This is about fear and loathing. Not that I have any, of course. Who would ever admit that? That would make me wrong, and don’t we all loathe it when that happens!
Except…I’ve been working on some meditations lately to help get down to the ‘heart of the matter,’ and it all comes to this, my deepest, darkest fear is that I will not be grateful enough, that fear of being unloved will smother my loving spirit, and that because of those fears, I will not succeed in being and giving all I can. I will fail at the only thing that is truly important—Being human.
Weird, right? The funny thing is that I know it’s okay to be afraid. You can’t ever be brave if you’re never afraid. The biggest challenge is to forgive yourself for being afraid and all the bad stuff that creates. It’s perfectly natural to be an emotional beast, it’s just become the norm to not understand what that means. We aren’t our ego, our ego is terrified, all the time, because it relies on everything outside of who we are for validation. That’s like tying strings to every organ and limb in your body and giving total strangers the strings.
Ah, dragons, spitting fire and smelling of sulphur. They don’t live out in the open, they live in caves, inside of us, of course. Do you feel angry? Peel back a layer and you’ll most likely find fear. Do you feel fear? Peel back another layer and you’ll find you are afraid of not being loved, (alone) or death, (non-existence.)
What silliness. I truly believe that we are made of love and energy, that’s our natural state, and it’s the disconnecting from what we really are that brings on all the physical contractions and stress that make us ache emotionally. Then, since we don’t want to feel that, we try to shove that back down into the dark, back to the caves, and then… it seethes until we can feel the dragon’s breath licking at our very core. What do we do when that happens?
Blame everyone else of course.
But, really, whose fault is that? Well, our own, obviously. If we aren’t self-referring we are nothing but targets for every stranger on the street or social media. Someone approves of you? You feel good. Someone disagrees with you, you feel miserable and unworthy, often lashing out to try to defend the non-defendable.
And why is it indefensible? Because it isn’t who you are. It’s only someone else’s opinion, and that always says more about them than you. But what are you ‘saying’ about yourself? We’ve been so brainwashed by religion and consumerism in this country that we now base our worth on what we own, whom we feel superior to, and what other people tell us to think.
Silliness personified! So today I stand here proudly to declare, I am afraid! (sometimes) I am unlovable! (well, that’s what my mom’s disapproval taught me at a very young age, not her fault.) I am ungrateful! (I forget to be happy and count my blessings, get stressed about stupid things.)
Isn’t that wonderful? To know these things, to embrace them, is to understand that most, no all, of my reactions are based on conditioning that is as old as I am. And that’s getting up toward six decades. The only way to stop that chain reaction is to accept it, embrace it, and fundamentally rethink and re-feel that energy.
Look that dragon in the eye and shake paws with it.
It’s all about learning.
The other day someone told me on facebook not to get my feelings hurt by people who were being viciously insulting (lashing out in fear) instead of presenting any valid point in a discussion. I wasn’t insulted, because those people’s opinions are about themselves, not me. That’s almost always true, I’ve found. Someone says I’m jealous of them and guess what? Since I know nothing about them, I assume that there’s more than a little transference going on there.
So will you wait until everyone ‘likes’ you or ‘agrees’ with you before you are happy and at peace? Take a number and bring snacks, because eternity is a long time to spend in a waiting room. Seriously, it’s worse than the dentist.
Everyone sees things differently, we all see others and their actions through filters. And we all have dragons. As I see it, my only good choice is to saddle that puppy up and go for the ride of my life!
Meanwhile, the days are speeding past, people need to be loved, encouraged, supported, or sometimes just calmed down a notch. (Once again, not me of course, I’m always calm and I never go off. No I do not, stop saying that! You just don’t understand me. I hate you, you’re so mean to me, it’s all your fault. Poor me, no one loves me…) Uh…sorry, got caught in the spin cycle again and had to remind myself to breathe. And yes, a few flames did flicker out of my nostrils.
Imagine a day where we all smiled at each other and tried to be helpful in some small way.
Would you feel safer? Happier?
Would you like other people better?
Would you like yourself better?
Then get started. Meet your dragon, and bring a lasso.
You are absolutely alone. No one will ever understand you completely. Muhahahahaha. (that’s my evil laugh.)
And that’s just fine.
Because…you are also a part of everything, every molecule in the universe, every other living and non-living thing is made of the same stuff. The next time you feel superior for being human, bear in mind that you and dog poop are, in their basic makeup, the same thing. You have the same ingredients as a magnificent sunset, a nova, a star, a virus, and a slug. All of it is energy, moving spinning atoms, that constantly flow and change. Every time you take a breath, you inhale air that has been produced by trees and circulated through the lungs of the rest of humanity. I once read that the average glass of water has already passed through a human body seven times. Unappetising as that may be, it should remind you that we are all giving and taking every second of our lives, and even in our deaths. Nothing comes from nothing, and no energy ever dies, it’s just redistributed. Sorry royalty, elitists and republicans, life and energy are socialists, it’s our natural state.
Usually I write about how we are all connected, but today I want to talk about being different, unique, and separate, because well, I’m funny that way.
Just as no one person in the world is an entity unto themselves, no two people on earth agree on everything. In fact, we don’t even perceive concepts and ideas in the same way.
Perception of a concept as you absorb it into your brain is like light through a kaleidoscope, color and thought bouncing off of thousands of angles, each of those prisms created by every experience we’ve ever had. Every single person interprets a movie, book, issue, even people, differently. Every time two people read the same book, they write their own, unique version of it. Reading a book is as creative an endeavour as writing it. And no! I am not sharing my royalties! Love you.
Basically, we’re drawing our own cartoon and some are wackier than others. Mine has lots of little blue birds and singing flowers, faeries too, but it hasn’t always been that way. I used to also hear scary music and see danger in the wooly woods. Then I decided I didn’t want to watch that cartoon any more. I wanted to live my life to the happy flute music.
The science behind making that change is miraculous.
Think of it like this. Look at a tree, now close your eyes. Can you see the tree? The answer is yes, but the fact is no. What’s happening is a series of electro-chemical reactions in your brain that aren’t visual at all, but they are recalling that image. The best example I can think of for this is when you and a partner both vehemently remember the same conversation, would swear on your life that you said one thing and he or she said another, and they are equally prepared to die for the cause. It’s a duel to the death, ten paces, turn and fire! Oops, now you’re both dead. That was fun! Maybe we should have decided to go for a coffee and a laugh instead. Just a thought.
Because the irony is that both perceptions are right. Because each person understood the situation, heard the words, and experienced the emotions about it from different point of views.
Now, when an author describes a tree in a book you are reading. Guess what? You see that tree as best you can, based on your personal, individual, and completely unique idea of what any given tree might look like. A kid who lives in a concrete bound urban area might think trees look like something from Dr. Seuss, a logger might immediately think of a pine or a redwood, an islander would immediately picture a palm tree. Is it becoming clear? That’s okay, it never really is.
So why do we get so upset when someone else doesn’t understand us, or sees any issue differently than we do?
A rancorous political campaign truly brings this uniquely human trait to the forefront. Your ‘opinion’ on any candidate or topic is based your filters created by through your specific mindset. Here are a few of those filters.
1, Every piece of information and explanation that’s been rammed into your head since birth. Parents, teachers, books, movies, etc. Some influences will be subtle, say, Mom making a face when someone uses food stamps. And some will be as harsh as a jackhammer breaking concrete, i.e. everyone you know believing in a church and the men who run it telling you there is only one God and one truth and if you don’t embrace that truth you will burn in hell, and funny—these men always know exactly what the truth is! What an amazing coincidence that their ‘truth’ is what someone hammered into their head when they were young. No wonder Jesus called people his ‘flock.’ When it comes to opinions and judging right and wrong, we are sheep, following that lead ram with the bell straight home to the barn, or to the slaughter house.
2, Every criticism or disapproval you have received for voicing any given opinion in any impressionable point of your life, (i.e. all of it) Peer pressure and the people you find yourself surrounded by in school, work, and relationships, basically, anyone whose approval you need or rely on for your self-image. Try telling your fifth grade teacher that it’s rude to do the limp wrist gesture when showing your class a picture of a famous male dancer. The kids threw crabapples at me all day. And, by the way, I met that dancer later, he was anything but gay, with a bevy of legendary, beautiful women lined up in his romantic past. Take that you beehive-headed bitch!
3, Whatever news outlet or information you take in, every conversation you hear. What sources of information do you pursue? Comic books or Time magazine? Fake news shows or the internet? These things shape you, they imprint in your brain and affect you physically as well as emotionally. You probably notice now that if you listen to someone giving an opinion different from yours, your heart speeds up, and you get hot, you don’t want to listen to them! Idiots! Fools! Stupid! It is very difficult to say, ‘Oh, that’s a different way of looking at it,” and not take it in emotionally.
4,How strongly you attach yourself to the emotional need to be ‘right.’ This is ego, and ego is not who you are, it’s what your brain tells you is important and is always external. It is entirely based on how you think others will view you, and as we’re discussing here, you will never know exactly how or what others think. So why do we waste our precious love and time trying to make others see it through our very narrow binoculars?
Ego is the one problem I’ve found we pretty much all need to work on these days. I grew up in the south with republican parents, went to all white schools, and lived in a rarefied world of steadily increasing wealth and privilege, so it was not to surprising that, even though it felt fundamentally wrong to me, I was trained to be anti-immigrent, conditioned to feel deeply wronged that the government took taxes out of my hard earned money and handed it over to those lazy bastards.
Then I moved to LA. There’s a lot in between there, but let’s jump forward. I came to LA with no preconceived prejudices against hispanics for the simple reason that when I was growing up, there wasn’t any hispanic community of note in my suburban Atlanta world. Very quickly, the establishment and general news sources in Southern California had me believing that Mexicans were all violent gang members or welfare users who had dozens of children and fed off ‘the system.’ As a result, I watched youths in white t-shirts with suspicion, resented children going to ‘our’ schools, (how insane is that?) and judged people I knew nothing about.
I didn’t know any Mexican-Americans.
And then I met some and began to see that I was missing as much as a blind person wearing mittens and ear plugs. I remember one day specifically that I found myself standing in the deep end of my own ignorance and sad limitations and realising that I would drown in the bullshit that had been heaped on me. I knew in an instant that I had been paralysed, robbed of my ability to think for myself, to listen to my heart. I was shooting a commercial in a rented house. Verizon, I think it was. And the owners were a lovely young hispanic couple with two beautiful children 5 and 7. I was talking with them, not even thinking about my prejudices, (because when we are prejudice, we don’t know it and certainly won’t admit it) and I asked if they had other kids. The dad said, “Well, you know us Mexicans!” then he laughed, and said, “No, two is all we are having, we’re done.”
My face went hot and red. I was so ashamed to realise that I had this preconceived notion of an entire race of people based on propaganda from my political party and, let’s be honest, rich white people who had made up most of my world.
So I made a concerted effort to make friends with people who were ‘different’ than me. People who were different colors, nationalities, religions, and especially those with different incomes. I believe that money divides us more than anything. I invited hispanics and asians, and minimum wage workers, and every kind of American to my house, my kids played with their kids. This caused my ex a good deal of stress, as he prefered to invest his time in people who had fame or money, or could do something for him, which was one of many red flags. Eventually I left him, because as I eagerly moved to embrace people of quality, he pursued people who had things. Hanging with only the ‘haves’ is just too small a world for me. And so, I left his influence behind as well.
Becoming friends with people who were ‘different’ changed my life. The next leap was working with a charity that helped people who had lost limbs and vision, or might be emaciated by devastating treatments and illnesses. That brought me to another light speed jump in basic comprehension. I stopped feeling sorry for people, because nobody wants your pity!! Every single person is getting through life the best they can, we all have pain, we all have suffering, it just comes in different forms. I used to feel pangs of pain for someone with a limp or a speech impediment, now I admire the hell out of them. I love that their walk is unique, that their voice is the sound of a new instrument. It makes me proud that we humans are so varied.
And last, (last so far, there’s always more,) I gave up organised religion. I believe in an awesome, unifying creative energy, I believe that we are all connected, I believe that if I do bad to someone or something, I do it to myself, because we are all one. How hard is that? What, in God’s name, (snort, get it?) makes me think that I know the truth and everyone else is wrong. Why do I even need to feel that way? The answer, of course, is that we’ve lost our way and we need our group of bullies around us to confirm our anger and our fear and make us feel artificially safe in numbers. It’s great to get with other people for the sake of community and helping improve our world, but it sucks when it’s all about separating us into us and them. That is a lie.
Stop being one of the numbers. You are unique, alone, and part of everything.
I mean, I’m probably wrong about most of this, I look forward to changing my mind…again. Cause baby, I’ve done it many times, and I get happier with every step forward.
Get out there and love. Happiness is who you really are.
And so…I find myself beginning a new book, which leads me to the question, “Where does inspiration come from?”
The truth is I don’t know. I don’t know who the characters will be, what they will say or do. I don’t know the plot yet, I don’t know if the message I want to get across is worth a plug nickel. Hell, I don’t even know what a plug nickel is.
Which means that the simple answer is— The best place to find inspiration is to start with what I don’t know.
Powerful words. “I don’t know.” That simple phrase means that the world is open, that you are ready and eager to learn. It means that you have questions and curiosity, that you are still open to be filled with wonder, to be surprised, delighted, to not judge, to wait and see.
To take a leap.
If you already know everything, or pretend to, you can learn nothing.
In truth, those words, “I don’t know,” have been a game changer for me. Earlier in life it seemed so important to know everything, to be right, to be knowledgable, to appear wise. Which meant, I wasn’t. “I don’t know” set me free.
I know of one author who titles every new work, “Shitty first draft.” This gives her license to just get it all down, then she can go back and make it an ‘acceptable first draft’ and finally, ‘a really good first draft.’ After that, well, as we writers know, the editors will have at it.
I don’t label my drafts, I’m still too timid to put the word ‘shitty’ at the top from fear it might seep down into my work. Silly, I know, but there it is. Words mean something, they have power, so when I start listing ideas for a new novel, I put them in a file titled, “The Best Book Ever.” A girl can dream.
I learned so much from the acting process about improving, enriching and ‘fleshing out’ characters that I don’t fear my first tentative, feeble efforts will not improve. As I learn a part, let’s say, Viola in Twelfth Night, I begin to understand what the words that were written by the great bard really mean, to me anyway. As I go through the rehearsal process, I absorb the emotions and feelings of the other actors and as their characters come to life, they inform mine. My homework and history inform me, the stage informs me, the words themselves inform me, and mostly, the emotion takes hold.
It’s the same with writing. Though in this case, it is the emotions that are finding the words and story to express themselves. Either way, I must leap, dare, jump and throw myself into the ether, from which all things come. And I trust that, while I might hit the ground really hard and roll, I’ll probably land safely, in a new place, unknown to me before now, and if it’s a good place, a place worth visiting, I will share it with others.
This is like life, whenever I think I need to change or try to understand someone and their (to me) bad behavior, I have to remind myself that I haven’t lived their childhood, I haven’t woken up from their nightmares, I haven’t listened to whatever abuse was heaped upon them, ergo…I cannot, ever, understand them. All I can do is honor their journey, understand that their limitations are not the same as mine.
We all want to connect, to be understood. It’s why most of us write, or act, or play music. We want to connect, to be heard and understood. But in truth, we don’t. We relate, we appreciate, we sympathize, but we do not ever fully understand. Our adventure belongs to us, it is unique, and so is theirs.
And that’s okay. It’s better than okay, it’s brilliant. It’s what makes us unique and more than that, it’s what makes us need each other. Our journeys and our paths are different, but our need for other humans binds us all.
We are alike, but we are not the same.
Isn’t that wonderful? It feels like it to me, but then I don’t know how you feel about it.
This image of me is a work of art featuring makeup by an incredible artist named Devan Weitzman. I realized when I looked at this picture, how my priorities have changed over the last trio of decades, and all I have to say is…what a relief!
I spent my teen years as a competitive ice skater, so I understood that hard work, and artistic ability were things that fulfilled me, that moved and motivated me. But then the day came when modeling, and then commercials, became my bread and butter, my entire value was suddenly based on how I looked, not necessarily by me, but by the people with whom I worked. In that business, it was a somewhat understandable—if horrible—place to have your self-worth centered. I remember how important it was to always look ‘sexy’ and ‘attractive.’ I was proud to be the one on the cover of the magazines, on the billboard, or the one who turned heads when I walked through a restaurant. I was proud, because it’s all I had to be proud of then. Without realizing it, I became more and more discontent, distressed, and unfulfilled. But, of course, since I had what others wanted, I was not allowed to express any unhappiness. I didn’t even understand that I was unhappy, and certainly not why.
And then I went on a remarkable photo shoot.
There was a model in Atlanta, I cannot remember her name! because she was a few years ahead of me. When I was starting out, she was winding down. I’d heard about her, and seen her picture everywhere, but we had never worked together. Then one day we were booked to do a swimwear ad featuring us on a bicycle built for two. We shot together, and then each had a turn alone. I was so interested, (and yes, invidiously so) to see why everyone thought she was so great. I was ‘a model with a brain’ so I was well known for using the area, theme, space, movement, and being creative, but I always, of course, focused on looking ‘good.’ So I took my turn and then she was up. I stood in the dark behind the photographer to watch and learn, like the Chinese stealing trade secrets.
She did a few shots of standard smiling or pouting poses and then she did something that shocked me. She pretended to have slipped and hit her crotch on the cross bar, and she did this ugly, ugly, pained face.
And it was fabulous!! In that silly moment, I realized that there was so much more to being a contributing talent than just looking ‘good.’ It was clear to me that because she was less inhibited, she was just plain better at it than me!
Now, no one’s ever accused me of being inhibited, mind you, that was just a step up to being able to see the value of being a character, instead of a face/body. A realization, in fact, that ‘unattractive’ could be brilliant!! That producing something from the inside out was far more rewarding. And—here’s the secret—It’s much more fun!!! When I came to LA, I deliberately worked on characters in class like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, or one of the witches from Macbeth. And it was really terrifying for me, as it would be for so many women and girls who equate ‘ugly’ with bad. We who were told when we raised our voices, or argued with authority, that we were ‘acting ugly.’ And God forbid we were deemed unattractive by a society that worships beauty.
Taking my ‘ugly’ characters out in public showed me how differently people treated me, though i was the same person inside, and that inspired me to write “Invisible Ellen.”
Thankfully, things are changing, women are increasingly being valued for who they are and what they do, but we have a long way to go. And girls, you all need to get on board! Don’t let men make you compete with yourself or others, and instead of tearing other women down, build them up!! Root for them, cheer for them, chant their name as they go in on the same audition as you are! After all, we’re all on the same team, and isn’t it great to celebrate a thousand victories than to hoard a few of your own and resent everyone else’s?
Theater and acting helped me change my center of self-worth. I was desperate for substance and creativity as opposed to surface appearance. I learned to work in a company, a group, be a part of a whole, and be proud of my talent and hard work instead of my blonde hair and athletic body. I got my worth back.
And now, full circle. In “Scream at the Devil” I play a schizophrenic who is anything but concerned about her looks. She recedes into madness until she’s terrified by every sound and flash of light, and that is what’s important.
“Scream at the Devil” opens Oct 24th at the North Hollywood Laemmle, and plays through Halloween. If you want to check out the theatre page and watch the trailer to see just how far down I can get, here you go— http://www.laemmle.com/films/38650
This character and her pain aren’t pretty, and that’s why I’m so proud of it.
Did you know you have pathways in your brain? Learned reactions to physical and mental stimuli? Isn’t that fascinating?
Here’s how it works. When your senses perceive something, (and perceive is the operative word, as we all perceive things differently) Certain chemical and electrical responses trigger in you brain and receptors open up, creating a kind of path that becomes the path most traveled. These receptors create different physical results, fear, tension in the neck, nausea, well-being, whatever it may be. We learn these responses, in fact, we memorize them, and if we don’t alter them, we loose the ability to take the path less traveled.
Now, I’ve reduced this to a ridiculously simplified version of the science, but being neither a physicist nor a neurosurgeon, I have to use the cliff notes, as it were. And here’s where it gets interesting for writers, actors, and well…humans.
For both writers and actors, these reactions to stimuli are what we would call ‘character traits.’ As an actor, you can use this to develop a much more rounded character to fill out your role. As a writer, you can actually explain, or intimate how past reactions control your character now.
For a human, to change those patterns we have to un-program and retrain ourselves. And this is difficult, we’re dealing with long term chemical and behavioral training. Pavlov’s emotions, let’s call them. In the case of the famous doctor, he would ring a bell, and the dog salivates. In someone who was abused as a child, the sound of people shouting may trigger an intense panic that has nothing to do with the actual situation at hand.
Our triggers are many, but every once in a while, we hit one that rests at our core. For me, the idea that I never can do enough, be good enough, that I should have to take care of everyone and everything that comes up, and if I don’t, I’m not good enough, that I’ve failed, is a biggie. Of course, it’s impossible, I’ve set the stakes too high to ever win at that one, so that particular ‘bell’ is no longer useful to me. This response is too ingrained to fix with conscious reasoning, knowing I have this issue doesn’t stop the reaction. I’m a puppet and the strings are tight.
So I went to someone who could help. I worked with a woman who does a procedure called ‘tapping.’ She is a therapist, and versions of this therapy are used to help soldiers with PTSD and people with childhood traumas. We talk about what the frustration or feeling is, identify where it is in my body, name it, and then she proceeds to talk about it, by having me repeat and reaffirm a different thought process while ‘tapping’ at different random spots on my face, hands and arms. The tapping interrupts the programmed response, allowing new pathways to open.
It was amazing. And I think it helped me quite a bit. But the point of this blog is to talk about those pathways and how they define characters, just as they define us as people. Isn’t that what we want from our performance or our fictional characters? I know I want them to ring as true as possible, and to be distinct from each other.
Let’s take some examples. Let’s say I’m playing a character who has a certain phobia, say, fear of dogs. Now, something, at some time, triggered and trained this character to behave that way. So, when I create my history of the character, (and this is acting homework, it has nothing to do with what is written in the script) I would include one or more experiences where I was bitten or other wise frightened by canines, and my body learned the response of breaking into a sweat and tensing for battle every time I hear a dog bark.
Or…let’s say….I’m writing a character in a book who is loving and motherly. I create a history for her where she grew up around lots of siblings and extended family and there was constant laughter and noise. This woman would sit at a restaurant and hear children bickering at the next table and it would create a real warmth in her chest because her conditioned response to the sound is happiness and safety.
Those are simple examples, but do you see how this kind of thing is influencing your life? How can you use mental triggers to round out your characters? Try an exercise where you have two people meet, and they both have very different reactions to something that happens to them. If you stick with the ‘why’ they behave this way, you will find that they are distinct from each other, and it will open new avenues of how they understand, misinterpret, or relate with each other.
This process will also help you deal with difficult people in your life. On of the hardest things to do is to not take it personally when other people treat you badly. But it isn’t about you, it’s about them.
When people can sense the restrictions that their emotional past puts on them, they can sometimes, through exploring it deeply and feeling it fully, change it. This is called an epiphany, and it is one of the peaks of a character driven story. And that is a very useful tool. But stay aware, it’s not going to happen just because someone else tells them they are wrong. Oh no. People will die rather than be wrong, so they will fight to justify and prove they are right, even if it means continuing to be deeply unhappy. People have to come to life-changing revelations on their own, from inside.
So for today, be quiet for a moment and feel what’s going on inside, then ask yourself what that is, the first answer will not be the one, keep asking, and you’ll find it. Then notice how that reaction, physical sensation responds to different situations as you go about your day.
Fascinating stuff. I love acting and writing, but mostly I love being human and connecting with others. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all understood the strings that bind and control us, because only then can we cut them and braid a stronger connection with ourselves and others.
If you stick with this, not only will your characters fill out, but you will begin the process of understanding that greatest paradigm in your life. You—and all that has gone into making you unique.
But not for me, of course. I’m too addicted to my torn jeans and flannel shirts, it’s like wearing my bedclothes for work. I need a new look for my first book which will be re-released in, hopefully, three or four weeks. So, here’s the deal. If anyone wants to take a shot at designing a cover that I can actually use, I will give a prize of $200 to the one I choose!! For all you fabulous, budding designers out there, your next four tanks of gas could be on me! More if you’re smart enough to own a hybrid.
First, read the opening chapter of “Loaded” on my website. I will make sure it’s up and posted on my website by tomorrow, or the next day at the latest. Second, take a look at the original cover above. Third, bear in mind that this will be primarily for an ebook, so it has to be readable in a thumbnail. Fourth, make a latte and be creative!! Fifth, send a mock up to me in a email through my website, sharishattuck.com. Anyone who sends an entry will receive all three Callaway Wilde ebooks as soon as I get them up and figure out how to do that!
Most of you authors will know that the publisher gets total say-so on your covers, you have very little to do with it. Oh sure, they ask your opinion, and then completely disregard it. This is a first for me, picking the design I would like. My first two books’ covers were so-so. I loved my third cover for, “The Man She Thought She Knew,” and then both of the Greer Sands series designs I thought were much more striking. “Eye of the Beholder” and “Speak of the Devil.”
This is the movie poster, box cover for a film I did.
It’s funny, after years of modeling and then acting, seeing my image in magazines, on billboards, and movie posters, seems somehow less personal than my book cover. I suppose that’s because beneath that cover is my vision, my work. An add for lipstick or a magazine cover, is the photographer-designers-art director’s vision. I was just a prop. And of course, for movies and TV, it’s another character I’m selling. For example, this week we are shooting the new poster art for “Scream at the Devil” the film my husband and I are producing next year. It won’t be a beauty shot, and that’s cool. I will be portraying a very disturbed, possibly possessed, woman and that’s what we want to show. It’s the character that must come through. Fun, but not really ‘me’ if you know what I mean.
The book is different. I want the sense of the writing, the pace, and the danger to come through.
So get ready, get set, go for it!! I hope a few of you will take me up on this, I love to share the love and offer opportunities when I can. Writing might be a solitary endeavor, but I’m learning that promoting and designing can be a fun chance for collaboration.
So think, wealth, power, mystery, passion, and yes, guns maybe. This book is ‘Loaded,’ in several ways. Loaded gun, loaded with money, loaded with sexual tension and danger.
So good luck, happy designing, and I’m excited to see your art wrapped around mine!!
Does this photo make you feel something? That’s me on a hike in Sequoia, and I remember the feeling of standing there, above the clouds, with the cold wind on my face and all the world stretched before me. It gives me a thrill of joy and hugeness to see this, to remember that moment.
There is a style of acting known as Grotowski. Now, it’s a whole complex system of digging and following your natural feelings and I’m not going to go into all of it, but I will share with you budding actors and writers out there what I took from my study of it. What worked, and still works, for me, on the stage, and on the page.
Here’s how I first discovered it. I was working with an actor who was playing a Mob boss. The director wasn’t happy with the way he was entering the room for the scene. He told him, “More arrogant!”
Now, that’s all very good and well as a direction, but it isn’t the kind of thing you can emotionally play. Yet, the actor thought for a moment, left the stage and entered again. This time, his entire body language was transformed, his head was higher, a secret smile played on his lips and he stood with utter confidence.
I was stunned at how fast he’d made the change. The director said, “Wow, okay, what did you just do?”
“Oh,” the actor replied, “I just imagined a warm tropical breeze blowing on my face.”
Wow is right. Think about it. Take a moment to imagine the sensation of a balmy breeze lifting the hair around your face and caressing your body, relaxing your muscles with it’s perfect temperature and see how it changes your body language and stance. That’s the day I started using exterior sensations to create attitudes and emotions.
Cut to a moment in a film when I’m doing my sixteenth take and I’m waiting just inside a door knowing that any second, someone will come through it and kill me. Mind you, no one will in this take, they’ll shoot that later, so I have to create the moment. As the camera rolls, I imagine a large hairy spider at the base of my spine. I can feel all eight of its tiny claws clasping my skin. As the director calls ‘action,’ I imagine it beginning to move, crawling, slowly at first, up my spine. Then as the moment comes when I ‘react’ to the door flying open, a moment that will be shot later, I imagine the spider scuttles up to the base of my neck and sinks in its fangs. I shudder, scream, and pretty much lose it.
Pretty good substitute right? I mean, if you give it a moment, you will physically feel something that you are imagining fully. For actors, we keep the interior dialogue silent, and show the emotion.
For writers, it’s the opposite. We show the emotion by writing the interior dialogue. “She sat, petrified, as though at the base of her spine, a black widow was testing it’s fangs over her tender skin.”
Or some such. See? works both ways.
The best acting, of course, is a combination of so many things. I have a friend who was one of only two in his entire class graduating with a masters in acting. During the final exam/performance for the professors, the other actor broke down and started to sob. “I can’t do this.”
The professors invited him to sit down and asked what was going on. He said, “I can’t do it. I’m supposed to be connected with my eyes, ears and body, I’m supposed to be ‘in my spine.’ I’m trying to remember my history, my choices, my sensory work, and the character’s intentions. Not to mention the vocal placement, dialect, etc. I just can’t do it all at the same time.”
Out of the dark theatre came a voice. “You’re not supposed to do all of that at once. No one could. The point is to have done the work, have those techniques available, and then let go and let it all come through.”
The actor raised his tear stained face to the silhouettes in the dark and said, “Oh.”
Fortunately for my friend, the other guy had gone first. So he was spared making the same mistake.
We try all of these methods, some things work for us, some things don’t. We all ‘connect’ differently. Some in our eyes, some in our ears, some in our bodies. I’m more physical. It suits me. Think of an aggressive person who gets in your face. You might cross your arms or take a step backwards, that’s being connected in your body, almost anyone would tense up. An actor who thinks it’s tough to not react at all, is not connected physically. We’ll do more on this next time.
The point is, learn it, try it, use what works. Don’t be afraid to go there, and don’t be afraid to throw it out. Writers, did you already make that point? Do you really need to do it with four more metaphors? Cut it!!
That’s what my first editor, a fabulous woman named Amy Peirpont would have called, “Too purple.” I learned a lot from her.
So keep all the feeling, make big choices, and don’t be too purple, maybe a shade of soft lavender would be best for this book-character-role.
But no matter what, feel the wind on your face, and smile.