Thanksgiving and Actor Impostor Syndrome

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Happy Thanksgiving!  Yesterday!  We celebrated quietly at home in South Pasadena with baking and chopping and cooking and eating starchy foods with excessive butter.  It was heavenly, in other words.  And I’m happy not to cook like that again until next year.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: I am never going to get used to the lack of seasons out here.  Every September/October I hit a depression as I slowly realize (again) that fall really is not going to come.  At all.  There will be no need to wear black tights and boots and wear a scarf.  No brisk air and cozy cafe mornings, curling your fingers around a coffee mug.  Nope.  It will be 80-90 degrees and it’ll be all Pumpkin Spice all the time and it will sound completely disgusting because it’s so hot.  Lemonade, please.  I mean, come on, it was in the 80s yesterday on Thanksgiving.

So the trick is – during the day it’s California, fine, and at night when it gets colder, you pretend it’s “really” fall and you make meals with thyme and root vegetables and drink red wine and burn candles.  That’s how I make this work.

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So we went out for dinner on Wednesday night with my aunt and uncle and cousins.  It was wonderful to see family, and they’re really just such great people.  I traveled with Sally about (wow) 5 and a half years ago in England for a week on my way to BADA (Oxford acting summer program, Shakespeare, nerdy, nerdy, nerdy), and I appreciate having her and Graham in my life, even we don’t see each other all that much. They’re very cultured, very supportive of the arts, well traveled.  And she’s my dad’s sister (my dad passed away almost 6 years ago now), so having Sally in my life is really a special thing.  It’s just genuinely a good, relaxed time hanging out with her and Graham.  And they’re always up for wine and cheese or a good beer, so that helps.

Anyway, Sally asked me at one point the other night if I was now more interested in working behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera (which makes sense as I just finished writing/directing a film – but also playing the lead role).  And I said, no, I want to pursue acting as well as writing and directing.  And she meant it as a completely innocent question (and in truth, I have much more creative control over my career as a writer/director – which I love).  But in the moment and later on, I got the old creeping impostor feeling in my stomach.  Ugh.  No.

I mean, I’m very, very glad that I said I want to be an actress rather than lying and saying I prefer being behind the scenes, but “who knows, maybe I’ll do a little acting” (because that not true – I want to do it so badly – and I want to write so badly).  But it makes me incredibly self conscious.   Just speaking this desire out loud seems to take me outside of my body and makes me harshly critical.  I imagine judgments from other people like, “she must think she’s really beautiful, little does she know she’s not that great” or “this shy, awkward girl thinks she can be an actress?” or “she’s a little old to start out now” – all of which is bullshit.  Yes, I’m imperfect physically, yes, I’m an introverted person, yes, I’m about to turn 28 in less than a month (only someone going into acting would think that’s old).

Fine.  Do it anyway.

I have been out of college for four years now this coming month.  And I have felt deeply uncomfortable all this time with saying I want to be an actress. Writer is safe, even director has been okay (although I feel like a complete impostor when around real directors who have directed real crews and real films, but that’s for another post).  But for some reason, it really feels like now or never with the Actress thing.

I’m in a transition.  I just wrapped my “directorial debut” (oh god I hope I’m not cursing myself by saying that – it’s what it is) – and now I’m ready to pursue acting head on.  Which means calling myself an actress.  Without apology.  And it means behaving like a professional actress.

It’s tricky.  Because I genuinely don’t know how to go about this.  I’m learning constantly.  Googling.  Reading blogs.  I’m pulling myself together into a presentable actress online.  I’m aiming to have my new reel done by next week sometime (editing it myself).  I’ve got a new headshot.  I’m joining more breakdown sites.  I’m getting my ass on IMDB.  And I’m ready to audition.

Ready.  Scared.  Ready.  Scared.


Here’s my headshot.  (!!!!!!!)  Imperfect, but me.



Holy hell.  There it is.  Not fancy, but presentable I hope.  Natural, not too glammy.

[It’s so so weird, figuring out your image, how to present yourself publicly.  Honestly, I’m so glad to be getting (just a little) older.  Because I frankly have seen enough actress breakdowns where the girl is supposed to be “stunningly beautiful,” “breathtaking,” “perfect 10,” or even just “super hot.”

Actress breakdowns are horrible anyway and they’re a whole feminist discussion I won’t go into now (but I will at some point, I will discuss women in Hollywood until I die).  But, if you haven’t seen the Lady Parts Tumblr, check that out and feel just a little better that even though casting is full of misogyny, at least there are women out there who call bullshit when they see it.

I mean, I got into this to be like Joan Allen, not Megan Fox.  Fuckers.]

Anyway.  Despite these awkward feelings, despite not feeling good enough or pretty enough – I know I can act.  I’ve done more writing and it’s easier for me to sit behind a laptop than it is for me to get onstage or in front of a camera – but I know I can do it.  I’m not a great auditioner – but I’m ready to work on it.

I’m all in. And that means telling other people that I’m all in too.  Terrifying.  But I’d rather feel awkward or insecure going after what I really want than having than hiding what I want and feeling like I’m not showing up all the way as myself.

So, here we go!  I wanna be…an actress.


Work Weekend

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Sometimes you work against the world’s flow.  Example – this weekend, big holiday weekend, cookouts and beer.  The last hurrah of summer.  Not for me.

Well, for one thing, it’s nowhere near the end of summer here.  It was 90s all weekend and it will continue to be hot in Pasadena for most of September.  And I absolutely despise the heat.  Almost always, from about 3-6pm, when the heat is worst (it lingers in the apartment), I sink into the worst kind of depression – headache, stomach ache, complete purposeless.  I honestly have moments of longing for death or some kind of unconsciousness during this time of day.  I lose track of myself, I lose the ability to appreciate beauty or food or art.  In other words – there is no reason to live.

Yes, I’m dramatic about my moods.   And I’m beginning to realize that the moods are here to stay.  I don’t want to play the artist card, but dammit, I will.  Because this is how I work.  Morning: Eyes open.  Immediate depression in thinking about everything I have to do.  Followed by guilt that I should wake up grateful to be alive.  Forced positive thoughts while making coffee.  Coffee kicks in.  Suddenly everything is beautiful, sunshine, god I love sunshine, the light falling just so, everything I read in my books and see on the internet is an inspiration.  There’s somuchtodo!!!  Later, coffee wears off.  I have to work.  Whatever I have to do, I have to do it and I can hardly bear to look at it.  Drudgery.  Then lunch – a break, a little light in the middle of the day.  Chocolate always to finish it off.  Little buzz.  I can do this.  Then sleepy time after lunch.  God, I hate my life.  3pm hits and the sun is at its hottest.  What is there to live for?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Art is nothing.  There is no purpose.  We work for food and shelter and then we die.  Art is no comfort.

Jesus.  Definitely didn’t need to spell all that out.

[caption id="attachment_920" align="aligncenter" width="560"]Josephine.  Chris asked me to water her while he's away.  Oops.  I'll do it later. Josephine. Chris asked me to water her while he’s away. Oops. I’ll do it later.[/caption]

So you can see why mood management is so necessary.  Especially for a holiday weekend where everyone else is out having a jolly time with family and friends and I’m staring at a laptop for hours in a very dark apartment, organizing film clips, converting them, loading them into Final Cut, cringing, trying to cut scenes together and figure out what we’re missing (answer is: a lot) and looking at all the idiots on Facebook for distraction.

From what I can tell, an awful lot of creativity is mood management.  Catching the positive wave and doing as much as you can while you’re on it.  And then gently turning the daily resistance into a better, more inspired mood.  And taking the really really depressed moments with a grain of salt and getting out and going to the movies or reading a book at a cafe.  You can’t get any work done when you’re distracted and headache-y and hopeless.  You have to refill somehow.

Anyway, one thing I’ve been finding helpful lately is reading a little Anais Nin from time to time.  And, first, I’ll confess, I haven’t read much of her stuff.  Just one of her diary compilations, Fire.    I’ve honestly been reading this book for probably something like ten years on and off.  Just a couple pages at a time, really.  But it helps with the artist temperament, it really does, to read the point of view of someone who is so unapologetic about her passions and her frustrations.  I love her freedom, her frivolity, and how she seems always primarily concerned with the work and how she feels.

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I’ll leave you with a few underlined bits from my book:

“Today I have seriously considered becoming a high-class cocotte.  I want money, perfume, luxury, traveling, liberty.   I don’t want to be a shut in at the Villa Seurat cooking for imbeciles like Fred, and Henry’s timorous and bourgeois, weak, whiny friends.  And the waste.  I can’t lead such a wasted life.  I need to create constantly or enjoy myself intensely.”

“Then it seems as if we are making dinner again, and I am slicing eggplant and striving, thoughtfully, for succulence.  And we fall into a deep peace, lying on the couch, talking about opium – the opium of sleep and the opium of action.  Henry had said, “When I am sad I go to sleep.”  And suddenly I understood that when I was sad I had to act.”

“I know that I go through life like a drunkard.  I’m drunk on illusion.  But no matter how drunk I am, there are things I can’t help seeing, ferociously real things.  I close my eyes, and I reel, I reel, I reel.  I believe, I live in a fever and turmoil, I rise into ecstasy, but all the time there is the face of reality staring at me with ugly eyes.  I know that if I open my eyes I will be intolerably hurt by the ugliness.”

“Importance in modern books of moments de bonheur simple.  Glorified because as rare to us, the neurotics, as ecstasy and tragedy are to others.  Harriet Hume eating from a bag of cherries, Colette’s cup of chocolate, my cup of coffee at the Roger Williams’.”