The Starving Artist: Chapter 32: Burlet’s Do It!

February found me a lonely and uninspired creative person. I was grasping at straws, stuck in a rut. After 10 years of working towards something I’ve wanted to do for my whole life I was off track and unhappy. In the pursuit of success, I have said yes to so many things, that I forgot what it was I really wanted in the first place. I have been repeating my mistakes, without learning from them. I was so focused on the way things should be that I was closing myself off to the things that were. So, when I stumbled unto a tarot lady who came highly recommended, I took a chance. The misinformed think a tarot reading should be a life manual; laid out to tell your next moves. Sadly, the cards don’t have that much power. They don’t provide a definitive decision; they merely show the options we may have been overlooking. And my cards showed many things, but the biggest was acceptance of knowledge. (My interpretive reading) Plus I was promised an Ah-Ha! Moment. It’s the moment when all that knowledge clicks. Every little detail falls into place. But I knew it was up to me to find the Ah-Ha, so I’ve been doing the work and keeping my eyes peeled.

My first plan of attack was to expand my horizons. For as long as I can remember I have been a Jack-Of-All-Trades. I love learning. I love doing new things. So, when I found a 3rd generation ukulele, I took lessons. I started juggling. I’m learning to pole dance. I am working towards doing the splits. I love to craft and I love sparkles, beads and brassieres. Also, I hula hoop, belly dance, blog and doodle. But everyday I am reminded I crave life upon the wicked stage. I love the show, the glamour, the fanfare. I love Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Motown. I love song and dance numbers. I was listening to Rusty Warren records before I possibly understand why Knockers Up! was funny. I love vintage clothing and elbow length gloves. Sequins and Steve Martin. I sing, I make funny faces and do funny voices. And what I can’t stop thinking about is how much I love everything…but where do all these converge? When does the knowledge click?

CZIN0213012Ah-Ha! Ladies and Gentlemen, they converge at Burlesque. I mean, c’mon! Feathers and fans people. This performance avenue has mandatory props. It’s a place where a ukelady like me can strum a song and swing a hip. Tell a story that’s more like a joke, with a high kicking punch line. The only limit to the show I put together are the limits of my imagination. So, I began speaking to friends far and wide, to test the waters, (notice I didn’t say Family…Momma & Papa B, I am sure we’re gonna have a long talk about reputations.) and the response has been: “So, it’s you playing a uke, twirling a hula hoop, singing a song dressed in a Martin white suit covered in sequins doing magic?!? YEAH! I’d watch that show.” Thankfully, it’s a resounding endorsement, cuz I’d watch that show too. It sounds really fun. Making the decision I signed on for Burlesque 101 @ The Toronto School of Burlesque. Which started yesterday; a Sunday, right after brunch time. A great way to start the weekend’s end. We started slow, we peeled gloves. Using teeth, tushes and tease, all we did was take off gloves. It was that easy. You asked yourself how would my character do this, and you did it. The intuitive teacher recognized right away that I was a Lolcat- the ham, the clown. She started expressing excitement at my various performance skills. So, I am going to try Burlesque, first in the class setting: To gain self-esteem and solidify my character. Then, maybe down the road I’ll go semi-pro. Who knows. It’s Burlesque where the audience is made up of straight women, couples and gay men. Pretty much everyone I know is part of one or more of those fab demographics; dare I call them: Natural Born Fan Club? And that’s not even counting the folks who’ve already volunteered to help sew costumes, build props, teach me new lessons and be my Manager, Assistant or Hairstylist. But I am nervous. I have had a bunch of big ideas, and I will admit that I haven’t followed through on all of them, so until I really do- DO it, I am not going to worry about the big picture. For now I am going to relish in the fact that I am learning how to stick all my mixed up bits and bobs together. Learning to build my show. So, I guess the next thing on this Jack’s list is Magic. If I can master the sleight of hand, that’ll really be the icing on my Burlesque cake. A cake I just know someone’s gonna spring out of!

The Starving Artist: Chapter 32: Burlet’s Do It!

Midnight Macaroni and Mind Over Manners

After midnight macaroni and spotting continuity errors in the First Wive’s Club; I realized I still had work to do. Riding my 3rd wind, I had checked out. Taking a mental vacation in preparation of my re-railing. Which I think is an appropriately made up word, meaning: getting myself back on track. After being away, the pattern I had carefully implemented had became fuzzy. Before I could re-rail, I had to un-cloud. After going to the gym, riding the crammed streetcar, smiling in the sun rays through window panes, getting groceries, calling all angels and giving it my best shot, I felt ready. But it was the stack of writing I’d been avoiding for weeks that truly grabbed my attention. They had grown impatient and decided to cut me. I mean the inanimate pages of my no-where-near-finished book literally cut me. My finger bleeding, I could feel these unmarked pages laughing at me. It was time to fulfill a promise I’d made to myself months ago.

Avoiding this work was the easy part. Until I emptied last week’s suitcase…It held my ignored juggling balls, the unbent spine I was calling reading material and the printed draft pages of my novella. All items showing the stress of travel without the benefit of use. I have been opting out of life. My carefully ordered schedule, unraveled. I was avoiding my choices, cuz they’re hard. Instead I focused on the useless. Like, I had a craving for Bette Midler, and felt For the Boys might be a little heavy…Ukulele or not. So, I watched First Wives Club. I got my fix, but it lacked the over the top Beaches quirk I was hoping for. I did however realize that Better and Sarah Jessica Parker probably liked working together even if they weren’t on the same side. And just as I poured a glass of water, stretched and sat down to start work at this keyboard, it was out of batteries. Recharging and refilling it, my Puppa Stink scratched the door to go out. This was of course the 2nd time she’d had celebrated Go Time! with me today. It had been that kinda week all around. I kept letting things get in the way. As they so often do. But, being the good Momma I am, I walked the dog. Then I sat back down, with nothing to say.

Of all the blogs, in all the world, I had to forget how to write this one. My tummy full of cheesy noodles. My mind finally quiet with unclouded satisfaction. I didn’t know what to write. I just keep hoping these were the right things. As for my re-railing; I am happy to be back at the train station, even if not completely back on track. The Thomas in me thinks I can. Now, all I need is a $250 gift card to the Bay, a flight to BC and a job that pays me to be fabulous and semi-helpful. Oh and a fancy correction pen…cuz these dangerous pages are about to see red. One, two, three, go! That’s how it works right?!? I just have to do it.

Midnight Macaroni and Mind Over Manners

The Starving Artist: Chapter 26: Pearls, Premieres & Bit Parts

Today marks my Murdoch Mysteries episode premiere. I am excited and a little nervous….Having never seen the final cut, I am scared that I will be left on the editing room floor. So, it is with fingers crossed and hopeful anticipation that this artist waits. Having been in this crazy industry for almost a decade, I know that what you shoot and what fits into the 42 min network time slot are 2 very different things. Now, I have had my share of career ups and downs, wins and losses. Each time hoping for that stubborn oyster will open up to reveal a pearl of promise. Though as with all things creative, the only person you can hope to please wholly is yourself. Still, though I worry that I’m gonna let everyone else down.

There is no better onscreen detective than William Murdoch. It is with his help that I hope to interpret the clues left for me by theatre school, life and my foolish optimism. Why aren’t I further along? Since I started this clandestine journey, I have been struggling to exceed the standards set out by those who’ve tread the stage before me. Carrying with me the hopes of all those who’ve supported me. The concept of failure is not an option…At least it wouldn’t be if I had the power to make that decision. The fate of my dreams lies in the hands of execs, playmakers and casting assistants. Standing in my audition wear, I find myself confused as to which door I am supposed to choose. I wish Murdoch could build a device ahead of its time, designed to lead me to the answers that seem forever hidden in the shadows.

The one concrete lesson theatre school enforced was: This business is not logical. It doesn’t care how dedicated you are. It doesn’t care. It is a business. A game of strategic positioning. Yes, of course talent should matter, but it is no longer the most important factor. Being a phenomenal force of creative energy simply isn’t enough. And feeling sorry for yourself is such a warm blanket; quietly smothering motivation, bravery and enthusiasm. Don’t let self-pity extinguish the fire in your belly. In all my failed efforts and teeny wins, I have shucked a few pearls of wisdom that I would like to share. 1. Love the work for the work. 2. Be proud of yourself as often as you can be. 3. Don’t buy a Ferrari until you can pay in cash. And 4. Wins are good, no matter how small. So, as my FanClub shimmies up to the TV to catch a glimpse of my bloated, blue fish face I hope they know I do this for them. I do it for me too…and I would’ve done more but apparently dead bodies don’t play the ukulele while hula hooping.

The Starving Artist: Chapter 26: Pearls, Premieres & Bit Parts

Waking Up Angry And How It’s A Good Thing

You know that feeling of waking up angry. It could be because you didn’t sleep well. It could be you dreamed horrible dreams. It could be for no reason at all. You are tired before getting out of bed. You get that feeling the weather is mimicking your discomfort. Cloudy and Eeyore all over. No matter what anybody says you feel like snapping and going postal on a cheesecake. And the only thing that can cure you is a ’80s rom-com wrapped up in a blanket with the shades drawn. If it wouldn’t get him in a heap o’trouble my Hubby might say it’s hormonal. Is he right? Well that’s between me and my pint of ice cream. I know, I know, I don’t want to keep venting: this is supposed to be fun. But I don’t feel fun.

What do we do to keep ourselves happy when the only feelings left in our tickle trunk are anything but? I mean I am having a great time, other than the whole unemployed thing… I am exercising, eating right, writing, uke-ing, hula hooping, you name it, if it’s fun I am doing it. But sometimes that extra over the top fun runs out. Like a battery it needs to charge. I think that’s the reason we have other emotions… How would we know what happy is if there was nothing to compare it to? It would be impossible not to take happiness for granted if it was all we were. So, feeling down in the dumps, mouth, or boondocks can actually be helpful if you think about it.

Recently, I have heard people saying, “It’s not like I have anything to be unhappy about.” And I know they are trying to recognize their lives aren’t as bad as they could be, but nothing to be unhappy about and happy are two very different things. For a long time I thought the ability to see on the bright side was something everyone had. Well, not so, take for example Debbie Downer or Worse-Case Scenario Sally, they never see the bright side. They don’t even know what it is, except that by the sound of it, it could be dangerous. Happiness can come from the most unlikely places, even when you’re not feeling open to it. It will find you if you let it. Just keep your eyes peeled. As those well-known British Snakes said; Always look on the bright side of life. As for me and my ‘mones, we’ll take a pint of Half Baked, Date with an Angel and a handmade quilt. Just until the sun comes out tomorrow, on that you can bet your bottom dollar:)

Waking Up Angry And How It’s A Good Thing

How Aiming for the Stars Keeps You Grounded

Are you a big dreamer? I am. For as long as I can remember I have dreamt of walking red carpets. Written my acceptance speeches for untold awards. Had fake conversations with Leno, Letterman and Kimmel. Each time I was engaging and amusing at least, though mostly I was brilliant. I have dreamt of spending time on tour buses. Playing shows in stadiums around the world. Sharing the stage with the greats and rocking the socks off millions of adoring fans. There have been hilarious visions of stand up comedy. Tear jerking moments of honesty. Poignant, life altering scenes. All this before getting out of bed. That’s the wonderful part about dreams: It’s all in your head and the sky is the limit.

Some people say a dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep. I say those dreams are great; but what about the waking dreams that tickle the fancy and keep us creating? For as long as I can remember I have longed to reach higher heights. Stretching myself thin to be better, not the best, but you know, better than average. Aiming for the moon, so that I could at least end up among the stars. The thing I was forgetting; NASA is not a single man in a space suit, it’s a group of highly trained individuals that work together toward a common goal. If I had applied this analogy to the creative life earlier on I would have realized that all the little creative pieces need to work together.

Learning to juggle, pole dance, play ukulele, tell a joke all take work. It’s a constant effort to make them look effortless. This past year I have laid out a flight plan for my career. And after another year I am still nowhere near the final count down. Planning an intergalactic exploration is not something to be taken lightly. But I am starting to get impatient. Hubby says life isn’t a race; I agree. Though life can be viewed as a test of endurance, maybe even rigorous astronautical training. Sans centrifugal force machine, cuz that one makes me nauseated. I am fully equipped with a detailed pre-flight itinerary and a check list to success. I know that success is something that can’t be measured. Being successful is about how you feel and I feel good. Do I still long to dance with the stars, of course. I may only have red carpet invitations, award nominations or screaming audiences in my dreams but I’ve woken up with artistic tenacity, a success in itself. The great news is that, now that I’ve identified the members of the ground crew required to launch a successful mission, I am that much closer to lift off. And that much better at all the spacey adventures I’ve been training for. This is ground control to Major Melicious, we’re preparing for launch, please check your instruments…ukulele- check.

How Aiming for the Stars Keeps You Grounded

Meant to Mentor or Growing up Artistic

Growing up artistic is tough. It’s even harder in a small town without access to creative programs. Living in a place where the only music teacher teaches recorder to grade 6 students. Having one period of music in grade 8 where I was assigned the baritone, as if my forearms weren’t big enough already. Desperate, my Momma signed me up for piano lessons at our local church with a stern looking woman whose hair was always in a tight bun. Playing hot cross buns, twinkle, twinkle little star and three blind mice, which are essentially the same song, over and over. Mastering a song equalled a sticker with a smiley face or rainbow. Sitting at the piano, learning that Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always and All Cows Eat Grass, and wondering if it was the same thing as My Very Excited Mother Serving Us Ninety Pickles. Not really understanding why I had to listen to these people who didn’t even like music. I just wanted to play music, man. Perform the concerts, sing the songs and jam. What this boils down to is a creative kid without an outlet or inspiration. As the adage goes, that the only thing that will take you to Carnegie Hall is practise and lots of it, but access an excited, talented and experienced mentor, well that would’ve helped.

Fast forward to Melicious moving to the big city. Being at that special age, when a 20-year-old knows all about everything and has the world in the palm of their hand. Oh, wait, that never happened. And in the 10 years since I have learned music from people who love it. Learning, practising and loving singing but also ukulele, piano and a mean tambourine. Then about 3 years ago, while making an illegal right hand turn onto Adelaide, I was pulled over. At the time I was furious. In retrospect, I can clearly see how I was being pulled towards something amazing. Hubby convinced me to fight the ticket. Book a court date, appear and plead not guilty as the sign is obscured….blah blah….while waiting for my docket # I took in my surroundings, I was the only non-professional driver appearing in court. Then a spunky blonde turned the corner. The relief that crossed my face must have been palpable, cuz she sat down right next to me, and then just like that, we were friends. That is how I met Traffic Court Diva, to her I am Traffic Court Melicious, TCD or M for short. Her whole family calls me that. Here though is where growing up artistic comes back into play. Her daughter is to me what caterpillar is to butterfly. What cucumber is to pickle. We are both smart like whips, impatient to be the best. We both want to make people laugh and laugh hard. Treating each other like comedic material gauges, as making yourself laugh is the toughest. Oh and Blonde, of course. But TCD is lucky. She’s realized that just because she doesn’t know how to teach her daughter the things she wants to learn, doesn’t mean that she can’t help her learn it anyway. Learning how a kid learns, is the most important part of making sure they find a life long love of learning. And I am that teaching thing. The eager student has become the tenacious Master. Am I the best, no, but what I may lack in experience, I make up for in enthusiasm.

This past summer my 9-year-old reflection wrote, recorded and packaged her first single. Spending time in the studio with professionals all around. Leaning on me for moral and musical support; trying to pretend she would be fine without me…the way every 9-year-old does. We had a blast. Neither one of us loves the fundamentals, the math, techniques or memorization work that music brings. We love the meat of the music. The instrumental breaks, the movement, the lyric and love. But having someone speak to her like the artist she wants to be, has helped her least tolerate the fundamentals of music. We are learning to work together to figure out what is driving the creative beat. The last few months have been some of the best reminders of why I love music. We’ve laughed together, sang together, strummed together and squawked at each-other. To her I have become the mentor I needed so badly at 9 years old. And to me she has become the reminder that I can still kick it 9’er style. It’s doubtful there was ever a more serendipitous traffic court date. So, thanks Toronto Metropolitan Police and my law breaking TCD. As for my 9-year-old mini-me, thanks for making me laugh, now kick it DJ KTK!

Meant to Mentor or Growing up Artistic

The Starving Artist: Chapter 20: The Art of Organization

Last evening marked my graduation from level 2 Ukeology. A course I have been taking to polish up my strumming skills. As the class finished I approached my favourite teacher and asked if she would like to celebrate with a drink; conveniently Hubby was hosting karaoke just up the street. Settling into the warm and dimly lit bar, we fell easily into conversation. Most of it circling around the Bridge brothers and my nearly perverse affection for Steve Martin. But the topics that were the most stimulating were our matching set of ideal workspaces- a cabin in the woods, our love of learning and our problem with time management. Typical of the creative spirit.

Now, I have heard men likened to waffles and women to spaghetti. An implication that one compartmentalizes while the other slithers, piles and knots… My suggestion is that the creative brain is similar to spaghetti, when it should be waffles. My new Gym Friend (heretofore know as GFF) is married to an organizational therapist; which I didn’t know existed but am glad to know there might be a therapist who could help me with my little problem. While explaining to her my scheduling difficulties GFF gave an interesting suggestion. Capsules of time. Instead of forcing an hour of each activity every day, perhaps I attempt to take 15 min bites. Unless of course creative juices are flowing and I am stimulated to continue on. The implication is that if the energy isn’t flowing, I can move on and have the chance to go back to it later, instead of punishing myself with an hour of unproductive efforts wasted. By foraging ahead our mind remains active, without the frustration of being stuck in the spaghetti, if you know what I mean.

There is one complaint I hear universally, it’s that there aren’t enough hours in the day. No time, I’m late, sleepy, sooo busy. Each one of us is given the same amount of daylight hours. How we choose to spend those hours in relation to our goals is up to us. Work, life and all the bits and bobs that come with it need attention of course. But perhaps you have pockets of wasted time- learn a language on your commute, listen to an audio book or motivational track. Maybe you could use your time more effectively with a list or alerts, notifying you of your progress. Nothing feels better than checking off a list. The hardest part of the creative process is pinpointing your goals and organizing yourself accordingly. Blog for today- check. Onto the next thing….aww why is it always laundry?

PS Teach, whenever you want to lease that cabin, I am in, we’ll take our ukes and the Fab Baker Boys.

The Starving Artist: Chapter 20: The Art of Organization