Acting (a follow-up)

9 weeks.

Just over 2 months ago I was seriously and realistically considering walking away from acting and improv. Maybe forever, maybe for a year or two. It hurt. It hurt so much. Death of a dream and all that.

In that place of hurting and breaking I knew something had to change. That was my frustration. That I (me, myself) was the problem. Which I said in that post and people worried about me because I sounded (apparently) like I was super depressed (I was, sorta, but not in the dangerous way) or broken (I was broken). I didn’t say it well. I said it in a way that upset and scared people but I said it. (Take imperfect actions)

I cried a lot. I couldn’t stop. It felt horrible. And I prayed a lot. That felt horrible too. I said, I can’t keep on like this. I hurt too much. I’m not strong enough. I’m breaking. I feel it. Like a brittle tree I just can’t bend any further, I’m splintering. I’m not sleeping. I’m not exercising. I’m not writing. I’m working and working and stressing and being sick. I’m all worn-out. And I can’t keep doing this. I have no hope left.

I know not everyone reading this is a Christian and I don’t give a damn if you believe me or not but God answered me. Not then, no movie moment. For over a week I was there. For over a week I sat in my own sadness and I looked, really looked, at my goals and ideas and I realized that I was trying too hard. Which is weird. Because I am normally all over myself for not trying hard enough. But in some things it’s the letting go that matters. And I’m very, very bad at letting go.

(I need to work even harder at the work. I need to let go of the results. I tend to do the opposite.)

I realized that I wasn’t going to get everything. That hurt. And I realized a lot of other things that generally made me feel even more miserable.

Then I made myself go out to an event a friend had invited me to, get out of the house. I was still raw and still scared and still looking at walking away from it all after that run of classes was up. And feeling very anti-social.

That night I had a random, unplanned, completely chance in the sort of way that’s impossible to imagine, encounter with someone who works in the film/tv industry. She said I was perfect for a role she was casting. Absolutely perfect. As she blindly listed off several things that made me perfect for it (and handed me her card- this was a major house here in Chicago) I just stood there. The things she was listing off were some of the things that were preventing my success. Some changeable, some not.

(The things a talent agent had told me would keep me from getting work.)

The audition never happened- the role was cut.

I don’t care. 

(Well, I do. It was a “launch your career” sort of role. But that’s beside the point.)

It was God. And it was hope. And it was a relief.

Not a promise. I might never, ever get a single role. I might never act in anything. I might never sell a script or produce or ever make any money whatsoever from anything related to theater or film or tv.  

(Except I already have. It’s easy to forget that I’ve been paid for doing improv. Several times.)

Hope. That was all I needed. And from that came a realization that I didn’t say anything about because it’s easy to have a revelation that only lasts a few days and fades. But it’s been 9 weeks since that night and it’s stronger now than it was then.

I am the thing in my own way.

I was 100% correct.

I am what’s been holding me back.

Just, not in the way that I thought.

Not that I lack skill, that’s an objective statement. (One I can fix)

Not that I’m not suited for certain roles- of course I’m not. I’ll never be cast as the sexy lead, or even the cute best friend. That’s not how I read in scenes. (I think I’d rather be the cop or the murderer or the jerk anyway)

Not that people don’t like me. (Some don’t. Some do. That’s life.)

I realized that weekend- in between when she gave me her card and she emailed me Monday to let me know the role had been cut- that I had never once actually believed that was possible. I held her card and I had the realization that despite my occasional fantasies of making a living at writing and acting (these are tied together in my head), I never actually believed I could do it.

Never.

Yeah, I’d daydream about being interviewed on late night shows or flying to Europe to film but I never BELIEVED it. As much as I wanted it I never once thought it was possible.

(I thought I did.)

If you’d asked me, do you think you can make a living writing for tv?, I’d have said, yeah- of course. And I believed that. I thought I believed I could do it.

I didn’t.

I held that card that weekend and I felt something inside me wake up. It uncurled out of the bottom of my mind and only once it was there did I realize that it never had been before.

Belief.

Actual, real belief. That this is possible. I actually, really, truly, fully, believe that for the first time.

Ever.

It’s always been “I want to” and “I’d love to” and “I wish” and “One day” and “Maybe” and “If I can”. That’s how the voice in my head talks.

For the past 9 weeks it’s been “When I”.

That’s nice.

I hear you. I know some of you well enough to imagine that look in your eyes. The one where you want to be encouraging but you know that it’s easy to talk and hard to act. I get that. That’s why I didn’t say anything right away. That’s why I’m debating writing this now.

Hell, I didn’t realize the difference right away. It took a few weeks before I realized that the shift wasn’t emotional. I mean, it was in the moment it was filled with emotion. But my emotions have been all over the map since then for other reasons and this, this whatever it is, hasn’t shifted. It’s not a feeling. It’s… a worldview? Lifeview? I don’t know. It doesn’t need a name to change me.

(I’ve felt this happen before. It was when I was 12 and I wanted a horse and my parents said, sure, if you pay for it. It was unreasonable to expect and impossible for a kid and there were months (years) where all I had was determination-there was no visible hope. (At 16 I bought one.))

I’ve believed for years that I didn’t have emotions. And even when I felt them, deeply, I convinced myself otherwise. That I was defective. Actually, I learned (somewhere) that I wasn’t allowed to take up space (mental, emotional, physical, relational). So I didn’t.

(head full of lies.)

I decided that weekend to try to enjoy what I am doing instead of freaking out over what I am not doing. Ultimately, none of this is going to make or break anything- it’s just what it is. Nothing more or less.

With the belief that I what I want is actually possible I’ve quit fighting for it.

(Working and fighting aren’t the same thing. I’ve been fighting. It’s made me too tired to work.)

In the past 7 weeks, since July 1st, I’ve-

Told probably a hundred people that I’m a writer and/or actress. Without qualifying it or apologizing for it or rushing to assure them that I know how ridiculous it is and I have reasonable descriptions of myself too.

Admitted to someone that I thought her goal of running play seminars as a living was amazing and something I loved. Which I would have done before. Then I basically added, “Let me know if I can help you. I’d love to do something like that, and I’d love to work with you sometime.” Now, it wasn’t that straight-forward in the moment but I still marveled at my boldness that night as I lay in bed.

Been the main character in a friend’s video sketch . She was talking about them, she does once a month, and I said, “I’d really love to be in another sometime.” I’d been thinking that since I had a small role in one in Jan, but before I would never have asked to be in one. Then I did. And then she said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve actually got a role you’d be great in.”

Had several exercises in Meisner class where I’ve had genuine emotional responses. I mean, really felt something. And SHOWED it. I cried. In front of people. And got angry. Really angry. I sent a scene partner scuttling across the room because I scared him so badly. That felt good. And then I said, “that felt good”. To my class. So impolite. Which felt even better.

Signed-up for the two writing classes that I moved to Chicago almost a year ago to take. That I’ve been too scared to take because, what of I screw them up? 

Had an authentic emotional scene in an improv class. Improv. I was sad and scared and upset. It was the sort of thing I always thought wasn’t for me. Out of my reach.

Got a huge laugh in the same class. Without trying. I half derailed the scene where it happened because it startled me so much. I’ve always seen myself as the one who doesn’t really get laughs. And, that’s been true. I don’t get tons. Didn’t. The last 3 weeks I’m getting a fair share.

Finished, and posted, a fanfiction story I started 8, yes 8, years ago.

Auditioned for a big, audacious improv show. I got a callback. I’ve never, not one time, gotten a callback for a show. And now I’m in their 3 week intensive audition process. It’s going well.

Asked for permission to enter an acting class out of order. And I got it.

Signed-up for and am currently attending at out-of-state improv intensive.

Made several big decisions about the next year of my life. (Future posts)

Quit a job that I hated. I just quit. I didn’t wait until I had the excuse of another job or a move- I quit because I was miserable. No other reason. I took a proactive step to care for myself. Which felt real weird.

Scolded a homeless (?) man. He had it coming. It’s a long story- the point is, I’ve spent the first 8 months here ignoring him and keeping my mouth shut. Not to be polite, or out of compassion, or because I didn’t care. Not even out of fear. Rather, out of the idea that I didn’t have the right to have an opinion about the way he talked to me. (I never would have said it that way, not even to myself)

That post 9 weeks ago led the way to all of this because it made me SAY what the problem was. And then ask for help. And then I got help.

I’m still marveling over that.

100

My 100th Post.

Thank you. Anyone reading this- I appreciate it.

I’m shocked to realize I’m at 100 already. This is the fifth or sixth blog I’ve started and none of them have gotten anywhere near to this point. It’s… crazy.

Here’s to the next 100!

We’re Never Ready

image

This was a lesson drilled into me this past week at iO. If I try to wait for the perfect moment to edit, the perfect character to enter my head, the perfect line of dialogue for the scene, or the perfect instant to reveal my true idea/motivation/plot point – I will never act at all.

10 Greatest Things of 2011

I typically sit down and work on my goals list twice a year, using that time to review the last six months, but the review in December is always a little more in-depth. It has less to do with the January 1st craze and more to do with my birthday falling into that week between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve found that turning a year older prompts me to consider my life more deeply and it just so happens that it occurs in conjunction with the new year.

Anyway, I’d already finished my new goals for 2012 before I read this post but I liked the questions he asked so much that I did the review anyway- they made me think. I’d recommend going through it now, especially if you didn’t take the time already to think about last year. For me, it’s not “making resolutions”, as I said, I set goals twice a year. But reviewing the previous year helps me to see what did and did not go well, and reveals if I am actually getting any closer to some of the big things I want to accomplish in life.

After doing the entire review I reread it and noticed something interesting. But we’ll come back after I show you the first question: The 10 Greatest Things That Happened To Me In 2011.

 

  1. Moved to Minnesota
  • This involved a Southern woman tackling a 1,500+ mile road trip in the snow, white-outs, a visit with good friends, and frostbite.
  1. Joined Sovereign Grace Church
  • First time I’ve been a member of a church since my teens, a scary/exciting step for me.
  1. Moved into an apartment with 2 awesome roommates
  1. Started a job at Bethany
  • Fear alert! This was/is the scariest job I’ve ever had. Also the hardest and yet most fun.
  1. Learned to knit
  • After a fashion. Things turn out, but they don’t always match the pictures.
  1. Saw my first improv show
  • It was an Improv-A-Go-Go show at HUGE, and it was not what I expected. Three of the four groups did not impress me and I likely wouldn’t have gone back if not for the fourth. So glad they were there!
  1. Learned to do the improvs
  1. Wrote a fictional story in my own voice
  • Yes! And it was fun! And I just got my first ever rejection letter when I tried to sell it! Now I feel like a real author.
  1. Payed Matt back all the money I owed him
  • It only took me 2 years…
  1. Went home for Christmas
  • And it was lovely to see my whole family in one together for the first time in a long time.

 

I was looking through that list when it struck me- I didn’t consciously put only things I actively did on there but that’s how it worked out.

The greatest things of 2011, the things I most enjoyed or that most changed my life, were all things I choose do to. None of them just happened to me; every one of the above items took effort and time, and most cost money to boot, which meant more time and effort to get said money. No one is going to hand me an awesome life. Do I receive gifts? Of course! All the time. And all of these things involved other people. But none of them would have happened if I hadn’t put effort in as well, in some cases a lot of effort (example- calluses from both knitting and writing so much).

My list of things to do this year is longer and more ambitious than last year, though tempered with the knowledge that life changes so quickly. Example? This time last year I was still living with my parents in TX, no job, no church, a ball of yarn that I couldn’t even get on the needles, and I’d never even considered going to watch an improv show. There’s no way I could have foreseen where I’d be now and some of the goals I set last year were derailed along the way.

That’s ok. I’d rather have goals and have to set them aside for more interesting things that come up than to wander aimlessly around and get very little done because I don’t know what I’m going after.

I urge y’all to go to this site and download his 2011 review, then take 30-60 minutes to fill it out. It’s well worth the time.

I’m still alive

Despite evidence to the contrary I am alive and this blog has not been abandoned.

I could offer you all sorts of reasons why I haven’t updated, some actually valid.

I’m not going to do so. This blog, if nothing else, is biting hunks out of my pride. I know, normally blogs build pride issues. And I’m certain that if I posted regularly and had tons of comments I would feel proud of myself and my skills. But since I cannot manage to post when I say I will, struggle to find anything to say, and get little to no feedback it becomes something more of a pride crusher.

I am, however, stubborn as a mule. Or so I’ve been told by most everyone who has been an authority in my life. So I am digging in. This blog will not beat me. If it dies it will be because I decide to let it go, not because I just drift away or give up.

All that to say- I am beginning again. Again.

Lying to Myself

Come Alive by Jonathan Mead

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present

and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

(Author: Jonathan Mead)

Honestly, this prompt confused me a bit. Something about the wording. Plus, if I only had one week to live I’d quit doing a TON of things that I cannot practically quit now, like my job or doing laundry. Seriously. No one wants me to quit taking out the trash because it doesn’t “make me come alive”.

I guess that’s my biggest problem with this prompt. It’s selfish. Not that we should do things that make us miserable all the time. No. I’m a huge believer in making changes in your life so you can pursue your dreams. But really, tons of life is things that just aren’t fun but need to be done. It’s called being an adult.

I did take away something from this. I read an article a few weeks ago (I wish I could remember where) on making to-stop lists. It was in the context of work and I thought it was a good idea but then forgot about it because I didn’t act on it. So I took a minute today and made myself a very short to-stop list to hang on my door. A few things I need to cut out of my life.

Stop

  1. Hitting the snooze button more than once in the morning. If you don’t like when you are getting up then change the time. Stop lying to yourself and pretending that you are getting up earlier than you really are.
  2. Watching your Netflix que before you have worked on your novel. Writing is more important than Firefly or Live Free or Die Harder. And no, you won’t get to it later. You will be tired and go to bed instead.
  3. “Window Shopping” with your wallet in your pocket. Leave it in the car. If you are actually shopping then call it shopping and stop pretending it’s something else.

See the theme? I lie to myself all the time. I tell myself things that I know aren’t true but half believing them makes me feel better. But I can’t grow, can’t change, if I’m always feeding myself easy little lies so that I don’t have to confront the truth about myself or my behavior. These areas need to change.

15 Minutes to Tell Your Last Story

I am participating in #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.
Join in at http://ralphwaldoemerson.me/

Day #1:
We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.
1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.
(Author: Gwen Bell)
****************************************************
In the spirit of the game this has not been edited so the grammar is a bit rough. Deal with it.
****************************************************

There once was a little girl who didn’t know what she would be someday. She saw herself as shy and alone, not very pretty or fun to play with. The other kids agreed with her. She had a few friends but not for very long and she often would write down ways to end her life, since she wouldn’t really be missed anyway.

As she became older she quit doing that. It wasn’t healthy. But she still felt it. She was still lonely and not very pretty and not fun to play with. The boys all agreed with her.

So she focused on not needing them. She learned many hobbies and she made elaborate worlds in her head and she taught herself to not need people. To love the aloneness. She almost convinced herself that it was true.

Meanwhile, she felt a wooing from her Creator. He often spoke to her, he gave her gifts and attention. Even when she was quite rude in response. Then He started to give her gifts she did not want. He gave her pain and hurt that could not be locked away. He gave her tears she could not stop and fears she could not control. The made the girl very cross and she was unhappy with Him.

The girl looked for many ways to feel better and not think. None of them worked for very long. Meanwhile, the girl met new friends. She still not feel very pretty or fun to play with but she could not feel alone because the new friends disagreed and would not go away. Not even when the girl was very cross with them and said things to upset them.

The girl was confused. Friends were simply those who put-up with her and were not too mean. She did not understand her new friends, who thought that was a bad definition of friendship. And the girl was confused. Still, she liked her new friends and she started to imitate them and be a better friend herself.

Her Creator smiled at her. He had done this often before but she had not noticed because she was too afraid to see His face. This time she was watching and His smile made the whole world seem a bit nicer. She still felt cross about some of the gifts He had given to her but she was willing to wait and see what they turned into. *****

The girl went on many more adventures and cried many more tears. She still felt alone much of the time, and she still didn’t think she was very pretty or fun to play with. But her Creator told her she was very silly and that she should not listen to herself but to Him. And that when that was too hard she should listen to her stubborn friends who, she found out, were more of her Creator’s gifts, and not be too proud to say what was true; even if it made her feel unsafe, because He was big enough to protect her heart.

And so that is what the girl did.

(The *****’s are where the 15 minutes ran out. The entire thing actually took me about 20 minutes)

Why Failing Forward?

I got this idea here, at an amazing blog I recommend you immediately check-out. I have gained a ton of inspiration and encouragement from reading Chris’s writing. And he has ridiculous adventures now and again, how can you beat that? 

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Anyway, when I read that post “failing forward” popped into my mind and took up residence. Failure had already become something of a study of mine. I hate to fail and have, with ever-increasing horror/excitement, been coming to a place where I realize it is not only inevitable but it is also healthy and good. Failure can move you forward. Not failing might get you there faster, true enough. But as long as your failures lie along the same path you will eventually make progress.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I’m not saying every failure leads to success, or that every failure will move you forward. But I am saying this- you will fail. I will fail. A lot. This is non-negotiable. With that in mind- fail forward. When faced with standing still or moving ahead- move ahead. If you succeed, wonderful. If you fail, you are still further along. You have failed forward.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Don’t stand still and fail. Those are often smaller, less painful, less visible failures. But they will eat away at you until there is nothing left. And if you aren’t failing at all right now, watch yourself. That is a failure. Growth is painful and messy and filled with mistakes so if you can’t find any areas where you are failing then there probably aren’t any areas where you are growing either.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Don’t keep failing at the same lessons. If you are stuck in the same place, if you are making the same mistakes you were making last month or year, then get help. Find a teacher, read a book, confess publicly, find a partner, join a class- whatever your failure there is a way to get help. Asking though, asking takes humility.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Fail forward. Fail with gusto. Do things with the full knowledge that they will go badly and embrace that from the start. I had my first improv class a few days ago. I failed. Spectacularly and repeatedly throughout the morning. I failed to be funny. I failed to think fast on my feet. I failed to remember what I was supposed to be doing. I stood there with a stupid look on my face and no words in my mouth. Want to know how my instructor handles failure? He cheers. Whenever I messed-up in class he would lead my fellow improvees in clapping and cheering.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Failure is celebrated.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Why?

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Because it means you are doing improv. Professional acts have dud jokes and awkward pauses during every performance. It’s part of working in front of a live audience. If you aren’t failing during improv it’s because you are keeping your mouth shut and not stepping up. And if you are keeping your mouth shut and not stepping-up  then you aren’t doing improv.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Now, take those last two lines and switch “improv” with “life”.

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