My sanity during Covid has been saved by the creative genius of the entertainment industry. Several quarantined hours have been spent binge watching 7 seasons of shows, reading every genre in hardback, even coloring in coloring books. When my walls were closing in, I could escape to a motel in Schitt’s Creek, the banter in the halls of The West Wing, or a chess tournament in The Queen’s Gambit. Decency was restored by Ted Lasso (I’m going to have an entire post on this gem of a show) and nostalgia was celebrated in Cobra Kai. I learned How to be an Anti-Racist and became Untamed. How can I ever thank ARTISTS for saving my ass during the Pandemic of 2020?
I can’t. Every book and every series were healthy escapes from a deadly pandemic. And conversely, the creative industry has suffered tremendously through it. Broadway went dark and film productions shut down. Creative people have been unemployed for several months, as have so many other industries, but this one particularly hurts because it is the one I rely on so heavily now. They are life-saving and now their lives need saving.
I think about all of those young, talented actors and filmmakers that were planning their big moves to LA or NYC to begin pursuing their dreams only to have to put them on hold. My dear friend who was dancing her face off on Broadway has had to watch her job dissolve. All of those actors who had booked their first gig only to have the shoot cancelled or postponed. The painters whose art will go unseen in the museums and galleries that have had to close. Several of my favorite writers had books that came out in the early spring of 2020. Their book tours were all cancelled. All of this is excruciating to me.
The artists way is so fragile. You work and work and audition and audition to get that one opportunity to hopefully open the door to more, so when that one job is taken away, it feels like forever. Or never. It feels like it will be for never that a job will come again.
See, I used to be one of them. Now, why would I say that? I am sitting here, typing, writing words (ding, ding) that are mine, not yours, to describe this particular situation. I think I refer to my artistry in past tense because I spent 13 years in LA, trying to be an actress.
As a kid, I felt minor chords in my toes. I was the first to stand for an actor’s curtain call, clapping to hyperventilation with tears streaming down my cheeks. I would get lost in paintings or find myself in books. Music, art, and theatre were saving graces when navigating my teenage years. I felt all the feels and the only place this could possibly be useful was on the stage.
After graduating from the University of Kansas, I moved to LA. I immediately began an acting class and waiting tables. And that is how I spent most of my 13 years. I had a few big auditions that I came very close to booking that would have changed my life, but most of my time was spent swimming in a sea of self-doubt.
When you live “Beverly Hills adjacent” or “Santa Monica, adjacent” it’s code for “a pretty shitty area near by.” Being a struggling actor in LA like living “The Oscars, adjacent”; they happen literally down the street from your house, but instead of walking the Red Carpet, the closest you get to being there is getting caught in ridiculous traffic on the 101 near the amphitheater. You feel like any day, any audition can bring you closer because you ARE that close. I was surrounded by creativity. Actors, writers, directors, musicians, artists, everywhere. The people just make stuff. ALL.DAY. I think I was hoping to become more creative by osmosis, by remaining “adjacent” to these talented souls.
I had been in LA about 6 years when I was no longer adjacent. In location only. I moved to Santa Monica, close to the ocean. I am not a beach person in the sense that I like to put my suit on, grab a towel, and jump on in. I find sand kind of disgusting. I am a beach person in that I just love to watch it. I want to see it stretch and touch the sun at sunset. I want to witness the crash of the white foam on the rocks, and just watch in a state of awe and gratitude for this glorious thing that I know so little about. It was while I was in this state that I bumped into a McDreamy.
He was a gorgeous guy that had put me in the friend zone. I hadn’t seen him in awhile because I had moved. If I thought he was beautiful before, he had exponentially expanded his hotness. I had to ask him, “What’s going on? You look incredible. Happy. Confident. (Hot)”
“Honestly, it’s my acting class. It’s really good. You should join,” My stomach dropped for two reasons: He would be in the class and I was very anti-acting class.
I had a horrible experience with an acting class where the teacher exercised manipulation to expose an actor’s secrets and issues of the past then left the student there to pick up the pieces without the aid of a trained therapist. It was very dangerous. I wasn’t sure I wanted back into those waters.
It took a minute, but I decided to take a chance and meet Hottie at his class.
This turned out to be an excellent decision and not just because he was there. The class was about telling a story truthfully. That’s it. It was about the work. I could just act. I was in heaven. And in this class, I met one of my favorite humans, SM.
She is probably one of the best actresses I have had the pleasure of knowing. Truly talented. She had been working since the age of 3 and had an extensive resume of impressive credits. I would watch her get a scene in class, memorize it, and make film-worthy acting choices in a matter of seconds. But that’s not why she was brilliant. She did it all. She wrote, produced, and directed. She painted and could sing like a Broadway star. She was hilarious and truly celebrated those she loved. I would meet her at one of my favorite coffee places in the valley, Aroma, often and would leave inspired. Always.
But one coffee conversation truly put me on my path.
She knew that I had been deep diving into my spirituality and was beginning to coach. She had her computer and Diet Coke (she didn’t drink coffee) with her and began typing. She unexpectedly made my profile and “post” (this was before Facebook or the like) for my coaching business during that meeting. She refused to let any of my insecurities get in the way. She coached me and said, “This is what you do. It’s who you are. Let’s let others know about it.” She celebrated me for being me. She expressed herself creatively to be of assistance to me. This was not new behavior for her. When I said I knew her agent before he was an agent, she set up a meeting with him for me. When I told her how much I believed in magic, she gave me a necklace with a genie lamp charm. When I expressed my love for collegiate sports, she invited me to her house to watch games and eat her amazing cooking. During the protests this summer, she painted incredible paintings, sold them, and gave the money to the NAACP. She flows in a constant channel of creativity and generosity in her life and her relationships. When she loves, she creates. When she hurts, she creates.
Thanks, SM, for teaching me to express myself creatively, generously, and honestly in my so called life.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she describes creativity as “a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.” She also asks, “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
Please, be like SM. Say, “YES!”
The Thing Is…
The first five words in the Bible are, “In the beginning, God CREATED…”
God’s an artist so YOU are an artist.
If you have something to say, make, sing, write, perform, paint, bake…you must. It’s unhealthy if you don’t.
Go. Go make stuff. Don’t let perfectionism or insecurity get in the way. Too many things have not been made because of an false ideal of perfection. Too many artists have squashed their talents because of fear of being less than perfect. Think of all that we find beautiful or artistically brilliant and imagine if they would have judged themselves as less and given up. Think of what we would have missed out on. Strive for full expression. Strive for completion. And make. Just make.
And when this is all over, remember that it was the artists who saved our sanity during these crazy yearlong days.