Tag Archives: young adult

Lesson #347: Make yourself (not) at home.

7/2/15.

Today I had the opportunity to make the easy decision, so I didn’t.

I had to ask someone something very important that involved spending part of the day alongside them,

so I figured I’d practice being brave.

Pick the person that makes me feel the most comfortable?

Or pick the person who’s kind of scary, not as welcoming, and hard to read?

I picked the latter.

And it actually turned out great.

We didn’t become “best pals” and not too much changed,

but it forced to me step it up, put on my confident guise even though I felt anything but, and learn how to be myself—even when I felt awkward and out of place.

Even if it hadn’t turned out the best—I’m pretty sure I would have been happy I made myself do it regardless.

That’s what happens you leap.

You’re just glad you did it.

So what I learned from that tiny deciding moment, and the moments of fear that followed?

Get uncozy.

While cuddling up in a ball on the couch seems pretty much appealing all of the time—

get out from under the covers every once in a while.

It’s good to be comfortable.

But remember, too much of anything is never good.

And cabin fever is no fun.

The best part is,

whatever you choose to conquer will be another lesson in itself.

You know what they say—

why don’t you get out of the house every once in a while?

The fresh air might be good for you.

And a little breeze always feels good.

Day 347.

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Lesson #346: Getting clear.

7/1/15.

I can’t quite explain what was happening in my brain as Amy was talking yesterday, but somewhere in the midst of it, something clicked for me. And today only confirmed it further.

Like Amy, early on in my life I fell in love with the way movies made me feel; how all these elements could come together and move a group people—even change people. Before I lost all my baby teeth or knew how to write cursive, I already was putting on shows with my Barbie dolls on my bedroom floor. By the time I was 10, I had a notebook full of novel ideas and chapters, pieces of movie and television scripts, and short plays. I wrote and devoloped a television series about a group of pre-teens living on the beach before I even had boobs. I remember asking my mom and dad to use the family computer to type all of these scripts and chapters, printing out pages and pages of stories and sticking them in Lisa Frank folders (that I still have… it’s hilarious). Kids were asking for Polly Pockets and Easy Bake ovens, and I was the kid asking for a typewriter.

My friends would come over after middle school, and we would re-enact scenes from Hannah Montana in the living room for our parents. On a shitty flip-cam that I got for Christmas one year, my neighbors and I would record ourselves singing songs we wrote in spiral notebooks that were falling apart from being written in so much. We even took turns strumming my small green guitar that we had absolutely no idea how to actually play. 

When I picked up a much better (but still shitty) camera at the age of 12 and made my first semi-real video with a friend, we decided to post it on YouTube for fun. I later found a video editing software that came with my laptop, and started experimenting with more videos. That’s when it really began.

I started making and filming my own original skits—then music videos—then movie scene re-makes—then my own short films. I gained a YouTube following and started building relationships with people in the online community who loved doing the same thing. My interest in being in front of the camera began to grow as well. During my first year of middle school in sixth grade, my mom encouraged me to try out for the school play. I won best actress for my role as the school nerd that year, and tried out and acted in the plays every year after that. I continued to do theatre all throughout high school, making friends and falling in love with the costumes and characters and stories; both performing and directing. I took what I knew from the stage, and let it inspire me to do some of the same things on camera—and I loved it.

In one of my first production classes in college, it hit me: I was developing and writing treatments before I knew what they were, and shooting low angles and high angles and rack focusing before I even knew they had names. I was a writer, producer, and sometimes actor, and I didn’t even know it. I was just doing what I loved.

As I got older, I realized it wasn’t just the act of movie-making that I loved.

It was storytelling.

As you can see—I used the word “love” at least four or five times while explaining my story.

And if that doesn’t say something, I don’t know what else does.

When Amy told us yesterday to get clear on what we want by tuning in to what we love instinctively—it only solidified the answer for me.

Storytelling runs through my veins; it’s constantly on my mind and in my heart.

But I’m still pretty confused.

I mean—I’m 20.

Storytelling is a very broad term. I like a lot of things—so many things that I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet. I don’t know where to start. I want to act. I want to talk and discuss. I want to write. I want to develop. I want to produce. I want to direct.

At my internship this summer, I love being there. I like what I’m doing and how much I’m learning. I’m working hard.

But in the midst of Amy talking, I realized something right then and there.

There are two different kinds of hard work. There’s the kind of work where you try hard because you want to appear good, be good, or look good.

And then there’s the kind of work where you’re working hard and you don’t even realize it. Where you stay up all night (like right now on the living room floor writing this) to perfect something, or understand something, or finish something. Where you work hard because you want to discover, or find, or build, or be better; because you want to make something the best that it can be.

You’re working hard for yourself.

And I realized the second is the one we’re supposed to chase after.

I found that where I worked my hardest, is creatively.

Using my brain to create. To problem solve with my eyes, heart, and mind. To figure out where something should be placed, or what to capture, or how something can be told. To strategize how it can be marketed and advertised and sold. To execute visions, and write ideas. To bring something inspiring to the world. And it’s what what feels right to me.

I don’t know where I’m going yet.

But I do know that feeling is what I’m going to follow.

Day 346.

Lesson #326: You’re never “just” anything.

6/11/15.

Today at my internship, I went on my first two shoots: an interview and a red carpet event. I’m not allowed to mention specifics thanks to “the man,” but I’ll say what I can. Here’s how it went.

I had an absolutely incredible time. It was so awesome being in an environment that had such high energy and excitement, but was so relaxed at the same time. It felt like home. There was a lot of waiting and then running and then waiting. I loved watching everything and everyone get set up, observing people doing their job, being a peasant in the presence of greatness, and just experiencing how everything runs before and after a shoot. It’s amazing, and even more of a complex, down-packed science than I originally thought.

End dreamy rant.

As we were about to enter the back room to set up for the interview, the friendly lady who runs (the place that shall not be named) passed me. We had talked earlier, so I smiled at her and said hello again.

“You keeping busy?” I asked.

She laughed. “Always! You go on yet?”

“Not yet, soon though,” I said.

Then she said something along the lines of: “It must be great to be on-screen talent!”

If I could turn red—I would have. I laughed instead.

“No no no, I’m not the on-screen talent!” I pointed to the host from E! News. “That’s her. I’m just the intern!”

Then the most embarrassing thing happened.

Is there a name for second hand embarrassment from someone else, but towards you?

Well.

This woman SCREAMS,

(I’m not exaggerating)

“—JUST AN INTERN? JUST AN INTERN?!?!”

I get quiet. I have no idea where this is going, and the producer, the cameramen, and the host are all standing right behind me. She’s screaming (loudly but lovingly) about me being “just” an intern—which were my words—but totally and completely not in the way that she’s repeat-screaming them in this low-key, dimlight place.

“YOU’RE NEVER JUST AN INTERN!”

…not that i doubted it. I know I make a contribution, and I like to make a contribution. But I also know my place, and I diddddn’t exactly need this lady screaming it to make it look like I didn’t.

She proceeds to yell—

“YOU’RE NEVER JUST ANYTHING!”

And this was the moment I knew my lesson of the day.

Even though I much rather would have learned this lesson a little bit more quietly and maybe, like, not right in front of four very important people, she makes a point.

In case you didn’t already know it,

you’re never just anything.

You are important to this world, and someone needs you in some way, shape, or form.

Whatever puzzle you’re apart of—it’s not complete without you.

Whether it’s work, your family, your school, or your friends.

The world needs you.

So today, know this.

You’re never just.

You’re you.

You are.

Day 326.

Lesson #324: Take us to church, Madam Hall.

6/9/15.

Some days you learn too many good lessons to just write one.

For instance:

Today.

Barbara Hall, the creator, writer, and executive producer of my all-time favorite CBS show, Madam Secretary, took us to church because she was PREACHING. If you aren’t familiar with the show (WHAT), then you may know her as the creative mind behind shows like Joan of Arcadia and Judging Amy.

After working on a month-long project last semester that involved writing an episode for her show (http://www.jmu.edu/news/2015/05/04-your-script-madam-secretary.shtml), I absolutey geeked when I found out she was coming to speak to our class in LA. Hearing her talk about her life and her career was everything I hoped it would be and more.

She’s intelligent, ingenious, driven, and nice.

Needless to say, she’s kind of my hero.

And when you read the rest of this, you’ll understand why.

Put your professional pants on, and listen up. Although most of this was originally about the entertainment industry, I’ll put it in a way that anyone in any field can appreciate and learn from. I hope that you’ll be inspired by Mrs. Hall as much as I was. Today’s lesson is long, but it’s worth it—I promise.

1. Your first job with anything you do is to actually do it, and finish it.

If you build things? Build something. If you create things? Create it. If you make things? Make them. It doesn’t mean it’ll always be good. Like Pheof Sutton said, it won’t. But the point is to finish what you started so that you have something to show for it; so that you have something to build upon and improve upon and learn from.

2. “I realized I had to actually write something to be a writer.”

It only makes sense, right? A lot like what Seth Kingsley told me right before I landed my summer internship at E! News—if you want to be something, BE IT. Stop waiting for experience to find you. Create experience for yourself. If you want to be a mechanic, start changing tires. If you want to have your own show, make online videos. If you want to be a business person, start your own business. When you create experience for yourself, experience will begin to find you.

3. Delegate.

God, do I struggle with this—but this is a lesson we all have to learn. Especially when you begin to take on a lot in your life and your career. As a showrunner who’s in charge of the creative direction of her show, Barbara says to hire people you trust and let them do their job. I love what Barbara said about this: “Be happy someone can (write) as well you can, don’t be threatened by it.”

4. To work with others, you have to understand others.

Most conflict arises when people who work together have no idea what the other does. For example: A writer should know what a director does and a director should know what a writer does. Study up. You don’t want to step on toes. And when you do have a suggestion or an idea, propose it as a question, not a command.

5. The scariest thing you’ll ever have to do?

Own your mistakes.

6. The second scariest thing you’ll ever have to do?

Be fearless. Barbara told us, “I learned going the extra mile in writing means being fearless. It’s so much better to dial it back than to not quite be there.”

What she said.

7. Your main job is to perfect your craft. That will always be your job.

Study it like it’s your homework. Barbara broke it down:

A.  If you’re a fan of something, figure out why. 

“It’s not okay not to know,” Barbara said. When you love something, you should be able to communicate then and there why it’s so fantastic to you. Is it the look of it? The aesthetic? Is it how it feels, or maybe how it makes you feel? Do you appreciate its complexity? Or its simplicity? Is it the story? Is it how it tells the story? If you’re a teacher—who was your favorite teacher and why? If you’re a magician—what’s the best trick you’ve seen and how was it done? If you’re a lawyer—what’s your favorite case and how was it won? Ask yourself these questions over and over and find the answers. Barbara told us her daughter stopped at her door during her 100th time watching “Band of Brothers” and said to her, “Do you think you have a problem?” That’s how it should be! You should know what you like and why you like it, inside and out. And during the process, you might just find out a little bit about your style, too.

B. It’s really important to know what you don’t know.

Get ready for a brain twister: If you don’t know something, there’s really no excuse not to know once you realize you don’t know. Look it up. Research it. And never stop doing this. As Barbara said, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing. In fact, when you always have the answers and are always trying to prove what you do know—well—that’s a bit annoying. All of us are always learning, and none of us will ever know everything. Plus: if you ever plan on doing #6, you have to know the rules before you break them.

8. Life is all about perception. But if you’re planning on being good at what you do, your career isn’t.

Barbara said that you’ll quickly learn there’s a distinction between actually being a good at what you do, and being perceived as being good at what you do. You’ll know because the latter means you’ll probably find yourself fizzling into the background after your “big break” or the “start of your career.” Work hard. Stay up to date. Keep studying and learning. Do what you need to do to get to where you want to be—more importantly—to stay at where you want to be. “No one is going to make you do anything when you get to Hollywood,” she said. “No one is going to set deadlines for you.” You have to make the personal choice to work hard and stay successful. “You can get the biggest break in the world, but it means nothing if you can’t deliver the goods.”

9. You have to make the transition from being a fan to a professional.

If you want to do this, then you have to start thinking of the people around you and in your profession as PEERS. You are apart of this just as much as anyone else. You have to believe that.

AND FINALLY, I saved this one for last, because it’s my absolute favorite.

10. The key to being a successful leader (and in her case, television showrunner) who can run things?

Barbara told us the following sentence is the true test:

Are you okay with leaving the room and people not liking you?

This was so damn good that I got even more intently quiet then I already was. As someone who wants to one day possibly direct, produce, write, and act, I needed to hear this—even when I didn’t want to. If you’re a reader of my blog, you know from past lessons that I’m that I can be that incredibly annoying “nice girl.” I’ve always been one to avoid conflict. While I’m not easily influenced and I rarely go along with things “for the sake of it,” I am most definitely a people pleaser who wants to be well liked by everyone. But in order to do my job, I’ll have to learn that that isn’t always an option.

Barbara is the realest. She told us: “It’s not about being mean or being a bitch. Truly, people will always think they can do it better than you can. But you have to be okay with it and just know that in the end, you have the final say.”

Barbara struggled with this. She shared that in the beginning, she wasn’t making decisions, and people weren’t happy. The problem was, people were looking for a leader; people needed a leader. She realized quickly that she needed to change it up.

“Make a decision even if it’s wrong,” she told us. “It’s better to make a bad decision than to not make one at all.” She told us that we’ll have to make a ton of decisions quick and on our feet. As we begin to make more and more decisions, we’ll start to get better at it.

And coming from wonder woman herself,

I believe her.

A final piece of advice?

“Remain true, no matter what the business is doing.”

In conclusion, I actually want to bring it full circle, back to the first thing Barbara told us.

“I always like to tell this to people first: I’ll tell you my story, but my story won’t help you at all.

Of course she was being funny, and we all laughed. She told us that compared to when and where she started her career, it will be different for us because the industry is much different now. She told us that basically, everyone’s story won’t be the same as hers.

The cool thing is—this can go for every person and every story, ever.

You all know how I feel about stories and the importance of telling your own. If you’ve ever submitted a guest lesson, you’ve seen the quote I’ve included in my email back to you: “If we are not telling our stories, we are consuming other people’s lives.” So today, I’ll leave you with this piece of wisdom alongside Barbara’s incredible advice.

Your story is unique.

I promise you, your story is not as boring as you think.

Keep telling your story and telling stories.

Stories are what make the world go ’round, they’re what fuel life, and they’re what keeps ourselves and others inspired.

Story is king.

Day 324.

Lesson #316: If you weren’t afraid…

6/1/15.

My jaw dropped as I pulled up to the huge marble building.

I just can’t believe I’m working for NBCUniversal this summer.

After passing and waving to a few friendly but busy faces, I was introduced to the other intern, and was immediately excited to be working with her. She was incredibly nice, upbeat, and extremely helpful. She was also kind of intimidating—as she’s been there for an entire month already, and it was only my first day.

Let alone, my first internship.

After giving me a tour of the department and a speedy run-down of what we’ll be doing as interns, we sat down to eat our lunches outside on the terrace (a turkey sandwich, pita chips, and blackberries… I’m a big kid) and got to know each other a little bit better. She told me about her previous internship experiences: pitching reality shows, working at CBS news, and more. I was floored. Then she filled me in on how her time at E! has been so far. She’s already done so much: has gone on shoots, sat and watched on set, has scheduled lunch dates with producers and talent and other interns.

I told her that, honestly, I was intimidated. But that I wanted to do that too.

She told me this.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” She laughed. “That’s kind of my motto while I’m here.”

“I love that!” I geeked out. I told her I was sticking that right next to my desk on a sticky note.

She shrugged. “I figured the worst they can do is say no.”

I’m the type of person who hates asking. I hate asking for help. I hate feeling like a bother. And it doesn’t help that I’m also easily intimidated.

But this summer, that’s all going to change.

At least, I plan on it.

It’s definitely going to be uncomfortable and hard for me. I have no doubt about that. But I’ve realized that there’s a recent theme in my life—one that I’m constantly asked to face and brought to confront.

And today, I’ll ask you too.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Day 316.