But What If It’s All Crap?

Last night and I had a super bizarre dream.  It was one of those “Peggy Olson” pregnancy dreams – I didn’t know I was even pregnant and then BAM! I had a baby.  It was just there.  So Ben and I are suddenly walking around with this surprise baby and introducing it to all of our very confused friends.  As I always do in these dreams, I’m wondering how the heck all the logistics will work out (I kept thinking that I didn’t even have a stroller!).  Then suddenly, there’s no baby.  I look down and I realize I have just been carrying around an empty blanket the entire time.  At this point, my friend Claire comes up to me and very gently reveals that they, “Know I have gone insane, created an imaginary baby, and that they have been humoring me the whole time to be nice.”  Yikes bikes.

Surprise!  You're pregnant!

Surprise! You’re pregnant!

If you took this literally, you’d think it was anxiety about moving to the suburbs and all that jazz.  But I don’t think it is.  Because last night I fell asleep again with that age-old fear about myself: What if all of the art I have been doing and creating is just a bunch of crap?

Am I alone in this thought?  I have been writing a play recently that I actually started over four years ago.  In the past two months though, I’ve been finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m probably about 30 pages or so from the end, and the only thing that trips me up is the occasional wave of, “What if this is just really terrible?”  Luckily, probably because I live with a very encouraging playwright, this thought has not completely lead me to throwing up my arms in defeat.

Knowing you’re not going to know

And no, I am not actually thinking that everything I do is awful, it’s more about the idea of: how do you really know if what makes sense in your head will make sense to anyone else?  I’ve been thinking about this idea for a few weeks now, with the thought of writing a blog post, and realized that the answer is: you don’t know.  Until someone gives you legitimate feedback, someone whose opinion your trust and who isn’t going to sugarcoat what they think, all you have is what makes sense in your mind.

It’s like the other day when I was whistling that song from Fun Home from the Tony’s and Ben came in and said, “Why are you whistling ‘A Horse with No Name’?”  Now does this mean I’m a really lousy whistler?  Maybe.  Or maybe it’s just one of those things where I hear one thing and everyone else hears something completely different.  That’s how I feel about my play.  I think I just need accept that when people read my play for the first time, they may hear something other than what I hear.  And there’s a chance that what they hear is also not crap.

Or like this Rorschach test...where two Russian dancers teach a native jig to a spiky beetle...

Or kind of like this Rorschach test…where two Russian dancers teach a native jig to a spiky beetle…

Ego vs. Confidence

I may get several very sweet and encouraging messages from this post about how I should have more confidence in my writing, and yes, please believe I deeply appreciate those.  They have really kept me writing this blog.  But it isn’t really about confidence here.  I like my writing voice, and I am happy that I’ve had a place to develop it so I can work on all these different projects.  This is more about finding that middle ground between having the confidence to write genuinely and being an egotistical writer that refuses feedback.

grumpy cat

So many times, Ben and I have come across playwrights or actors that simply say “no” to any constructive criticism.  As soon as they do, we both get a wave of, “Oh what a shame.”  Because you know they will only get so far with that naive attitude.  You can stand up for your work, of course, and at the end of the day, no one can make you do anything.  Also, no one is forcing you share your work at all.  But if you truly don’t want to change it, then why let anyone hear it in the first place?  You might as well just line up all your stuffed animals, give them the voices of your characters, and march them around your living room.

On the other hand, I tend to cringe during talk-backs gone rogue.  Ben teases me for my terrible poker face that develops when a group discussion about a play goes on too long or when the moderator loses control of a few audience members who are trying to turn the play into a whole new story (that maybe they should just go home and write).  There has to be a balance between “this is the story I want to tell” and “I want the story to be clear enough so that others can relate.”

So why do it?

Perhaps the real question is: why are your creating that particular project? If it is 100% for your own fulfillment, there is nothing wrong with that AT ALL.  At least you know what you want and there will be great passion in what you make.  Many will naturally relate to that.  But if you want others to connect with a story you’ve created or a character you are representing?  Then you have to learn to let your ego take a seat.  If we want to create a human experience, you need other humans to help bring that story out of you.

Ginny, you’re holding a blanket

So before I jump off that terrifying cliff and share my first draft with a group, I would like to find that middle ground so I can at least write the damn thing without judgement.  I don’t want to hand off something that I think is very special only to have the world say that it isn’t even workable.  Or worse, have everyone pretend it’s perfect when it’s not, just to protect my feelings.

Thoughts?  Mutual anxieties?  Whiskey suggestions?  I’m open to anything that will help me finish this draft.  Thanks for reading, everyone!!

Creativity Snooze Button

It was hard getting out of bed this morning.  When our upstairs neighbors use their heat, the steam travels up the pipes, making a hundred little stops along its way on the sides of the old metal radiator in our bedroom.  In my mind, the steam has transformed itself into little creatures with metal construction worker hats bouncing back and forth with glee, occasionally smacking their little hammers on the pipe for added affect.  By 5:30 or so, Ben gave up on sleep and I sprawled out, covered my head, and wished that the birds weren’t already chirping along with the hammering creatures in the pipes.  Both were conspiring against me.

Finally, my alarm went off, and I knew I couldn’t hide from the birds any longer.  I sat down to write and debated if 15 minutes more in bed would save me from a day of exhaustion.  I spent a sold five minutes writing about sleeping instead of writing or sleeping.  I finally gave in and realized what my problem was- I’m great at finding reasons to put things off, whether the pipes were clanging all night or not.  And as I usually do, I wanted to figure out why.

After we gave up on sleep...

After we gave up on sleep…

Things to DO lists…

For close to five years, I temped, consulted, stopped-in, freelanced, helped out, and part-timed my way through my work life.  Though all my “part-time” jobs usually added up to more than a 40 hour work week, I was always temporary.  Walking in and out of these offices without commitment and knowing that no one expected me to stay helped me maintain control of the feeling that I could be creative any time I wanted.  I could just up and leave to go be an artist whenever the mysterious and elusive art world called my name.  Choosing a dreaded full-time “permanent” job, as they’re known in the temping world (which really needs some rebranding), seemed like the end of the creative line.  I thought that adopting this kind of schedule would give me a “doing” life, and not in the “get stuff done Home Depot ad” kind of way.  I imagined it full of errands, schedules, distractions, and predictability.  I was worried that I would look back after a year and realize in terror that I hadn’t created a thing.

And yet, here I am, at my new “permanent” job (again, terrible name) with more time and space in my mind than I did when I had one foot out the door.  I am not saying that all you freelancers (and I’m sure I will join you again someday), should jump on a full-time job, I am saying that there is no perfect atmosphere or specific time to create.  But there is a balance to be found.  For example, for a while, I tried to only work “creative” jobs that would aid my drive to write and audition in my spare time: background work, teaching crafts classes, non-profit work.  At another point, I completely distanced myself from the creative world: hedge funds, PR firms, law offices.  Perhaps making more money and the starkness of the scenery would encourage me to write more.  But no matter where I was, the patterns stayed the same.

Writing and auditioning came in pretty unpredictable spurts, but usually coincided with the rare moment I was not obsessing with getting my constantly changing schedule or financial situation under control.  These moments were rare, since maintaining this magical flexibility was more exhausting the more it worked.  If I booked a job, I had less time to try and book the next job.  But if I didn’t book anything, I have to work extra hard to find something to maintain my budget.  So where did creativity fit into any of this?  My only choice was to focus all my energy into maintaining this work life, I had to eat, and I had to pay rent. And to be a complete musical theatre nerd and quote Cabaret, “Feet don’t waltz when the roof caves in.”

Write for your life!!  Raaaah!!

The point that I’ve come back to over and over, is that I cannot live a life without creativity.  When I am not working on a project, my weekly existential crises number double.  Poor Ben has to give me the “you’re always an artist” pep talk more than any husband should.  Even when I was a kid, my dad would tell me that I was grump when I wasn’t in a show.  The “I’m bored” whine-fest as a child was met with, “Oh, you just need a show,” or if that didn’t work, “Go clean the hallway closet.”

What happens to me when I don't write or perform after a while…CAT FACE

What happens to me when I don’t write or perform after a while…CAT FACE

So why is it so difficult to squeeze our creativity into this list of survival needs? Is it that no one is holding us accountable?  Is it because the world will keep spinning if you ignore it?  If I don’t make dinner, for example, I won’t eat, and then I will be hungry, and eventually get sick.  We have to seek out food in order to eat it.  But if I don’t write my play today, nothing changes.  Nothing bad will happen.  I will just feel blue that I ignored my play again.  Is this just as important as eating?  It’s great to sound poetic and say it is, and sew it on a Pinterest pillow, but really though?  How do we make this need a life necessity?

“I wanted it enough”…and other BS

I’ve never liked this phrase.  I’ve heard successful people say many times, “I simply wanted it badly enough.”  Great, so do the rest of us.  I usually find that the people who say this are either not mentioning the generous help they received along the way, OR the incredibly unhealthy unsustainable lifestyle that goes along with their career.  Simply wanting something does not write a novel or put you on Broadway.  Did wanting something enough make your parents buy you a Tamagotchi?  Is that where this is coming from?

It can’t just be about desire.  Basic needs, discipline, opportunity, education, and health play a pretty nice role as well.  As artists, we may never have a constant safety net.  And we can choose to focus on falling or being envious of someone else’s net.  But we can also look the possibility that balancing these things can assist in keeping us up in the air.  Perhaps it is about supporting each one of these puzzle pieces to weather any storm or any changing circumstance.  When one puzzle piece is out of balance, you have the others.  Your money is low, but you have discipline in your schedule to fall back on.  Or your education is lacking, but you have the opportunity to reach out for advice from someone.  You’re sick, but you have money to get yourself to the doctor or take time off.

What will happen if you lose the balance...

What will happen if you lose the balance…

 

Yes this blog post only had cat pictures…

I actually didn’t begin writing this post knowing how it would end.  Writing out these thoughts got me here though.   Having this blog added that tiny bit of discipline I talk about that keeps me writing, even if it’s not in the way I planned when I woke up today.  There may never be the absolute ideal moment to work on your art, but you also can only get so far with the “But I want it!” mentality.  Respecting how difficult it is to care for your creative energy is the only way to maintain this wild life-long journey of being an artist.  So I am going to start looking at these puzzle pieces as way to balance out my brain when I find the excuse to hit the snooze button or ignore my writing.  At least this is something I can put my finger on and tackle from a new perspective.

 

As always, feel free to share thoughts below!  And thank you for reading!

Adorable Little Lions

First of all: I’m excited to say I finally have another blog post in the works.  Often when I get an idea like this, it’s important to let it brew for a while.  But I want to wait until it develops into a post that I myself would want to read, otherwise, why ask you to read it??  So please stay tuned!  Another post is in the works!

New blog post soon?!  Hooray!

New blog post soon?! Hooray!

In the meantime…

I was inspired by an incredible Humans of New York post this week that raised, or as I’m writing this HAS raised over $530k for a struggling school in Brownsville, New York.  If you don’t know about Humans of New York or this incredible fundraiser, check it out, and feel all the wonderful feelings about society: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/let-s-send-kids-to-harvard.

Little Lions Need Our Love!

Over the past several years, I have had the joy of working in fundraising, and I am always reminded of the power of a community to support one another: with their time, their money, their enthusiasm.  This HONY post was a reminder that a community of “strangers” is just as powerful.  As cheesy as it sounds, we crazy group of internet strangers ARE one another’s community.  We read each other’s posts, like each other’s cat pictures, and sometimes, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars so kids can have a summer program and a trip to Harvard.  Go us!!

In the spirit of this belief in our incredible internet world, I am sharing the story of a group of Boston Public Middle Schoolers who are currently rehearsing, and completely self-funding, a production of The Lion King.  A dear friend of mind is their teacher.  She was once my director as well, and I know she’s something special to these children.  They have held community fundraisers as well, but as all of you theatre people out there know, theatre is EXPENSIVE and they are doing all they can on a dime.  I would love to tell them that we are their community too!

lion king

Let’s Support The Lion King!

http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/the-lion-king-and-beyond-/286629#.VKoZMpA8QNs.facebook

And what does that really do?  It sends the message to students (or whoever the fundraiser is for) that human beings are out there are thinking of you.   It is a reminder that we notice what you are doing, and you matter.  Donating or sharing a link may not seem like anything against the world’s many problems.  But a teacher can go back to group of adorable children learning “The Circle of Life” in a Boston Public School and announce that the world sees what they are working towards and they applaud you.

So if donating money isn’t an option (I get it, I am very often counting my pennies), and sharing the link is also not really your jam, please send them good thoughts and happy warm-fuzzy wishes for a good show.

Thank you for reading, and happy Saturday!

Now let’s feel super happy about our morning by watching a bunch of Australian actors sing The Lion King on an airplane because it is FABULOUS.

 

Blog Makeover

I came home sick yesterday and it looks like I have another day in bed ahead of me.  As someone who is terrible at just being sick and shutting off, I have found something productive to do that makes me, and my cat nurses, happy.

Viola checking if I'm overexerting myself.  #catnurse #maybeshejustwantsmybagel

Viola checking if I’m overexerting myself. #catnurse #maybeshejustwantsmybagel

Anyway, I gave my blog a makeover!  My hope was to brighten things up, choose a theme with a larger font, and make things look generally cheerier.  Thoughts on color and layout?  I’m working with the free themes on WordPress so there are restrictions, but this one was fun and easy to personalize.  I am very open to feedback about the new look and any of my writing.

A thank you gift to my wonderful readers!

Also, I’d love to take this moment to thank everyone who has continued to read and follow my blog over the past years.  As an artist it’s very easy to get frustrated when you’re not finding as much work as you’d like.  But as Ben reminded me when he started writing, no one needs to hire you to write, you can do it whenever you like!  Having a sweet audience means so much to me.

As a present, I have included my never before seen (online at least) bridal selfies.  On the morning of my wedding, right before we went downstairs for the ceremony, I asked my bridesmaids and photographer if I could have a moment to myself.  I did need a moment to breathe and take it all in,  but then I took two bridal selfies…because I keep it classy.

selfie 1

Look how seriously I’m taking all this.

bridal selfie

Screw that. Yay marriage!

If you build it, they will….read your blog?

A lovely idea launched me into writing this morning, and perhaps it will help you as well.  My friend Christina has been writing a lovely blog containing a thank you note a day to different things in her life: people, organizations, inanimate objects.  And this morning, she received a thank you note in return from one of the organizations!  As much as you hope people may glance at your art, it’s still incredibly thrilling and shocking when people do.  It’s especially thrilling when you realize that your writing has effected someone positively.

And then I thought for a minute about what would have happened if Christina had decided to write a post a day about everything she hates. What kind of response would she get, if any?  Essentially, it would be a giant invitation for rage and rants.  What a waste of energy on both ends, and pretty much the most obnoxious blog ever.

Most importantly, it was a reminder that when you send out gratitude, people appreciate it and send it right back.  When you send out enthusiasm, people feel enthused, and when you send out a constructive piece of advice about a problem, people sit and think, which is never a totally bad thing.

In the past several years of having this blog I have discovered a few (possibly obvious) things:

1. If you write it, people will read it.  Someone needs to hear what you need to say.  Hooray!

2. There are many ways you can present one idea.  No kidding, Ginny.

3. The way you choose to present your thoughts will affect the way you live your life and how others feel in theirs.  If you can’t find the best way to say something, hold off, it will come to you later.  Writing about writing?  Getting a little meta for me, please explain.  Also, are you talking to yourself in bold?  Does Ben know you’ve lost your mind?  Hush.

These sound like obvious points.  Why would anyone write a post a day about things they hate?  How exhausting!  And yet, you find it all the time online, just not listed this bluntly. SO I’ve started to think about where all this online negativity comes from.

What an interesting soapbox you have there….

We are human beings that need to feel all the feels sometimes, but it is important to keep an eye on what you are putting out there for public consumption and what you’re instead, putting in your journal.

It seems that negativity is often falsely regarded as confidence.  You have the right not to like something, I understand that.  And the world is far from perfect.  Constructive ideas are needed to fix many terrible things in society.  But the next time you write about how all people should stop doing something because you think it’s dumb and then have no logical take on how to fix it, think about why you are throwing all that negative energy into something that is A. beyond your control, and B. Most likely an insult of someone else’s personal expression.

Ask yourself if it’s harming you or anyone else.  If it isn’t, maaaaaybe you’re actually upset about something else.  If it is, it is still that person’s belief, and so there are more constructive ways to speak to them effectively.  Let’s be big girls and boys about this.

Pick a nicer soapbox, you have your choice

There aren’t many things in life that you have complete control over.  Your soapbox is one of them.  If you have a particularly open mind about a political problem, and a practical approach about how to improve someone’s life, then by all means, shout away!  I will support you!  (Though I will probably not come to your literal soapbox because I hate crowds.  But I will totally give to your Kickstarter).

If you find joy in making scones and posting scone recipes, power to ya!  Who doesn’t like scones?

Home Baked Scones Tea With...

I had to google “public domain scones” for this one.

Okay good example: Let’s say you hate scones.  Hate them.  They’re dry and your great-aunt made you eat them when you were little while yelling at you about being too skinny (This did not happen to me.  I love my aunts.  And scones).  But damn those dense pastries of doom!  You go on this person’s scone blog and rip into their very being of artistic identity.  And now it’s for all the world to see, not only the writer/struggling baker.

Your negative comment sparks a defensive attack online that somehow causes half your facebook readers to storm away from their computers, yell at their barista, yell at their dog, over-eat pastries out of spite, and then stomp around for part of the day carrying your family issues with them.

I believe it all goes back to fear.  And fear mixed with a healthy dose of ignorance creates a tunnel vision of rage and bizarre soap boxes.

The best example to me is the Ice Bucket Challenge.  I know, I’m late to the game.  But I wanted to wait until the angry people calmed down a bit so we all had some hindsight.  I found that people who ranted about the Ice Bucket Challenge had trouble looking at the whole story, and perhaps were projecting their own discomfort with group activities altogether.

Many people said, “What does pouring ice on your head have to do with ALS?  THIS IS DUMB!”  *throws laptop, pouts, eats scone*  

Now if they had perhaps researched the story of the challenge a little further, they would have seen that the challenge was to raise awareness about a disease that didn’t have a lot of attention.  By spreading knowledge, we realize it’s a problem that perhaps lost fundraising steam, which clearly is something to be fixed.

I also read, “People are just trying to get attention instead of donating!”  *posts on facebook, hopes for likes and comments*

As I used to tell my first graders at camp, don’t worry about what your classmate is doing, worry about yourself.  If you feel that their approach to spreading awareness about a disease is too showy, then don’t do it.  Keep gluing your macaroni.  No one is leaving you out.

And then the ever confusing, “This is taking away from other charities.” (Well, now I’m just getting judgy. I see how easy it is!)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t donate to a list of charities each day, and it took me a while to get used to donating at all.  But one way to get in the habit of giving to ANYONE, even if it’s a smaller amount, is having something inspire you to think of yourself as a charitable person in the first place.  It is easy to assume that a good portion of the Ice-Challenged gang was not planning on donating to Gorillas in Need (made that up, I’m not sure if they’re in need) that day and decided to blow them off.  So it was a good step all around.

Same amount of energy for something more worthwhile

Instead of using the word “better” or “right”, let’s go with constructive or worthwhile.  So much energy goes into choosing negativity without properly researching your point.  Will your rant actually help the situation, or are you a commenter that likes to stir up trouble because you’re speaking from a place of anger?

I have plenty of moments when someone has said something simply asinine online and I have to hold myself back.  If that guy I went to high school with is defending another crazy Fox News Anchor simply because he isn’t exposed to anything outside our small home town, would it be worth me lashing out at him without a plan?  No.  People who carry angry ideas are always looking for someone to be defensive.  And from his point of view, he believes he is fighting the good fight.  Me attacking would get us both nowhere.  Until I have a calm and helpful way to approach it, I will keep my mouth shut.

People do listen!  If you build it….you get the point.

So the good thing is that people do listen!!  I have found that when you put your art out there in the world, people do care and appreciate your effort, even if it takes a little while to make a career out of it (Want to cast me??  Ginnybartolone.com! *insert tap dance*).  So write that blog!  Start that painting!  Build that baseball field for ghosts!  Just remember that what you build will reach people, and helping them grow in the process is much better than millions of other lousier and honestly, less interesting options out there.