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.

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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?

To Coach or Not To Coach

That is the question.

Not long ago, I took a mini intro workshop with one of the major acting coaches in LA. It was really cool. I got to see this really experienced and extremely positive coach (and her TA sidekick/hype man) do what she does best. She took a room of total strangers coming from all different acting backgrounds and one by one watched us, coached us, and gave us specific, helpful feedback.

I was extremely impressed and excited after the experience.

I didn’t immediately sign up for classes because I can’t swing it financially at the moment. When I do get a little more cashflow coming my way (which I know is imminent) I’ll be using it to finish off classes at some of the major theaters I’ve already begun. Probably. We’ll see when the cashflow comes.

The point is, one thing I realized while I was in the coaching session is that I’m a producer type. I’m always creating and producing my own projects. I’ve been doing this for years. I don’t know what it feels like to sit around and wait for something to be handed to me. I try and create so many distractions in my own creative worlds and projects that I forget I’m waiting on some other opportunity to come around. That way, if something does pop up, it’s more of a pleasant surprise instead of an absolute need.

I realized this during the class as people went around and told sections of their bios- what they’ve been doing with their time and how they’ve been trained. With one notable exception, everyone in my workshop had maybe taken a couple classes and done not much else. I had to force myself to stop talking before I got to all the stuff I work on because the teacher was done listening. It was an odd feeling. I didn’t want to sell myself short on my accomplishments, but I also didn’t want to take up everyone’s time going through the amount of work I try and take on any given day.

Afterwards, as excited as I was about the prospect of taking classes with this coach and as positive of an experience as I had, something felt a little off. I talked to my good friend (who I met through comedy classes!) about it while on a little stroll in the neighborhood, and she offered awesome advice that just felt right. She said that for a personality like mine, I tend to create my own opportunities. I’m always working on lots of different projects and creating characters that simultaneously showcase my acting and writing abilities. Of course I would benefit from coaching- anyone would- but many times those classes are really great for people like my friend, who are just straight up actors. They want to hone in their craft and learn every element of it to make themselves better. They don’t write their own characters. They don’t produce their own shows. They don’t do nightly performances for the sake of trying to improve their voice as a performer. They act. They take other people’s words, embody that character, and make them reality. I do that- at least I want to do that- but not exclusively.

I began thinking about the difference between the two worlds. I’ve always been a bit of a floater personality, so it’s normal and natural for me to feel like I’m on the fence between several different worlds. I’m not exclusively an actor. If I were to take these coaching classes, I would have to put a number of really exciting projects on hold so that I could immerse myself completely in only acting. This could be good for me in the short run, but it ironically puts a bunch of acting projects on hold that could pan out as better showcases for my talent in the long run. These are projects I’ve been writing and working on for months to showcase my individual voice and acting style. And I’d be putting them on hold to learn how somebody else things I should be saying somebody else’s words.

So I finally decided this: I’d rather be Mindy Kaling than learn how to perfectly audition for The Mindy Project. Mindy is an extremely talented multi-performer (theatrical writer, TV writer, author, actress, stand up, etc). She’s created her own opportunities in this world. She has her own unique voice and style and has demanded the world beat a path to her door instead of trying to follow a bunch of other people’s already existing path.

It’s a longer shot, I realize, to be the woman with her own TV show than it is to have a bit part on an already existing one. But those are the people who’s careers I admire most. I adore Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Amy Shumer, Nick Kroll, Amy Poehler, Pete Holmes, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell (just to name a few). They’re all people who produce their own stuff. And have for years. And the world eventually responded.

I’m not saying I won’t continue to market and put myself out to already existing projects. I love hopping on other people’s bandwagons. I’m already on a few and hope to be on even more. But I won’t do it at the expense of what really makes my soul soar- which is writing and creating and producing my own projects.

Then again, I’m a creative. I could change my mind about this completely by tomorrow morning. Stay tuned right here, folks, to see what happens.

Doggie

Normally, creativity is my way of relaxing. After a long day or a rough weekend or a tough conversation, I love to write and be creative. My parents at first worried that I spent all my free time constantly creating. Until they realized that creating was my way of letting off steam. It was my way of coping with the world around me. Writing and performing are how I address my anxiety. They’re how I meditate. They’re how I get in a good headspace. They’re when I feel most useful, most connected to humanity, most alive.

But sometimes, there are outlets I can do that are not creative that also relax me. Like hanging out with dogs.

I love dogs. I love love love them. I’m mildly obsessed. I want to own one. Someday. I would do it now, but I know that I would have to sacrifice a lot of things I’m not willing to sacrifice right now, and it would be more of a hinderance than a help. At the moment.

But once in a while, I get to hang out with dogs that are not my own. I’m doing that right now. I’m dog sitting for a lovely family (who I normally babysit for) who have a wonderfully cuddly adorable sweet dog named Romeo. He’s perfect and cute and sweet and cuddly and did I mention adorable? And he looooooves me. Because I loooooove him. So we just loooooooove each other.

Love bug Kisses attack Little lovie

So this week didn’t start out super “productive.” I haven’t done any open mics since I picked him up on Saturday morning. I don’t plan on hanging out with any friends until he’s back with him family Tuesday night. I’ve tried to take time to write, but I’ve spent a lot of time petting him and telling him how pretty he is. Because seriously. Look at him. He’s so pretty and perfect.

But I have been on a lot of long walks. I have been walking up and down the streets of my neighborhood looking around and smelling things I don’t normally take the time to soak in. I’ve been to the beach to relax and enjoy the company of other dogs and dog-owners. I’ve been woken up by sweet slobbery kisses for the first time since I lived at home and my own dog, Mugsy, used to do it. I’ve been whispering sweet nothings into his ear just to make him feel better like I used to do with my other dog, Snoopy (hence the name… the Snoopy Digest…).

I’ve been relaxing without producing. And I’m a-ok with it.

I will be ready to start up normal life again, of course, but I’m in no rush.

p.s. Did I mention he’s my little shadow and follows me everywhere and is sitting under my desk right now as I type this? Because he is and it’s SO CUTE.