Learning by Doing

I don’t know what I’m doing. sexy face

This revelation is not shocking to anyone who I’ve hung out with for more than five minutes.

The picture in this post I hope confirms that.

I generally have no idea what I’m doing anywhere ever.

But here’s what I do know… I learn by doing. I do something. I do anything. I’m a do-er.

I don’t mind being wrong. I don’t mind asking questions. I don’t mind screwing up. I don’t mind falling flat on my face.  In fact, as strange as it sounds, I like to be out of my comfort zone. I like to be the least knowledgeable one in the room. I like starting something with blind faith that I’ll learn how to finish it as I go.  I do my absolute best to present a project that I’m proud of knowing that it will be imperfect. I do my best to make it as perfect as I can with what I have in the moment, then I let it loose.

It’s the same with these posts and this blog. I write it. I think about it. I reflect. Then I just do. I put it out there and see what happens.

One of my improv teachers used to emphasize just finding things in your environment and doing something with them immediately, then learning what it means to the scene later. You don’t need to know the answer in the beginning.  Just do something  and you’ll eventually figure out why you’re doing it.

I’m a firm believer that’s the only way to really learn something anyway. Any lesson I’ve ever truly learned has come through experience. You can tell me all you want not to do something, but I’m probably going to do what I want to do anyway. Because when I experience my own shortcomings or my own failures, I feel them fully. They become a part of my own life that I can grow upon. They’re new tools and stories I have that I can use to make different decisions in the future.

Like with the web series I’m in post-production for right now. I wrote it not knowing how it would get produced. Somehow, we found the perfect director who had access to an amazing and talented team of people willing to be a part of the project. My partner and I did a crowd-sourcing fundraising campaign not knowing how those work. We raised enough to make something a reality. We didn’t know how, but we’d make it work. We had hectic schedules and didn’t know how we would coordinate, but we just did it. I’d never been a “producer” before- making sure the locations were available and appropriate, coordinating people, making sure everyone was fed while still knowing my lines and watching all continuity.  I had no idea how much planning and coordination went into every single shot we did, but I learned.  I didn’t know how we would edit it. But we found someone perfect. I have no idea what it means to be in post-production, but I’m excited to learn. Anything I don’t understand how, I know I can learn bit by bit. I admit that I don’t know how to do something. And by admitting it, I’m totally open to learning.

It’s good to plan. And it’s good to prepare. But I think people can get so wrapped up in doing something “right” that they never actually do anything.  And if I’ve learned anything in my short time on this earth, it’s that the actual doing- even though that means often failing- is the most important (and most fun) part of our existence.

How do I know this? From a whole lot of doing.

So just do it.

This post has been sponsored by Nike.*

*This is completely untrue but I’m totally open to getting money from you, Nike, if you’ve got any to spare.**

**I know you do. So give me money. Just do it.

 

 

Back to the grind

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For the past couple months, I’ve put a lot of stuff on the back burner in order to focus on finishing the filming and production of my web series, The Other Client List. 

We finished filming on Saturday. I couldn’t be more proud, grateful and excited. It’s been an adventure and I’m glad to know it’s really only the start of the adventure.

On Sunday, I let myself sleep in. Then looked at the “To Do” list I’d been putting off…and had a little freakout.

Then once it was over, I stood up (did I mentioned I was curled into a ball on the floor?), took a deep breath, and got to work.I let myself freak out for a minute. It’s ok to sometimes feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel frustrated. And it’s ok to be true to whatever your feeling in the moment. I didn’t want to fight the freakout. I just allowed it.

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I think part of what was overwhelming me was not knowing how much I actually had put off and not knowing how it would all get done. So I just started attacking it step by step. I did some cleaning and organizing. I looked through piles of papers and figured out what goes where and what needs to be addressed. I made some phone calls and sent some emails. I did my taxes. Not all of them, but I figured out what I could get done that day, did it, and have an action plan in place for the final steps to finish them.

I even took a couple hours off midday to laugh with one of my favorite people.

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Even though there’s still plenty to do in both the web series, my personal goals, and at least eight other major projects I’m workin

g on, I’m ready for it. I want this life. I want a life of projects. Which means I’m ok with having times of being overwhelmed. Because everything is a balance. You just have to give yourself every advantage to learn to handle it. That way it gets easier over time. Just like everything else you practice.

I’m still learning. But at least I got a good practice meltdown and recover session in yesterday. I feel good about that.

So now it’s time to get back to the grind. Bring it.

Is It Worth It, Y’all?

Missy Elliott would certainly say so…

Tomorrow I’m supposed to put out another Femoir Podcast. I’m behind on the other one… as some of you may have noticed.

I still love creating these podcasts and getting to be on my mic and whatnot. But I can’t decide if it’s worth putting up a “Femoir podcast” that’s just a recording of my novel. It’s not really part of the Femoir world. But right now, nothing is really being produced in Femoir world because I’m concentrating on the novel in my “free” time.

So I can’t decide if it’s worth putting up the podcast, friends. What do you think?

Usually when I have thoughts like this, I call myself out on being lazy and just make myself do it anyway. In this case… I really don’t think it’s worth it.

Maybe we’ll just wait until I have the time and energy to concentrate on what the hell the Femoir: The Podcast is even going to transform into. Once I have time to do that, I’ll happily continue to create them.

But for now, there’s plenty of options to see my face and hear the melodious sounds of my voice on the Cartoon Confessions Vlogs.

10 Things I’ve Learned About You, LA

I live in the beautiful Los Angeles where I daily pursue my dream of getting paid to play make-believe. In the two years I’ve lived here (combined with the several years I’ve been honing my skills on stage and on set), here are 10 of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned to date:

1. Learn how to say no.

This lesson has not only been the most challenging for me, but it also seems to be the most rewarding. The beautiful part of Los Angeles is that there are so many projects happening at any given time and so many wonderful people to work with. The tough part of Los Angeles is learning which projects you should be working on at any given time and which people will best serve you in this moment.

I have an extensive background in improvisation. My brain is hard-wired like an improviser. My immediate reaction to most circumstances is “Yes!” Combine that with my polite midwestern nature and you get a formula for a person who does not understand the concept of “No.”

But I’m learning it. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you need to do it. Even if it’s a cool opportunity, you need to listen to your gut and decide if it’s best for you in this moment. Just because everyone else seems to hop aboard one wagon doesn’t mean that you need to take the same trail. There are always plenty of opportunities available. And if you miss one, there will be another. You need to leave yourself open to doing what’s absolutely best for you in that moment. And that means learning to say “no.”

Plus, there are a lot of people here (and everywhere) who prey on people who just say “Yes” to everything. You need to learn to protect your open spirit so it can say “yes” to the right people, not just the first ones to ask.

2. Don’t be afraid to say yes.

Having said all that about the ability to say “no,” don’t forget the power of “yes.” Oftentimes, we turn down opportunities out of fear. We don’t meet up with people because it might be awkward. We don’t make that leap because we don’t see the net that will catch us.

Well, I say “Leap and the net will appear.” I say it, but I didn’t make it up. John Burroughs did. But I agree. And so does every great risk taker who’s ever made any difference in this world.

Sure, there’s a good chance you’re going to fall flat on your face by saying “yes” to something. There’s a good chance nothing will come of some meeting. But there’s always the possibility that you’ve planted a seed that will grow into something beautiful in a future you don’t yet see. And even if it doesn’t, you’re a better and stronger person for facing your fears head on rather than excusing yourself from taking risks.

3. Bring something to the table.

I just wrote a 10 episode web series. My partner and I are currently working on producing it. We’ve been meeting with lots of different people to create a team to help us produce it. In the process, I’ve been able to bring onboard a lot of friends I’ve met over the past couple years who’ve helped me out a lot. I’ve met a fantastic director/DP who’s going to be helping us out. I’ve been in talks with people from all angles of production that I wouldn’t otherwise have an excuse to meet. I’m bringing something to the table by creating a foundation upon which so many other creatives can build. And I’ll have something (awesome) to show for it when all’s said and done.

So rather than just meet with people and blow hot air back and forth, do something you can talk about. Create a project you can collaborate on. Have something you’re invested in that you’re proud to show. Show you’re an active part of the creative team, not just a fan on the sidelines hoping the coach runs out of active players and starts calling in random fans.

As they said in the 90s, “Don’t just TALK about it. BE about it.”

4. Everyone has their own agenda.

The sooner you learn this, the sooner you can go back to loving people.

People seem to get upset when they meet with others who don’t respond exactly they way they want them to. Or they get upset when someone seems to take advantage of them. I believe it’s important to understand that every single person you interact with wants something from you. And you want something from them. It’s an even exchange.

Once you understand that, you can embrace every interaction for what it is- rather than what you wish it were. The commercial agency you’re meeting with wants to make money. They want you to be a person who makes money for them. They want you to prove to them that you’re worth their time and attention. In exchange, you want an opportunity to audition for major products and campaigns. You’re not there to make best friends with your agents. You’re there to prove you can do the work and make them money. And they’re there to prove that they can get you enough opportunities to help you.

Everyone wants something. Everyone has an agenda. If you can understand how (or if) you fit into someone else’s agenda, you can save yourself a lot of heartache.

Why didn’t the casting director call you back? You didn’t work for the part this time. You’re not a bad person. You’re just not right for them right now. And that’s a-ok.

Why didn’t that guy you’re really into want to be with you? Because you don’t fit into their life right now. They have their own problems and issues and you don’t help to solve them. You’re not a bad person. You’re just not right for them right now. And that’s a-ok.

Why did that person I trusted take advantage of me? Because you thought they didn’t want anything out of the interaction so you trusted them too much. You’re not a bad person. You’ve just learned a valuable lesson that everyone wants something. And that’s a-ok.

Even if someone does something out of pure altruism, they’re doing it because that altruistic act makes them feel good. And that’s a-ok.

5. Just because someone says it’s a pig doesn’t mean it’s going to produce bacon.

If someone asks you to work on a “pilot” for them, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually a pilot. It could just be an idea for a show they have that they want to make into reality with your help. It could be a great pilot that gets picked up and makes you a star. Or it could be a waste of time. Go with your gut.

If someone says they’re a “manager,” who can help you with your career, it doesn’t mean they have any knowledge of the business or any connections that could help you at all. They could catapult you to the next stage of your career. Or they could just want to walk around Hollywood telling people they’re a manager. Go with your gut.

If someone says they want to “collaborate” with you on a project, it doesn’t mean that they actually want to join forces. It could mean that you just got really lucky and a person with more knowledge and connections has decided to help you out because they have a great feeling about your talent and future. Or they could just want to get in your pants. Go with your gut.

6. Time is your most valuable currency. Spend it wisely.

Eventually, you’ll run out of money. We all do. Why do you think I blog so much? I need something to do from the comfort of my own home that I pay too much in rent for.

I used to give my time freely and spend money wisely. But when I ran out of money, I realized I don’t have the liberty of spending my time freely anymore. It’s one of the only resources I have unlimited access to, but it’s not unlimited in itself. If I overextend, the projects that really do need my time don’t get enough of it because the projects that don’t need my time are sucking up too much of it.

This goes back to point #1. Learn to say “no” to things and you’ll have more time to spend wisely on the people and projects that serve you best.

7. Most people don’t suck.

You hear a lot of complaints from people (especially in LA) about how many people here “suck.” I respectfully, wholeheartedly disagree.

Sure. It’s a big city. There are a lot of douchebags and biatches. And the embracing of a somewhat superficial culture can sometimes bring out the worst in people. And I’ve met my share of crazies… believe you me.

But for the most part, I’m surrounded by incredible, creative, hard-working, wonderful friends who are nothing but supportive and exciting human beings. Both natives of LA and transplants have proven to be absolutely awesome. I asked a stranger to help me out the other day when I was in a bind. He did so happily and without question. I constantly meet new people who are challenging and wonderful. I have some of the best close friends in this entire city.

The only people here who suck are the ones who are busy complaining about how much the people here suck.

8. You friends and family want to support you… but not all the time

I do shows often. I’m “grinding hard” as they say. I have a great group of friends who will happily come see my shows when I ask them to. And I’m lucky enough to have wonderful family near and far who can help me out of any sort of bind.

I know that (especially my non-entertainment) friends like to come see my shows. But I also know that I’m asking a lot of them when I want them to come to each of my three shows that week. I’m also happy to go see my friends shows. I love how creative my friends are and want to see them in their element.

But time is a precious commodity (see #6), so respect the fact that people will only give so much of it to you. Even your best friends. So don’t abuse their desire to help you. And don’t get upset if they’re not always able to be there.

9. Get over it.

I’ve read that the one trait the happiest people all seem to share is the ability to bounce back quickly from whatever may happen.

So whatever’s going on in your life, accept it for what it is.

Somebody hurt your feelings? Accept the fact that they’re hurt then get over it. There’s too much beauty in the world to dwell on the petty.

Didn’t get that big opportunity you were working hard for? Accept the disappointment then get over it. Let it fuel you for the next, even bigger opportunity. Know that even in not getting whatever goal you set out for, by giving it your all, you’ve already transformed into a better person.

Have to spend three hours in the car every day to get to work and auditions and everything else you’re doing? You’re lucky you have a car to be stuck in, first of all. And secondly, get over it. Listen to a good e-book. Enjoy the fresh air on your face. Make friends with the strangers in traffic next to you. There’s a lot of people who live in LA. A little traffic is the price you pay for living in paradise.

Achieve superstardom at a young age? Awesome. Good for you. Now get over it. You didn’t do it all by yourself. Be grateful to the loads of people who have helped you out and start giving back immediately. You weren’t divinely ordained to grace earth with your presence. You’re a person who got really, really lucky. The world that’s embracing you right now will forget you in a year if you don’t give them a reason to continue to be interested. Keep working. Keep improving. Don’t rest on your laurels.

10. Enjoy the ride.

It’s easy to get caught up in the drudgery of daily existence if you’re not doing exactly what you think you should be doing. You could be frustrated that life isn’t panning out as you expected, so you don’t see the beauty that surrounds you. You’re angry you’re stuck in 6 pm traffic on the freeway, so you overlook the way the colors of the sunset look just behind that silhouettes of palm trees in the sky.

It’s normal to lose sight of this stuff on occasion. But always bring back the perspective. Enjoy the moment. Life is too short, fragile, temporary, and precious to not be preset for every single breath.

Make It About Something

I know it doesn’t seem like I’m giving it my full attention. And to be honest, it’s not getting all the attention it deserves. At least right now. I’m working on a couple other projects this month that are taking my focus away from it. But it’s temporary. I love the Femoir world very deeply. I want it to be an extension of my own voice and to continue going on in many different capacities.

So even though it doesn’t always seem like it, this little show is a personal passion of mine. And I think about it often. It’s always somewhere in the back of my brain simmering. Trying to think of how to make it better. Trying to think of how to make it funnier. Trying to think of the best mediums through which to tell the story. Trying to think of how best to get my voice out to the world through Femoir.

The other day, I realized something major while in the middle of one of one of my recent breakdowns (which have been more frequent in many aspects of my life and I’m trying to see as positives because once you’re broken you can be built back up again as an even better version of yourself).

This is what I realized. I have been taking a bit of the Seinfeld approach to Femoir.

Which is similar to the Abbott & Costello approach.

Silliness for silliness sake. A series of sketches that makes sense because they’re an extension of the life I’m currently living, but not necessarily following any sort of theme. A series of characters put together to reside in the same space on stage for a short period of time. Or, in the case of the podcast, creating an arbitrary theme so that I can have a series of characters and ideas centered around it.

While I think there is some value to this process- mostly because I get to force myself to constantly write and come up with characters for no particular reason- I think it’s a selfish endeavor. I think it serves me more than the audience. I think the stage show and the podcast could be so much better if I told a story. And even better if that story came as the result of circumstances in my life that were real and important in that moment.

As of now, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable onstage and on the podcast up to a point. These are my words and my ideas and I’m sharing them with you in the hopes that you’ll like them and be entertained by them. There’s definitely a vulnerability in that.

But in the midst of all these intense shifts and changes in my life, I think I can do more. There’s a power in letting people share a journey with you. There’s a power in telling a story that means something. There’s a power in focusing on some real aspect of your life and letting that inspire the humor, rather than choosing something arbitrary and figuring out some aspect of your life that you can fit into it. I can’t ask the people in my world to let me be a part of their lives and to be vulnerable to me, when I admittedly hide my own story and vulnerability behind characters.

Granted, I’m good at characters. And I like doing them. And I want to continue doing them. But I need to push beyond. To challenge myself to find that something more. And I don’t know what it is yet, but I do know that this whole Femoir world is missing something.

It’s hard for me to shake some of the shiz that’s been on my plate lately. Doing arbitrary podcasts and sketches just to get something out there is possible- but maybe not the best use of our time. As one of my favorite improv teachers would say, “There is no wrong, but it’s a lower percentage choice.”

I think the higher percentage choice might be to open up a little more. To be more present in these podcasts. To tell a story through Femoir. To allow myself to let it be a story, rather than just a series of ideas strung together. To take the time to ask myself why I want to have all these particular characters or ideas put together. To create a theme based on my life right now and to let that theme be clear. In doing so, then I can more clearly (hopefully) relate to other people who are going through different aspects of their life. They can laugh with and at me. We can be frustrated or overjoyed together.

I’m not sure what all this means yet or how it will translate to podcast or stage. But I just want you to know I’m thinking about it. And it will come out somehow.

Let’s find out how together.