and meeting with managers and agents.  You know the drill.

She updated me on what was going on in her life as we hadn’t spoken for quite a while.  She’d just left a long time waitressing job at a chain to move to a different restaurant.  It was a difficult decision as she truly felt like her co-workers were her family.  But this chain didn’t support her idea of living responsibly which included only eating what you really need and not serving huge portions that either go to waste or to waist.  Instead she found a place that supported her lifestyle choices of sustainability.  Even then, it wasn’t an ideal situation as she was being over-scheduled and she hadn’t as yet established many solid relationships with co-workers.  But she felt this was a temporary situation that was getting better every day.

It made me think about my last corporate job I held.  I was there for 12 years which is almost unheard of these days.  I stayed for various reasons, first because I liked and respected my co-workers.  Then because the environment was so healthy.  After all there weren’t many places that actually treat you like a grown up and let you do your job without second guessing every move.  Finally I stayed because once I started acting, I realized that my longevity and seniority gave me the flexibility I needed to pursue this new passion without sacrificing the quality of work I did for my day gig.

Hearing my friend discuss her decisions helped me to realize that everything we do, every choice we make about how we live, work and even eat, comes into play with our careers.  If we have a good paying but toxic job that sucks energy and passion from our quest, we may pay the rent but our progress will be slow or maybe even stalled.  If we work at a place that encourages overeating, you may find yourself being not so camera ready before long.  Taking care with all of the choices we make, even the seemingly non-important or non-related ones will serve us well as we go forth.

The Plan

I just finished watching The Adjustment Bureau on the recommendation of a friend.  I’m surprised I didn’t see it in the theatre as I’m a big Matt Damon fan and I think Emily Blunt is fantastic to watch.  Most likely I just got busy doing other things and it was out of the theaters before I made time to see it.  For whatever reason, I missed it’s general release but on a recent trip, this was the movie that was being played coincidentally westbound and eastbound.  Turns out maintenance hadn’t put the correct film on the westbound plane loading this one instead.  So I was kind of getting the message that I should be watching this film.  I’d put it in my Netflix queue but it was in the middle of the list.  Alright, alright, I’ll watch it.  Sheesh.

The story was very well done, with exciting twists and turns, love, dance, politics, religion, loss.  You name it, it was in the film in a well crafted way.  I most definitely can recommend it’s watching.  But because of our descent and arrival at our destination, I missed the very last scene of the film so I was very happy to have it replayed on the journey home.  And it holds up well to being replayed.  I picked up things I’d missed before.  Anywho the VO at the end, and I don’t think this will ruin the story for you, spoke about The Plan.  The Plan for each of us.  And how we have a choice.  No matter what or how many obstacles are thrown in our path, we can choose go along with them on path of least resistance, or we can to plow right through them to achieve what we want.  The second option isn’t going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.  Just watch.

Myopia

A long time ago, I was diagnosed with myopia, also known as nearsightedness.  It started about 5th grade when I couldn’t read the signs on the road when I was in the car with my parents.  I started squinting to compensate and bring into focus what I couldn’t see. Glasses were prescribed to be followed by contacts when I also needed braces and my Mom had my back by saying “she can’t have braces and glasses at the same time.  It’s too much to endure both at once.”  Whew!  Dodged that bullet.

Fast forward after many years of sticking round concave pieces of polymers, plastic, in my eyes.  Technology has advanced to the point where a 10 minute procedure fixes this condition and I no longer have to deal with not being able to see the alarm clock in the morning.  Of course, now I’m dealing with dry eye syndrome that seems to happen post lasik.  But that’s another story.

While my physical myopia has been dealt with, myopia can exist in many other ways.  It’s second definition is lack of imagination, foresight or intellectual insight.  So many suffer from this kind of myopia, doing the mundane, not seeing the big picture or failing to see beyond what they know.  Not believing that anything is possible ‘out there’, that the only truth is what is in front of you and this doesn’t change.  Having a vision that is small and close or having no vision at all.  That’s a scary outlook but I realized that there are times when I adopted this myopic viewpoint.  It’s easy to do, especially when you aren’t getting positive feedback on your efforts, you aren’t booking auditions or even getting called to audition in the first place.  Believing your efforts are for naught and it’s all a waste of time.  Not seeing that the seeds I’m planting today will bear fruit in the months and years to come.

Our instant gratification society adds to this myopia.  With instant results to be gained by the touch of a button it’s so easy to think ‘well that didn’t work.  I’m obviously not going to be a success.’ Because if it doesn’t work immediately, it must be a failure right? Being able to see beyond the myopia and embrace the fact that maybe you don’t know how prolific your efforts will be isn’t easy. Especially for this girl who has been known (allegedly) to skip to the end of a book to see what happens instead of letting the story unfurl as it should.  Find the faith to know with certainty that you will be rewarded for your efforts, even if there’s no evidence to back that up, at least that you can see at this moment.

That Apple Guy

No not Steve Jobs although I am a big fan of his products.  I’m referring that other apple guy, Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered these universal laws when an apple fell on his head.  Rumour has it.  I never took physics, pretty much avoiding science like the plague when I was in high school, but as I’ve grown older I realized how much I missed out.  I think I would have had a blast in physics.  I still may go back and take a class at some point just to do all those experiments.

So one of the laws The Newt came up with was his third law, that being “for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction”.  I’ve heard this bandied about over the years but never really gave it much thought until recently.  I’d always thought it was that whatever action I did, there was something out there that negated it or zeroed it out.  I had kind of an aha moment when I realized that what it really meant was whatever action or energy I put out to the universe, it generates an energy comes back to me with equal force.  So if I’m putting out negative energy such as “this will never work out” or “I’ll never be successful” or “that’s impossible to accomplish” then that is what I will get back, a whole lot of negative and nothing.  But if I put out positives “I’m going to have a great day” or “I’m going to be a success” or “yes I can” or “I’m going to book a job” then that is what I’m going to get back in spades.  I know it sounds all mystical and touchy-feely but hey, I’m talkin’ physics here.  That’s hard science right?  Can’t argue with a law that’s been around for over 200 years and still remains relevant now can you?

I’m Having Difficulty…

All too often, I really don’t pay attention to the words I use when I speak to myself.   The language I use isn’t the kindest or the most encouraging.  I say things like “shame on me” and “I can’t”.  The shame on me is pretty harsh and brings down judgment, regret and well, shame.  I’ve been working on this as I used to say it with frequency, not even registering what I was telling myself.  Shame on me.  Wow.  Slips in before you know it.

Then there’s the insidious “I can’t”.  Boy oh boy does that one creep in faster than a speeding bullet.  It’s not always verbalized but it’s there nonetheless.  It’s there when I fall short of a goal and don’t keep trying to meet it.  It’s there when I think it’s too cold/hot outside to work out.  It’s there when I don’t get hired for a VO or On Camera gig and I rationalize with I can’t be the voice, or the image they have in their mind.  It’s there more than I realize.  And I’m not one to give up easily on things.  Remember I’m the queen of “me do it”.  But it still exists in my vernacular anyway.  Saying “I can’t” is saying there’s absolutely no way to make something happen.  And there’s always a way to work around a problem or figure out a solution.

I’m not asking for superhuman efforts or perfection of myself.  What I’m asking for is a rethinking of the language I use to talk to myself.  Instead of saying “I can’t” I’m going to try to start saying “I’m having difficulty”.  It may be semantics but I think the way we talk to ourselves and to others has a far greater impact than I’ve realized in the past.  And it’s not one big change that will make a big difference but the thousands of little changes I make in my everydayness that will help me achieve my goals.

Bruises

Did you ever go through your day, just doing what you do everyday, then get home that night and when you are putting on your pj’s you look down and say, now where did I get that bruise?  I don’t remember banging into something.  Did I get hit in passing?  It’s going to be an ugly one, going to stick around for days.  Hmmm.  That’s a puzzler.

Those are the bruises we can see.  We don’t remember when we got them but we know we have them.  They’ll go through their phases of healing, first black, then green then this putrid yellow, finally just fading into nothing, no trace it was ever there.  It occurred to me, as I looked at 2 I swear got from a virus in the air, that there are other bruises we can’t see and may not know are there.  Like the one I have from the oh-so-wonderful fellow castmate, who as I was about to step on stage for my first line, said “please stop stepping on my lines”.  Wow. Talk about sabotage.  Then there are the ones that are long buried, the ones from the nasty kids at school that shape how we act with others.  Or the ones from our family that were meant to help us (in their minds) but instead cut us most cruelly and undermined our self confidence.  Or the partner whose idea of supporting you is to mention how few feature films ever get made and how many more porn films are made, so maybe you should go into that field.  These are the ones that are the hardest to heal.  Oh we’ve buried them, but they come up at the most inopportune times and smack us right between the eyes with their fresh, ugly purpleness.  Healing those takes a lot of patience, understanding and forgiveness.  And knowledge that it may come around again to smack you with a 2 x 4 in the gut.  But they get better.  And easier to deal with and dismiss.  Hopefully they’ll one day just fade into nothing.