Day 4 Thank Yous!

Ir’s day 4, and we’re already at 29% of our goal for Zara Aina.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

Mom and Dad!!

My parents very very generously donated, and are simply awesome:)

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Emily Litman!!

Not only did Emily GIVE me the idea to do this fundraiser, but she also is the reason we have our wonderful kitty friends, Viola and Tiber.  In honor of her greatness,  I will put a picture of the two cats that have homes because of Emily.

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Day 4: Enough is enough, or…the night I walked out of a film shoot

 

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  Today’s theme is, “Enough is enough.”  Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own.  Thanks for reading!

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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If you want to get under my skin, complain to me about free food. This has been an issue around me lately.  There are very few things that cause me to openly lash out against negativity.  But after years of wondering if my bank account would bottom out at the grocery store (thank heavens those days are behind us), free food, either from a job or otherwise, is no reason to complain.

But recently, I’ve been getting particularly infuriated by this type of griping—and in the process, I’ve realized something.  My aversion to complaints has a lot to do with being an actor.  In the theatre world, there are plenty of factors fighting against you—lack of work, unsteady paychecks, too many people in one market.  And so it’s necessary manages what is in your control—the amount of work you put into your materials, your marketing efforts, and above all—your attitude.  A bad outlook or crotchety attitude is a sure way to ruin your chances in the theatre world—there simple isn’t time for it.  And so I’m always shocked when this isn’t the case in other industries.  In a way, it’s a form of privilege.  You can afford to complain about your job, to not look at the bright side.  In theatre, you find a way, usually with the help of all the other emotionally in-tune artists around you, to work through your frustration in a healthy, constructive way—or with a lot of wine.  You know, healthy alternatives.  Either way, you don’t complain at work.

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Day 3: Writing Challenge Break for Hoboken Crash

I had a story ready to go for today’s challenge, but after this morning’s events, it seems inappropriate. My husband Ben is okay, but his train pulled in minutes after the Hoboken crash and he was present during the early shock of the accident.

I had a strange start to the morning–a bizarre pedestrian yelled at me when I was trying to leave the Montclair station from dropping off Ben, I got over-emotional setting up a meeting at work (for unknown reasons) and then I helped clean up coffee that had spilled all over a counter because a colleague brewed it without setting down the coffee pot.  It was just one of those weird, nothing-seems-right kind of mornings, as if the world was off balance.  When I stopped by my desk, Ben messaged me that his train was running late and that everyone was complaining.  I told him about my funky mood swing over work grouchiness and that was that.

Fifteen minutes later, he texted me to say he was okay.  I feel like after 9/11, messages like that send your body into shock– because something has happened.  On the flip side, it’s good that we know to send these messages to our loved ones before anything hits the news or cell service goes out.  His train had pulled in minutes after the train crash.  The thought we both have, which is not worth exploring, is that his train happened to be late by a few minutes. You can drive yourself crazy with these thoughts.

Found a news photo of Ben. He's the one walking away with the brown backpack. Don't play Where's Waldo with me, you will lose.

Found a news photo with Ben in the background, which make everything even more surreal. He’s the one walking away with the brown backpack. Don’t play Where’s Waldo with me, you will lose.

I left work and tried to drive toward Hoboken.  I found a radio station with updates as they came, but by the time I reached 1 and 9 outside of Jersey City, 1010 was warning that police were turning vehicles away from Hoboken.  He was right, every entrance was closed.  I am very lucky that I spent almost three years living in the area, and weaved my way through Jersey City Heights until, 45 minutes later–I emerged on Newark Ave in JC.  Ben walked across the highway by the Holland and I emotionally met him in Hamilton Park.

Now we’re home, feeling that surreal feeling when your day takes a terrifying, but at the same time, miraculous turn.  I am thinking about everyone involved this morning and pray that everyone effected recovers soon.  I also send out deep gratitude to the incredible response from emergency crews that Ben said arrived in a matter of moments.

It’s a cloudy, rainy day, but I will, without a doubt, take a moment and look around with gratitude that we are home safe.  I will take the monotony of making coffee at work over a day like this anytime.

Fundraiser Day 2 Thank Yous!!!

It’s day two and we’re at 14%!!  Definitely on our way to my goal for this amazing organization.  Please take a look when you get a moment!

Thank you Lifeinthethe8tre blog!!

You are my first blogger donation from this lovely WordPress community!  Hey everyone, go check out this incredible blog!

Thank you Aunt Marybeth!!

Here is a lovely photo (Marybeth on right) with a few of the other amazing Miller/Shepherd ladies.

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Day 2: The Farther You Go…or, That Time I Rapped with Nuns in Spain

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  Today’s theme is, “The farther you go.”  Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own.  Thanks for reading!

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

Day 2: The Farther You Go…or, That Time I Rapped with Nuns in Spain

Although I attended six years of Catholic school, I wouldn’t say I came out of it much of a Catholic—at least not in the traditional sense.  I developed a strong resentment toward my patronizing and judgmental school experience, full of plaid jumpers and a brutal social caste system, and then totally cut the cord in high school when my church yelled at my family for not sending me to CCD even though my mom was going through serious chemo.  As usual, people not following the teachings of the church scare away its followers.

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But when the Camino de Santiago fell into my lap during a program in college, I reconsidered the role religion had played in my life up until then.  To put this story in a nutshell, I studied the Camino that year and then decided to walk the whole kit and caboodle with my friend Claire after we graduated in 2009.  It was a turning point in my life, as well as a turning point for how I viewed organized religion.  I wouldn’t say I ever had a “come to Jesus” moment—if anything, Buddha became even more of my jam, but I did leave with a greater inner peace about the original intentions of the Catholic traditions.  I left with a new belief in humanity, and new hope that community can triumph over a broken system, no matter which tradition is followed.

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Fundraiser Day 1: THANK YOU!

Hey friends!!  It’s only day 1 (let’s call yesterday “day 0”?), and we’ve already reached 10% of my birthday goal for Zara Aina!

Check out my fundraiser!

A HUGE thank you for the generous donations from:

My dear, dear friend Helen O’Rourke: known for keeping me on pitch, helping me finish a bottle of wine, and for never judging when I write incoherent messages on gchat because I don’t edit before I hit send.

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Also, thank you to the 2 anonymous donors.  Since I cannot say your names, I will say THANK YOU, and post this adorable puppy photo.

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Day 1: Don’t Rain on My Parade, or…That Time I Almost Didn’t Go to the Tony’s

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  Today’s theme is, “Don’t Rain on My Parade!”  Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own.  Thanks for reading!

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here!

Day 1: Don’t Rain on My Parade, or…That Time I Almost Didn’t Go to the Tony’s

In April of 2010, I peeled my 22-year-old self off my parent’s couch and took the 193 bus to Port Authority, dressed rather unstylishly for an internship interview.  The months leading up to this moment included hiking the Camino de Santiago, struggling through a damaging and humiliating breakup, and trudging through a job with a bullying coworker, all the while working through a pile of depression.  I was not in fine shape. By the time I moved back home earlier that year, quiet and tired, I was not averse to lying in bed for days at a time, waiting for night to fall so I could sit up and watch Colbert reruns until I feel asleep on the couch.  I once woke up to my side table covered in flowers because my mom was determined to inspire me to simply start moving again.  Slowly, I did.  One morning, I walked one loop around the lake in my parent’s neighborhood; this gradually became two loops.  But even after hiking 500 miles, my ability to free myself from my weight of depression was a slow, tedious process, and as it had before, walking is what saved me.

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My 30th Birthday Challenge!

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I have super exciting news!  With the help of the fine Facebook community, I have decided to ring in my 30th birthday (on October 27th) with 30 days of personal stories and 30 days of fundraising for a very special organization.  Here’s the rundown:

30 Stories for 30 Days

When I was little, I had a trusty set of stories that I told over and over and over again.  Between this and never brushing my hair, you can imagine I was pretty cool.  Luckily, I was in a good position to frequently repeat my go-to tales, since working in theatre introduced me to new groups of people that hadn’t yet heard my stories about cats doing funny things or about that time I almost passed out on stage during The Miracle Worker. As a shy girl who hated (and still hates) small talk, these stories were a guarantee that I would at least have something to add to the conversation when I really wanted to run from the room.

Storytelling has always been a part of my artistic life and now extends to both writing and theatre.  Recently though, I’ve hit a wall.  I can write motivational blog posts that work in little tidbits from the day, but when it comes to reporting the past, I tend to freeze up.  I get robotic, I lose my writing voice. Even now, I’m going into 7th grade essay writing mode.  Eeee. So! I need this exercise to break this habit–because a few of my stories definitely deserve to see the light of day.  But until I can do them justice, I will start with the easier ones.

Each day, beginning tomorrow, I will tell one–either lengthy or short–story from my past.  We’ll see what happens!

Blogging Challenge for all!

This is where you come in. As most of us here onWordpress have probably learned, finding a home to connect and express our own personal narratives–however we like–is a rare opportunity online, at least without getting lost in the shuffle of a news feed.  These stories make up who we are.  And sometimes, we just need a platform to tell them.  So each day, I will connect a theme to each of my own stories and welcome you to either comment here, or link your own post of a similar story you’d like to share.  I will happily read all.

$900 for Zara Aina!

Most importantly, I wanted to find an organization that gives a voice to children throughout the world who are often otherwise quieted.  Zara Aina (which means to “Share Life”) is a NYC-based group of professional theatre artists that bring arts education to at-risk youth in Madagascar and throughout the US.  Since 2012, it is breathtaking what they have accomplished.  Please take the time to visit my fundraising page or their website (or both!) to watch their incredibly moving video that breaks down all they do for these children.

Why $900?  Because I’m working with this who $30 for 30 days, or from 30 people, or because I’m 30.  You get it.  But do not feel pressured to stick to this 30 thing.  We are a community, if you are more comfortable donating $5, then I am certain 5 people people will also donate $5, thus balancing everything out.  Or, if giving money is not you jam right now, please consider either sharing my goal or simply visiting their site to find out what they’re up to.  I promise it will change your day.

I will write an afternoon post each day thanking donors and including any personal websites/blogs you would like to link here.

In advance, thank you for your continued support of my writing projects.  And thank you for already making this a wonderful birthday:)

The Actor in the Back of the Coffee Shop

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“It’s just different from what I’m used to,” says the fussy lady in the coffee shop across from me, as she slams down the delicately crafted Matcha latte in front on the barista.  “If you had sweetened it the first time, I would have liked it.”  She wavers between a demanding tea connoisseur and someone who has never interacted with a food establishment before. Luckily, I know the people who work here, and will be able to share a glance of what a pain in the ass when she leaves.  Also luckily for me, she has no idea that I’m sitting here like the opposite of a secret shopper, writing about her unwarranted indignation about what is essentially a cup of hot sugar.

So yeah, not in a super-social mood lately.  Yesterday I told Ben that I would feel much more comfortable with a standard acting career acting if I could make one major change–to remain as introverted and secluded as an actor as I get to be as a writer. I know how to get my thoughts out, how to get to the point of what I want to say, when I sit in a public place with my laptop and write.  Here, I have the societal understanding that no one should mess with me because I’m clearly writing something super-duper important. This, paired with my intimidating resting face, usually assures my privacy.  Fussy tea lady is a reminder that I’m not exactly ready to dive into being a social butterfly to flaunt my acting career.  I used to have a thicker skin for people like this, or at least I thought I had to have one in order to stick with the types of jobs and interactions necessary for a public-facing career.

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How Diane Lane Narrating My Life Became This Blog

Little Thoughts on Finding Your Writing Voice

I’ve been in career mode recently.  I love when my brain lets me go there.  I have these occasional waves of motivation, usually timed with the changing of the seasons.  Fall is a big one for me.  I want to fill my house with pumpkin smells, wrap up in a blanket, and make large claims about writing a novel.  I even recently took an awesome rocking chair from someone’s curb on bulk garbage day and arranged this handy-dandy writing nook.  For the time being, it’s really helping–yet I have absolutely accepted that it may turn into a cat cuddle space/storage area.

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I’ve had several people ask me about how I decided to begin blogging and how I grew this voice over the years.  So here is my personal experience, with advice that may be up your alley as well.

The other night, I was sitting in my new rocker and started to pick through a section of our book shelf that just holds our endless collection of diaries and journals from over the years.  If there’s one action that proves how much my husband and I trust each other, it’s by openly leaving out approximately ten years of feelings on a bookcase in the middle of the apartment.

Anyway, I found my Camino notebook–the oneI used during my first hike across Spain.  The back of it is filled with panicked budgeting and addresses for everyone on my postcard list.  Though I’ve been a diary writer for as long as I can remember, this notebook was the most similar to my future blog.  But making the leap to online writing primarily developed when I was left alone with  my thoughts while walking for approximately eight hours a day in a desert/mountain/middle-of-nowhere Spanish village.  You have a lot of time to think, talk, sing, write songs, rhyme silly words with one another, zone out, count flowers, and sometimes even try to translate as much of The Wizard of Oz lyrics into Spanish.  You get the idea, you have a lot of time.

Well, amidst all this, my journal writing began to reflect the persistent narrator inside my head.  My fellow hikers would occasionally check in to see who my current mental voice sounded like this week (I have tons of respect to everyone for not thinking I was totally losing my mind).  Some days, it was Diane Lane from Under the Tuscan Sun.  In case you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about:

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Under The Tuscan Sun Clip

Other days it was Forrest Gump.

 

I didn’t think anything of this, I’ve had narrator in my head since I was little.  Too many movies with a dramatic, James Horner-backed narrative during my childhood I guess.  But I learned throughout the hike that this is how I compartmentalize my experiences and how I process important moments of my life.

Slowly but surely, these voices were reflected in my journal writing.  Brain to paper was a huge step, and not an immediate one.  Now, I have never been a diary writer that reports the day’s activities.  I don’t like to report what happened–I already know what happened.  I mainly like to get all the angsty thoughts on paper before I spew them at someone else–it’s a moment of mental detox.  But as my mind’s observant voice developed, the more it began making its jump to the page.  My writing began to balance out between ranting and experience–and hence, the blog voice was born.

Blog Post Structure

The leap between my journal and blog writing came when I began to latch onto really nice ideas that my mental voice chose to say during that given week.  If I had a particularly poignant moment–whether big or small–I learned to bookmark the wording that came to mind and write it down for later.  If it really strikes me, then I see if there are larger themes going on in my life that could be related.  This post is a good example.  Often in life, images and feelings tend to repeat themselves within a short period of time.  It’s like when you keep spotting the same word over and over and realize it’s a super-weird coincidence. This happens with fluffy feelings and motivational blog posts as well.

The more experience I had with morphing a moment into a story/lesson, the more aware of these moments I became.  I could even drag them up from the past.  The issue I still struggle with is how to create ideas when you need to write, especially when you haven’t have a light bulb moment in several months and your blog is getting dusty.

Writing for an Audience

In my early days, I wasn’t that concerned with audience.  I just wanted to write something and post it without passing out from fear.  If one person read it, that was enough for me.  In the beginning, I was very lucky to see this new venture as a side-project just for me–not for money or attention.  Creatively, this is how I really managed to grow as a writer.

As the years went on, and this became more my jam, audience became way more important.  I can break up my current writing voices into several categories:

Personal Blog:

I do whatever the hell I please.  This began as a public way to develop my writing, so whether my post is 400 words or 1500 words, it doesn’t matter.  It will be nice for some people, and not great for others.

Outside blogs:

Get to the point while keeping your voice intact.  My biggest jump from online journal writing was keeping everything within a word limit while still telling a story with soul and personality.  But this is the skill worth developing.  Too long a story and your reader is lost.  Too succinct and you’re writing a book report.  When a story strikes you as important, how do you put someone in your shoes without banging the story over their heads?

Essay writing: 

This is my new jam. I picked up Creative Nonfiction’s book about three years ago, and it opened my eyes to this genre.  Apparently first-person memoir essays are a thing that you can write for money!  And people want to read them!  And they’re so much longer and more poetic than blog posts.  So when writing these, and I’ve only submitted to a few contests so far, I let all pistons fire at once.  I get lofty, I write on and on, I make comparisons to birds and trees and rainstorms.  The privacy of it–the chance that it might be published on paper opposed to the internet–for some reason allows me the freedom to tell darker secrets and elaborate where blog platforms often fall short.

Ways to keep growing:

After I while, I recognized I was falling into the same traps.  I wrote (and still often write) on the same subjects and tend to come to the same conclusions about art and careers and such.  What was missing was a teacher.  And so I began to obsessively read.  My final bit of advice is to seek out which authors spark your urge to write.  Their form of narrative should have such a strong power over you that you put down the book and race off to your notebook or laptop.  For me, these ladies are Nora Ephron, Anne Lamott, and one of the first narrative writers who inspired me, Dominique Browning.

Just get started:

For those of you who have approached me in the past several years about starting a blog, I will generally tell you this (but am clearly happy to elaborate): find a platform that’s free and easy to use–I highly recommend WordPress.com–and write as if you have nothing to gain or lose from hitting the publish button.  What inspires you will inspire someone else.  What bores you will bore others.  Start with your own needs and the people who you connect with will find you.  Then share, share away on Facebook and Twitter!  That’s how I get 90% of my traffic.  The other 10% or so is from exploring the wonderful WordPress community and reading other’s blogs on topics I enjoy.

Your voice will only continue to develop with time, as I hope mine does as well.  You will never–at any point in your career–be able to predict how an audience will respond to a post you love.  So you might as well write it if it makes you happy.  When in doubt, go on a hunt for a voice similar to your own and let them lead the way.