Grit

Angela Duckworth, in her seminal work on Grit, and how it makes us successful, lays out the 4 characteristics she believes defines a gritty person.

  1. They’re interested- Gritty people are passionate, excited and enjoy what they do.
  2. They practice- day after day, hour after hour.
  3. They have purpose- they believe their work matters and is meaningful.
  4. They have hope- they believe their dream is within reach.

You can take her grittiness test here.

I’m a 4.3 out of 5 on the scale.  This doesn’t surprise me.  I think I would out work anyone on anything, even if I didn’t care about the project anymore, just because that’s how my being works.  If you asked any friend of mine who was the most driven, disciplined person they know, I can guarantee I would top that last.  To a fault, for sure.  My tenacity often blinds me to what’s important and smarter work habits.  Often times I get so stuck on what I think is the best way to do something I will work myself ragged doing a 32-step process in order to come to the same result someone else could’ve, but with much less effort.

Hard work doesn’t scare me.  After working for 10 hours in the front yard one day this week on an extensive cleanout of the garden, I felt like a 1920’s cotton farmer- not at all blending in with the manicured, clean, callous-free hands of anyone around me.  While running wiring under the house in our crawl space last week, I was disgusted to see this as I army crawled in the 2 feet of space I had to move around:

underhouse

Yep.  That’s animal (I hope) bones.  There was a spine, a femur, and other assorted bits of bone.  That I had to crawl over.  <shudder>  But I did it.  It’s dirty, it’s gross, but I did it.  There have been several occasions I texted a pic to my husband of my days adventure in the attic or under the house, or clearing out a 200 pound branch that fell from our tree into the street, often with the caption: Today didn’t go how I planned.

The point of this post is not to praise my inability to be a gentle, polished, lovely lady.  The point is to say, I enjoy it.  The things I do- whether it’s the constant grind of an acting career and people yelling “NO!” or the endless house projects I just have to do and wouldn’t dream of paying someone to- are what make up who I am and the life I’m enjoying.  It’s a process, it’s a non-stop grate, it’s a sweating, dirty, aching, bleeding, crying, despairing, dreaming, exciting, joyful, painful lovely journey.

So when someone asks me why I do what I do- why I put up with agents who tell me to lose weight, or rejection on an hourly basis- or 12 years of solid, exhausting, diligent work and discipline that result in not one single film/tv agent interested in giving me a chance or the opportunity to say one line on a stupid ass CBS show like “I don’t know- He always kept to himself” all I can say is “Because.  Because it is and I am and we are.”  It’s as simple as that.  The work, the grit, the dream, the hope, the process and the journey.  They’re all mine, and I love them, despite their setbacks.  Mine.  It’s me and who I am.  I don’t plan on changing that.

 

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Worth

I thumbed through shirt after shirt and rack after rack at TJ Maxx.  Too dark.  Too loose.  Too patterned.  This could work, though it’s not exactly like the pinterest ensemble.  Will my sweat show up on this?  What will everyone else be wearing?  Is it trendy enough?  Too trendy?  Does it accentuate my shoulders or make me look fat?

2 hours, a messy fitting room and endless picture texts to my sister later, I walk out of the store with 3 shirts, a pair of very cheap black boots, and some nail polish.  I feel lonely.  I feel insecure.  I wonder why I just spent all that time in that store, and all the time before it, looking up paired outfits.  Why did I do that?

The answer , if I dig down deep, is self doubt.  I do not feel confident enough in my own abilities for Friday nights’ performance.  So I fritter away my effort on trying to wear the most attractive outfit I can manage so that I might distract the viewers from watching my talent.  Instead, maybe they’ll see a pretty girl and be more lenient with my jokes that don’t land, or the characters that don’t work.

I hate this.  I hate that I feel insecure about my worth as an improv comedian.  I hate that a lifetime of being told I’m pretty makes me run to that shortcut when I feel doubtful.  I hate that it’s possible that’s worked in the past.  But, here we are.  I will likely primp and prep and obsess over my outward appearance for far too long on Friday, but I will also warm up, try for a group mind (though that’s difficult to do with a team you’ve practically just met), and put on my confident alter-ego until she convinces me that I belong there.

And I do.  I feel anxious typing the words, but I belong.  I auditioned for this.  People are paying me to do improv, so they must’ve seen something they wanted to invest in.  I’ve come to the rehearsals, I’ve brought what I have to the table.  I’ve taken my craft seriously, and I’ve attempted to make my teammates look good.

That is enough.

I belong.

Getting in shape

So…..

I MADE THE TEAM!!!!!

I am so pumped to be a part of Live on Fire, Whitefire Theatre’s livestreamed improv show.  We’ll be performing every Friday night in October.  I’ve been to 2 rehearsals so far, and I can say, these are some quality improvisers.  I’ve been on teams with not great improvisers.  It’s a drain.  Being on a team with people who take comedy as seriously as I do is refreshing, and, quite honestly, makes me get my butt in gear to work hard at improving!

The format is short form improv, which is not my forte nor my preference.  I’ve been doing long form for years so it’s been an adjustment to try and retrain my brain for shorter scenes, quicker jokes, faster one liners.  I’ve gotta say, I’m enjoying it!  There’s fun games, the players are great, and I’m just pumping away my comedy squats to get in shape.

As I mentioned before, it is a muscle that has to be kept in shape.  And I am flabby.  But you know how you come back from the gym after a hiatus and it burns and is uncomfortable to lift those 20 lbs, and you get frustrated because you used to be able to lift 40 with no problem?  Then, at the end of the workout, and then the next and the next, you start to feel your muscles responding to the routine and slowly remembering what it felt like and how they’re supposed to act?  It’s like that.  I feel awkward, but not discouraged.  I know I can do this, I just need to get some more reps in.

We’re doing musical improv too, which makes my heart sing.  That’s one area I feel like I can shine, though it’s slightly flabby as well (but not as out of shape as regular short form).  All this to say, I’m getting in shape.  And it feels great.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out and to enjoy the fun journey along the way!

 

Nerves

I have an audition for an improv group in an hour.  I’ve had butterflies since I woke up this morning, because, unlike most other types of auditions, I can’t prepare material.  When I can prepare material, I feel confident because I know I put the work in.  With improv?  It’s show up, try to support your partner (who will be a complete stranger) and try to be as loose as possible.  There is no way of knowing if my group will be filled with bad improvisers.  There is no way of knowing if I will be one of those bad improvisers.

I’m also nervous because ever since parting ways with Roadies, my musical improv team, last September, I haven’t improvised.  I have no team, I have no theatre home.  And believe me when I tell you that improvisation needs to be practiced or you will be RUSTY.  I feel like 70 year old galvanized pipe right now.  (In case you don’t get metal references, that would be rusty)

And, honestly, I want to be on stage improvising again.  Not as badly as I want to do a musical, but I like that fear and trepidation that inevitably comes with a blank slate and a suggestion from the audience.  It’s live, it’s changing, and there is a great chance of failure.  Who wouldn’t want to dive in? : )

I’m doing what I can on my end- vocalizing, warming up over the phone with an old teammate, and trying to keep my eyes open to the funny around me- like the plumbing van across the street that says “If your toilet’s acting silly, call Billy”.  Bet he’s regretting that wraparound.  I went to the gym, so my body’s warmed up, so now all I can do is breathe, stay loose and be available to whatever is thrown at me.  Well, that, and always have a secret gun.

3rd quarter check in 2017

We are in the 3rd quarter of 2017 (ack!) and it’s time to check in with my goals and see where I’m at.  I feel like I’ve done pretty well so far this year, but the knowledge that Halloween decor is already tempting me in the stores lights a fire under my butt to get moving on the rest!

  1. Go into every approach with the mindset “How can I help you?”- So so.  I mostly forget to do this, but it has happened a few times.
  2. costar- Nope. Zero auditions to do so.
  3. agent- Nope, but I did sign with a manager.
  4. play piano– hells yes!  BrittanyPianobw (1 of 1)
  5. musical- sadly, no
  6. train new dog, Scout– yes- even took him through an obedience course.  He’s still not great, but he’s getting there. BrittanyandScoutextreme (1 of 1)
  7. climb mt whitney– What do you think?? : ) BrittanySummit
  8. find another musical improv team- I’ve come up empty poking around for one.
  9. revive my 2 man improv team, Nathan and Brittany- haven’t worked on this at all.
  10. see more of the Meyers (closest cousins in proximity to LA)- Yes!  We’ve camped, swam, hung out and even went on a PACNW adventure together!
  11. give creatively to my church– yes!  I’ve been asked to lead worship (and begrudgingly accepted, done it 2x so far), as well as dramatic readings and performed monologues.
  12. finish Priscilla- I am so freakin’ close.  I am color correcting now, final final final phase!
  13. build the rest of the fence– Yes!
  14. offer a neighborhood woodworking workshop- Nada
  15. new roof- talking with contractors right now- should be done in the next few weeks. (dear Lord, please let money rain down from above to pay for said ridic expensive roof)
  16. write script- I started one, and have the idea for another as well as a novel, but I’m holding off until I finish Priscilla.
  17. kitchen cabinets- Nope.  Not even close.  I’ve built ONE so far this year.

So, my friends, there we are.  9.5/17  Where are you on your goals for the year?  What are you proud of?  What do you really really really want to accomplish before the year is out?

The Tactile and Tangible

I was reading Anna Kendrick’s autobiography “Scrappy Little Nobody” last week at Barnes and Noble, and in one chapter, she detailed that for a time in her career, she got very obsessed with baking.  She’d go over to friends houses and mix and pour and bake for hours.  It became a very soothing hobby for her (and one which her friends could enjoy the benefits of!).  She said that being able to do something with her hands that was tangible and useful was very fulfilling as an artist.

I’ve often said the same of woodworking, my hobby.  Acting is extremely creative.  But it can be quite cerebral and you often have little control over the final product.  What you do with acting is very internal and requires the collaboration of many other people in order to become something visible and consumable.  But with the tactile arts- painting, carpentry, baking, quilting, sewing, etc, the output is immediate, and often individual.

For me, being able to be out in the woodshop for hours at a time for several days and see a project through to completion is the culmination of multiple activities that I love: I find something that’s needed in my home, I brainstorm how to make something beautiful and functional, then I design it to fit my exact space.  Next I cut, sand, nail, screw, assemble and finish my project, with problem solving along the way.  Then, like magic, a beautiful piece of art with my fingerprints all over it appears ready for use.  It’s incredibly fulfilling to my creative spirit, and one that eases the burden of the creative soul that resides within me, attempting to burst free, but is unable when the career is in a drought.  I think all actors should have this opportunity to create with their hands.  Find something you enjoy and pour some of that excess creativity into it.  I assure you, you will find a good deal of fulfillment in doing so.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces I’ve made over the years:

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Altered Dreams

So much has happened.  I nailed my musical audition, and went through a grueling 3 hour callback the next night.  My dancing was ok, not amazing, but good enough, my acting was pretty good, and my singing was right where I hoped it would be.  I know that I gave 200% at that audition and callback, and I didn’t hold anything back.  However, I was not cast.  I made it to the final 2, and, alas, the other gal will be telling Sally Bowles’ story, not I.  For a few minutes I felt rather depressed that even my utmost effort and my highest performance level was not good enough to be cast, but overall, I’m incredibly proud of all I gave.  Usually I hold a little something back at auditions.  Call it a protection mechanism, it’s just what I do.  Not so with this musical.  So even though I’m crestfallen that I still am not in a musical, I am reminding myself that it doesn’t mean I have less talent or I’m wasting my time being an actor because I’m clearly not good enough.  There is so much out of my control in the casting process.  All I can do is give my all.  And I did.  End of story.  So, the journey continues to find one.

After that I went to Portland and discovered the happiest place on Earth, Powell’s Bookstore.  Spent a few hours lovingly looking through every floor and category that tickled my fancy.  Then it was on to a PacNW adventure: Seattle->Squamish, BC->Whistler, BC->Coupeville,WA->Pt Townsend, WA->Seattle.  Lots of hiking and waterfalls and ferry’s and coffee made that trip a delight.  Now that my feet have found their mooring, I’m hard at work trying to get my endless to-do’s to become to-dones.

I also got to film a commercial that was the alternate reality version of a dream come true for me.  My world settles in the realm of Darcy, Dorrit and Dashwood.  That is to say, I have very little interest in TV, film, or books that were written after 1889.  I adore Austen, Dickens, Gaskell and Thackeray.  If it’s on Masterpiece Classic, you better believe I have a large mug of tea and am enthralled with the story that plays out before me.  My utmost goal and dream for my career is to be in period films and movie musicals.  So far, no one has come knocking on my door for a Persuasion remake, but I did book a commercial for Zappos where I played an 18th century primadonna.

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Being called to the Edith Head building at Universal (are you kidding me?  She’s my costume idol!) to try on a bunch of 18th century dresses complete with corset and endless panniers, as well as a fitting for a wig custom made for me was beyond belief.  Sure, it wasn’t a film.  It was almost better- I only had to be in the inordinately heavy costume for one day, AND I got to be comedic and throw a bunch of ridiculous one-liners to a present-day roommate.  How fun is that??

Sometimes the actualization of our dreams don’t look how we thought they would.  Doesn’t mean they’re any less of an experience in the sublime.  I may never get to do a period film.  But I got to wear the dress, get paid for it, and for one day, I was that character.  I may not have been cast as Sally in Cabaret.  But for one day, one callback, I was her.  And I got to tell her story and show those decision makers what I could do.  And that’s pretty amazing.