Hangin’ in there

One of the hardest things to do is to keep going even if you feel you’re not making any progress or doomed to failure from the moment you begin. Two things are gnawing at me today (and they’re no big surprise): my writing and my weight.

Hopped on a scale yesterday. Mistake. BIG mistake. I haven’t done it for years and I don’t know what got into my head. Guess I was feeling a bit cocky. A little sleek and fit. I wanted to prove to myself that yes, I’ve modified my body size and aren’t I good little girl for keeping up on my diet and exercise. And I have lost weight since last I was on a scale. Must keep that in mind. A whopping 3.4 kilos.

There’s plenty of sayings about puncturing your ego with a pin – and that’s exactly what it felt like. One moment I was admiring my bicep muscles and feeling pretty good about myself, the next I was poking my pudgy middle and berating myself for being such a fat, old woman. And I thought Holy Fuck! All those hours in the gym, in the pool, walking when I don’t want to walk, denying myself sugary goodies or treats, cutting back on meal size, going to bed hungry – and I’ve taken off a whole 3.4 kilos. I mean, seriously…is it worth it?

As for writing…I search out theatres looking for submissions every other week or so. Pull half a dozen PDFs, put them aside to look at again. And I always think I’ve got some real winners in there – sure fire places that’ll take my work. Look! My stuff fits their requirements perfectly. They’ll love it! Then the time comes for me to really read it through and prep up to send out – and I notice all sorts of things that scare me off. Don’t put in too many acts, keep it to six or less characters, don’t give too much lighting or sound cues, don’t send if you’re not some purple eyed booger monster that crawled out of the deep from a crack opened up in Kentucky. The restrictions go on and on. So much so that I wonder if some of these groups EVER get a submission that perfectly fits all their requirements.

Then I have afternoons of feeling useless. Oh, they won’t take it because of this, it’s too long for that theatre, too many characters (or too few) for that group, or I don’t live there so they won’t even bother opening it up. The ‘no’s’ become so loud I feel overwhelmed, and just want to hide.

I tell myself it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel defeated. It’s just not okay to give up.

So I wait a day or two, until I have some self confidence back. Then I prep up and send out without allowing myself to think too much. Let them make the decision, I tell myself. Let them say no. If I take myself out of the running before the race even begins I’ll never get anywhere.

*sigh*

Doing well with memorizing my part for the play. One or two places I need a memory jog, but considering tomorrow is only my second rehearsal with the director I think I’m ahead of the game. I like this role because it calls for a lot of acting without words. My partner may have the longer dialogue, but I’ve got the reaction to his lines – which is far more powerful (especially the way I plan to play it). There is not one minute of stage time when I’m not wringing my hands or rubbing them together or fussing with my hair – all nervous habits my character needs to display. Big thing I’m working on now: a quick eye shift, left to right. It’s something everyone does without thinking about it, but it’s a lot harder to do it on cue and make it look natural. Same with allowing any emotion to emerge on your face: you gotta make it look natural, and as soon as you think about it, it’s no longer natural. Trying to BE the role more than act the role. Keep myself on edge for the scene. Allow my personal nervous habits to come to the fore. If I’m IN the role, my face will react the way I want it to. If I ACT this thing, it won’t. So I must be a late middle aged lonely woman who’s very nervous about meeting someone for the first time.

Gee. Like I don’t know that.

..Okay, I’m not LATE middle aged. But other than that….

Watched an outstanding documentary on the Night Witches. Took notes from the book my director leant me. There’s still a lot of that story that’s foggy for me. Do I set this at the training facility? Thought I might, but after watching the documentary I’m rethinking that. I’m zeroing in on 9 months in 1943. The regiment is up and active, and the fighting intense. I’d hit the worst months of the war, including the death of their leader. And I’ve built in reasons to write it: it would begin with the first replacements reaching the regiment, and end with the recognition of the regiment as an official guard unit. But I’ve vowed to keep on researching. One idea will come to the forefront, show itself to be superior to my other ideas.

I just gotta hang in there.

Right here, right now

The script is out. Finished the A4 formatting, checked the entry page, wrote a short intro letter, and clicked send. No more thinking.

As usual, I was hit with a wave of manic energy afterwards. Bad enough my brother mentioned it was affecting him. I headed to the gym.

Think I might have turned the corner on my weight issue. Think I might have dropped some excess weight without quite knowing it. I mean, I wear sweat pants almost 24/7. It’s hard to judge where your body is when you’ve always got elastic waisted pants on. But I caught a few glimpses of myself that didn’t make me look wider than I am tall. A few sidelong looks where I thought gee, my stomach doesn’t stick out as much as it used to. And, hallelujah, I’ve found my collarbones again. Don’t even have to sink my chest in to see them – I can just stand there as usual and out they pop.

The house is pretty clean, thanks to my bro helping me on Sunday. I felt bad for a fleeting moment; he did the hoovering and ended up in a sweat because…well, it’s hoovering. Means you gotta move all the furniture and get underneath. It sounds like an easy job, but it isn’t. And I reminded myself of all the sweaty hours I spent cleaning this place, and the last one, and the one before that – and suddenly I didn’t feel so bad or guilty for allowing him to take on this tough task. Sometimes I think my bro needs to be reminded that hoovering sucks, that doing the dishes every day can make you lose your mind, and that housework doesn’t just get done all by itself.

No rehearsal Monday. The director bowed out with a sore throat. More than happy about that; I’m over anxious about staying healthy and my number one freak out is being exposed to other people’s illnesses. No rescheduled date yet.

Strangest thing this morning. Two strangest things. One, my hoodie is missing. It’s not in my room nor the living room, and I was just using it yesterday. Two, my coffee cup is missing. Gone. Non-existent. Had to use a secondary cup, not my normal one (didn’t feel right). Can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would come in, grab my hoodie and coffee cup and split. But I’ve been up and down this tiny place and see zero sign of either of them.

Finished reading the book on the Night Witches my director gave me. Need to make some notes. The bibliography lists several sources to check on for factual info. I’m well pleased with the info provided in this book. Gives me a good grounding on the groupings within the military and how they work in such a strict hierarchal system. And I’m beginning to see the play. Found my main character the other day. She’s still developing, but I caught the first glimpse of her. Beginning to know some of what the characters will face in the play. It’s big – and exciting. The setting I’ve chosen to write about allows me to bring in as many famous flyers as I want. It’s a strong skeleton, and I’m pinning my ideas down with factual points – dates, names, deaths.

First, tho, finish the US formatting for the current script. Get it out to as many places as I can find, because I think this one is a doozy. Do my Dutch homework. Keep getting to the gym. Keep following through on my commitments. Keep myself focused and busy in the now, not the past, not the unwritten future.

Right here, right now. This is where you make the change.

3 (not so) Easy Steps to Trusting Yourself

  1. Say  you’re going to do something.
  2. Do it.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

I’m gonna do something. Don’t state unmeasurable goals. Don’t say ‘I’m gonna lose weight’ – there’s no time limit and no weight stated. Say instead ‘I’m gonna go to the gym three times a week’ or ‘I’m gonna eat a salad every day before I have my dinner’. These are concrete and measurable goals.

Do it. No excuses, no alibis. Commit, and follow through. As long as you follow through, no self-bashing allowed. If your head starts to berate you, saying ‘Sure, you went to the gym but you never even worked up a sweat’ or ‘Great, you had salads but they were slathered with dressing’ – tell your head to go to hell. The trick to part 2 is just to do it, not do it well, not master it or get it all done in one go. Just DO it. All that crap your head is telling you in step 2 should be shoved off to step 3.

Repeat steps 1 and 2. Now is when you master it. Now is when you find your stride. In the repeats. It’s called practice, and everyone needs it. Push a little harder at the gym. Use less salad dressing. Take what you began with in step 2 and build on it.

We have this weird self denial going on: sometimes – even when we know a thing will take a long time to manifest – we act like it should be happening instantaneously. I see people at the gym like that all the time. They come in, they put heavy weights on, they power lift for 20 or 30 minutes, and then they don’t come back for a week or more. Or someone ‘diets’ for a week and expects to see a big change in the scales.

If you’re making a real change in your life, it’s long term. Long term not just to get there, but also to maintain.

And kiddies, trust is all about long term.

If someone with a perfect track record fucks up – badly – even once, …well, you doubt him or her next time, don’t you? Even if you don’t want to. Even if that person is your closest friend. Some part of pipes up and reminds you of that disaster and the possibility that it could happen again. Same is true with yourself. Fuck up on a commitment to yourself just ONCE, and you’ll have to work twice as hard to regain the trust you just lost.

Two tips:

  1. Start small. Build your trust in yourself like you would with a child. Ask yourself to stand up, first – not run full out like an Olympic champion. You’re a baby. Stand up and keep your balance, then give yourself a gold star. Yeah, it’s tough. Tough to tell yourself you’re doing well when you feel a fool, or when you feel you should be able to do more. Ignore it, and praise yourself. After you stand, take a step. Then two steps. Expect to fall on your ass more than once. Get up, and try again.
  2. If it helps, make a list. If you’re a self doubter, a self hater, make a list of everything you want to accomplish every day, like a grocery list. Then check ’em off. At the end of the day, praise yourself for all the checked off items. Move unchecked items to tomorrow’s list. Keep at it.

The good news: once you begin to establish trust with yourself, it snowballs. The process becomes easier.

And just like anything else, keep at it. Fail a few times. Take time off from it. But always – ALWAYS – come back to this basic equation. It’s a key component to life, and one most of us aren’t taught.

Take it upon yourself to learn it.

Working on it

The rain that’s been promised for days is pouring down the window. Supposed to go out in that. Get the shopping done. Pick up a few things. Head to the gym.

Ugh.

What I’m NOT supposed to do is open up the script for more work. Buried my head in it for eight hours yesterday. Take a breather. Do some of the shit that doesn’t get done when I write. Don’t want to, naturally.

The script is almost ready. Prepping up a lighting and sound effect list; don’t want someone to pass over the story because they think pulling it together is too much work, so I’ll do it for them ahead of time. That’s a pain. Page references are needed for cues, which means prepping and running a PDF to check where things fall. And I’ve got to do this for A4 and US paper size, so twice through it. Bugger the US, anyway. Just HAD to change standard paper size by a little bit here and a little bit there – ONLY to make sure things got fucked up between countries. I swear it.

Began a food diary. Been having extraordinary gas. I mean…I could always belch. But now! Duck or run for cover, because the blast of my burps will throw you across a room. Upshot is, I think I have irritable bowel syndrome. So, the food diary. Keep a record, and look. Is there any link to what I’m eating?

Writing down everything that I consume also drove one other thing home for me: I don’t eat much. Two small meals a day. Thinking I might have to eat more often, and try to keep something in my stomach during the daylight. Great. Now all I need is an appetite.

How can I consume so little, yet still be so fat? – Or am I really someone with THAT skewed of a body image? Looking at myself in the mirror…all I see are the fat bulges on my thighs, the tire around my stomach, the bat wings on my upper arms. Old, and fat. Flabby. I know I’m not as heavy as some people. Yet…I can’t let go of calling myself fat.

Sometimes I wonder if I am really crazy. So crazy I can’t acknowledge how crazy I am. I wonder if some of the hateful things people have yelled at me over the years are true: if I am as bad as they claim I am, if I am a liar, delusional, and so far gone it’s impossible to even talk to me. It’s a frightening thought – that outside of me, I am viewed as a nut job. That my vision of the world is so colored, so WRONG that I can’t even make out what the truth is.

…Then I remind myself of my history. The whole narcissist shit. The family: my mother, my sister. The entire set-up to accept partners who hit me, who raped me, who treated me like a dog.

And I don’t want to blame the narcissists all the time. I want to acknowledge that I had part in it: I caved. I let them beat it out of me. On some level, I allowed it.

It’s hard to trust myself or other people.

But I’m working on it.

Back to it

Writers from the UK only. Irish and UK residents only. We focus on Texas writers. We want midwestern writers only. Canadian writers will be given top consideration. We will not read international scripts. No submissions accepted from outside the lines we’ve drawn in the sand.

Fucking hell. Fifteen minutes of an internet search and the rug’s been pulled out from under my feet. Every time I check for new theatres to submit to, there are more bullshit caveats like the above. Restrictions. The ‘if you don’t live here you can fuck off’ attitude. Isolationism is the new fad du jour.

Yeah, go stick your heads in the sand.

Theatres have, as a matter of fact, closed down so much with their submission policies I’m really starting to think about screen plays because – at least for NOW – those are open to all writers no matter where you currently live. Kind of feels like a trap, tho. Spend loads of time mastering a new format to find everyone has closed down their submissions again. I mean, that’s what happened with the fucking theatre scripts.

Bastards.

Sometimes I hate the world so much.

Well, I’ve still got a couple places I can send out to. After this year, tho…*sigh* I might be working in a vacuum again.

Yesterday’s social outing went well. Easy conversation, pretty comfortable. Mentioned some of the summer fests coming up and hope we can get together to wander the streets of Rotterdam enjoying the music and art on offer. It’s good to have someone other than my brother to talk with. And…my ego got stroked a bit. They were at my script read through, and I felt like I had a gold star hanging above my head the whole time. There was no question as to whether or not I was a good writer – only whether or not my scripts have been chosen for production. That’s new. Usually when I mention my writing (or music, or anything else artistic), people demand (demand!) to know what I’ve done – and then they sit there saying ‘uh-uh’ or ‘don’t know it’ or ‘never heard of it’ like that was their intention in the first place – to put me in my place. But I didn’t get any of that yesterday. Instead, I had some polite enquiries on the status of my radio script. Super enthused grins when I talked about my current script. Quick ‘yes’ replies when I asked if they were interested in helping me with the Night Witches. And I thought ‘Damn! These people really respect me as a writer!

It felt good.

Today: physical activity is needed. Like, direly. Gotta get to the gym for a full bash (hopefully not my ankle again). Want to put time in on the script and start to get it in the new system. Have two old films I recorded off BBC to watch. Should also do at least one run through of the play and my lines. And I should get serious about Dutch, and do a bit every day…again. Fell off that last resolution pretty quick, but the key to accomplishing your goals isn’t doing it all in one go, it’s getting up every time to you fail and starting again.

*sigh* Get up. Back to it.

Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough

Rehearsal last night. I planned to be home around 10:30, the usual time I make it home after a theatre meeting.

Baby, I was so good I got home at 8:30.

First to note: there was absolute zero flirting or anything that even my paranoid brain could make into something. I am so happy about that. I was me, the director was himself, and we had work to do.

Other: My character analysis was snatched out of my hands and read through. Things got circled, underlined, notes jotted to the side. The director hmph’d and chuckled. Then, ‘Yes, exactly how I saw her. …Do you mind if I keep this?‘ Hopefully he didn’t keep it to show it to other actors while saying ‘Now this is how you write a character analysis!’

I was told the first thing usually done in these rehearsals was an ‘Italian read through’, which (I was told), was going thru the dialogue without acting, just flat voiced and as fast as possible. The director said an ‘Italian read through’ helped him know where and when he wanted pauses. …We skipped that. Straight into a regular read through, then up on our feet for two walk-throughs. A few notes – ‘she should be more hopeful when she says this’…’give that line a little more frustration’. Then ‘that works’ and ‘perfect’.

Perfect.

Forgot how much I like hearing that word when it’s connected to my work.

I was assured my fellow actor (on holiday until July) was more than competent on learning his lines. Obviously, he and the director have worked together before. Good to know. I still want a bit of extra rehearsal when he comes back, to catch the other actor’s timing – and the director agreed with me to the point he made me wonder if he’ll break into his summer holiday to conduct a few rehearsals in August.

Garnished a couple of laughs with my physical portrayal. A few well timed gestures and movements. The director seemed a bit surprised that my acting began before the scene starts. But dahlings, I’m a film star! Worked with KB out of New York, a big fan of Jim Jarmusch. We had no script. Improvisation, all. And you never knew when the camera was directed towards you – so you acted all the time. Got me used to it.

Ah, I feel good. That I did a good job and didn’t blow it good. Even slept better than I have in days.

Language lesson today. Still don’t have the hang of European school years. More breaks during the year, but you go longer over summer. Just can’t wrap my head around the idea of sitting inside learning when outside is so SUMMER.

…Geez, between the acting and the bee-yitch over school, I feel like I’m about 14 years old.

Oh, baby! Don’t stop! Not ’til you get enough… 😉

Real Life

Have you heard anything yet? …Oh. Really?

Amazing how fast non-writers think publishers will get to written work. Can’t quite convey to them how unusual it is just to receive confirmation that your work was received. It’s like watching yourself the first time after you’ve sent something out. There’s the same naive innocence, thinking you’ll hear something right away. There’s the same disappointed reaction when they learn there’s been no response. And then that questioning light comes up in their eyes – Are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Maybe you should just get a job.

Goddess!

Meanwhile….

Thought explosion. In the past 48, I’ve edited my script (in my head; the file is untouched but I know exactly what I want/need to do), outlined three new scripts, contemplated writing scripts for comic books (again), given serious contemplation to working my good theatre scripts into movie scripts, and written a character analysis of my role in the upcoming theatre production.

Strengths: I kill at the one-act length. Just nail it, every time, almost right down to the word. My work with the radio drama has unleashed full 3D into my writing. No longer is it just dialogue and stage directions; now there’s sound and lighting effects, too. I’m thinking outside the box of the theatre. I also think I’m beginning to master what I’ll call the ‘Lillian Hellman’ effect – the story is in what the characters don’t say, rather than what they do say.

Weaknesses: Fear. There’s my number one problem. Can I turn out a full length whopper of a story by treating it as three individual one act pieces? Can I even write a story that fully, or will it end up being 90% fluff just to fill the allotted time? Always worried I’ll ask too much of the actors or stage crew, too. Working with the local group has reminded me how small and amateur these things can get. Lovely to plan out a big scene with sound, lights, and make-up – but if only the biggest theatres can do it, I’m writing myself out of a lot of work.

My only recourse is to open myself up to any and every opportunity. I didn’t think I could ever write a thriller, yet here I am, author of what I think are two very tight and suspenseful tales [note: the current script began as horror, but I realized the line between horror and thriller is written in blood – which takes me back to my concerns over asking too much of special effects, so I let the idea go and just wrote it as a thriller]. Do the work for the full length play on historical female figures. Research, outline, give it a shot. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. But try. Try your hand at 10 minute scripts. 15 minute scripts. See a story that piques your interest? Write it. Fuck the end product; just write it – keeping it tight, keeping it small, keeping in mind that most theatres are on the brink of death and they don’t want big productions right now.

…Pulling myself back into real life is tough. Real life is so flat compared to writing life. Writing life is intense, full of passion. Real life is slow. Slothfully slow. It creeps by, waiting for you to pick up something to keep yourself occupied for just a fraction of each day.

Meh. We all know which one I prefer. Give me writing life for real: no down time, not even any bathroom breaks (you never read about sitting on the toilet for five minutes every day in a story). Just action, feeling, reaction. And no financial concerns. Need to fly to Rome for something? Of course you can afford it. Just go. No colds, either. Life threatening illnesses…yes. Common colds…no. All black and white, just as we writers intended it (not) when we first put black ink down on white paper.

So easy to cut through the shit on paper.

So difficult in real life.