Thursday, April 28, 2011


The word “anticipation” makes me think of Carly Simon’s song, and then the famous Heinz Ketchup commercial.

Merriam-Webster Online’s definition, in pertinent part: "1a : a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action b : the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation 3a : visualization of a future event or state."

I think there’s positive anticipation (PA), as in definition 3a, but also negative anticipation (NA). When you have PA, you’re looking forward to something you think will be good, fun: a romantic date, a vacation or spa visit. PA could also be the payoff of a goal you've worked toward: the release of your book, opening night of a play you're in.

With NA, the approaching event is likely to be unpleasant or something you wish you could avoid: a medical procedure or an unwelcome or unfamiliar project at work. For some, NA might even include giving a speech (often first on lists of top fears). A big portion of NA is fear. Maybe we believe that by worrying about what’s to come, we can prepare ourselves for the worst.

The problem with even good anticipation is that you’re not living in the’re living in the unknowable, unpredictable future. While PA may make you smile and inspire pleasurable feelings, on some level it’s an avoidance of whatever is happening right now. Too much PA might raise expectations that reality doesn’t meet. Instead of enjoying the event, you could end up disappointed. "What if..." may help many writers with plots, but in real life too much of it may not be a good thing.

Of course some preparation is important. Most of us wouldn’t want to go on that big date without figuring out where we're going. In Chicago, not making a dinner reservation or buying theatre tickets ahead of time could put quite a damper on things. Nor would most of us agree to undergo many medical procedures without researching providers and options.

The key, I think, is to control anticipation and not let it control you. Consider: 1) Not letting NA, often fear of the unknown, paralyze you from moving forward or keep you from trying new things. 2) Don't allow PA to build up so much that an approaching event takes on a meaning or importance out of proportion, or that's unlikely to be reached by what actually happens.

Be the kid who can enjoy whatever birthday gift she receives, not the kid who's worried she won't get what she wants or only wanted a pony and refuses to be happy with anything else.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My first dust bunny

When I initially joined the Gainfully Unemployed, I had time to do almost everything I wanted...with fewer auditions and fewer bookings, I self-marketed more and worked more on my manuscripts and submissions. I kept up on TV/renting movies and fit in many social events. Errands were completed efficiently and before I ran out of supplies. I cleaned my condo every week or so because I like everything in its place, not dust or disarray.

But today I found my first dust bunny. Ever. A sizeable, lumpy thing lurking in my entryway. Because in the past month or so, either the Universe opened up to furnish opportunities or all the groundwork I'd been laying finally came to fruition all at once.

This week I've had 5 auditions (3 VO, 1 TV commercial and 1 on camera industrial) and a callback for a TV commercial. The VO auditions I recorded from home, but the others required travel to the city and some prep work to familiarize myself with the copy. I also had 3 VO sessions: one in the burbs, one at a friend's studio, and one at a recording studio.

I have an article due May 1. The manuscript that finaled in the national writing contest needs a teeny bit of tweaking ASAP before I can submit to agents/editors, my non-fiction project just needs a little more revising to be complete. Add hours of chorus and play rehearsals, lines to learn, a few social events...let's just say my TiVo is filling up fast.

Despite prioritizing and working at a fairly frenetic pace, there don't seem to be enough hours in the day these days, even if I'm at my desk by 7 AM. Maybe I need to try Red Bull or those 5 hour energy drinks. Maybe I need to resign myself to the fact that sometimes something's gotta give. Like frequent housecleaning. Though I toss in a load of laundry every now and again and squeezed in a quick trip to the grocery, the vaccuum forlornly awaits as I scurry past on my way to the next event. My cleaning supplies may dessicate from lack of use. Does Windex expire?

I did throw out the dust bunny. Hmm. Maybe they're actually good things, because by accumulating all the dust and stuff into clumps, they save you the trouble of Swiffering. I'm glad to be so busy I don't make time to sweep.

I'll take amazing and fun acting, writing and social opportunities over a spotless household any day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Grasshopper and The Ant

One of my favorite Aesop’s fables is about the grasshopper and the ant. The ant works all summer to have enough food in the winter. The grasshopper plays instead. Starving, he asks the ant for food...but is scoffed at for being lazy.

Working hard now to prepare for the future is even in the Bible, Proverbs 6-8: Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
Many people prefer to be grasshoppers. Out of laziness, hedonism, or lack of knowledge? They work as little as possible while having as much fun as possible, blindly trusting that somehow they’ll have enough money to support themselves when they're old. They may buy things they want but can’t afford and dig themselves deeper into credit card debt. Some do work hard, but spend whatever they earn, perhaps thinking they’ll start saving “someday.”

Given today’s economy, others who are willing to work hard enough to be ants may still find themselves seeming like grasshoppers because they lost their jobs, can’t find a good paying job, the value of their property dropped, etc.

On the other hand, those who are ant-like may work so hard they rarely relax or have much fun...maybe because they don’t know how to, or fear that without their jobs they either wouldn’t know what to do with themselves or would lack personal worth. Or maybe they truly enjoy work more than play.

The question becomes: how much is enough? How do we save for retirement while enjoying life now? Many of us don’t even know the minimum we’ll need. Are we afraid the amount will be too large, seem unattainable? If you search “baby boomers not have enough to retire,” thousands of articles come up...and many say that a significant number don’t even have a retirement plan.

I think knowledge, even if it’s not what you want to hear, is power. If we set goals, we can do our best to prepare.
Yahoo! Finance

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Advice: take it or leave it?

Most of us want or need advice from time to time to help us make decisions, to evaluate pros and cons of various options at our disposal. Whether it’s what to wear to a formal event, which career path to follow, who to date/whether to break up or not, where to live or what to do with any savings, we turn to family, friends, colleagues, significant others and experts. Writers, for example, often turn to critique partners to find plot or character holes and to suggest changes and additions.

Sometimes just having a good brainstorming partner is enough... thanks to a good sounding board we can work out for ourselves what we want or need to do without receiving specific suggestions. Writers frequently gather to talk through plots and premises, goals and conflicts.

But when given conflicting advice, whose should we accept, take with a grain of salt, or ignore? Factors can include history of reliability and trustworthiness, level of respect, expertise on the current topic, the advisor’s stake in the issue at hand (so we can gauge who might intentionally or not endeavor to influence decisions in his or her favor), who has your best interests at heart, and our own gut instincts.

One example is asking for feedback on a manuscript. I try to get more than one opinion because different people see different things. If both mention a problem, I’m more likely to change it. After finishing the synopsis for my latest opus, I sent it to two published authors in the genre (who are also supportive friends), and incorporated their comments. I wouldn’t have written that manuscript in the first place if I hadn’t taken the suggestion of one of those authors. Thanks to their help and encouragement, it finaled in a national writing contest.

My Romance Writers of America® chapter, Chicago-North RWA, offers verbal critiques for members. If 20+ people put a smiley face or a question mark in the same place, you’re going to be more likely to feel satisfied that part is funny or realize it’s confusing. Our process has proven effective enough that many now-published members credit critiquing with helping them sell.

Sometimes an agent or editor offers suggestions for change (and may ask to see the project again if the changes are made). Some authors get offended by this, thinking their “baby” is perfect as is. The majority see a professional’s ideas as an opportunity to improve their work and/or build a relationship with that agent/editor.

It can be a challenge to accept advice, especially if doing so means more work for you. Others want to take the easy way out, and/or ignore good advice or follow bad advice. Others will be misled or lied to, but not want or don't recognize that and believe. How many scams do we hear about in the news?

Only time will tell if our decisions to follow advice or not worked out the way we hoped.