Therapy Session: Life Changes

Therapy Session: Life ChangesZuma Beach 2017

Carmen: Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong. Everything. Nothing. On the one hand, I know I have nothing to be complaining about. On the other, all I want to do is scream. It’s all just jibberish. Never mind.

Dr. Mei: How about if you stop over-analyzing what you’re going to say, and just say it?  Let me hear it and I’ll tell you if I think it’s jibberish or not. Deal?

Carmen: Okay.  Deal.  Uhm. Well, simply last week I was sure I’d be pitching my TV drama idea based on my book but I didn’t finish it. You know, detailing out all the characters and such. I wanted to be so organized, so ready and I’m not. Then, I got it in my head that I should pitch an idea I had on cultural criticism to a magazine that’s looking for new writers and so I started working on that.  I’ve outlined my second book – and started writing another chapter — I saw an audition online and wondered if I should submit – then I thought I should contact my agent to start sending me out or get a new agent because –  what the fudge, right? They haven’t sent me out at all. It’s annoying. Uggh.  I applied for a grant a while back and decided to follow through on the play part of the proposal. Plus it’s still something I want to do.  I “owe” two podcasts – based on my self-imposed schedule – I mean, what is wrong with me? Why do I think I can do all of this? And why can’t I do all of this?  Why am I feeling overwhelmed when this is everything I’ve been asking to do all along?

Dr. Mei:  First, take a breath. A deep breath.  Good.  Now, it seems like a lot, but why do you think you’re not doing it?

Carmen:  Well, if I’m being honest, I realize for the first time in my life I’m living my dream. For all these years I’ve worked a job I hated – yeah, I’ll say hated, without hesitation.  Even more than the work itself,  I hated the people I worked for.  I mean, now that I can look back, most of the people I handled money for were bitter, old-minded, entitled privileged lazy people. Ungrateful. And constantly complaining about how hard their life was and the worst:  they always “announced” how much they did for everyone else – which for the record, was write a check. Write a check from money they never had to earn by the way.  Anyone can write a check if they have money.  But it takes a real kind of person to take credit for doing bullshit.  I think I hated that the most. The god-damn boasting about how much money they gave to such and such… But I digress. I ultimately hated the work itself.

So, here I am, now, getting up every day working as a creative entity. I wrote my book, I’m doing some speaking events, I’m writing — exploring every day what it feels like to be a writer.  I can’t lie, it’s taken me some time to get into the groove of things. I mean, when I rehearsed as a kid, as a dancer, I was on schedule.  And, it’s taken me some time to FEEL like this is right, but I can’t lie. I’m scared.  I just am!

I fear I’m going to do all this work and nothing will come of it.  I mean, that’s not why you’re supposed to do ART in the first place, right? You’re supposed to create ART authentically because you can’t do anything else. But what if I share all of this, what if I pitch this or that or write a second book and no one cares?  What if I put so much into all of it and I get rejected, dismissed – or worse, what if I hear nothing at all?  What if I do all this and I still can’t pay the bills? What am I thinking?

I really can look at my entire life and see it that way. Nothing I’ve wanted has ever come to fruition. I’ve failed at everything I ever wanted even if I succeeded at everything else.  My entire life up until this point has always been to do the right thing. To be the good girl. To never be a bother.  And even still – with all of my effort of always being of service to others, of always being honest and kind…why haven’t I succeeded in all the things I’ve wanted?  Why try this? I’m just setting myself up for more heartache, right?  And which one of these things should I be pursuing?  What is wrong with me that I think I should be doing 5 things at a time?  And have I lost my mind? Do I think money grows on trees somewhere?

Dr. Mei:  Well, two things come to mind that I’d like to share.  Maybe three. First, take a breath.  I’m not saying that because it’s what I tell everyone – I’m saying that because I don’t think you notice how you hold your breath and tense up when you speak.  Your passion, your concern are formidable, but that stress is mounting and I can SEE it in you.  So first, take a nice long deep breath.

Second. I love how you said you’ve “failed”.  You realize you’re not done, yet, right?  You get that it’s not over yet.  As I know you, as I’ve read in your book, you haven’t failed at anything that was put in your path.  Most people see you as a success.  But you feel like you’ve failed at the things you want in life. I get that. But you’re wrong.  The problem isn’t that you failed Carmen. The problem is that you haven’t even started yet. 

You feel like a failure because you’ve been pursuing other people’s needs and joys.  You’ve never followed your true North.  You moved to Los Angeles and took a job doing bookkeeping because you knew it’d be better money than being a waiter, plus you’d never last waiting on people.  But it was the plan till you could get yourself stabilized to pursue your creative career.  Things continued on from there and the jobs got more important and impressive – and they got even more miserable with every day that went on.  My goodness, you wrote a book in the midst of so much misery in the job you had while working through past pain of your childhood!  That’s pretty remarkable. I can’t wait to read the second book for that reason alone!

Third, and maybe most importantly, you’re here now.  THIS was your path to get here.  You needed to travel that road to get to THIS point.  None of it was a waste of time – and none of it was really in your control.  This is LIFE happening.  You can only do what you know how to do when you actually KNOW how to do it.  You couldn’t be anything else other than who you were then, to be who you are NOW. This is the journey you’re on.  And so far, it’s been pretty interesting to say the least. Aren’t you excited to see what’s next? I am. I can’t wait to see what you do from here.

Let’s talk about rejection.  Or my other favorite quip you said, “…or worse, hear nothing at all.”  Whatever it is, fear of being rejected, to make a mistake, to let people down, to not make enough money to make a living, whatever.  Rejection is hard.  Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone through it, doesn’t matter how used to it you think you are – rejection is difficult.  Got it?

By the way, welcome to the club.

Yes. It’s a club.  We’ve all been there at least once in our lives.  You’re at a crossroad and instead of choosing which path to take, you’re standing at the head of all the choices in front of you hoping someone will you push you down the “right” path.

Look, everyone wishes Steven Spielberg will run into them at the local coffee shop and be so stunned by their mere presence that he asks you to his office because you’re his next lead in his upcoming movie.  People dream of Oprah calling them on the phone and saying, I read your book and you’re one of my favorite things… yes, we all want that. Someone to validate us, someone to walk us through.  It would be easier…

I’m not Steven Spielberg, but let me help shove you down a path anyways.  Write the TV Script, do the pitch, write the second book, do the acting, the podcast, the blog, do the magazine cover – DO ALL OF IT!  Do the speaking events, teach, write, dance – all of it IS WHO YOU ARE.  It’s who you’ve always been even while doing everything else.  That’s what’s so impressive.  IT’S YOUR TRUE NORTH Carmen.  You’re a story-teller, a performer.  Do you need evidence? Okay – here’s some off the top of my head:  Steve Cadwell said, “You write like Hemingway: every word true to the bare bone fact of how you experienced it. Compelling!”  That was October 21st, 2018.  Right?  You sent me the email because you were so happy.

Need more? I can rattle off the names, the people – some you know, some you don’t who have already told you about your writing.  But just looking at your face I can sense your disbelief.

Tell me what you’re thinking right now.

Carmen: I’m thinking they’re all just being nice. Overly generous.

Dr. Mei: Okay. Let’s go with that. Let’s pretend that all the accolades thus far have been people “just being nice” to you.  For the record, that’s a complete untruth, but let’s just go with it.  So what?  Then just do it because it’s what’s next.  Do it because you have no reason NOT too. Do it because you’ve been given numerous “signs” that you should.  Do it because NOT doing it guarantees failure and regret. Do it because it makes you happy. Do it because I’m telling you, this is so much closer to your true North than anything else you’ve done in the past 20 years. Do it because even when you talk about the struggle of it, you still sound lighter and happier than any time you’ve talked about any other work you’ve ever done.  Do it because the worst possible thing that can happen is that you took the shot, it didn’t work out and you go about and do something else.  I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

Carmen:  Yeah. I know. Everything you said, is true. I know all of this. The weird part is, I’m excited. I’m excited about all of it.  And it’s mixed with a tinge of fear. But when I think of going back to my old life – the only word I can come up with is dread.  Absolute dread.

Dr. Mei: You’ve already leaped Carmen. You’re in the air right now –in the midst of it all.  Don’t worry about how you’ll land.  Stop looking to land just yet.  For now, keep doing the work. Keep flying high on the joy it brings you. No matter how you land, you’ll be fine.  My guess is, you’ll be better than fine.

Carmen:  You know what’s so funny and sad at the same time? I went and saw the new Avengers movie and there’s a line in it that made me wince – I just couldn’t believe I had just heard this. I promise, no spoilers. Have you seen it yet?  It doesn’t matter.  This line gives away nothing to the movie. But the character says something like: “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be. A measure of a person is how well they succeed at being who they are.”

What I really thought in that moment:  I’ve gone mad crazy. I’m so ridiculous I’m even getting “signs” from action movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies, it’s just…crazy, right?

Dr. Mei: Well, that’s one way to look at it. Or, the way I see it – the universe is trying to push you down a path in every way possible.  And if not the universe, then you’re inner-self for sure. You’re seeing what you need to see.  You’re hearing what you need to hear.  Whether you choose to listen is another thing. It’s like that clip you like in the show the West Wing. The episode is Take This Sabbeth Day, remember?  It may be a bit too religious for this moment, but it’s on point. Choose to take all the signs your getting – the most important sign is that YOU want to do all of this. If you had all the money in the world, THIS is who you’d be, right?  Failure wouldn’t be such a big deal then. It’d be just a bump in the road to still doing what you want to do.  And seriously, when have you EVER allowed money to be the reason you chose to do anything at all?  To define you?  To stop you from doing what you want to do?  Don’t start now.  This is the best part!  Enjoy the ride. It’s just getting started.

Carmen:  Yeah!  You’re right. Oh my goodness. Yes!

Dr. Mei: Till next time, then?

Carmen: Yes!  Thank you so much.

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West Wing Clip: Take this Sabbath

Writers Block: Never Experienced It

I’ve never experienced writers block.blocks-bricks-brickwall-761142

I know –  I was talking to a friend yesterday and we had a whole conversation about writers block and she didn’t believe me AT ALL.

[Please continue reading the lightly transcribed post below or listen to the podcast here] 

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But the truth of the matter is, long, long ago I used to have the same experience as a dancer where I would keep making the same mistake over and over and over again.

And I had this amazing coach (and instructor) who would just tell me, “You know what? Enough. Just stop!  You need to just sit down!”  And so I would do that.  I would be forced to just sit down and do something else.

I would go take a walk around the track.  Or I would go sit on my knapsack – or whatever.  The point is that I learned early on that when you get stuck – when you get into a place where you can’t  do what you need to do as a dancer,  then you need to stop and do something else – because you’re just repeating the same mistake over and over again.

And I think in a lot of ways I’ve incorporated that into my life as a writer – and just in my life in general.

When something isn’t working, I stop doing it.  I try to do something else.  And then I come back to it.

I also think because I learned this at such a young age, I don’t see “writers block” as a negative thing.

I see it as a way in which my body tells me that I need a rest.  That I need a break.  Just like as a dancer,  I would keep making the same mistake over and over again – and then I’d realize that the reason why I was making a mistake over and over again was because I was tired.  I was exhausted.

Well when you write it’s not any different. We get exhausted. Our mind gets exhausted. We may not readily see that,  or experience it,  but the way in which I view that moment in time when I’m writing and I can’t really stop thinking about other things —  or I can’t seem to keep myself focused,  I see that as my body trying to tell me that I need a break.  And so, I’ll go listen to music, or I’ll go take a run, or I’ll just go watch television for a bit and then I’ll come back to it.

And sometimes it’ll be 5 minutes later and sometimes it might be a day later.  But what I don’t do is beat myself up for needing a break.  And I definitely don’t call it a “block” —  I don’t call it a “writer’s block” —  I just call it a time for me to take a break.

I think if we see that as a positive —  as resting period – as an ability to kind of rejuvenate –  it becomes a much quicker thing to notice Number 1,  and a much quicker thing to get through Number 2. Which means you can then get back to work!   Usually with fresher eyes and a rested soul.  And with much more enthusiasm to get back to your creativity — instead of beating yourself up for having “Writer’s Block”.

So, I just wanted to share that.  I would love to hear how other people deal with this writer’s block phenomenon….

Thank you so much for stopping by —  I appreciate it so much —  and I hope you have a sweet day.

I’ll be back again soon.

Carmen

Tell Your Story: Part 2 How To Create

TELL YOUR STORY: HOW TO CREATE? 

So, if you’ve decided to tell your story, how do you go about doing it?

How do you go about writing, or sculpting or filming or whatever it is bitmoji-20190402030809you’re going to do – to write your story — How do you go about doing that?

[Please continue reading the lightly transcribed post below or click on the podcast and listen to the recording]

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Well, the truth is – there is no right or wrong way to do things. But I will say this – especially as a writer – I always think about when I danced. I was an bitmoji-20190402030846amazing dancer.  It’s something I was born with as a kid.  And I loved to dance.  I was passionate about it.

I can remember people who would come up to me and try to copy me.  And they would always look the most awkward and the weirdest — because they were trying to copy something that I was doing. They were complimenting me — they were saying, “oh you’re such a great dancer I want to be just like you.”

So that was a very flattering thing — but they always looked out of place – out of sorts.

The people that looked the best, the people that I always admired, were the people that got up and danced any way. They did it their own way.  It didn’t matter if they were in rhythm or if they were out-of-sorts, or if they were just doing these strange and interesting hand movements and their feet were all awkward — I always loved this ability to be an individual.  And to be dynamic. And willing to just do it your own way. They will always the happiest dancers, the best dancers and everyone was paying attention to them.

That’s what I think the creative process is like.

That’s why I think — whatever it is you choose to do to tell your story — however you choose to do that  is going to be right if you do it from your own inner place of joy and happiness.

Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t some technique involved. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some better ways to do things – but you know, that’s what an editor is for.  When it comes to writing…when I started writing, I just wrote and I let it all come out.  And then I let the story mold itself.  And I figured out ways to thread things through so that the story would have “connection”.  But at the end of the day I still had somebody else read it.  I had an editor go through it — and that person goes in and looks at it and says, “Hey you know what? This is a great idea…”  or “This works here and here, but this doesn’t make sense…”.

So don’t worry about all that stuff afterwards.

Just sit down and sculpt whatever you’re going to sculpt.  Do it however you going to do it. All that other stuff will come through.  All the other possibilities to kind of refine it and touch it up or fix it  —  so that your voice can be heard the way in which you intend.  We’ll get there — you’ll get there after you have that base part.  Because I have to tell you, all those people that danced the way that they wanted to dance they were feeling the music! They were in joy! They were happiness! And afterwards, they were the people I wanted to talk to.  They were the people I wanted to learn from.  And it has nothing to do with dancing, and everything with being an individual and being unique and being strong and having courage.  And to me, that’s what the creative process is.  It’s all about us finding that inner strength,  that inner courage,  that inner love,  that inner joy —  and sharing it with the world.  bitmoji-20190328073700

Because at the end of the day, I feel like that’s what we’re here to do.  To share the best parts of who we are with everyone and hopefully along the way that will help someone else too!

As always, thanks for stopping by. Have a sweet day and I’ll be back again soon.

Bye.

Carmen

A Few Things I Learned Finishing My Manuscript

Yes!  I finished my first manuscript.  But I learned a few things I hope to remember for next time.  

WRITER’S EXHAUSTION.  I didn’t experience writer’s block, but I did experience writer’s exhaustion.  I could write and write and write, but I knew it wasn’t any good. I’d get upset, put myself down – all the things we do as creatives.  Eventually I figured out it was like anything else.  When I was a dancer, sometimes I would just go over something so many times and I’d still not get it right no matter how hard I tried.  My coach would finally stop me and just say, “Let’s call it a night Carmen and try again in the morning.” And although I’d be disappointed, I got permission to stop.  I’d go home, rest, eat, and come back the next day to try again – generally in a better space.  More times than not, I’d perform the dance step with no problem at all.  For me, writing functions the same way.  Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to stop.  Rest.  And then go back to it in the morning.

KNOW HOW YOU WORK.  It took me a while to understand this, but I can’t create under duress.   There are so many people who work well under pressure, thrive under tragedy, who can multi-task, work 50 hours a week, raise three kids, volunteer at an animal shelter, while dealing with some personal health issue AND write a book at the same time.  Not me. I just don’t do well unless everything else in my life is as I need it to be.  And understanding and accepting the kind of artist you are, helps in how you schedule your writing life. I kept trying to cram so many things in my day and when my writing was horrible, I didn’t think it was because I had too much on my plate.  No, I just thought I was a horrible writer.  So, once I realized that wasn’t the case, I made some adjustments:  I stopped acting, doing voice-over work and taking on new clients, just to finish the book.  It’s what I needed to do.  And I’m glad I did.

HAVE PLENTY OF WATERMELON EASILY AVAILABLE.  Or whatever it is you like to munch on. I made the mistake too many times of not having my fridge stocked with everything I might want to eat or drink on a day of writing. Being hungry and trying to write is like being hungry and anything else.  It’s not good. So, watermelon was my best friend this summer.

KNOW WHEN YOU’RE DONE.  I was done with my manuscript about two months ago. But, because I couldn’t stop editing and re-working a story or a character, I didn’t know I was done.  Finally, a good friend of mine just said, “Carm, I think you’re finished.”  He hadn’t read it, hadn’t seen it, he was just pretty sure that for the most part I’d done the hard work.  Now I just needed to embrace that I was finished and move onto the next step.  He was right. Once I realized I was pretty much done, I understood that my own self-editing was probably not helping me anymore and that it was time to go onto the next step – let someone I trust read it.

Who knows what will come of this first book of mine. But, it’s done. And it feels absolutely brilliant!

I wish you all a feeling of accomplishment and joy in whatever it is you’re working on today!

Keep on writin’!

Cheers!

That Which You Hate

Okay Shelby, so here’s my question: 

If you hate being a secretary, why do you define yourself as that?

I get that right now you make your living being a secretary – you make a great living at it.  But is it truly who you are?  Or is it what you do to make ends meet?

It’s important to make the distinction.  And might help you from feeling so down.

I understand it’s difficult to say you’re a poet, a painter, or any creative entity, when in fact what you’re doing to pay the bills is secretarial work. But the problem with defining yourself as something you hate to do is that you are constantly aligning yourself with something negative. When we align ourselves with something negative, it reverberates throughout our inner and outer being.  It affects every part of us.  And the more we do it, the more habit forming it is, the easier it is for us to be sad most days.  When you define yourself as a secretary, or something you loathe, your whole body feels it.  You don’t say it with enthusiasm, you don’t say it with joy, you certainly don’t say it with power – you say it almost “matter-of-factly” or you say it with embarrassment. You say it with sadness, maybe even with a sense of hatred. How can you be in a place of “okay-ness” when you’re starting off so negatively?

Try a little test:  instead of saying to yourself: “I’m a secretary.”  Take a moment and say “I’m a painter.”  Don’t think of the financial implications or what your spouse or family would think.  Just say – whatever it is- out loud:

“I’m a writer.”

“I’m a poet.”

“I’m an artist.”

Did you notice the happiness?  The giggle?  Did you smile when you said it?  Did you feel a little silly, a tiny bit of joy?

That’s because it’s possible that WHO YOU ARE is very different from what you do for a living.

Stop defining yourself as that which you hate – and instead, make the distinction between what you do to make ends meet financially verses who you really are.

Now the real question is: do you know who you really are?

Pen to Paper

It’s so much easier for me to write long-hand than it is to type my thoughts and feelings on a computer.  Although I’m a lover of technology and a consumer of most gadgets, the truth is, there’s something soothing and rhythmic to having a pen between your fingers and tracing across a smooth sheet of paper.

I think what I hate most or find annoying with typing on a computer is the constant need to mentally “re-check” and “re-do” everything.  Then there’s spell check automatically changing the words you might have spelled incorrectly or “fixing” what sometimes need not be fixed! It automatically switches letters or corrects your words – oh, it bothers me something fierce!  And I always notice the movement, the “correction” and on top of annoying me, it knocks me out of my rhythmic moment!

The uniformity of words and the letters on the screen also somewhat bore me.  The black and white-ness of it all.  I’ll type one line and stare at it blankly forever.  There’s no character, no true physical essence of  ME – all that remains is the UMPH of the words, how they sound together, and all that “suppose-ed” MEANING.  For me, writing on a computer assumes it’s for someone else’s consumption.  I’m always editing, thinking about structure – all of sudden “meaning” to others matters so much more. . . So much pressure!  Do the words make sense or ring true?   Did I say it right? Is it smart enough? Did I use the right words?

Yeah, I could write it by hand and then re-type it. . . oh, but who has the time?  And still, once you start transferring the words, all of a sudden changes need to be made!

When I write in my sketch book or what others may call a journal, it’s mine, completely MINE.  It feels personal and it’s NOT for anyone else’s consumption.  I love that!  It’s all about ME and it’s doubtful anyone else will ever see it.  My writing can be messy and jagged or beautifully cursive.  I can print or doodle – one never knows when writing that day, but when you look back, if you choose to look back, it has character, flavor, so much more of ME than just the words – there’s style, character, flare and yes, the UMPH of the words too.  Just by looking at the physical-ness of the entry, you get a sense of what it might mean.  And you can get a feel of the entry just by glancing —  You can tell what kind of mood I might have been in, just by the LOOK of it all. Did I block print? Did I scribble?   Did I use blue or black ink?  Was it really important so I underlined, starred it, or circled?  Did I write all in red ink to signify a GREAT day?  Or did I just run out of blue ink pens?

Maybe this explains why I find screenwriters and speechwriters so fascinating.  The great ones produce rhythmic and meaningful lines across a page that invoke meaning and purpose all by themselves. They don’t need my colored pens and doodles to enhance the meaning of the words.  And, if we’re lucky, the right talent comes along and gives the writer’s words texture and adds another facet of life into the work – hopefully, without losing the writers intent, of course!  It’s why I love acting so much, bringing life to the scripted words…just the collaboration of it all.

For me, I’m good writing in my personal sketch book every single day.  Doodling, free writing, playing around with ideas.  There’s no doubt it’s a kind of therapy of sorts, at least for me anyways!  And yeah, sometimes, like today, I’ll take the time to re-type it all…cuz it just feels right and I actually do have the time. 😉