How To Find Your Voice (4 Tips on Taming The Black Dog)

How To Find Your Voice (4 Tips on Taming The Black Dog)

HappyAlexMy son turned two recently. This means he’s reached that magical age where he gets into everything he’s not supposed to, and screams “no” a lot. Except that, he doesn’t say “no” a lot. Frankly, he doesn’t say anything resembling a full sentence. My son is two, and he’s going to be a late talker. Now, whether this is because of blockage in his ear canal, or he doesn’t feel the need to express his wants and needs beyond a window-shattering screech remains to be seen. Mommy and Daddy have been put on a list for speech development therapy, and hopefully something will come of it.

Still though, he’s happy. Despite his lack of vocabulary, he’s healthy and happy and loves to play and get into trouble as every two year old should. And just to be clear, no, he isn’t on the spectrum. He responds, he interacts, he smiles and laughs, and most importantly, he tries to speak. He wants to speak. A lot and at length. He wants to pontificate and sing and argue. But, as of right now, the best he can do is sound something like an octopus that desperately wants to join the world of man, so he disguises himself Clark Kent-style to go about his business on dry land.

Boss: “Johnson, have you finished those quarterly reports yet?”
Octopus: “Glorba BLORGA blorga glorba blorgablorg!
Boss: “Ah, very good. You know Johnson, I like you. You’ve got the right attitude to make it in this business. Wilcox, how come you can’t be more like Johnson?”
Wilcox: “Because he’s a cephalopod, sir.”
Boss: “Have you always been this racist, Wilcox?”

He likes to talk. He wants to. And when he starts chugging along on his little sibilance choo-choo, I am convinced that he thinks he’s making perfect sense. I am convinced that he’s got The Gettysburg Address, The St. Crispin’s Day Speech, and ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas completely memorized, and he’ll roll it off his tongue at the drop of a hat. The thing is, no one can understand him, although not for lack of trying. His family all just smile and nod and do their best to understand. And he’ll still get frustrated at us because we still don’t get it.

I cannot help but sympathize. Sometimes, I feel the same way when I write. Especially when I blog.

So, You Want Your Voice Back?

For the past couple of days, I’ve allowed, as an old friend used to say, The Black Dog to

sherlock-202-the-hound
Yeeesh..

come to my doorstep.

The beginning of my blogging days were cultivated in the dark, dark days of the now defunct Yahoo 360°. For those of you too young to remember, Yahoo 360° was a social profiling site along the lines of MySpace and was the perfect place for the more socially averse who weren’t quite ready to jump on board the Facebook bandwagon. Those were the days where I was still cutting my writing teeth and finding my voice. Although, as I think back to then and reflect on what I do now, not a lot has changed. And I’m not quite sure I found my voice yet.

Among the new friends I accumulated at that time was a fledgling author. At the time, she was doing the song and dance of getting herself published. Her blog kept her friends and followers in the loop as to how and when the publishing was coming along. That is, when she wasn’t regaling us with tales about her kids, or refurbishing a house she and her husband just bought, or random pieces of erotica that she wrote. Her writing would have us in stitches, but every once in a while, Doubt would come calling, along with her kooky cousins, Anger and Depression. She would apologize for her candor, and blame it on the Black Dog that showed his teeth when she tried to step outside of her house.

It’s over ten years later. The people I knew on that site are now scattered to the wind, and I wish them well. It’s over ten years later, and it hasn’t been until recently where I’ve actually considered getting published myself. I haven’t thought much about that time until now. I would have been satisfied leaving it in the past, but presently there is a familiar beast who has found himself just outside my own door with a sign around its neck reading, “Isky sends her regards.”

I get lost. More times than I’d like to admit. It’s so hard not to in this brave new world of self-published authors and readily available information. I want views and notoriety just as much as anyone else who starts down this road. I want to write as a career, and I’m willing to work for it. But sometimes I get impatient, and the void I scream into doesn’t respond back. Then I start to question my motives and practices, and maybe I should return to the “real world” because my blog hasn’t sold enough widgets and the placement of my SEO has gone all screwy or whatever. I get nervous, and the Black Dog gets hungry.

When I get lost, the first thing I gravitate towards are the hectares of blog posts that are so eager to dispense advice on how to boost your blog traffic. Their oh-so clinical and categorical language always leave me more confused, frustrated, and about as satisfied as forcing myself to eat a freezer-burned Lean Cuisine when I really want a pizza. Then come those days where I just want to detach altogether, put a ball-peen hammer through my computer screen and spend the rest of the month binge watching Gilmore Girls. When I get scared, I lose my voice. When I lose my voice, I get lost. When I get lost, The Black Dog will find me.

But I’m not alone in this. I take the smallest grain of relief in the knowledge that there are others out there like me who are worried that they haven’t found their voice yet, or fear that they may have lost it all together. However, in acknowledging this, I have discovered something that’s been in my pocket for a long time. In worrying about not finding your voice, or not finding your words, you allow doubt to take over. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration, afterall.

Full disclosure, I didn’t go to school for writing or blogging or business. What I have learned, I learned on my own through my own research and just sitting in front of a monitor every day while my fingers tap out a few thousand words, and, most importantly, allowing myself to make mistakes. I’m not an expert, but here’s my advice for whenever The Black Dog starts growling.

1. Ignore Just About Everyone.

“Okay, Google.”
blingityblink
“I’m drowning.”
[Seconds pass as the lifeboat sinks a little deeper.]
blink “Here are some websites to tell you what to do in case of drowning.”
“Not very helpful, Googleblubblublblub…”
blink “Sorry. I didn’t quite catch that.”

Research should be second nature to you, right? Blog post, genre fiction, non-fiction, book report, burrito recipe, doesn’t matter. We used to spend hours raiding the shelves of our local library, now everything you need can be held in a few tabs worth of Google searches. You put the time and effort into researching everything before submitting anything which is the way it should be. However, I think the byproduct of living in the age of Google is that we have become too dependent on it. We rely on it for everything we need to know. Unfortunately, Google can only tell you so much. Case in point, in terms of advice, Google is really good at telling you who said what and when, it’s not so good at telling you whose to follow.

“Okay, Google.”
blingityblink
“Tell me I’m pretty.”
[Seconds pass as the mascara runs further down your face.]
blink “…errrrrrmmmm… Can we just be friends?”

There comes a time when you can only absorb so much advice before you realize that you haven’t put any of it into action. Are you honestly looking for advice because you’re stuck, or are you looking for someone to validate the exact same thing you’ve been thinking about for the past week? Have you painted your manuscript into a corner, or are you licking your wounds from a really bad review and in need a virtual drinking buddy? Taking advice is fine, just remember that most of it shouldn’t be taken as gospel. If you want to write, get writing.

2. But, Be Careful With the Advice You Seek.

The biggest pet peeve I have with blogging/writing advice is the presumption that it should be done with full intention of getting views/clicks and generating an income. Every post on the subject is a “Top 10 ways to blahblahblah,” or “The Most Obvious Thing That Your Blog is Missing,” or any other form of  flashy, deep-fried clickbait that gets you to read the same regurgitated information that’s been shared a thousand times before. It gets to the point with me that I figure the most guaranteed way to get more clicks, is to title my blog post “How To Get More Clicks” and give away a FREE BOOK on the subject that’s worth $100’s of DOLLARS and FILLED WITH VALUABLE INFORMATION that someone else wrote, but you can NEVER FIND EVERYWHERE ELSE if you don’t know how the internet works and BE SURE TO GET ON MY MAILING LIST because YOU’LL GET HERPES IF YOU DON’T!!1! FUCK YOU, SHUT UP AND CONSUME!!

Nothing against you guys doing what late night infomercials have been doing for years before the internet was born, but I’m looking for writing advice, not the P.T. Barnum Playbook with a foreword by Zig Ziglar.

34713-rantclosed

Anyway, getting back on subject…

According to many pro-bloggers, blogging is solely designed to facilitate sales. That’s it. Not the exchange of ideas, and certainly not to be used for any artistic or abstract expression.To paraphrase from  Halt And Catch Fire, “Writing isn’t the thing…it’s the thing that gets the thing…” Nope, it’s all about the almighty dollar, y’all. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that (I mean, c’mon. It’s the way I’ve chosen to pay my bills coughcoughCheckOutTheDonationButtoncough), it has very little to do with what I’m seeking help for.

What gets me so bummed whenever I think I lost my voice and I go out to find it, is that I’m not careful with whose advice I follow. After taking into consideration the wisdom that some gurus dispense, I tend to think that what I’m presently doing is wrong. Simply because I’m writing fiction and entertaining readers, rather than to just knuckle down and write some drab, emotionless fluff piece for the corporate interests of others while utilizing the tried and true Carrot-On-A-Stick Method.  My intentions with this blog is to entertain because I want to, inform when I can, and yes, sell things that I’ve made (coughRandomMerchPagecough…sorry, allergy season). That’s the way that works for me. What works for you might be completely different, and that’s okay. Just don’t do one thing that’s disguised as another in order to make a buck.

Writing is fine. Self-Publishing is fine. Making a buck is fine. However, there is a difference between the three. And meaning and intention tends to get blurred in the ye olde Google search.

This is something I obviously struggle with on a regular basis. I hate to break it to ya, but nobody is going to tell you what’s going to work for you as a writer. Seeking wisdom from our heroes is always good for perspective, but if you really want sage advice on how to find your voice, keep reading.

3. Realize That We All Start Somewhere.

So, you lost your voice. The manuscript you’re working on has stopped making sense by the second act , your characters have all walked away from you while flipping you off and giving you the side-eye, and the fear of “not being good as your heroes” that you’ve shoved to the back of your nervous, flop-sweaty little mind, is now front and center wearing a Boater, a candy striped blazer and twirling a cane in his fingers singing, “HELLO MY BABY, HELLO MY HONEY, HELLO MY RAGTIME GAAAAALL…” Before you pack it in, consider this…

This fear is a good thing.

This fear means that you are on the right path.

Because, let’s face it. If you didn’t want to be a writer, you’d be doing something else by now like repairing lobster traps, or learning how to be a spreadsheet whiz-kid, or whatever you kids are into nowadays… with your Facebooks and your smartphones [shakes fist].

I’m presuming that since you are not any of these people, or have no intention on becoming one, that you have a story inside you that no one else can tell.

Great authors, like great football players, actors, surgeons and sandwiches, aren’t born. They’re made. Anyone can deliver a plot. Plot is nothing. Plot is the barest of minimums. But, you’re looking for something with a little more meat on its bones, right? You’re a storyteller, Harry. If you want to deliver your plot on something other than an a styrofoam plate, you need nuance and foresight and planning and grace and other words that aren’t coming to mind at the moment. All of which takes a lot of trial and error. All of which takes…

4. Practice.

That is all. Practice. It doesn’t get any simpler or any more obvious than that. There is no magic pill, no secret that only a few know about, that is free with purchase if you order within the next 20 minutes. Nope. That’s really all there is to it. Practice.

If you want to write, write.

“But…”
But, what?
“But, I still lost my voice.”
Oh, that’s not true. You’d be amazed what could happen once you get going.
“…but…”
What now?
“I don’t sound like J.K. Rowling.”

A word about that.

Many writers will tell you, and I’m in full agreement with them, that there is something to modeling yourself after your heroes when you are first starting out. It helps with the process of writing the story as well as finding your own voice. Yes, we all want to be the next Rowling. Just like I want to be the next Robbins, Thompson, Gaiman etc. So, I study my idols. I dive into their works and study how they do it and with a little luck, I’ll come out on the other side with just the right colors in which to paint my own landscape.

We all want to be the next Rowling…

Have you ever considered being the first You?

There is a story inside you that no one else can give a voice to, but you. Your craft is to build worlds from nothing more than imagination. We’d all like to see it, but the only way we can see it, the only way that you can stop sounding like an octopus in a polyester polo shirt, the only way to bring The Black Dog to heel is to just keep writing.

You’ll see.

keepwritingnotposter2015bla
Find this and other items to inspire on my Random Merch page!
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Whatever I Want Wednesdays: Where Is Fancy Bred? (Caution: Rant in Progress)

Okay, to be honest… I thought it was “bread”. I always thought that Benvolio was looking for a specific baker that made this particular loaf of Pumpernickel. Which was rather odd because he was gambling for his life at the moment. Maybe picking the right casket made him…hungry…what was I talking about?

Anyway, this quote:

“…Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head?”

-William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)
Forget for a moment that this quote is more noted for being in a certain movie, this question basically asks: “How should we love? Passionately, or wisely?” Implying, of course, that never the twain shall meet. As with many things attributed to the bard, this quote could easily be applied as a life lesson for many things other than amorous crushes. Would it be too far removed to ask, “How should we live?”

I never gave too much credence to any so-called “Self-Help Gurus”, or “Life Coaches”. Perhaps it was the jaded nature of my generation that casts a wary eye to these individuals. Our childhood dominated by experiencing the Vietnam War on a nightly basis, the ripple effect left by Watergate, and the seeds of the Cold War being planted and cultivated may have also formed our mindset. I remember being herded into our high school gymnasium on a yearly basis to be screamed at wowed by these “Motivational Speakers”with their big hair, loud Cosby Sweaters and go-get ’em attitude telling us to be MOTIVATED!!….apparently for the sake of being….MOTIVATED because your typical high school teacher had no idea how teach it themselves and had to get someone else to do it. Someone else that was hired by…I don’t know…let’s say Texas school text book publishers. Someone who thought that getting some dude in his forties would be the perfect candidate to communicate with the kids, because they’re cool and rad too! THEY know how to reach the kids! THEY know what they want…because we tell them to like what they want…Look! He’s singing along with a Foreigner song! He MUST be one of us! He’s so relatable! I mean, forget that its a band made up of old dudes and the only people listening to them are your crazy uncle who blares it from his 8-track in his customized van, forget that a kids in the 80s (the cooler kids) are more inclined to listen to Van Halen than to a band that came out 10 years before we got old enough to appreciate it!….I wish MTV would hurry up and get here…but YEAH! He’s rockin’ out and telling us to be good little subservients! And he’s got concert lighting and smoke machines! I wish he were MY friend.

If the iPad was invented thirty years earlier, I guarantee you every face would be pointed towards the floor as every student Tweeted about how much of a poser this guy was. We didn’t have that back then. All we could do was give him the blank stare and fidget in our seat and wait for the lunch bell. For some, the result of having to sit through this painful ordeal had a positive effect and made (somewhat) of an impact that lasted a day or so. For the rest of us, we regarded it is bullshit window dressing designed to waste time before some of us went to vocational school. The people in the office buildings would say that their efforts paid off. The kids that it was directed it had a different opinion.

The 80s kids never listened to this, because we failed to see the point in it. We failed to see the point in it, because we felt we were being talked down to, and dressing it up in loud clothing and putting a cocaine induced smile on its face wasn’t making it any better. For all our trappings and our ambivalence, we failed to see the point in it, because your message still wasn’t reaching us, and we’re not that stupid.

But, no matter. We leapfrogged from the days of Leo Buscaglia and Deepak Chopra, and graduated to Tony

Robbins and motivational posters when we entered adulthood. Soon, the backlash happened. We figured out that we could buy our own platitudes for encouragement. We figured if we were at the point of needing help, and were motivated enough to go to the bookstore to by motivational poster or a self-help book by some New York Times Bestseller…then we are pretty much motivated to do…well…anything.

Soon, the Motivational Speaker craze gave way to a different animal. Soon, the Cosby Sweaters were replaced by slick, 80s throwbacks with their supposedly expensive suits, sitting on their Lamborghini that’s parked outside of their palatial mansion and telling the late night television viewing audience that they have the secret to success as bikini-clad models drape over their arms. These men have claimed to make it big in real estate and flipping houses, or knowing the right algorithms of the stock market, or some other far-fetched scheme, and they could give their knowledge to you…that’s right…YOU! All you have to do is sacrifice your entire weekend, write out a check for $1500 while you let this guy scream at you to buy his book while you fidget in your seat at the convention center while you check the clock and patiently wait for the time when you can go to the bathroom.

Where is fancy bred?

We are not that stupid. We failed to see the point of it because what you were selling has fallen on deaf ears and empty wallets…

 

Can you personally build a better business system than McDonald’s?

No, Mr. Kiyosaki, I can’t. But, I suppose you could distill the essence of attaining an MBA into one weekend retreat? Oh…also, thanks a bunch  for trying to make me regret not getting accepted into Harvard where I may have had a chance to build a better business system were my proclivities drawn to such a direction. Not all of us are so lucky. Not all of us are successful. Not all of us can afford to buy and sell real estate to flip for a profit. If we could afford it, then we wouldn’t plunk down hard earned cash to listen to you drone on for days.

I don’t mean to pick on the guy, but I don’t get the people who try to hammer his point home either. As if I needed any help in understanding a principle.

Well, that’s just it. Isn’t it? We have to redefine what “quality” means. When it comes to McDonald’s churning out a quality product, McDonald’s is way down on that list. Consumer Reports had them practically at the bottom. But since the individual experience doesn’t matter, and we’re talking a macro level model, then yes, you’ve got me that McDonald’s metrics on cranking out the same “quality” food on a consistent basis. I mean, they employ such winning tactics as that whole “Pink Slurry” thing as well as exploiting their workers to maximize profits, I think the question should not be “can I build a better system”, but rather should be, “can I build a better system that I can in good conscious live with myself after implementing?”

But, just for a moment, consider that all the consistency in the world isn’t going to do you much good where you’re churning out crap. Saying that, “McDonald’s customers aren’t really expecting that much” is saying something to the effect of: “…where the common customer had a choice from the dollar menu or consuming a shovel full of dirt with cheese on it, the customer will almost always pick the dollar menu…” It’s like they considered the shovel full of dirt. Does anyone else see this? Implying that McDonald’s is the only kid on the block is also pretty ludicrous. Sure, the field is a little smaller as of late as Burger King flies the coop to Canada, but they’re on the same level of crap slinging as its rival is. If an American institution pulling up stakes to head north to avoid paying taxes like a draft dodger trying to avoid the Vietnam War isn’t enough to get you to stop patronizing these places, maybe waking up one day and realizing that much closer to diabetes every time you eat there will? Maybe? No? Oh…okay….Oh LOOK! The McRib is back!!!

“Take a number? Yeah, sure. No problem.”

The Big Two of McDonald’s and Burger King aren’t the only kids on the block. Quality may not enter in the equation now. You may not see it now. But what about the long term? If these guys are placing at the bottom of the list as far as customer satisfaction goes, pretty soon that little nugget of infomation will catch up to them. 5 Guys, In-and-Out, Fatburger, White Castle, all consistently crank out an infinitely better product, and their business isn’t hurting either. Are they using the same model as McDonald’s? Their product is more expensive, and yet there’s a line out the door at my local 5 Guys and nobody seems to mind, myself included. The lines are quick at any one of the dozens of Mickey-D’s in my town, and I see red every time I order a burger that has been obviously been microwaved. Is that a better business system? Is that something I should try and emulate?

I guess what’s really getting to me is that people still confuse quality over quantity. Success isn’t necessarily a numbers game. Yes, there is about 10 McDonald’s and Burger “Great White North” Kings to every one 5Guys, but that doesn’t mean that those restaurants are any better. It just means that people don’t know any better. And don’t give me that whole, “well, it’s cheaper” argument. That’s another discussion for another time. Cheaper doesn’t mean better either, it just means people can’t afford to take a chance on anything else, and we suffer for it.

Personally, I could care less. I can’t stomach fast food anymore, but that’s not the point. What’s really getting to me is that most people will always go for the dollar menu and not be bothered to take a chance on anything of sustenance, like cooking something for themselves that doesn’t involve a microwave, or reading a blog that doesn’t have a list on it.

Where is fancy bred?

It will always be the heart. But I’m trying really hard to feel it from the head.

 

Slow Implosion, Part 1

It was early in my college career when I had the rare opportunity to work with Peter Schumann and the rest of his troupe from Vermont. It was 1991, around the time of the first Gulf War, which would explain their subsequent tour across the Northeast. They arrived almost unannounced, practically under cover of darkness, and immediately started setting up shop like they owned the place. How I came to work with them went something like this:

Loaded Statement

related [welcome2thewritersbloc.blogspot.com]

Loaded Statement

He literally led me out by the back of my shirt and placed me front and center of the (let’s call her, the “Lieutenant”) who was running the show. I had no idea how long she had been involved with the Theater, but judging the way she got in our faces like Gny. Sgt. Hartman, I had a feeling that she’s been with them for a while, and been in the business a lot longer. She was sanctioned with the task of wrangling approximately a hundred or so other volunteers like me from the University’s Theater, Music and Art Departments, (which as anyone who has ever been in that situation is no small task), and make them work harmoniously in a matter of an hour. She had a body of pure protein, and a voice that was still planted firmly in South American soil. She was unforgiving, cold, calculated and a ruthlessly efficient hard-ass. In other words, the perfect stage manager.

The Lieutenant then proceeded to kick all of our asses for the rest of the day. The play we performed, in typical Bread and Puppet fashion, took place outside, in the open air, in plain view of everyone. Begging, taunting, challenging passers-by to pay attention; the very essence of guerrilla theater. No indoor venue could ever contain their shows. Their backdrops are constructed by Mother Nature; amphitheaters of Earth and Sky are a much more effective tool when you incorporate their essence into everything you do.

As far as I was concerned, the entire theater were characters on a television show. They weren’t real. They did not exist in my universe. They were far removed from my world; Something only to be read about in school text books. They are legend. Even though I was born and raised in New England, I only had a vague understanding of who they were or what they did. Shame on me because the Theater was and is a New England institution. I never in my life thought that I would actually see them in person, let alone ever have a chance to work with them.

A little background for the people too lazy to click on the link above:

Since 1963, a rag tag group of theater performers, musicians, mimes, acrobats, puppeteers and activists banded together to protest the war in Vietnam. Since then, one could usually find cells of them at random parades, protests and demonstrations from New York to Boston to Portland, Maine. Wherever and whenever there was an atrocity to exploit or movement to reinforce, they would be there in all their creepy, puppety goodness; Giving relatively sober people something to think about, and keeping the Freak Shows with heads full of chemicals a reason to stay on the sidewalk. Most of the players would wear masks, like some sort of modern chorus to a Greek Tragedy. Those who were especially talented would operate these larger than life, grotesquely beautiful and subversively crude, hand-crafted puppets. And by larger than life, I mean when fully constructed, some are able to hide a Mack truck cab, or at the very least, obfuscate a facade of a stand alone Starbucks. They would sing, dance, get in your face and at the end of the show you would be nourished by a loaf of bread that has been just been pulled out of an ancient, earthen oven by a quite energized Peter Schumann who got off his stilts and out of his costume long enough to keep the loaves from turning into really big croutons.

Now, if you still don’t have the visual yet, here’s a little taste. Not the Bread and Puppet, but a darn good facsimile:

It took all morning to rehearse. It took the better part of an afternoon to perform. It took the majority of three departments from the University to perform, and at the end, all of us, audience and volunteers alike, were treated to the freshest baked bread this side of the Nissen Bakery. During rehearsal, I had no idea how the finished product would look. But when all was said and done, it came together rather well. I came away with the sense of accomplishing something extraordinary that I would carry with me for the rest of my life, and I suppose that’s what my professor had in mind all along.

For me, that night was more memorable than that day. That night, we were granted an audience with Mr. Schumann. That night, he gave a lecture not on the war in Iraq, or how to be civilly disobedient, or even how to make bread in a kiln that was thrown together in an hour. What he was going to lecture about, was how the Art of Puppetry was–in his words–the purest form of Art. Period.

Of course, none of us, not one of the hundred or so artists, musicians, actors and craftspeople had any idea what he was going to lecture about. We just knew that we spent the entire day taking part in history, and we were all a little buzzed from it. The lecture hall where it was taking place was where most of my classes were held so I was quite familiar with it. I have never seen it brimming to capacity as I have that night.

We all sat down. Mr. Schumann stated his hypothesis. We all listened. He went through pretty much every medium that exists and how they are “inherently flawed” and “how the real message gets lost in translation”; basically a soft spinning smear campaign against everything that we worked for. At the end, he asked if anyone had any questions. No one said a word, and yet there was nary a folded set of arms in the room, no silent displays of defiance. We all wanted to defend our respective craft, but for some reason none of us could come up with a singular, legitimate example disproving his theory.

I sat in the front row. I turned around to see the apparently perplexed faces around the room. On the surface, it looked as though everyone second guessed their reasons for ever becoming an artist to begin with. Although, I would like to think that they like I, below the surface, recalling this day many years later, would look at if from a different point of view. Perhaps everyone has had a sense of this all along, but for me it’s something that hasn’t become clear until recently.

It was that night that I got a hint of what integrity means. He wasn’t condemning all art, he was just standing up for his own, and he has the right to do so as well, having been at it for many years by that point. It was a revelation of sorts when I left the hall that night. It was certainly a lot to chew on and digest. At first, I felt more than a little sore having worked with an icon while he surgically dismantled your belief structure. But the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that the bigger lesson to be learned was to be proud of what we do, no matter if we sang, danced, built birdhouses or played with really big paper mache puppets.

Granted, we should all be accountable for what we do (right, Skilling?). It’s something that is pretty much common sense, but so easily forgotten. Especially if you’re trying to make it to the next paycheck. From that moment forward, my modus operandi would be defined by something of a little more sustenance than a dog and pony show. From that moment forward, my craft, as it were, shall be used for good, not evil. From that moment on, I turned into something of an idealist. A snob…..okay, there was that period of time where I refused go onstage anymore without at least a shot and a beer in me, but I was on my way out by that point and that’s another exploit for another time. I would reserve the use of my craft only when needed.

From that moment on, I wanted to be more accountable for my creations. It was a drive to follow the path of the ones who came before me; a worthier path, a more difficult path. From that moment on, I wanted to be a better person. Which is why, from that moment on, it drove me nuts every time someone wanted me to use my skill to sell a few extra widgets to meet quota for the end of the month, or to squeeze bigger tips from a 4-top who are obviously cheap tourists, which is essentially whoring.

Most of my college days are hazy, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t go to college to be a whore.

Since the year 2000, most of my jobs have consisted of some sort of sales. I am a craftsperson whose many tenets include people and sales, and I can’t stand sales and I’m not too fond of people. Why?

  • Depending on the situation I either have no faith or very little knowledge in the product I’m selling.
  • The people I usually work with are soulless, alcoholic robots, and therefore by osmosis, I could feel myself turning into one the longer I stay on any given sales team.
  • I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not that good at it.

Let me rephrase; I’m okay at it. There were days where I could swim quite comfortably with the big sharks. But whenever I was having an off day, or I just wasn’t into it, someone (usually a co-worker) would inevitably come along and say, “Well, hey, you’re an actor. This stuff should come easy to you.” There in that phrase lay the reason that I began to detest anything resembling human when I wake up in the morning. A) Acting is not lying. Let me repeat that, acting is not lying. Acting is truth from a different point of view, lying is something you do to sell a car. And B) if I were to “act”, people would see right through it immediately and crush any hope I had of getting the job done. If I rebel against the notion that acting will get the money flowing in, then the only alternative left is to lie. It’s far more difficult to see through a lie (right, Skilling?).

For a the length of a hellish summer, I was made to lie. For one blazing hot summer, I couldn’t sleep with myself at night, I couldn’t eat, and my otherwise pleasant demeanor was shrinking to the thickness of a business card.

Imagine my joy as the big corporation I sweat blood over for a summer slowly implodes over the length of a hellish winter…