Acting (my heart hurts)

 

Last week I went home for a week. Sometimes I forget how much I miss my family until I see them again and it all comes back- I didn’t want to return to Chicago. Not because Chicago is so terrible (though there are some parts I’m finding I hate as much as I love other parts) but because it’s so far. Only seeing everyone a couple of times a year is hard.

I came back out of sorts and restless, it didn’t help that my flight had been canceled and there was all that annoyance around getting back. Jumped straight into working both jobs, gotta hit the ground running. Gotta make-up for lost shifts at work. (absolutely exhausted- physically, mentally, and emotionally) Did a Meisner class on Sunday to cover the one I missed on Tuesday and then to my current improv class/show that night.

It was awful. I felt like walking away from acting by the end. I doubted my ability, my possibilities, my aptitude, my training/experience, myself. I not only left feeling like a failure at improv but also as a person. It was a of pain deep inside. Not the acute, “I can’t believe I did/said/whatevered that on stage”. I get those, they fade pretty quick. That is just (just. Hah!) shame and embarrassment. A sharp, stinging failure. But like a slap I’ve found that normally a good night’s sleep will get rid of that. Or at least let me deal with it rationally. This was something else and when I woke up the next morning I was crying in my sleep and felt worse than I had the night before.

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Recap: FAILED

My quest to write 1,000,000 words in a year is over.

I’ve not updated my blog in two weeks because I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, but today I finally faced the facts. I am too far behind.

The pace I was writing in Nov was doable, and had I done that from the start I would have easily made it. However, the first three or four months I consistently did not make weekly goals. Part of it was the fact that it didn’t feel real, part of it was the very difficult transition to writing a significant amount every day. It was a hard adjustment.

Now, however, as much as I am screaming at myself to not give up, I can’t do it. To hit my goal at this point I’d have to write about 4,800 words a day. Every day. Until mid-March. On top of a full time job, a (hopefully) part time job, class, and life. While I think that’s a reasonable word count for a professional writer it is not for me if I’m working 40-60 hours a week. Especially with no break days.

This experiment, failed as it is, has taught me so much about writing and, more specifically, myself as a writer.

  • I do better with multiple projects at once, that I can switch between.
  • My productivity is uneven. I get more words done in four days of writing with three off than I do if I write every day.
  • Journaling/morning pages are exempt from that rule, and something I need to do every day. For my mental health if no other reason.
  • I am capable of turning out large numbers of words in a day, that the hurtles are mental only. That 1,100-1,300 words in 30 minutes is a reasonable goal, and that I can do that about 4-6 times in a row before there is a noticeable slump in my speed. That there’s no point going on after that, it’s best to leave and come back in a few hours. Do another 4-6 sets then.
  • I work better out in a coffee shop or even a fast food joint than I do at home. I do NOT work well on planes/buses/etc.
  • Music is useful for focusing, but if it’s Top 40 stuff I’ll end up singing along instead of writing. Best bet is either film scores or heavy rock.
  • I write fiction best in the late morning, afternoon, or evening. Early to mid-mornings and late nights are better for non-fiction.
  • Reading before I write is hit or miss. It might inspire me, but it also might depress me with the difference in quality. Votes still out on that one. However, reading the same short piece (one by Anne Lamott) about writing before each session is grounding and puts me in the mood to write.
  • My writing style is a reflection of what drove me to embrace improv. I enjoy chasing the unknown. More experiments with plotting have left me just as frustrated as before. I want to chase the story. Maybe I have an end scene in mind, or at least a theme, but the actual events are best found in the moment.
  • I enjoy both writing and editing. I’ve found that most people claim it’s only possible to like one of them but I truly look forward to both. I love creating stories, and I love tightening what I’ve written. I do find editing to be more overwhelming and thus more difficult to work on for long lengths of time.

So the project has been very useful. I may try it again one day. Maybe. But for now it is over. I will keep posting my word counts every week, just not against where I should be. Both for the accountability and for the knowledge of the ground I am covering. I want to keep tracking my word counts, I just know they aren’t going to hit 1,000,000 this year.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and hopefully big things will be coming soon! I am going to be putting more time into editing my novel Raising Trouble, since I won’t feel guilty for not using that time to work on my goal. And I’m going to finish my current novel, Avon, pretty soon. Also, I’m getting back into fan fiction as a way to get some feedback and do some shorter pieces. When I get something new up I’ll put a link on here.

Lots of changes, and yet my focus is the same. Writing, acting, creating. Failing forward. Which this failure has been.

Recap: Week 32

One Million Words Challenge

Week 32

So, more words written. Yet not enough.

I truly do not know why this is so hard. I’ve got plenty of time. I don’t have writer’s block (not that I believe in it anyway), when i sit down I can put words out.

I just… don’t. I want to. I know I need to. I ought to. But I don’t.

I’m hoping NaNo starting tomorrow (midnight tonight, actually) will be a shot in the arm. That I can do a double NaNo, plus my MPs. That would get be headed out of the hole.

That makes me dizzy. I think that is part of my issue. I get started thinking about how hard it’s going to be to catch-up and then I eat candy corn and take a nap. Candy corn being my writing snack of choice. I need to horde up a little before it’s gone for the year. More to the point- I need to get over myself and get to work.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,242
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 969
  • Blog 185
  • LCFF 2,926
  • Notes 915
  • Total 13,041
  • YTD 439,719
  • Where I should be 613,760

Recap: Week 30

One Million Words Challenge

Week 30

I don’t want to talk about it.

On the up side, I’m in Chicago now!

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 517
  • MPs 3,888
  • Blog 142
  • Total 4,547
  • YTD 410,236
  • Where I should be 575,400

Ways I Stay Motivated

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I set a lot of goals for myself. Getting the motivation to complete said goals is not always easy. So I thought I’d share my methods in hopes that at least one of them will be useful to you.

  1. Take a class
  • This is the number one way for me to stay motivated and finish what I start. I love taking classes. I’ll take a class on almost anything as long as I’m even remotely interested, and I’ll do the homework, study, whatever. I don’t know why this is such a part of my identity but it is. And it’s not that I like sitting in classrooms, I don’t. I’m a kinastadic learner and I want to move around. In a class.
  1. Join a group
  • Similar to above. Less structure, perhaps, but still getting with other people to do something. If I have to explain was I wasn’t there, or know that everyone else is doing X without me, it puts a lot of pressure on me to show up as well. Gets me through those days where I wouldn’t do it if no one knew that I wasn’t. Going to an improv jam, a write-in, or a church small group keeps me on track with my goals.
  1. Make a chart
  • I love charts. I love making them and filling them in. Colored ones. With markers. The physical sensation of coloring in a square gives my brain a little reward rush. Then I hang the chart where I can see it all the time, which motivates me to do the work so that I can color in the next section. Electronic charts don’t work though, I want to feel it in my hand. (Jerry Seinfeld seems to think work along the same line)
  1. Write it down
  • I suppose this is a subset of above. If I write something down and look at it regularly I’m much more likely to do it.  Reading them regularly helps me to remember them, and then to actually do them.
  1. Make it part of something else
  • This one is suggested by almost every person who teaches habit forming. I use it to motivate myself to do something. Multi-tasking would be another word for this, bad rap that it’s gotten lately aside. If I have things I need to do but am lacking motivation to do I try to find a way to combine it with something I like. I try to convince myself- “You don’t want to go running? But if you do you can listen to junk music guilt free” or “Aren’t you going to finish that knitting project? You can watch Ocean’s 11 again at the same time….” Things like that. It works quite often.
  1. Remind myself about what I want
  • Credit for this brilliant idea goes to Justine Musk, here. The idea felt selfish to start with but by the time I finished her article I was sold. I try to use this on myself and the more I remember it the more I get done. What do I WANT? Really want? OK, what should I do in light of that? Maybe I don’t feel like writing, but I want to be published so I write anyway. I tell myself I don’t want to run, but in reality I just don’t feel like running.
  1. Actually want the end result
  • Of course, that supposes that what I am aiming for is what I want. I pruned my goals list earlier in the year because I picked it up, read it, and realized that I didn’t want half the crap on there. It was on there because I wanted to want it, or because it sounded good (not that anyone else ever sees the list), or because I felt like I ought to want it. It is very difficult to be motivated over the long haul when the thing you’re striving for isn’t something you actually want to reach.

Hopefully something on that list was useful. If it wasn’t at least you have a few more insights into the backwater parts of brain.

Recap: Week 26

One Million Words Challenge

Week 26

Remember last week and how awesome it was? This week was the opposite. I only wrote five days out of seven, and I slacked all the other days except one. I went further into the hole. Only by 6,000ish words but since I’m trying to get out of the hole that’s still terrible.

I’m not sure what happened. I just didn’t do it. I wasn’t busy. I’m not working. I had a little bit of stuff to do around the house and some errands to run but no more than last week. I went to AL one day, which does throw off my writing time, but I still could have done something that day.

Something in me decided to not write. Part of it was I realized one night that by the time I’d done that days writing I’d be done with Black Dog. I’m that close. I put it down and haven’t picked it back up. The idea of finishing it is terrifying. I can’t explain it, with my last book I rushed through the very end because I was so happy to be done with it. This time, the idea of finishing makes me feel a little ill. I don’t want to be done because then I have to face what I wrote. That’s frightening.

Also, every time I finish a project I worry that I won’t be able to start another one. That all my ideas are used up and I won’t be able to write anything else. I have an large notebook that I glue ideas into, all the things I jot down on scraps of paper. Tons of ideas, waiting to be written, In fact, I have several in my current writing notebook as well. Doesn’t do one thing to relieve the pressure. Even with that I still have this choking sort of fear that says all my good ideas are gone and that’s it, I’ve used them up.

Plus this book is different. I write funny stuff. Always have. This book isn’t funny. That makes it extremely scary to me. I don’t know if it is at all something people would ever read. I’m considering going back through it and trying to add some funny in places because the idea of a serious book is so overwhelming. So there’s that.

I know the answer. The answer is to keep writing anyway. And to do that I have to finish the book I’m working on. So I will. That’s my baby step for the day- I will finish this blog post and then I will get out my notebook and I will write the end of Black Dog.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 338
  • MPs 4,860
  • Blog 521
  • Black Dog 7,104
  • LFF 729
  • Total 13,552
  • YTD 377,911
  • Where I should be 498,680

Recap: Week 23

One Million Words Challenge

Week 23

This week I did twice what I did last week but it’s still less than I need to do just to stay even. Knowing how far behind I am (around 120k) I sat down and tried to figure out a game plan because what I’m doing is not working.

If I can do 4,000 a day I can work my way out of my hole in just over 3 months. Which is a long time, but it took a long time to get this far behind. 4,000 a day feels like an overwhelming amount, considering I’m not getting paid for this so it has to fit in around my job, as well as the rest of my life. That’s professional levels of words. Still, it’s what I have to do so next step is to figure out how.

My MPs are almost 1,000 a day. And they feel very reasonable because I do them every day, they are a habit with a set end point. So I’m going to try to break up the other 3,100 a day the same way. I want to write 1,000 words a day in other non-fiction. That would include journaling, letters, and blog posts. Then I want to hit 2,100 a day in fiction. That’s a a little over 60,000 a month, a reasonable pace for a novel or screenplay. I’m trying to not think about the fact that if I can pull this off I’ll be writing 120,000 words a month. That’s terrifying to think about and feels very unreasonable.

The big thing is, I need to write faster. I let myself day-dream, dawdle, and spend long stretches of time thinking about what to write. I don’t have time for that. And that was part of doing this- to train myself to write like a pro. To turn my hobby into a discipline that I can use to build a living. Part of that, a massive part, is turning out words on command and in high quantity.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 405
  • MPs 4,860
  • Blog 3,533
  • Letters 1,725
  • Black Dog 4,272
  • Total 14,795
  • YTD 319,221
  • Where I should be 441,140

Feeling a Little Lost

iO Summer Intensive

Week 3

Instructor- Lyndsay Hailey

Thursday

I taught the class Super Villain Death this morning before Lyndsay came in. It was taught to me at CSz in MSP by a teacher who was annoyed by the fact that no one in the class would lose. We all wanted to win, to be right, to survive. Very human of us. Just not useful on stage. I changed it a little to make it flow better and make it more fun, so my version is like this-

Someone is an imaginary super villain, something made up on the spot (Dr. Acidica! Ant Commander! Death with Tentacles!), cheesier is better, and then they kill someone else in the circle with an attack that matches their power (Pour a bucket of acid on them, order 10,000 ants to eat them alive, rip them apart with their mutant octopus arms). As that person dies they must choose an avenger in the circle, someone to rise up as the next super villain and avenge them. As soon as there is another death then the first person killed can rise, fueled by the ashes/life force/powers of the latest victim. I love this game because you get to be so over-the-top dramatic, both in the killing and the dying.

Anyway, Lyndsay came in and found us playing. She seems to feel that we are a very violent group, since pretty much all our warm-ups involve all of us dying. She moved us into Openings and Singing Soundscapes.

Spent more time walking around and doing short scenes with whoever we squared off with when she called a stop. We did different characters, ideas, energies, etc. Then we moved into longer scenes, back as ourselves.

After that was doing an opening and trying to find the theme of it as a group (selfishness). Then doing 8 scenes that could be the first scene of a Harold, each one completely different from the others. I got some hard notes during this part. It was frustrating in the moment because I couldn’t figure out what she wanted (nor could my scene partner), but the feedback hit some of my big weaknesses dead center. So that gives me something to work on.

The afternoon was personal feedback and then scenes with a challenge to address a weakness. This was all feedback from Lyndsay, and it was stronger/harder than last week, though a few of the notes were the same. Some were different though, and one, the big one, was the same note I was getting a year ago! I don’t know how to “fix” it. And I know I’m holding myself back, I’ve known it for awhile. I can feel this thing almost all the time when I’m on stage and I know, I KNOW, that if I can deal with it I am going to be shocked by how much better my improv gets. Just a gut intuition. But that doesn’t help me clear it out.

My challenge was to play a bi-polar person with no control, who has crazy mood swings and doesn’t even make sense when they talk. It didn’t happen, but I did chase my partner hissing and trying to bite him, which is a big step forward for me. And then he beat me to death with his pogo stick. So it actually was a fun scene, but I still don’t know how to get out of my own way.

Snatches from today–

  • Any tiny detail can be mined and mined for richness and detail. Nothing is too small.
  • If you put the theme of the show into your character then it can never be lost, no matter where the scenes go.
  • The real “yes” can be to say yes to the conflict.
  • Strong emotions are supportive, even if they feel impolite or nonsupportive.
  • When you don’t know what to do in a scene it means you are circling the subject to justify it with words instead of acting and improvising.
  • Feel things, and show those emotions, instead of using words and making things make sense.
  • Justification strips the magic out of the thing.
  • Emote!

Starting the Week With Awkwardness

iO Summer Intensive

Week 3

Instructor- Lyndsay Hailey

Monday

 

It’s going to get weird in here this week.

That was how Lyndsay greeted us this morning, with a big smile that seems entirely too knowing. This is scene work week, the hump week of the intensive.

We started with Soundscapes that led into openings as our warm-up. She told us this is a common warm-up with her so we should be ready to do them every morning this week. We also did a “song” version, which I like a lot better.

From there she told us to settle down and get comfortable on the floor because we were going to talk for a while. Notebooks not needed, this was sharing time. So I set down with my normal wariness, which was founded. Lyndsay explained that the deepest, richest, truest stuff we can bring to the stage is from our own lives. Our own personal, and deepest, fears, failures, goals, embarrassments, dreams, rejections, etc. That we should be sharing these things with each other outside of class so that we all have each others lives to pull from, so we can access the collective accumulation of “stuff” from our lives.

To foster that she had each of us tell the most embarrassing/humiliating story we could think of from our lives. To the entire group. And when it was over we each got a new nickname, decided by the group, to remember the story with. There was terror on most of the faces around the circle. Mine included. That is a level of intimacy that is uncommon in day to day life. But we did it. People told stories so horrible that I felt uncomfortable for them, or wanted to cry for them. Rejection, failure, mistakes, stupid choices- all of it. And the resulting nicknames included The Navigator, Gunslinger, Shit Storm, Leg Press, Not Funny, and a host of others. What’s interesting is that it did bring us closer together. Fast. And everyone has, as far as I know, been super respectful about what was said in the room. We tease each other, sure, and use the nicknames. But I can’t imagine I would ever spread one of those stories to anyone outside of the group. And even within the group I noticed something weird- the nicknames seem to lessen the embarrassment. Like, getting it out there and being accepted anyway takes away the burn of it. Strips the story of it’s power.

After that was over, and despite the wonderful therapeutic aspects it was still emotionally rough, we moved to Walking Around the Space. We started in neutral and evaluated each other, so we could hear how other people see us when we think we’re not giving off any emotions. I think this would be so useful in life! Several people look angry as their default and they had no idea- how often does that go on in “real life”? Imagine is you could honestly tell someone that they look angry all the time and them not be upset by that feedback? Then they could legitimately deal with that instead of being unaware. Anyway, we did scenes that way, to get a baseline for our work.

Then we scattered around the room and got silly. As silly as we could be. That was all the instructions we got. This was VERY hard for me. The we paired up and got silly. Then four together. Then eight. Then all sixteen. Lyndsay asked us where we felt the most and least comfortable, and then why? Said it was something we should think about and see if we could find an answer because it will help us understand ourselves a lot better. I know where I felt best- pair or four. Worst was alone or sixteen. Alone, I felt so dumb I couldn’t even relax, in sixteen I felt like an outsider trying to keep up. In a pair, or in four, I felt like I had permission but wasn’t being left behind either. Which I didn’t articulate to myself until I wrote that just now. Interesting… that’s something to think about.

Snatches from the day–

  • If improv feels hard it is because I am looking for all the answers inside myself. The answers are in my partner.
  • We have all we need on stage in each other- we are all artists, poets, and geniuses.
  • Find what happens between you, don’t create it.
  • Instead of trying to find a way to determine if person A or person B’s reality will win out, just accept things as-is at the top and move on. They are compatible.
  • Don’t react! Respond! Reaction stays in the top of the lungs and the head. Response comes from deep, full-lung breaths that allow the emotion to settle into and come from the gut.
  • No one talks about their environment while they are doing an activity. Stop it in scenes.
  • Is it easier for me to start with dialog and then add space work? Or the other way around? It’s important to know for our own sakes, to help ourselves out. (Mine is space work first, by the way)

 

Recap: Week 13

One Million Words Challenge

Week 13

 

I didn’t post this last week and didn’t even notice until Monday. So… yeah.

Here are my totals for last week–

  • Journal 168
  • MPs 6,804
  • Blog 165
  • Black Dog 6,096
  • Total 13,233
  • YTD 181,374
  • Where I should be 249,340

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