On Being Scared Sh*tless

There isn’t a lot that gets me shaking in my boots. I’ve got some amazing confidence and self-esteem (that I suspect, unfortunately, presents as arrogance sometimes) and I like to think of myself as being fairly brave.

Backpack in Europe alone? Check.

Move across country? Check.

Drink milk a day after its sell by date? Hell no.

But you get the idea.

However, when there’s uncertainty or even a hint of feeling out of control, I lose it.

And GUESS WHAT.

It’s about to get real uncertain up in this piece.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching and re-watching my all-time favorite movie: “You’ve Got Mail.” I can feel you judging me for loving a Norah Ephron film, but I’m not ashamed. One of my favorite quotes from Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly, a small business owner, is dripping with existentialism and is something I ask myself about every six months:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

Earlier this month, I asked myself my own version of this question on the blog with a little more vagueness than I usually allow myself to type. I was in the throes of deciding whether or not I’d be brave enough to leave my cushy nanny job and go back to piecing together several paychecks in order to have the flexibility I need to pursue acting and writing in LA.

And then I remembered that I came out here for a reason, and it wasn’t to wipe tiny tushies and noses. It wasn’t to walk to and from playdates, and it certainly wasn’t to dedicate my time and energy to helping someone else achieve the exact same goals that I moved out here to achieve.

I moved Out West in 2012, but finances had me “off ramp” in 2013 to full-time employment and I’m (weirdly) thankful it happened. In the last 1.5 years, I’ve paid off my credit card debt, smashed through a majority of my student loans, and completed several outstanding courses in improv and sketch writing (which I wouldn’t have been able to afford, otherwise). I’m not at all rich, and I’m certain I’ll have bills to pay for the rest of my life (duh) but I’ve also learned that–

there will never be a “perfect” time to start living the life I want.

There will always be a logical reason to hold myself back, to not take risks, to not make myself available for something truly magnificent to happen. There will always be someone good-heartedly acting as “The Voice of Reason” trying to get me to see that I should play it safe forever.

I’ve come to the decision that, barring homelessness, those deterrents aren’t good enough to side-line me anymore.

It’s time to make moves.

Bring it, 2015.


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Feed the Birds—Tuppence a Bag.

*This blog post was written Saturday November 15, 2014 from a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, CA. It is the 2nd post of a series of posts written at a self-imposed writer’s retreat. Here is the first.*

I knew that furiously writing for 12 hours every day, holed up in a cabin, wasn’t likely going to happen. It was my goal, when booking this trip, to insert a little more optimism into my process than I am used to while simultaneously “keepin’ it real”.

The owners of the cabin we stayed in went above and beyond on the hospitality front: we had instructions laid out on how to open up and close down the property, plenty of firewood and matches, complimentary luxury bath products and, best of all: a plethora of birdseed stashed in the fridge.

photo 3-2I haven’t fed birds in nature, like, ever. I’ve given bread to pond ducks (apparently a no-no) but never made the effort to lure unsuspecting birds into my enthusiastic orb of energy through legitimate bird food.

You will understand, then, why I had a hard time figuring out just what to do.

There’s no real yard to the cabin, per se, at least not in front. There’s just a shared driveway and a front porch. I saw some birds hanging on the telephone wire across the street and decided they looked a little peckish (get it?!) and wanted to focus my avian culinary attentions on them.

Naturally, I walked out onto the driveway, took a pinch of the bird seed, and scattered it on the asphalt.

SURPRISE! Didn’t work.

Then, I took a fistful and tossed it in their general direction.

Also not effective—the birds sat perched on the wire staring at me.

“Is she some kind of amateur?” they must’ve chirped to one another.

I walked away from the driveway and back onto the front porch. A light bulb flickered dimly in my brain and I decided to line the porch railing with a couple of handfuls of seeds. Then, I hightailed it back through the front door.

My gnome buddy and I laid in wait, wondering if any of the birds would land in my (harmless) food snare.photo 4-1

BINGO.

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They’d come down, snag a seed or two, and then fly off. I can only assume they have deep emotional issues with bird seed voyeurism from humans and need privacy to eat.

Feeling incredibly proud of myself, I returned to the kitchen and placed the bag of seed back on the shelf. I looked down to see detailed instructions (hooray for my hosts) on how to load the seeds into the designated feeders. You know…that tiny little house NEXT to all of my birdseed?

If I had just slowed down and read the signs (literally), my task would have been much easier. Someone had already told me what I needed to do to attract my desired goal. I just wasn’t really great at paying attention.

Lots of people will give you advice, and not all of it will be the direction that you need to take. But couple it together with your intuition, and make something happen. Choose the right way for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to my birds.

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I Hate this City

Drag yourself out of bed at the ass-crack of dawn because you have a 12 mile commute that needs to get you to work by 7:30am.

Walk into work to the nanny job to children yelling, “No, I don’t want [Short and Feisty] to be here! Go away!”

But it’s not the first time you’ve heard that and it certainly won’t be the last because who punishes their kids for being rude every morning, these days? Sure, they’ll recover in 10 minutes and start hugging you, but it doesn’t erase the shitteous start to the day.

Grandparents galore are in town so you’re routine is off kilter simply by them being there. Add in the fact that one of these grandparents enjoys rearranging the schedule with their preferences and their crappy ability to make you late for things, and your day is lining up nicely.

{Dear Parents: for the exact reasons why YOU don’t want to hang out with your annoying parents, your nanny does not want to spend 10 hours a day with them, either.}

You make plans only to have them interrupted by, not only the presence of the grandparents, but the fact that both mom and dad are home rearranging your plans as well.

WHY THE HELL DO YOU HAVE TO BE THERE IF THE ADULT TO CHILD RATIO IS OVERWHELMINGLY IN FAVOR OF THE ADULTS?!

Welcome to the world of high-net-worth nannies, where they can afford to just have you there sitting around twiddling your thumbs.

Oh, and one of your kids is a two year old. A raging, drooling, snot nosed, two year old who you alternate between wanting to shove in a corner and hugging. Because sometimes they can be so darn sweet and literally less than 2.5 seconds later and their screaming at you to “un-cut” the slice of bread that you cut in half…after they asked you to cut it in half.

You leave your job by sprinting out of the door and get in the car with three hours to get from the far West Side of LA to Hollywood to see a show for a sketch writing class you’re taking.

GUESS WHAT, THOUGH.

Just because you have somewhere to be that evening, every single solitary route you could use to expeditiously get to your destination is a bumper to bumper wall of solid metal and rubber tires.

You sit in the inching traffic, cursing your luck, and then you realize that the audiobook you were enjoying (Bossypants, again) only has about 10 minutes left while your GPS predicts you have an additional 90 minutes left.

Pull over for some food. Yum. Sit. Eat. Listen to that last 10 minutes of Tina Fey. Try and get BACK on the road. Attempt to stay awake, you’ve been up for well over 12 hours at this point.

Almost 2 hours of traffic later.

You pull up to the theatre of the comedy school you’re attending. You try to find parking but

  1. It’s dark,
  2. The signs on the streets of LA would confuse a WWII codebreaker,
  3. You can’t tell if the curb is painted red, or if it’s just the glare from some light.

While you’re searching for a space, your anxiety disorder comes out to play and you’re wondering why the hell all the comedy schools in this godforsaken town are located in the shitty dumpster parts of the city (cheap rent, most likely). You guess comedy needs an “urban/edgy” feel that you’re not going to find in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills (also, cheap rent).

Your brain is ticker taping the following: “You’re going to get shanked, you’re going to get stabbed, you’re going to get jumped, you’re going to be assaulted” all while trying to concentrate on finding some GD street parking so you don’t have to pay $5 for valet to have a stranger drive your car AND THEN TIP HIM FOR TURNING THE IGNITION ON AND OFF AGAIN.

You pull back around to the front of the theatre to see NO parking and several homeless people start to settle in for the night and a rather skeevy guy lurking around on his cell phone. Probably selling street pharmaceuticals.

STAY FOCUSED DON’T PULL OVER YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE AND GET SHANKED.

You pull onto a side street a second time just in time to see a sizable rat jump into the undercarriage of a Rav-4 in front of you.

Nope, nope, fuck that noise. I’m out.

And you hate this city and you’re tired of trying so hard to just end up treading water and you want to run away and–

shhhhhhh.

You’re going to go home, blog, eat some tortilla chips, sleep, and pray that there is a light at the end of the tunnel that makes all of the bullshit worth it. Because you don’t hate the city, you hate your circumstances and it’s up to you to change them.

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“Retreating into Nature” -OR- “Cabin Writing? Hell yeeeez”

*This blog post was written last Friday November 14, 2014 from a cabin in Lake Arrowhead, CA. It is the first post of a series of posts written at a self-imposed writer’s retreat.*

For the past couple of months, until really recently, Id been suffering from some intense writer’s block. My blog lay dormant and unloved. My screenwriting projects sat solemnly piled on my coffee table, silently begging me to edit them. I ignored them and watched more Netflix than I care to admit to on so public a forum as this.

(Are we noticing a theme in my life, yet? Netflix may be one of the greatest Technological Wonders of the World, but addiction to it can honestly be crippling.)

I tried to get down to the heart of the matter and find out why my creative machine stopped clanking. In the end, I determined that it was equal parts exhaustion, distraction, and lack of willpower—all three also equal parts depressing. Hoping to cure all three by honing in on one, I focused my attention on escaping from distraction.

Fast forward to this weekend and a cabin in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead. I needed cheap, yet safe and comfortable, and two of my friends were willing to accompany me on my journey. Using the website AirBnB, we were able to locate a one bedroom cabin with a sleeper sofa and two inflatable mattresses (which we don’t intend to use) for just over $100/person TOTAL: 3 extended days (we are allowed to check in early and leave later because no one booked before or after us). All we needed to do was bring food (or plan to eat out at one of the many local places). Best of all, there’s no wifi in the cabin so there will be minimal surfing of the internet while trying to type.

We made the two hour trek outside of Los Angeles and found ourselves at the foot of a gigantic mountain. Silly geography-ignorant me had no idea that Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead was at the top of a horrendously tall peak (over 5,000 feet above sea level). This does not bode well for a driver who doesn’t “really do heights”.

This is courtesy of the internets–no snow is currently on the peaks.

5,000 miles above sea level later, I found myself trying to navigate curly winding roads at the edge of a cliff while also trying to catch my breath in the thinning air. I was second guessing my decision until we encountered our sweet new digs.

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Holy moly. Talk about quaint, and welcoming, and picturesque.

Check out these sweet pics!

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(CLEAN!) Bathroom!

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Sweet California King Bed!

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Well-stocked kitchen!

After unpacking a bit, we made a trip into “town” for some groceries, moscato wine, and blueberry beer (Lord, please never let me become diabetic because then I’d have to quit alcohol altogether).

The people in the store were more than friendly and incredibly helpful—especially Rob in the wine section and a handsome young gentleman that helped us with the beer.

Back at the cabin, we decided to tackle the fireplace. We wanted a roaring fire in which to toast our marshmallows for s’mores and because I needed ambiance to write. Two out of three of us were Girl Scouts with only one of us actually learning any camping skills (me) so I set about starting everything up.

I stacked the wood, found the matches, and went outside for kindling. That’s when I realized that it’s a lot damper 5,000 miles above sea level and most of the detritus I intended to use wouldn’t light, catch, and hold the fire. We tried, anyway, to very little success. And we were out of luck in finding something like a fire starter or lighter fluid, etc. People don’t really store that sort of thing in an area known for forest fires.

Then we noticed a small gas handle sticking out of the side of the fireplace. This was confusing for all of us as we had only previously seen a wood fireplace or a gas one (both of which I know how to operate). I quickly Googled this phenomenon with the limited cell reception I had on my phone and found out that some fireplaces have a gas pipe to help get a fire started. And then this happened.

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Glorious accomplishment.

And now, I’m sitting by the fire typing this, and other work, wondering why I didn’t make a reservation for the rest of my life.

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Baby’s First Visit to The Academy: Nicholl Fellowship Ceremony 2014

Almost a year ago, I submitted a first draft of a feature length script to the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

I know, I know, you’re scratching your head wondering: “What are you doing submitting a draft to the premiere screenwriter’s competition? The one put on by The Academy—that awards their winners with $35,000 to encourage them to write an entire script in the following year? The one with over 7,000 entrants from all over the world? The one where they only choose, at most 5 or 6 winners out of the entire pool?!”

And you’d be right to ask.

The sad fact of the matter is that I really, truly hate editing and re-writing my work.

It’s my writer’s Achilles heel.

I sailed through high school turning in first drafts, stumbled through college doing the same, and nothing has changed since I graduated nearly 5 years ago.

In the real world, that’s obviously not going to fly.

HOWEVER—even with the handicap of not sending in a polished script, I ended up placing in the top 10% of the applicant pool. So I’m somewhere ranked between 700 and 380, where the cutoff for quarter-finalists falls (my script fell short of advancing to the quarterfinals by two-to-six points). Landing here entitled me to receive a comment over email from one of the two to three readers that rated my script. Usually when screenwriter’s submit to competitions or submit to find representation, they get almost no feedback beyond a casual and curt “no thanks.” This was a pretty significant “get” for me. The comment was equally encouraging, constructively critical, and reaffirming.

Just think what good may befall me if I add some discipline into my life and concentrate, for goodness sake!

That small accomplishment lit a fire in my belly that told me, “Hey. Maybe if you try harder you can actually make your mark in this industry. So stop being so freaking lazy.”

The Academy hosts an award ceremony for the winners and it was just my luck that it was in Los Angeles (hey, I live there!) and also FREEEEEE to attend. What better way to see what it takes to win this puppy than to hear from the writers that won this year.

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4 scripts won (2 dramas, a comedy, and a sci-fi), 5 writers (2 were part of a team and will then split their $35k) received their awards and gave a short speech, and 4 actors (check out that line-up!) read a scene from each of the scripts.

On Stage (right to left): Clancy Brown, Ansel Elgort, Tessa Thompson and Jack O'Connell, with Rodrigo Garcia at the podium.

On Stage (right to left): Clancy Brown, Ansel Elgort, Tessa Thompson and Jack O’Connell, with Rodrigo Garcia at the podium.

You can find more information on each of the winning scripts and screenwriters right here, but one of my favorite parts of the night was hearing about one winner in particular.

Sallie West, the writer of the winning screenplay “Moonflower”, had just been laid off of her job working for the US government after decades of service. She was a technical manual writer for the technology aboard Air Force One when they made her job redundant. She sat at home, reeling from the news (this happened right around the holidays last year) and decided to try her hand at writing creatively. Even at middle age, she thought she’d try her hand at something new. She wrote her screenplay, submitted to the contest, and told herself that there was no way in hell she would win.

Fast forward nearly a year later and she’s accepting the award to a thunderous round of applause and sitting on thousands of dollars worth of free money that will enable her to hone her new craft.

And the only thing that separates her from other people with raw, but tremendous, talent is the fact that she got in front of her computer and wrote. She thought of an interesting and original concept, sat down, AND WROTE.

AND WROTE!

That’s what I keep telling myself I need to do. There’s no use in planning, and worrying, and daydreaming if I’m not willing to sit my bootie down, shut off the internet, and freaking put the words on the paper!

For the 2015 competition, I’m submitting an edited script from the competition last year, I’m submitting a second new script this year, and my ultimate goal (that has a bit more optimism than realism) is to submit a third, any genre (you’re allowed up to three). Entries are accepted from January to May. I’m writing this here on the blog so that friends-of-the-blog and real-life-friends, alike, can keep me focused and motivated.

Keep checking back with me.

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