One Step at a Time

I’m currently in the midst of a particularly busy season.

If August was the sprint, this is the marathon. This is the part that feels overwhelming and exciting and where all the growth and anxiety and change happens.

This is the best and worst part.

I’m loving and hating it.

Without going into detail, mostly because I don’t have time, I just wanted to take a moment here in my personal space to say that I believe these big projects get accomplished one little choice and one little step at a time.

I heard this story about Desi Arnaz once and the huge piles of scripts and work he always had on his desk while he and Lucille Ball basically transformed modern television.

When asked how he got it all done, he simply said “One script at a time.”

In looking at some of the tasks ahead on the current project I’m embarking in (which is happening while all the other projects I’m involved in are still very much going and not relenting at all), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or wonder how the hell it will happen. But down that way lies madness. And even worse, not getting it done.

So instead a trust in the magic and I trust in myself and I do each task one at a time.

I just get it done.

No time for complaints or judgement. There is time to listen, but that’s different. Time now is just to act. Soon will be to reflect.

But until reflection, it gets done one script and one step at a time.

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Remembering Your Why

The same question has been popping up lately in my world. It’s come up in myself. It’s come up with people I think are successful. And it’s come up with people who are trying to find their big break.

That question is variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

When my peers get big – or even small – successes in their lives, I used to constantly ask myself (or the universe, whoever was more open to listening at the time), “Why didn’t I get that?”

When talking to people who are in early stages of their career or who are trying to figure out how to pursue creativity as a career, I’ll often hear then bemoan about people who are in similar boats to them who have found some traction. They’ll ask variations of “Why didn’t I get that?

Even people who are successful will look at others who have made different choices and wonder, “Why didn’t I get that?

It’s a natural question. We’re creatures who love to compare. But it’s even more potent at the moment in a world where we share more information than ever before, so it’s easier and more addictive to compare yourself to others than it has been throughout human history.

Though the question is natural, it’s not helpful. And the longer you entertain it, the more it will lead you down a spiraling path where entitlement and victimhood are unhealthily entangled.

The truth isn’t what you want to hear. The truth is, you didn’t get that because it wasn’t meant for you. It was never your thing. It was always the thing of whoever has it. And the longer you bemoan the loss of something that wasn’t yours, the more opportunities that could be yours pass you by.

The best advice I’ve recently heard about changing this same perspective into a more positive and productive one is from a person who is killing it in their respective field at the moment. They said their major mental shift came from thinking “Why isn’t the world giving me what I want?” to “What can I do to really make an impact on the world?”

Not to get all JFK on you, but ask not what your creativity can do for you, but ask what you can do for your creativity.

The more you lean into what you really want to do and the type of content you want to create, you start to inevitably become more unique. And the opportunities that are unique to your particular perspective and interests start to appear. And those feel more tangible and more uniquely you because you’re creating tangible things that are more uniquely you.

It’s about remembering your why. Why are you doing whatever you’re doing? Why do you want to do it? What is it that originally drew you to this world? What makes you stick around or keep coming back even when it’s difficult?

Once you understand and lean into that, your interest in comparisons diminishes. It doesn’t really matter to you what other people are doing because you’re not doing it for the outcomes they’re receiving. You’re doing it because of the reasons you remind yourself. You’re doing it for the purposes of really making an impact. You’re doing it because you love it and you need it.

Accolades are fine. But spending your life staring at the accolades of others and wondering “Why didn’t I get that?” seems like a boring existence, if you ask me.

And you didn’t. But you’re reading this. So I’ll pretend you did.

You didn’t get something because you did get other things. So recognize, embrace, and utilize what you’ve got and use it to make your unique mark.

Or don’t. I can’t control ya.

Deliberately Taking the Hard Way

I spent this morning playing at the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. If you haven’t been, go. I don’t care how old you are, you need to experience it at least once in your lifetime. It’s basically a large welded windy weird and wonderful playground for kids of all ages (and that includes grown-ass kids aka adults).

My body is sore and I have bruises everywhere. I loved it.

All around the City Museum are choices. The whole experience is really just a series of choices. From the moment you walk in, you choose which area you’re going to explore. They’re mostly interconnected, but unless you’re an expert at it, you don’t always know where one place will lead you.

There are all kinds of choices in every area. You can stay on the outside and enjoy some of the sights and sounds available from outside of the jungle gym-style area. Or you can take some of the easier stairs and other routes that don’t require too much physical work. Or, you can take some of the more mysterious and exciting tunnels that are often dark and confusing and it’s purposely unclear where they lead.

That’s my favorite mode. Go the hardest and weirdest route I can find. If it looks like I *might* even be able to get through, I’m trying.

It’s by far the most fun.

IMG_4874

I feel like we often choose the easier route in whatever decision we’re making. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel some ease and some flow into your life. I’m not saying we have to choose hard things because we need to feel like something is difficult to get enjoyment out of it. But I do think sometimes we miss out by choosing the path we can see and/or the one of least resistance. 

Resistance can be good for us. It can be good to us. It’s a wonderful teacher that forces us to push ourselves to the limits. And, in those limits, we can see the truth… which is that they aren’t really limits after all. They’re just arbitrary limits we set on ourselves.

I mean, sure, sometimes you actually can’t fit in a tunnel. Your body is physically too big to get through a space. I get that. But for the most part, you are able to do a lot more than you thin you can. You’re able to push yourself past where you think your own boundaries are. Then those new further boundaries become the new goal to push past as you continue to grow and change.

I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot. I don’t always love to do things that I do. I do love the growth that comes from choosing to do them. And so I get over the petty hurdle of actually doing whatever it is I’m doing in order to reap the hefty benefits.

For example, when I’m in my routine (and not traveling like a maniac), I’m a very early riser. I get up, journal, meditate, read, go to the first yoga class of the day, then come back and start my day with my family. By the time 9 or 10 am hits, I’ve accomplished so much, had a ton of quality time, and my brain is ready to be incredibly productive for a while.

But let me be clear: I don’t like getting up early. I don’t like anything about it. I need my sleep, so in order to sustainably get up early, I go to bed early. This means I miss out on a lot of things. And if I have to be out, I’m often tired too late into the night. I love to sleep in and I don’t always get to cuddle with my dogs or my hubs first thing in the morning. Instead, my ass is out of bed quickly so my alarm doesn’t wake them.

And I don’t like it. But I do love what it gives me so I do it anyway.

At the City Museum, I don’t actively think “I can’t wait to bruise my knees and body as I attempt to go through this tiny tunnel.” Instead I think, “Oh, that’ looks fun I wonder what wonders that will lead me to.” And I take it.

Even if that tunnel turns out to pop up right next to a really easy path, I enjoyed my harder road because I knew it challenged me. And I got to see something others won’t. And I got to push myself past my own boundaries. And, hell, sometimes taking the longer route is fun just for the whimsy of it – and whimsy doesn’t have to explain itself to you or anyone else.

I’m not saying make your life hard. But I guess I am saying if opportunities that might be more challenging arise, think about what lies on the other side of them. If it’s worth it, do it.

There’s only so much satisfaction that can come from coasting.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that seems to fit this perfectly:

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

 

Push to the End

I’m excellent at starting projects. I’m excellent at creating lofty goals for myself and ambitious schedules that will help me reach them.

But, boy oh boy, sometimes I have serious issues following through to the very end. I’m not talking about the almost end. I mean the very end. The last mile. The last class. The last week. The last few seconds of an exercise. The last anything.

There are times when this is reasonable, like when I set an already somewhat ridiculous goal for myself and am ok with ending it before I thought I would. But I realized not long ago that I was in a pattern of not finishing the very last stretch of what I started.

I didn’t go to the last class of my first acting class. The teacher was verbally abusive and not my style, so I had an excuse. I didn’t go to the last acting class of my wonderful acting class after that one. I was out of town and always knew I’d miss it. I didn’t go to the make up option I had because I was overwhelmed with work. And I almost didn’t go to the last class of another acting class I took, my reasoning being simply “it would go late and I was a little busy.”

When I started having those thoughts, I checked myself. That wasn’t healthy. That wasn’t helpful. And that wouldn’t get me where I wanted to go.

It’s fine to have a personality (like mine) that’s great with getting things started and excellent at blueprinting the method to achieve goals. But consistently not finishing – that last little push – what you start slowly erodes trust. It’s not bad, necessarily (since bad is a judgment and a great excuse to berate yourself, which I am not all about). It just means that I have to watch it. I have to learn from that. I can still harness and embrace the things that I’m good at. But I need to just be aware of the patterns I’ve set up for myself.

Even in my intense yoga class (yes, this yoga again), there are plenty of times when I want to stop. I have every excuse running through my head as to why I can just go into child’s pose instead of finishing that set of mountain climbers. But I have to train myself to follow through and trust myself that I can do it. 

Inevitably, when I force myself to follow through on what the whiny voice inside of me wants to skip out on, I find that there’s immense value in it. At the very least, I’ve shown that I will finish what I start. If I still don’t like what I’m doing or have other issues with it, I can decide in the future that it may not best serve me to commit to doing something like that again.

But if I say I’m going to do it, I have to do it wholeheartedly. And that means following through finishing every little push.

 

Tonight, I beat you, Resistance.

…you minx, you.GoTS4trailerDanyDragon

Even though I pride myself on my productivity, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be hard to convince yourself to make time to write. I talk a lot about “Resistance.” It’s a very real energy that fights very hard against you being creative. Even though it’s a great tool to recognize what you’re scared of (and often, therefore, what you should attack head-on), what I often fail to talk about is just how difficult a struggle it can put up.

I am usually good about making time to be creative. I am not often good about taking advantage of it. There are various external and internal factors that come into play before I sit down feeling inspired.

But some days I do it. Even if it’s not perfect and it’s not as good as I hoped and it’s not as much as I hoped… I get it done.

And I always take time to remind myself how good it feels when I slay the dragon. So that I can be reminded of that feeling the next time Resistance tries to convince me to be distracted. I remind myself how good it feels at the end of the tunnel, and I push through.

So don’t forget that sometimes, when you’re fighting the good fight, you get tired. And that’s ok. You can retreat and recoup for a minute. But don’t you ever ever ever ever ever let that minx get the better of you for good.

(PYT) Member Appreciation Day

bikiniDisclaimer: I don’t know this chick. I just googled “PYT” and she had abs so I figured good enough.

The other day, my gym had “Member Appreciation Day.” I had seen the signs up for it but didn’t think much of it. I like to be left alone at the gym. And when I’m running errands. And when I’m at coffee shops. I’m mostly a hermit who can sometimes trick people into believing she’s social.

I only noticed because a trainer came up to me after I did a set. He asked me if I liked the exercise I was doing, because he had a variation for the same muscle group that was even more challenging. He called my exercise “skull crushers” (which made me feel pretty badass) and showed me another tricep exercise using my bodyweight and gravity. I was my usual quiet gym self, barely mumbling a thank you as I reluctantly did what he showed me. I shyly looked off and said thank you so he would go away. He smiled and found another gym member who was working on squats. He then worked with her for quite some time on different exercises. I even saw him helping her stretch a while later. Before I left, he was working with yet another gym member and showing her some exercises.

I thought it was odd someone was wandering around giving tips and pointers, but then saw a sign for “Member Appreciation Day” and put two and two together. Then, I realized that the man was only hovering and helping young, female members of the gym. He had a very specific way of showing his “appreciation.”

I can’t prove that he was biased. But I do know that the other two women he was working with seemed a lot friendlier than I was, and he was with them for a whole lot longer than he was with me. And that there were a ton of men everywhere… who seemed to need no help at all.

I appreciate the appreciation… but I’m onto you, buddy. I’m onto your little games.

And also if I had known you were hitting on me, I would have been so much friendlier! Next time just make it more obvious!

Attitude Adjustment

attitudeI had to check myself before I wrecked myself the other day.

It was the first Saturday of the New Year and I went to the gym in late morning. And, to no surprise, it was packed.

And, unfortunately also no surprise, I immediately became a brat about it.

As I walked in and looked at the crowds of people on the machines and on the equipment, I got testy. I kept thinking somehow they were in my way. I felt so self-righteous that this gym was my gym. And that they were in my way. And how dare they even consider slightly inconveniencing me.

In short, I was a little biatch about it.

But halfway through my workout (when the endorphins started kicking in and I was calmer than before), I realized I was the one with the problem. Here are a bunch of people who, sure, don’t really know what they’re doing yet at the gym. But you’ve got to start somewhere. They were not at all getting in my way. It’s not like I go there with a really clear training plan of certain exercises I have to hit and certain goals that have to be attained. Usually I go with a body group that I’m going to focus on for the day. And then I look around and see what’s available.

These people weren’t my enemies. They were my new friends.

Sure, many of them may not stick around past February. But some of them will. Some of these people will have made it their New Years Resolution to get in shape and go to the gym all the time, and this will be the very exciting start of that journey for them. These are more people I now have something in common with. New people with whom I can talk working out with. New people who can complain about the lazy people who don’t return their free weights with.

It’s so easy to think you’re entitled to something. So much of our world today makes you believe you are entitled to whatever you want in the exact circumstances you want it and exactly when you want it. IWWIWWIWI, I believe is what it’s called (I Want What I Want When I Want It). I wanted to have the gym completely quiet and to myself. I wanted to be able to choose any time and go without any convenience to me. I wanted to have access to all the equipment I could possibly want for my workout at any given time even if I wasn’t using it or didn’t end up needing it.

Entitlement is gross.

I’m not proud of my attitude that day. But I am glad to be reminded that it’s so easy to fall back into a negative mindset. It’s easy to forget that other people are not your enemy. I live in Los Angeles…like millions of other people. If I start getting frustrated at crowds or traffic or whatever, I’ll never be satisfied in this city. Or any city. In fact, if I start wanting everything in my environment to be exactly how I want it without any distractions, I might as well move to a tiny hermit shack in Montana and hide from the world.

I’m not proud to say that I’ve considered this at times.

Then I remember, I love people. I love LA. I love being out of my comfort zone and having shared experiences and the excitement of a crowd. The only reason there’s even a gym close to me is because there are lots of other people who are members. I don’t keep it alive on my tiny membership fee alone. If there weren’t lots of people who belonged, I’d have to go somewhere else.

We need each other.

So I have to wait an extra few minutes for the leg press machine in January because some girl is doing 20 sets of 10 lbs. Whatever. No big deal. She’s gotta start somewhere. And I’m not going anywhere. So I’ll wait.

And I’ll be sure to check myself before I wreck myself.

I’m Going In

October was an odd month for me. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of being really in touch with my gut and lots of waking up in Cavecold anxiety-provoked sweats because something was off but I didn’t know what.

Maybe I sound dramatic. But that’s my style. So deal.

It really was an odd month. A bunch of strange things that kept making me feel more “off” than usual. For various reasons that I’m not going to get into here.

Needless to say, it was a bit of a wash of a month for me in terms of my positivity and productivity.

And I kinda just let myself wallow a little bit. And I don’t regret it. Because I didn’t want to push myself. As a woman who can easily push down her emotions and let good old denial take the reigns, I have to be careful to not just ignore how I’m feeling because it’s inconvenient and not productive.

I was tired and sad. So I let myself be tired and sad.

I was lucky that one of my bestest friends in the world and one of the most positive people I know happen to also be going through a weird month. I wasn’t lucky because I wished that on her by any means. But we both agreed it was kinda nice to have someone to wallow with. It made us both feel a little less alone.

But we decided November is the cut off. Once November starts, the name of the game is productivity, positivity, and proactivity. We’re going to distract ourselves into thinking we’re back on track. And maybe by doing so, we’ll actually get back on track.

I stayed in on Halloween and spent the whole time writing emails and making an ambitious schedule and setting clear goals for the rest of the year. And journaling. God I journaled the shit outta those emotions.

And I woke up November 1 excited and ready. I’m no longer going to wallow. I exorcised those demons on All Hallows Eve. It’s time to focus on me and focus on the things I love most- creativity and entertainment. I call this “going in” because I’m about to turn my focus into hyperdrive. I’m gonna be on a bleeping mission for the next several weeks. And I’m gonna accomplish a boat load.

I’m going into the cave of wonder and focus. If I’m not out by the holidays… just know I went down doing what I love.

Noir… now what?

I recently wrote and registered my very first feature screenplay (eeks!). It’s an absurdest, comedic noir. The main character,msmatthewson Margaret Mathewson, already has a twitter handle (@MsMatthewson). I registered with the WGA, it’s pending with the patent office right now, and I sent myself a copy. I’ve been sending copies to a few friends of mine who may help me produce it.

But I’ll be honest. I have no idea what to do next.

I know it needs money. Real money this time. I want this script to be done right and I’m tired of calling in favors from all my creative friends. Of course I’m grateful to even have creative friends who I can call in favors from… but I want this sucker to be done right. I want to be able to pay people so they bring their A-game. I want to be able to pay myself at least a little so I can spend more time concentrating on creating a great product rather than doing it in my (spare) free time.

Like I said, I want it done right.

And like I said, I have no idea what to do next.

But here’s the thing. I like not knowing what I’m doing. I like a good challenge. I like to be out of my comfort zone. And I like learning.

So I’ve done the only thing I can do… set up an action plan and a list of goals and start. I’ve got a list of books that I know are helpful to learn independent film production. I know some resources on the web that I can look up to learn how to learn more about film production. I can ask around and reach out to people. I have a goal for when I want to start production on this thing. And it’s coming up. Which means I have to figure out how the hell I’m gonna get the money to do it.

But I’ve done this before. Many times. So this is just another one of those times. I know it’ll take a lot of steps and a lot of hard work and a lot of uncomfortable moments where I’m out of my element and a lot of note-taking and reaching out and learning.

And I can’t wait.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to figure out how to produce.

Happy Birthday, TMI!

I’ve been doing shows with a group called TMI Hollywood for almost two years now. Since they started in August of 2012.tmi

Sunday, they celebrate these two years of incredible humor, hard work, and lots of ridiculous sillies.

For two years, they’ve booked a guest host and put up a completely new show every single week based on the celebrity gossip and Hollywood happenings in the past week. It takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication to run this well-oiled (usually) machine.

I lucked out when I went to that audition and lucked out to snag a spot in that cast. I’ve been even luckier to have stuck with it for the past two years and continue to be a part of the ever-growing and extremely talented community.

If you’re around LA on Sunday, August 10, come check out the show at the Second City Hollywood.

If you’re not, they always stream them live online at the website (and then upload the full show video to YouTube the next day).

And there’s always awesome pictures on their Facebook page and great tweets on their Twitter.

I’m grateful to know them and to get to work and play with them constantly.

Happy birthday, my obnoxious comedy lovers. Here’s to many more!