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.

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.

Fruits of Labor

A green thumb is something I think I have.  Not the most prolific green thumb but more things live under my care than die.  But I’ve always been challenged when it comes to growing tomatoes.  I have enough sun on top of my deck as it sits on the roof so that’s not an issue.  I’ve tried for years to grow tomatoes to no avail.   They grow in the pots but never really bear fruit.  Last year I started them too late in the season as I’d been traveling throughout the month of June so they didn’t get planted until July.  Not enough growing time as our summer is short enough to begin with.  Add to that the lateness of the planting and you get whole lotta nuttin’.  This year however, I planted in late May.  Instead of pots I used the Topsy-Turvy you see advertised on TV.  Well actually I’m doing an experiment, one plant is in a pot and a duplicate is in the Topsy-Turvy.  This way I can see if their television claims really do hold up.  So far, the Topsy is winning.  I also planted one with cucumbers and one with red peppers.  They seem to be flourishing as well.

The other evening I was grilling my  dinner and I thought I’d check to see if any of the red tomatoes were ready to be picked.  Lo and behold, 2 were.  They weren’t big by any stretch, about the size of large racquetballs, but boy were they good.  I was so excited to finally be tasting my tomatoes, the ones I’d grown and watered every day religiously and almost even burned out with too much fertilizer.  After all if some fertilizer was good, lots should be ever better right?  Maybe I should go back and read that children’s book by Helen Palmer called A Fish Out Of Water, just so I actually learn the lesson she’s teaching.  But they survived my efforts and I am starting to enjoy them.

I thought about this when 2 things happened the next day.  I got a call from something I’d submitted to over 2 months ago and had completely forgotten about.  Delightful lady.  She wanted to talk further and have me do some more specific auditioning for her.   Turns out we might actually do some business together.  Then later I received an email from another piece of business I’d submitted on over a month ago with some additional information and a request for a more refined bid.  I didn’t get the job but both of these contacts were from submissions I’d done weeks ago that I’d long forgotten.  Made me realize the work I’m doing today may not bear fruit for quite a while.  Gave me the energy to pick up the phone and continue cold calling.  Who knows what’s germinating out there?  I’ve got more tomatoes on the vine ripening every day.

Not now, thank you

One of the most frustrating and undefinable parts of this business I’ve chosen to be in is the casting process.  So many times, getting cast in a project has nothing to do with your talent.  I know that doesn’t make sense because off all the training and workshops and coaching we actors continually invest in.  Those things are very important and shouldn’t be ignored.  But all that training and coaching isn’t for those who are casting but for us the actors.  It continues to inspire and inform us.  Those who are casting assume you have what it takes to do the job or they wouldn’t have invited you to the audition.  That’s something we as actors always forget.  You wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t do the job.  We need to remember that first and foremost.

What it comes down to so many times, more times than we can even imagine, is are you the voice they heard in their head or are you the face they saw when they wrote the script?  Most times the answer is no.  And that’s not easy to accept.  After all, we know we can do the part, voice the script.  We did a great job at the audition.  Why weren’t we picked?  ARRRGH!

Sorry…I digress.  What is actually happening isn’t a “no” but a “no thank you, not now”.  You just don’t fit what they need at the moment.  But that doesn’t meet that they won’t be calling on you soon for a different project.  A no in casting is rarely a forever no.  It’s just a no for now.  Eventually it will be a “Yes!  Thank you!”  Eventually.

Fabulous Hair

I am a devoted reader of Seth Godin’s Blog.  I have it delivered to my inbox every day.  Which reminds me I need to let all my 4 readers know I have the ability to do that for them as well.  Anywho, I love how he looks at things.  He takes a situation, turns it upside down, inside out and backwards and helps me to look at something in a completely different way.  And in doing so, I break a little further out of the mold of “I’ve always done it that way”.  He’s also great at introducing me to new thoughts, new ideas and often new words. And you know I’m a word junky.  I love collecting them.  One of his recent blogs was about the word Sprezzatura, which is an Italian word meaning the ability to do your craft or work without visible effort.  In his words, it’s a combination of elan (another great word) and grace and class.  It’s the golfer finessing a shot under a tree but over a bunker to land on the green 4 feet from the cup, the surgeon who calmly and precisely opens a chest, inserts a pacemaker into a heart and restores normal rhythm to a struggling patient, or the film actor who take after take hits his mark exactly while delivering his lines slightly different from the take before, thus giving the director options when he edits the film.  Or for me, it’s my hairdresser Elizabeth who blows dries my hair so fabulously it has that come hither look about it.  I sigh in resignation each time I watch her at her task, determined to figure out what she’s doing that I’m not because no matter how hard I try, I just can’t duplicate her results.  One time I blurted out “Now why can’t I do that?”  She chuckled and said “well first of all my arms aren’t connected to your body” -good point for her as I have a hard time reaching the back.  She continued “And it could be the fact that I’ve been doing this for 15 years” which made me think, yes but I’ve been blow drying this hair for 3 decades and it’s the same head and hair I’ve always had so why can’t I do as well as she does?  I came to realize that the difference is how we approach the task.  She is a professional who is trying to please a client so she has learned the proper techniques and motions to create “Hollywood” hair as I like to call it.  Me, I just want to get it done and dry as I have 35 other things that need my attention once I’m finished so it’s a chore to get completed, not my passion.  If it was really that important, I’d practice over and over to get it right which is what I do each time I audition or perform.  It’s still not at the Sprezzatura point, but I’m getting there.  And now I know what to call it when I reach that point of effortlessness.

First and 10 at the 20

This time of year is a really happy one for me.  I’m a huge Indianapolis Colts fan.  HUGE!  The problem is I live in Chicago Bear territory and the games are usually scheduled to run at the same time.  I know, different conferences.  But when the Bears air on Fox, the local CBS affiliate won’t run another game against this telecast.  So unless I get lucky and one of the teams has a west coast game or they are playing in Primetime, I’m forced to leave the house to watch my beloved Colts.  And I really don’t like watching with others around unless they are fellow Colts fans.  I get too nervous.  Two years ago when the Colts played the Bears in the Super Bowl, even though I’d been invited to several parties, I watched at home alone.  My Mom, sister and BIL went to the game in the pouring rain but I couldn’t stand to be around others for fear they’d lose.  Fortunately that wasn’t the case.

This past weekend was a good weekend.  The Bears played in Prime so I could watch the Colts at home.  It was a very close game with lots of turnovers and a pretty low score.  For the most part, each time there was a turnover, QB Manning would be starting at his own 20 yard line, with 80 yards to travel for a score.  And each time, he would patiently and persistently march down the field towards the goal line.  Even when a play failed, he’d get right back under Center and try another play.  And when he ran out of downs and the other team took over, he waited until it was his chance to get back in the game, tweaking things with his coaches and then try again to make progress to the goal.  It wasn’t the case with this game, but I’ve seen him take the team, down 2 or 3 touchdowns on to win the game.  I’ve often wondered how a team and a person, can stay focused, committed, positive and professional against overwhelming odds and obstacles, sometimes overcoming them, sometimes not.  And then do it again the next week.  That drive to achieve comes from within and helps them to take that 80-100 yard march one yard at a time.

Oh and this weekend will be another good one.  The Colts are on Monday Night…are you ready for some football?

The back of the book

My nature is not one of patience.  I walk fast, process multiple things quickly, try to stretch my time to get just one more thing squeezed in.  These are all valuable skills when applied in appropriate manners and at appropriate times.  Quick evaluations on the lengths of the lines at the Costco can get you on your way to your next errand.  However these can also work against you when misused or not appropriate.  Or when the goal is to experience something fully, not just check it off your list.  When I am engrossed in a book for pleasure and the story is fantastic, the tension just keeps building beyond endurance, it is a battle of the wills to not look at the back of the book and see how it will all end.  It takes every ounce of self discipline I possess, knowing I have the answer in my hands, to not cheat myself of the full experience that book is offering me with the unfolding of the story.

I suffer from this in my daily life as well, particularly now when everything is changing faster than I can process and my level of confidence is waning.  I want assurances that the back of the book that is my life will come out just peachy, all will be well.  I don’t have the answers in my hands as I do when I am reading so I can’t possibly look, nonetheless, I want to know the outcome.  The bigger message I am missing in all this wanting, is I am missing out on the full experience that my life is offering me.  And experiencing the experience is what this life is all about, not the outcome.  Finding the courage to let go of the need to know what lies at the back of the book is the bigger battle of the wills.

Brand U

Since this is still a relatively new endeavor for me, I’m not quite sure the direction it will be taking.  Self produced content?  Aggregator?  Pu Pu Platter of all of the above?  I subscribe to many e-blasts and newsletters.  One which I’ve read for a very long time is Cynopsis by Cynthia Turner which is broadcast media based publisher of several daily newsletters.  This one came from their Cynopsis Classified edition which is edited by John Cox and is reprinted with permission.

“Success used to come from self improvement, now it comes from self-packaging.”

Snide? Yes. False? Not entirely.

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines branding as “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.” Personal branding goes one step further – having your target audience see you not only as the best person to manage their needs, but as the only reasonable choice to solve their needs.

  • Determine your strength, what is it that you do better than anyone. This can include any number of skills.
  • Be proficient enough at your chosen skill to be seen as a leader within your community. Answer questions, look to help others, offer your wisdom freely.
  • Write, write, and then write some more. Submit your writings everywhere. Set up your own website and blog as often as possible.
  • Get on panels and offer to make speeches at industry gatherings. One really good, original idea/speech can serve many occasions.
  • Syndicate your ideas in a unique manner. You can’t say the same things in the same ways as others and get noticed.
  • Your ideas should be seen by as many people as possible. Social Media – Facebook has 45 million daily users. Set up a business-centric account that allows all to read but set up privacy so no one can tag you in an image. Twitter often and follow many. Become an expert in LinkedIn and answer as many questions as possible. This will also enhance being perceived as a leader.
  • Present a consistent image of yourself. Use the same photo in all social media, blogging, business card etc.
  • Be approachable. Do all interviews, answer all questions, return all emails.
  • Be visible. Go to trade shows, conventions, any industry gatherings. Talk to as many industry leaders as you can, but more importantly, listen to them.
  • Be patient. This process is not a quick one. It can take months to see results.
  • You must have a positive public persona. Your public persona will be tied to the ideas you are expressing. If you are a hothead, you and your ideas will lose credibility.