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A Familiar Beast

I have questions about rejection. I do hope you’ll bite and share your thoughts in the comments. As a student of the arts, I met rejection at a young age. I’ll never forget silently weeping in the back seat of our car when I found out that I wasn’t cast as a Von Trapp child in The Sound of Music when I was 12 years old. I was relegated to the chorus of nuns—or, rather, novices. Not even a full-fledged nun. The dealer of rejection in that instance was the director, aka my mom. I don’t blame her. She was my director and she made the best casting decision for the show. In hindsight that was a very important lesson for me to learn as an artist; nothing has ever been handed to me. But yeah, rejection was personal from early on.

We’re told repeatedly that rejection is an unavoidable element of our artistic lives, like a smelly beast with whom we must learn to live. I get it, but man, some days that beast is smellier than others. On those days I stop and ask myself in earnest, why? Why am I doing this? Will the glimmers of success or artistic satisfaction make the years of rejection bearable? I mean really, this is haaaarrrd. Will it be worth it? I don’t know the answer, but I theorize that even with “success” the beast will not leave me alone. I imagine it will change shape, change color, change smells, but the rejection will continue at every level in different forms, won’t it? In the form of bad reviews, higher stakes losses, chronic self-doubt, disappointing second novels, etc. So why? Why the torment?

Then I started asking more questions. Is this beast unique to the arts? Is there something about artistic fields that lend themselves to more rejection? Or does rejection exist equally elsewhere? Do my friends in STEM fields, or law, academia, business, entrepreneurs—do you experience the same frequency of rejection as my friends in theatre, film, TV, visual art, music, publishing? Are you as well-acquainted with the beast? Maybe you’re just better at keeping him on a leash. I’m genuinely curious because I’ve been so entrenched in the arts for so long that I fear my field of vision has become quite narrow. I also want to feel less alone. I want affirmation that I should not abandon my art for another path because a new beast will in fact be waiting for me on the “easier” roads. Is that true? Or is there a less painful but equally gratifying way to walk through life other than that of a perpetually rejected artist? My non-artist friends, enlighten me.

He shouts and hogs the bed. He never bathes. His claws are sharp. No I’m not talking about Brad! Brad is an angel and takes very good care of his nails. It’s the beast. My invisible housemate. On the other side of my horrible beast is a tiny promise of glory. Is it real? A trick? If it’s not a trick, is it worth it? I don’t know, but beasty and I know each other so well at this point, even without the taste of glory . . . I’d probably miss him. And that, my friends, is the true madness of the arts.

 

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My Fractured Life

I have a problem. My life is fractured. Well, segmented would be a more apt word actually but I like the way fractured sounds. It captures the struggle. So for now I say my life is fractured. Maybe some of you can relate.

As much as the following statement might make many of you cringe I’ll say it anyway — our lives are becoming ever more reflected on social media. It’s not enough to create a life anymore, you must project that life on social media. This sounds horrible but I actually think it’s rather awesome. We have this amazing opportunity to document our lives for posterity in a way that might live on forever. Gone will be the days that I wished I had a picture of myself at age 4 reading a book (Curses! I wish I had that!) because from now on chances are your mom posted one like that on Facebook when you were little. I share honestly on this blog because I don’t want my cyber presence to be completely sterilized and manicured. This is a record of me, and I want it to be true, for what that’s worth.

Another rather amazing aspect of social media is how it benefits those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Most professions these days require a certain amount of self-branding to play with the pros, even if it’s just updating your Linked In profile regularly. This being the case, I envy those who have a single drive, a prevailing passion. Having such a thing would make it much easier to focus and go after one’s goals and dreams — much easier to brand oneself across cyberspace. Let’s use acting as an example. If all I wanted to be more than anything else was an actor I’d have a simple marketing plan. My Twitter account would be geared towards following and talking about actors and actor-related business. My personal website would be all about acting. My blog would be an acting blog. And that pesky Linked In profile would be rife with endorsements for “Actor” “Performer” “Theatre Artist.” There’s just one problem. I’m never ever ever, never, ever, going to be just one thing. Being one thing makes me feel like a shark that stopped swimming.

Let me cut and paste my Twitter blurb: I write kid’s stories. I act. I run. And I make pretty things with my hands. Program Administrator for The Unusual Suspects. Company member at Theatre of NOTE.

The diversified portfolio weathers the storm, right? I’m not convinced the same applies to creative endeavors. I sometimes wonder if I’m splitting my own votes. Would I gain more momentum, connections, and success if I focused only on one single thing? Some examples of my struggle:

This fragmenting all just – happened. When I started this blog Twitter was still relatively new so I started a Twitter page specifically to talk about running and promote the blog. But then I wanted one for everything else I do so along came @MsBeckyLight (SeaGirlSigl at the time). The same happened for Whimsy Do. I figured my running-specific internet friends may not have as much of an interest in my thoughts on acting, flower crowns, and children’s literature so I’ve told myself that separate accounts is a way to target my audience. Is this wrong? Should I be the tie that binds? Should I try to get my audience all in the same room?

Should I be the tie that binds? What a crazy question, right? Obviously I, Rebecca, am the thread that holds together all of my creative endeavors. They all make up one thing — me. But I’m serious about all of them, they’re not just hobbies, and so I want to promote them seriously. I want to share them with the world far and wide, and so I try to be mindful of a target audience for each creation. From a marketing perspective, should I be the tie that binds? I guess that is the ultimate question, and something I’ve attempted to do with my personal website. Maybe that can be the one place on the web where all of me exists in the same place. Just a thought.

This struggle is 35% logistical and 45% emotional. I not only struggle with the social media strategy of my unique and fractured life. Whatever, that’s just business really. I struggle with it on a deeper level. I’m in love with my various endeavors but are they sabotaging my potential? I love making fanciful flower accessories. I love writing children’s stories. I love acting. I love my job working for a non-profit. I love running. I love making theatre. But dammit, there are only 24 hours in the day and at least a few of them have to be dedicated to sleep. I’m splitting my own votes.

I hear over and over again from writers: cherish your writing time. Carve it out of your day and cherish it. If I weren’t also running half marathons, acting in plays, producing plays, making flower crowns, then I know that I could devote more time to writing. More time to write equates to more chance of success. Substitute any of my other endeavors for the first. More flowers crowns made = more flower crowns sold. More miles run = more better shape. (More better shape? Good Lord. I’m a writer. Did you know?) You see what I’m getting at? Dreams take devotion and determination. An Olympian would never make it to the Olympics if they cut their training time in half to satisfy other interests. That’s just a fact. Do I have to pick one? Or is the beautiful gift of art that varying art forms feed each other? I feel this to be true, and to be the unique privilege of being an artist, but I also feel I might be kidding myself.

So now the real burning question — one I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of for years. Who has Hermione’s Time Turner and when can I get one?

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This morning I woke up an hour and half early to write. Tomorrow I’ll wake up an hour and a half early to run. Tomorrow I’m making a conscious decision not to write. Will I pay for this? Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe the deep massage my brain gets from an hour of running is vital to the creation of new ideas which turn into new stories. Maybe the hour I’ll spend prepping a Whimsy Do order on Wednesday evening instead of writing will be just the right amount of time to let that new idea stew and cook. Maybe the shade of the hydrangeas in that new crown will unlock a new feeling in me. Maybe the people I meet at NOTE on Friday while producing Orphans will say something interesting that I’ll file away to be used as dialogue in that new middle grade novel I’ve started to write. I don’t know if these things are true. So I sigh, and I say that they are. I have to do all of these things, and that is true. I have to act in order to write. I have to run in order to create. My weird little symbiotic interests make up this crazy colorful schizo quilt in my soul. They make up me.

So I didn’t finish this post with an answer I was looking for, per se. I still don’t know what the hell to do about all of my Twitter accounts. If you want to follow me, I guess just pick one.

Patience, not-so-young Grasshopper

I’m too impatient to think of a clever way to begin this post. Gah! So impatient! The cat is out of the bag. I’m impatient. It’s a toxic state of mind. The overwhelming desire to have something extraordinary happen overnight often thwarts the possibility of that extraordinary something happening over time. This is why it’s essential to enjoy and take meaning from the journey. Not because it’s so wise, because it’s 95% of the process. You may as well enjoy it. You can’t drive from California to New York overnight, so if you don’t find pleasure in staring out your window at the Oklahoma prairie or Missouri’s rolling hills, it’s going to be a long and painful drive. Learn to savor the journey; something I’m discovering about my endeavors as a children’s book author.

Earlier this year I actually, truly, really, actively, once-and-for-all began taking steps toward becoming a published children’s picture book author. I’d dreamed of such a thing since I was 6 years old, but other than a library of ideas messily cataloged in my brain I’d never pursued it. All that changed with the new year. Knowing NOTHING about the publishing industry I began with as rudimentary a step as possible. I bought Writing Children’s Books for Dummies. Hello, dummy. *Proudly points to self*

Not even knowing how to format a manuscript properly, I needed the basics. It’s actually quite a good book. I recommend it for publishing preschoolers like me.

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I read this book. I joined Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I launched a personal website. I finished my first manuscript. I researched publishing houses accepting unsolicited material. I wrote a cover letter. I signed up for my first conference. I’m ready now! Do you hear me universe! I’m ready, so can this happen now? Oh universe, I know YOU waited patiently for 30 years for me to accept this as my life’s calling, but now that I’m ready let’s do this thing.

I don’t know if writing for children has led me to think like a child, but I am impatient with a capital I. Impatient. IMpatient.

So what has led to this impatience? Well I’ll tell you. Obstacles. There are numerous itchy realities that have put a little bee in my bonnet since I started actively writing. Here are the discouraging things I’ve learned since I’ve gotten myself in the game.

On average it takes 3-6 months for a publisher to respond to your manuscript submission. Most responses will be a rejection.

Many publishers require an exclusive submission so while you’re waiting SIX MONTHS for them to read your three page manuscript you can’t really even submit it to anyone else. This isn’t always the case but SOMETIMES. SOMETIMES!

If and when a publisher wants to buy your manuscript, which you can almost guarantee won’t happen with the first submission, it will then take 18+ months (at least) for your book to be paired with an illustrator, art directed, produced, and published. It can and does take years.

Once your beautiful book baby is born and there you are on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, unless you’re among the incredibly rare breed of New York Times bestselling picture book authors, your book will probably go out of print in 2 years and you’ll net maybe $5,000 of royalties once you make back your advance. It will most likely be 10-15 years before you’ve published enough books to quit your day job and write full time.

So here I am, eager as a little beaver for my life to begin, and all I see are obstacles and “Turn Back Now” signs. I’m not old, but I’m not young either. I’m considering children in a few years. I’d like to start saving for a home, and for kid’s education, and for retirement. I want my life to begin NOW. Now, do you hear me universe? I’m ready! Do I really have to wait years for my three-page manuscript to make it to bookshelves, if it ever makes it at all? There are no guarantees. This could all be for naught. I could be a hack. I could be delusional. I can’t wait years to find that out.

I’m realizing I’m at this point in the story:

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There are many things I don’t know but I’m fairly certain of one thing. For the first time in my life I feel that I’m on the right path. I’ve started my journey down that path feeling prepared and enthused, only to now come across a chasm of unknowns, of long periods of waiting, of inconveniences and obstacles. There are signs that say “Wait here for 6 months, then proceed… maybe,” and others that read “Please pay $500 to advance,” while still others read “Congrats, you’ve earned $5,000! Now make that last for three years!”

A famous actor can indeed make millions. As can a famous author. However the majority of actors are not famous. They work. They struggle. They hustle to make $2,000 for one week on a show they don’t even really like that much and pray they’ll make enough money in their careers for health insurance and maybe a pension. It’s hard. For most, it’s very hard, so if you don’t love it, if Jiminy Cricket isn’t whispering in your ear, “Yes, this is right,” then maybe don’t do it.

Who knew writing would be just as challenging? Well, probably everyone who ever tried to be a writer, but hey I’m new at this. The difference now is Jiminy Cricket is talking to me. I’m starting to sound a little crazy but you know what I mean. It’s there! Some sort of warm omniscient speaking heart telling me that it will all be worth it somehow. This is my story. This is my path.

Okay. I accept. I will wait. I will make the leap. I will stay on the path no matter how hairy it gets. I will employ patience by enjoying the view from the window of this moving train. And while I wait, I’ll keep writing. I’ll see what I see out the window and it will inspire me and I’ll write it down. Even if I’m never published and they line my coffin with rejection letters from Random House, someone will one day clean out my desk and they’ll find what I wrote and they’ll say “Hey, look what she did.”

Hey, look what I did. Look what I’m doing. All you need is patience, young grasshopper.

Or should I say… cricket.

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Changing Seasons

In the land of eternal summer I long for things I can’t have. Things like red fall leaves and the sound of brown ones crunching under my feet on a crisp autumn day. I see glimmers but let’s be honest, the mercury hit 70 at the beach last weekend. Fall is mostly a fleeting hallucination here in L.A.

I feel the need for change so acutely and can’t help wonder if my yearning for a change in weather is a misplaced yearning for a change in my life, one that I’m too afraid to face so I keep complaining about the heat and lack of rain. It’s possible.

This post is going to be intentionally vague, sorry. Until I suss things out I don’t want to be too specific. To clear one thing up, no this change has nothing to do with my personal life. I’m still a madly in love newlywed and couldn’t adore my husband, home, kitties more. This isn’t about my hearth and home. If anything the solidity of my personal life has afforded me the freedom to muse of change elsewhere. I know my husband is there to catch me if I make a bold move.

It’s true that certain things come into your life for a moment, a season, a lifetime, and always for a reason. We know this. The hard part is determining what’s what. Let me rephrase that. The hard part is accepting what’s what. My heart knows when to let something go but my brain gets in the way. “Maybe if you just hold out a little longer things will turn around.” “Maybe you’re over-thinking/over-reacting/over-obsessing.” “Maybe by letting go you’re going to miss out on a huge opportunity.” Fear-based thoughts. The truth is I have a feeling that opportunities are in fact being missed by not letting go of patterns that distract me from what I’m capable of accomplishing. My potential is anesthetized by fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of regret. Not new concepts, and so very human. No doubt if trees had feelings they’d be terrified of spending half the year dry and naked, wondering if the birds and sunshine would ever return. Tree wouldn’t shed a single leaf. But it does. Every year. It’s a good thing trees don’t have feelings or we’d never see the spring.

Then there are the trees of Los Angeles. I’m onto you trees. You’ve reflected our collective fears. We look around and see your hoarded green leaves weighing down your branches and we hold on ourselves, because it must be best. It’s what we see.

My land that never changes, Los Angeles, you mystify. I love you but your sunny perpetuity has tricked me into thinking I’ve nowhere to go. You slippery city you. I’m going places. I’m going to force change if not in you then in me, and I’m going to terrify you with my falling leaves. Don’t let the sun fool you into complacency. It’s a trick. An illusion. We must make way for the spring.

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But wait, new thought.

 

Perhaps this constancy in my environment is a gift. Yes, trees, I get it! You give me no swirling changing world to distract me from a swirling change within. I think that’s it. My gaze outward for change fails and fails, so what then? The gaze turns inward. Isn’t that what’s happening right now in writing through this? No harsh winters to freeze my thoughts, no scorching summers to melt my concentration (people of the Valley, I hear you, you scorch), no romantic autumns to lift me off to dreamland where nothing happens but nostalgia and swoons. No. I’ve called you the land of eternal summer but Los Angeles by the sea you’re something more like spring, a time when life is born and the world is new. Is that what you’ve been trying to tell me, trees? Eternal spring? That’s much nicer. You give me a constant fertile playground for my own creations, my own forms of change. I can accept that. I can paint on your springlike blank slate all my new ideas and dreams. I’ll still long for sparkling white snow and the smell of fresh rain. Maybe someday when we’re through with changing, we’ll retire to a sleepy little town and let nature do the work. Let the world change around us as we sit there and just watch. For now, no more time for waiting and watching. Time for changing. Time to sprout.

Growth concept

 

 

No Time Like the Pressure

Whenever I talk to my husband about something I need to do, the conversation usually veers towards me finding a way to procrastinate. “Oh I’ll do it tomorrow,” “I’ll call them tonight,” “We’ll deal with it later.” This came up time and again throughout the wedding planning process. We’d talk about a vendor we needed to contact and I would say, “Ok we’ll call them tomorrow” and Brad would reply “How about right now?” He would almost always follow this up with the quip “No time like the pressure.”

Isn’t that so true? Obviously we’ve seen ‘No Time Like the Present’ plastered across multiple self-help platforms, but I love Brad’s little adjustment. Because the present is very beautiful, there’s nothing like it, I appreciate it, but the present is in fact accompanied by pressure where dreams are concerned. The present is lovely, but pressure is active. Do things right now.

This morning I ran 5 miles along the Venice Boardwalk; a route that takes me past my dream house. My ABSOLUTE DREAM HOUSE! I love it so much. It is everything that I am. It’s a two story craftsmen right along the beach, accented with a sort of Indiana Jones adventure vibe. Jungle flora fills the yard (there’s a yard!) complete with yeti-like footprints through the grass. Tiki torches and palm trees line the house. But it’s classy. It’s beach, mountain, adventure all wrapped up into one house. It is MY house. Today as we ran past we noticed the house had a For Sale sign out front. You’ve gotta be kidding me. It’s for sale! Damn! It is actually possible to purchase this house… if only I were someone else. After all it’s only 10 million dollars. Now, the point of this story is not that my life’s goal is to obtain a ton of money and a big house. Sometimes I wish that was my life’s goal because it would probably be easier, but it’s not. This house represents something and today that For Sale sign brought everything into focus. The house is a dream. I’ve run, walked, or biked past it repeatedly throughout the years and every time would dream to myself “one day…” with a sigh. “One day” is so safe. Kind of like saying “we’ll call them tomorrow.” This morning the universe gave me a gut check. It said, here you go, and I wasn’t ready. You have no idea when opportunity will present itself to you but one thing is for sure, you can be ready.

The truth is I will most likely never live in that house. No matter what I do I will most likely never be financially successful enough to justify the purchase of a two-story double-plot dream house along the sand in Venice Beach. So that will probably always be a dream, and that’s ok because I don’t actually believe that things like dream houses would make me happy. BUT, as far as metaphors go, message received loud and clear. Thanks universe. There’s a lot of other stuff I dream about that I’m realizing I’m not ready for. Real stuff that I could actually have.

Like babies.

I think I want babies. I’m not positive but I’m pretty positive. When you get married it’s funny that you do start to think about things like that in a more realistic way. At least I do. I fantasize about a growing family. No matter whether we end up childless (save two furry faced kitties), Brad will always be my family. I love our little family of four (the kitties of course), but I won’t deny that I dream about reading to my kids before bed, and trips to Disneyland with offspring, and Halloween costumes, and seeing Brad teach our kids how to snorkel, and rubbing the backs of babes with upset tummies, and bake sales, and soccer games, and all that jazz. It sounds appealing to me as a dream. Like a house I can’t afford. Just like my bank account prohibits me from purchasing that house, my emotional account is not ready for an extended family. I don’t know what’s going to happen to our finances. I hope they improve but who knows. However, if I feel like I’m really living the life I was meant to live, if I’m telling MY story, then I think I could be ready to help a little one into the world to tell his too. But I have to get my story ready first.

The past couple of years I’ve had a realigning of my personal priorities. If you’ve been reading my blog then you know I’ve become rather disillusioned with the industry of acting. Although I still do it, and I still love it, I don’t feel compelled to throw my heart and soul into “making it.” It would be nice if it was just, y’know, handed to me. That’s not how life works for most people. You have to work for your dreams and if they are the right dreams the work will pay off. Not sure acting is the right dream. I still struggle with this, and my split focus has me a bit paralyzed and discombobulated. What do I throw myself into? Whimsy Do? Acting? Writing? Or should I work my way up the ladder of non-profit administration? It’s important to have many interests but dangerous to attempt pursuit of them all at once. Success requires focus, so what should I focus on? I try to listen to the little God voice in my head about this and still she whispers to me about writing. She doesn’t seem to denounce the others, but writing sings a little louder in my heart.

So today I finished a story. It’s one I’ve been working on since my friend Scott McKinley passed away and although I have dozens of story ideas and rough sketches for manuscripts, this is the first one that feels really incredibly close to finished.

So there you have it. I wrote. And I feel a little bit more ready to buy that dream house, metaphorically speaking.

I leave you with this article I read on Huffington Post this morning. It’s a good-bye letter from a woman who died two days ago. She asked that the article be published posthumously. How odd to read the words of a ghost.

It basically broke my heart and lit my fire. There really is no time like the pressure you guys. Between my dream house being on the market and the words of this dearly departed writer, the message is clear. Let’s love each other, love life, “Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it.” Go get that house.

No time like the pressure.

Where we'll one day drink our morning coffee from the roof of our dream house. *le sigh*

Where Brad and I will one day drink our morning coffee, watching the dolphins play in the surf… *le sigh*

Running with Wings: Tinker Bell Half Marathon 2014

Hi there! If you haven’t heard, I’ve given up Facebook for Lent. This means I’m going to have a lot more time and focus devoted to my writing. I’m so excited! While I compile all of my new though currently scattered thoughts and plans for future posts, I want to share with you the latest from the greatest Brad Light, my one and only. While I document the written account, Brad has the visual component covered of our journey to Tahiti. The latest offering is a video recap of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon which we ran in January of this year (2014). Judging from this awesome video, you’d never know I was completely and utterly exhausted! Well, you kind of get an inkling that I’m hurting from the brief and blunt interview at the end. Just speaking my mind 🙂

And no, Brad is not dressed as a dinosaur or an alien shark. He’s the Crocodile people! Tick Tock!

Did you run the Tink Half this year? How did it go?