Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happiness is...?

Merriam-Webster online defines happiness as "a state of well-being and contentment."

How many times have we heard that happiness comes from within:

Ezine @rticle


Even so, external events often trigger happiness or unhappiness--you get the job/part you wanted, the guy you like asks you out/your spouse does what he said s/he would...or you don't get it and s/he doesn't.

I'm one of those people who finds it challenging to stay happy when things in my little world or the big world aren't going well. Things that make me unhappy: looking at my 401(k) balance, getting a rejection. Things that make me happy: participating in enjoyable activities, getting the part.

A goal is to stay on a more even keel as opposed to riding the roller coaster of happiness. I'm working on letting go when stuff happens that I can't control, and really appreciating all the good stuff in my life.

What can we do to be happier? Maybe learn more about how to be happy... advises "cultivating an internal locus of control," or the belief that you are the master of your fate.

wikiHow has many suggestions, including relaxing, smiling, taking the good with the bad, being thankful, pursuing goals that make you happy, developing healthy relationships, and making someone else happy.

The Formula for Being Happy says it's a matter of V2 x S2 x P2 x L2 = H, or V2 = Values times Vision. S2 = Stability times Structure (of which balance, accent, and flow are parts). P2 = Passion times Professionalism, which together produce Power. L2 = Love Given times Love Received. H = Happiness.

Not sure how happy you are? Try a Happiness Quiz.

What makes you happy?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hope and the last Straw

When we're getting ready to do something, we hope it goes well. From going on a audition to preparing for a presentation at work, we hope for the best. These days we hope the economy will improve and our 401(k)s will return to normal. Most people recall the role hope played when Pandora opened her box.

How much hope do you have?

I remember a game I played as a kid called the last Straw. A brown plastic camel with wheels on its feet wore two yellow baskets. Players took turns placing colored plastic sticks in the baskets. You hoped yours wasn't the one to break the camel's back.

Just like that camel, most of us have our breaking point. Some people might quit after a single failure. Others persist until they succeed, no matter how long or how hard the journey.

How do you know if you should press on toward a goal in the face of rejection or failure? Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're beating your head against the wall or are about to become an example of that quote, "Winners never quit..." Are you that auditionee on American Idol who clearly has no talent whatsoever, except in his own ears? Or are you the next J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter got rejected a dozen times), Margaret Mitchell (GWTW got rejected 38 times) or Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, over 120 rejections)?

Imagine for a minute sending out 100 submissions, following each agent's or editor's guidelines...some would be queries, some would include sample chapters and/or a synopsis. See the reams of paper printed and tidily stacked, the 100 envelopes ready to be mailed. (Yes, some agents/editors accept e-submissions today but many don't.) Imagine the hope you'd feel.

As each rejection rolled in, you'd think, "One NO closer to YES." (I give a workshop called that.) You'd hope, "Maybe the next one." What if all of that effort yielded nothing but a pile of letterhead? Would you keep going?

Persistence is a lot like gambling. What separates the person who sends out just one more submission and the one who bets on just one more race...that the goal of being a published author is more laudable than trying to make money via luck? The person putting a bet down on a horse with even 20-1 odds has a better chance of winning than the person sending out queries does of snagging an agent or selling a book.

Just because the odds are high doesn't mean we should give up. Let's hope that hope isn't quantifiable. That it regenerates and grows stronger while we persist until we achieve our dreams.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Attention to Detail

I've been judging a few writing contests lately and have been unpleasantly surprised by the number of typos and misused words in the entries. One or two don't bother me as much. But many not only pull me out of the story, they come across as unprofessional and show me the author lacks attention to detail. And I've heard many agents and editors say that they'll reject or are more likely to reject submissions with too many errors.

Don't believe me? Here are a few examples:

Knight Agency Do's & Don'ts
Four Agents in current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine
Shepard Agency

So why don't authors take greater care before sending their work out to be judged? There are so many other reasons a submission might be rejected, why not control the things you can?

On the other hand, how picky is too picky?

I'm revising my commercial voiceover demo, and have been analyzing every word I've said in the recordings I'm considering, listening over and over for flaws. In this commercial, the third word sounds too scratchy. In this, the first word doesn't have the right inflection. There's too much mouth noise in this phrase that can't be edited out. Or maybe this product isn't one that best reflects me as a voiceover talent. Every time I listen, though I hear many things I like, I also hear something new I might want to change. Am I being over-critical? Is there such a thing when the demo will go on my agent's Web site?

Manuscripts, query and cover letters, resumes, Web sites, headshots and VO demos are our marketing materials. We need to present the best products we can. When are they ready to go? I suggest getting a second opinion, a fresh set of eyes or ears. Have experienced fellow authors review your submissions. Ask my agent(s) to listen to my demo before completing the final version. If your products improve, the additional time and effort will be worth it.

So please, aspiring authors, don't enter a contest, and definitely don't submit to an editor or agent, until your work is as clean of errors as it can be.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Hard to believe it's been three years since I fled corporate America to pursue acting and writing full time.

Am I glad I did? Yes: I'd wanted to devote more time to these creative careers and make them my day job for years. No: I still miss the daily camaraderie and paid vacation.

As they say, time does fly when you're having fun. I've really enjoyed building my voiceover and on camera career. Several industry sources said it takes three years to gather momentum. Which has proven true: last year I worked far more than ever before, and had more returning clients. I'm getting auditions for bigger projects with bigger clients.

All this doesn't mean my work is done. Especially in this economy, I can't sit back and relax if I want to keep that momentum growing. So I'm updating my materials and will embark on a marketing campaign.

There have been challenges and setbacks. I need to not stress out as much if I don't have any auditions or bookings on the horizon. Not to get into the whole The Secret thing, but I have to believe if I lay the ground work opportunities will follow.

Writing-wise, though I've completed two more manuscripts and a non-fiction proposal and added more writing contest finals and wins, I still haven't sold. It's hard to keep believing each new manuscript will be "the one." But thanks to many supportive friends, and knowing there are authors who wrote even more books and accumulated more rejections than I have before they sold, I won't give up. And think what a great story about persistence and handling rejection I'll have when I do sell.

Some people are optimists by nature, some pessimists. I am a worrier; ruminating is easy for me. But I'm working on not worrying about the things I can't control so I have more mental energy to focus on the things I can.

Here's to happy anniversaries, living in the moment and taking things one day at a time.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year?

Our society sets us up to demarcate our lives by years...just because the calendar turns from December 31st to January 1. You can try to avoid the hooplah, but it isn't easy.

Newspapers and websites spend the last days of December recapping highlights of the year. Everyone wants to know what you're doing New Year's Eve (I enjoyed a delicious home cooked dinner and watched film noir classics with a friend, thank you very much). Parties abound, restaurants have special seatings, theatres/concert venues provide toasts. We're supposed to watch the countdown and celebrate precisely at midnight with champagne and/or noisemakers and shiny hats, and probably by kissing whoever happens to be nearby. By singing "Auld Lang Syne."

But it's what we do with the new year that matters. Certainly there are things we can't control, like the state of the economy or the price of gas, but there are many ways we can take charge of our own lives...if we have the self-discipline and motivation. A lot of people make resolutions, but don't follow through.

January is a good time to assess our accomplishments--or lack thereof--and make meaningful changes. I like to start the year out fresh by cleaning out and organizing file cabinets and closets. I make a list of projects to complete in the coming year, major and minor (checking off completed items is very satisfying!).

Did I do everything on last year's list? No. But compiling and referring to the list helps me assess priorities and helps me have a road map to my goals. By jotting down everything I want to do, I clear my head for creative thinking. If I'm working on something but run out of steam, I can check the list and move on to another task without wasting time.

If you haven't been a "list person" or goal setter, or have trouble sticking to your resolutions, here are a few sites to try:

Author and friend Gerri Russell has a timely post HERE.

Make a life list

Make your goals happen

Will 2009 be a Happy New Year? It's up to you.