It’s the Journey

journeyForgive me in advance for the lack of details on this post. I want to convey the idea behind it without relaying every detail of my personal life. Believe it or not, I can actually be private about my personal life when I want to be (and I usually want to be).

But here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Just like that cheesy (but very true) saying “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime,” I think some creative projects can be the same way. Every project you do may or may not have a lasting result (if it’s ever even completed). But you can always learn something and improve as a result of doing it.

I did a project not long ago. I came up with an idea, called together a crew of people to help me make it a reality, invested a lot of time and money into its creation, and was pretty proud of the result.

Then some things happened. And it made me not want to do the project anymore, despite the fact that I had a bunch of things ready to show the world. I just didn’t have the heart to continue investing anymore time and energy into something that had so fundamentally changed in me. The (excellent) quality of the product remains the same. And that’s the hardest part to deal with. I really want to continue with it, but I just no longer believe in it. I don’t have it in me. I have to step away. I’ll be a healthier, happier person if I just let it go and open myself up to the next great thing rather than try and fix something that I know is broken and no longer serves me.

And it took me a while to come to terms with that. But once I did, I realized that the creation of the project- even though it didn’t last very long in reality- was the important part. I will always have the memories and friendships I made while working on the project. I will always have the stuff to enjoy myself and be reminded of my own work and lessons learned about it. I will always have the memories made each step of the way.

So don’t worry about the outcome, friends. Never stop creating. And don’t you ever stop believin’.

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Just Delegate It

just-do-it-1I’m good at a lot of things. I’m excellent at creativity. I have a comedic mind. I love writing. I’m organized. I’m great at talking to people. I like turning ideas into reality. I’m pretty great at blogging consistently. And, I’ve just discovered in writing this, I’m also adept at finding things I’m good about that I can write about in blog posts.

But we all have our weaknesses. I’ve realized as I’ve become stronger at my strengths, and worked on turning some of my weaknesses into strengths, that you just can’t do everything.

I also realized this when I literally ran out of time consistently to do everything I want to do.

So what do you do to still be productive?

Delegate.

I can be a bit of a Type-A. So I’m not good with delegation. I just want to get it done and I want it done right. And oftentimes, people don’t do it right. Or I feel like in the time it took me to explain how it should be done, I could have just done it myself.

But what I’ve realized is you have to let people help you. There’s a huge strength in admitting you’re not good at something and letting someone help out.

When I was shooting my web series, The Other Client List, people asked me if I was directing, too. I was like, “Hell no I don’t know how to do that.” And as a result, we found a wonderful and magical director, Erik Boccio, who got together an amazing production team and helped us make this idea a reality. He’s an expert. He made every shot look amazing, brought out the best in our performances, and kept us moving along through the script.

When we were midway through filming, we started thinking about an editor. I had no idea who I was going to get or how. I started thinking I may just have to teach myself to edit it. Luckily, I reached out and somehow lucked into an amazing editor in Glen Montgomery. There is no way I could have done an ounce of magic he’s doing with our series. He’s an expert. He’s freaking amazing.

Glen mentioned we need to think of sound. Somehow we lucked into finding more talent willing to help out with this project in the incredible musician Rick Wright of Subtidal Studios. I cannot do what he does. He’s so talented. It’s his field. It’s what he’s good at.

There’s tons more people on board with this team who are making it a reality. And this is only one project. And a few examples of the incredible work going into this project.

My point is this- I can’t do it all. There’s no way. Adding people to the project only strengthens it. I admitted I need help. And the help came-a-runnin’. And I’m so grateful for it. And have learned a valuable lesson.

Step away from the project, Briana. Let the experts do their jobs.

 

Why Do We Do This?

thegeneralI had an epiphany a couple weeks ago.

I was sitting in my bed with my computer watching Netflix. I had a hankering for some classics so I watched “The General” by Buster Keaton.

And here’s the thing… I laughed. A lot. That shit was hilarious.

And it boggled my mind. Not that I was laughing at a comedy movie (after all, that’s what they’re for). But the fact that I was laughing at something a man created almost 90 years ago. The humor and expressions were so classic and so human and so real and so identifiable that I was entertained. I was entertained even though it was shot with technology barely more advanced than the fossils I see in history museums compared to what we have now. It made me laugh despite the fact that the civil war themes feel so far gone and not something I can readily identify with anymore. It made me laugh despite the fact that there was no spoken dialogue.

It was magical.

And I realized that’s what I want to do. I want to tell stories that can long outlast me. I want to connect people through laughter. I want to make people feel more human through simple storytelling and honest reactions. I want to become a part of the very fabric of our culture through art that people for generations can be entertained by.

I don’t know much about Buster Keaton’s personal life. I don’t know what his daily struggles were. I don’t know how much debt he had or what he was thinking while filming “The General.” I don’t know how stressed he was or the hardships he faced. I get to see his body of work. And it’s still entertaining and funny.

That’s what I want. Not to worry about the stresses or the frustrations except what I can learn from them. To be a good and balanced person that can do her best work and be present and enjoy it. And to actually do the work. Good work. Quality work. And lots of it. So that someday, when a person 90 years in the future is curling up on their floating space bed and using their internal brain-scan chip to surf the internet, they could stumble upon something I created. And be entertained by it. And feel more connected to humanity through connecting to creations of the past.

Whoa. Like… deeeeeep, man.

 

Resistance is Futile

borgSteven Pressfield, one of my favorite modern writers, writes about this idea of “Resistance” as a prevailing universal force that keeps us from accomplishing that which is most important to us. His basic point is, when you’re doing something worthwhile and creating, you will feel tons of resistance. And that’s natural. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, the act of creating- even though not always a highly physical action- will create resistance.

It seeps into everything. You really want to write that chapter in your book but you somehow spend the whole night on Twitter. Your apartment suddenly becomes in dire need of a thorough cleaning the same night you set aside to start your screenplay. You sit down to write a blog and instead look at pictures of Jay Z and Beyonce.

Reading and learning about this concept has changed my life. Once I realized that what I was doing was sabotaging my own creativity, I could use the resistance to my advantage. I could learn that every time I find myself not doing something, I just have to be aware that I’m not doing it and take note of what that something is. Because clearly it’s important.

For example, when I was writing my book and web series at the same time, I would force myself to sit down and have long writing sessions. I would set aside clear times where I went off the grid. And I would stare at a blank piece of paper with no idea what was going to come. I’d give myself every advantage to be productive and I would still think of creative things to do other than write. But I realized that I was resisting. Which meant I was doing something important. So I’d push through and write anyway. Not because it was the best stuff I’ve ever written. But because I had to show myself that I could beat resistance.

It’s the same with my physical fitness. I like running distance races not because I plan on winning anything, but because I like training my physical body not to give up and to push through. Lots of times when I write it’s just to force myself to focus- not because I think it’s the most profound thing I’ll ever write. I just want to practice pushing through. I do open mics for comedy not because I expect my new agent to be waiting for me in the audience, but because I want to practice pushing through the nerves of standing in front of people and saying stuff (that often isn’t funny…yet).

Lately, I’ve felt a lot of resistance. At first I thought maybe it was just a reaction to the fact that my web series is in post-production so there’s not a whole lot I can do for it (which is not true- there’s still lots to be done on my end. Tons, actually. Erg.). But I’ve realized it’s because I’m at a new phase of creation. I need to revamp my book. That will take a lot of creativity and discipline. I’m working on several submissions. That will take a lot of creativity and discipline. I’ve got a few new projects on the docket which will- you guessed it- take a lot of creativity and discipline.

So I’m resisting. I don’t make time to sit. I peruse dumb pictures on BuzzFeed or Facebook. I don’t focus. I throw too much out there.

But I see it now. So I’m gonna do something about it. Because clearly these things that need to be created are gonna be amazing. Otherwise I wouldn’t be resisting them.

The Talented Mr. Abdi

For the past couple days, various news reports have announced that the very talented, Oscar-nominated actor Barkhad Abdi is reportedly “broke” and living off per diems Sony Studios provided throughout awards season. (Click here for the report from The Hollywood Reporter)

People are outraged. They’re upset that this great actor could be a part of something that made so much money and was so successful and somehow as financially sound as his multi-millionaire peers.

Something about these articles rubbed me the wrong way. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot. And I finally figured out why I was so bothered by all the outrage.

Here’s the thing… Hollywood is f*#@ing tough.

I think it’s wonderful a talent like Mr. Abdi got the opportunity to have a huge break and possibly make a career for himself. And in no way am I writing this to question or undercut this man’s obvious talent. He’s a great actor and deserves lots more opportunities to shine onscreen.

But let’s look at some of the realities of the situation:

It was his first major film

He got lucky. Really lucky. Like, really really lucky. He is a very talented man with a gift who happened to be in the right place at the right time and was handed the perfect role to show that off. That happens. Rarely, but it happens. And when it does, it’s the start of a career. The first step in what can become and extremely successful and lucrative career. He was compensated a fair amount. And he continues to be compensated. Yes, he lives off a per diem and needs help from his friends to make his dreams a reality. I live off a day job and get help from my friends all the time to make my dreams a reality. That’s called started an acting career. It can be years of tough work. Even after you get big breaks. Just look at any average actors long-spanning career. It’s filled with little breaks, big breaks, and a ton of tough shit in between.

Tom Hanks was the box office draw, not him

I think people are so upset because Mr. Abdi was playing opposite one of the most successful box office stars of our generation. And he did a stand out job. There is no denying it. But Tom Hanks is the star. Tom Hanks is the household name. Tom Hanks is the reason the movie was financially successful. Sony is not going to pour millions of dollars into a movie about a guy barely anyone has heard of starring a guy nobody has heard of. That’s not going to happen. Studios care about making money. They’re a business. It’s a good business decision to have Tom Hanks be the star. And while Mr. Abdi has and should be rewarded for the excellence with which he portrayed his role, he is not the reason the movie was a financial success. Tom Hanks is. Plain and simple.

In ten years, assuming Mr. Abdi can consistently be the star of several financially successful blockbuster hits, then he should share the lucrative financial rewards (aka “points on the backend”) with someone like Tom Hanks. Or even five years from now. Or even three major movie hits. My point is, Tom Hanks has earned his keep. Of course he made more money in the film. He’s the reason the film made money.

Mr. Abdi lived and worked outside Los Angeles. He recently decided to move here and pursue his dreams, riding the coattails of this huge amount of publicity and success. Good for him! I’m happy for him! I hope he has lots and lots of success. But it won’t come without lots and lots more work. And probably lots and lots more poverty. Because this is LA, baby. Rent is high and actors plentiful. Your best bet is to do good consistent work, find people you love creating with, and do it for the love of creation. If you’re lucky (and smart about it) maybe you can turn that into a lucrative career. He’s certainly at a major advantage right now to do so. But careers are not made overnight. Great performances can be rewarded, but you have to consistently prove yourself before people will begin believing that you’re worth what you say you’re worth.

Hollywood does not reward pure talent alone. It can recognize it, as is the case with Mr. Adbdi, but that doesn’t mean the most talented people automatically get exalted to consistent big screen hits and stardom. It’s a weird and incalculable, usually unmeasurable, series of factors that make someone a star. Many times, being in the right place at the right time is a major fact that needs to fall into place. And Mr. Abdi got that. But after that, there’s a thousand weird things that need to continue to happen to keep your career progressing. Don’t ask me what they are. If I understood it, I wouldn’t be eating two day old chicken for lunch in my studio apartment before heading to spend hours at a day job that has nothing to do with acting. All I know is that it seems like consistent good work, a positive attitude, likable personality, inexhaustible work ethic, and overwhelming desire to create are eventually rewarded.

At least I hope so.

He is not a “casualty” of the system

One of the articles reporting on Mr. Abdi wrote that he may become a “casualty of the Hollywood system.” I would have thrown my computer across the room if I weren’t so poor and dependent on it for all my creativity at the moment.

Because here’s the thing- he’s not even close to a casualty. He’s an exception.

There’s a big ass difference.

If he becomes just another actor struggling for roles and working every day towards that next break to prove himself again, he won’t be a casualty. He’ll be a regular working actor.

The casualties of Hollywood are the people who give up. The people who come to LA with stars in their eyes, get worn down by the constant hardships and rejection and move back home. They’re the people who have lived and worked in LA for 20 years without ever getting their major breakout role and become so downtrodden they give up on their dreams. They’re the people who lose all their money to the constant scammers who prey upon them and give up on their dreams before they’ve ever even started. They all couldn’t take it and gave up on their dreams. Those people are the casualties.

Mr. Abdi is an exception. In his first role, he got to play opposite a major movie star in a blockbuster international hit movie and was nominated for several awards. That’s exceptional. If nothing ever comes from his career, it can still be considered a success. He was nominated for an Oscar. An Oscar. He can never be a casualty of Hollywood.

If I haven’t yet made it clear, this has nothing to do with Mr. Abdi’s talent. He’s awesome. I wish him nothing but success. This tirade has to do only with the assumption that just because a person is talented and made a good movie that Hollywood should automatically reward them. It’s never been the case and it will never be the case.

Besides, he was at every major awards season ceremony with huge movie stars who knew him on a first name basis and praised him for his work. If that isn’t rewarding, I don’t know what is.

Careers span decades because the creation has to continue. People become stars because they deliver consistently great performances over long periods of time.

Besides, if Mr. Abdi really is broke, that doesn’t make him any less of an actor. If anything, that makes him just like all my other extremely talented and extremely broke friends. Welcome to the club, Captain. Time to get to work.

Do The Work

As I’ve mentioned once or twice (and will continue to mention throughout the month- my apologies), I’m working on quite a few projects right now. I love doing it, but I do run into issues.

Mostly within my own head.

I’m glad I just read Steven Pressfield’s book “Do the Work.” I’m very glad I did this. I think that’s the fuel upon which I can continue to push myself and create. In huge part because it gives a play by play of what can happen during the creative process. And because it gives that play by play, you can be ready for the shit as it slowly hits the fan.

The biggest focus of his book is the idea of the “resistance,” which comes as a natural reaction to “creation.” I love the whole concept. It’s simple really- with every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. And even though creation is this often physically intangible “action,” it naturally will cause a reaction. And that reaction is this idea of resistance.

Resistance is that little voice inside your head that tells you this idea is terrible. It’s that nagging voice that keeps you distracted during the one hour per day you’ve set aside to write. It’s that voice that convinces you to do the dishes instead of working on the project you have at hand.

I hate that little voice. I don’t like anything about it. And the problem is, I’ve spent years either listening to it or heeding its advice without ever realizing what I was doing.

But after reading “Do the Work,” now I expect it. I know it’s coming. I know it’s a natural part of the process. And I use it as a guide. When I feel strong resistance to some project, I know I’m onto something good.

I’m writing for National Novel Writing Month. Before I even wrote a word of the novel, I started questioning it. I was outlining the last of the characters I want to write about and I started hearing this voice say “This is stupid. This sucks. You’ll never actually get this written. Even if you do, there’s no way you’ll ever get it published. Even if you self-publish, nobody will like it. Why are you doing this? This is a waste of time. Just stop…” You get the idea.

Normally, this would cause more problem in my own mind. Normally, I would listen to this voice. I’d start to work on another project (because I always have a ton of ideas) and I’d never get anything done.

Instead, I was armed with two very important pieces of information.

1. This voice is the resistance. So I’m doing something right because it feels the need to rear its ugly head.

2. I’m doing this for me. I’m partially writing this book with the idea that I could someday publish it. But more importantly, I’m writing this book because I want to prove to myself that I can. I want to get these words and these stories on paper. I want to be a person who follows through on a major projects. In writing this, I’ll be a better person because I’ll become more creative and more empowered.

So, while I still hear that little voice inside my head nagging at me and I listen to it (because pretending it isn’t there gives it more power than it should), now I let it go on and on like Kanye at the Grammys. Then when it’s done and it’s little vocal chords are strained and tired, I smile and thank it for reminding me I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. Then I get right back to doing the work.

Push it

photo (10)

I may be pushing myself a little this next month.

I’m on a roll. I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been- and more free to follow through on that motivation than I’ve ever been. The result… I’m putting too much on my plate.

I’ve always been an overachiever. I have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends of the stick. I know this about myself. I accept it. I’ve never really understood what boundaries are in any sense of the word.

I assume I can do anything, so I just put my mind to accomplishing something, and I do it.

In some ways, my blind stubbornness serves me. I tend to produce. A lot. And in producing a lot, I improve a lot. I learn by doing and because I do a lot, I learn very quickly.

In other ways, it works against me. I can find myself razzled and spread out. And I’m very often thrown off balance because I get so obsessed with any number of projects and deadlines I’ve arbitrarily created for myself. And in the midst of it all, I add more. I’m not a balanced or interesting person when this is happening. I get tunnel vision and it’s hard to get out of it. I repeat myself because my experiences beyond the imaginary world I’m living in are limited for the time being. I’m not the best friend or partner during these times. I get so focused on what needs to be accomplished, I tend to overlook everything else. I don’t return text messages in a timely manner (if at all). I don’t tend to call you back. I don’t want to go get coffee and chat. All I want to do is go into my little bubble and create.

These phases don’t always last very long. Partly because they’re emotionally and physically exhausting to uphold. But when I’m in them, I’m completely immersed. No coming up for air.

I don’t know why. It’s in my nature. I’ll probably always do it. I enjoy it. It makes me feel the most alive.

I often joke that if I have 1,000 things to do, 998 of them will get done. If I have 1 thing to do, it will not get done. I will do anything but that one thing. So I keep a long list of to do’s to make sure I get things ta-done.

November will be a month where I know in advance I’m pushing my limits. Here are just a few things on the docket: I’ll be performing in two sketch shows with Second City which will require some rehearsal and prep time of course, four stand up show cases which will require keeping my skills and sets sharp and almost daily open mics, a short film, two podcast episodes, a few segments for a potential pilot, writing/starring/filming/co-producing a web series, and writing a novel on top of all of it and recording/editing/uploading daily vlogs documenting the writing journey. And, if I’m lucky, more things will be added to that list.  All in the span of one month.

Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping up this fabulous blog, my Femoir blog, and working out regularly.

Did I mention I have a full-time day job and spend most weekends babysitting? That, too.

The most wonderful time of the year will be especially wonderful if I can pull off the miracle of accomplishing all of the above-listed stuff.

I’m going into the abyss. I’ve already started by descent. My apologies for my temporary absence. I’ll see you again in December.

Wish me luck.

Have you ever found yourself so completely focused on a particular project, that you let so many other things fall by the wayside? Do you care when this happens? Do you notice it? CAN YOU HELP ME?

Gap

I always notice a bit of a gap when I wait too long to get the latest podcast out.

When I’m on a roll, I feel like I get chunks of downloads all at once when the podcasts come out.

When I’m not, I feel like the only trickle in.

But that’s ok. Such is life. Sometimes, opportunities are overwhelming and you’re in high demand. Sometimes, nobody cares.

That’s why you gotta keep creating  no matter what the outside stimulus is. It’s the process of creating that’s the most important part.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the latest podcast #40 is available on iTunes for free.

Teeheehee.