A year and a half ago I moved my daughter and I to a small town in the Okanagan Valley on Syilx First Nations land, about a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver.
The 5 years previous to that we lived in a small town on Vancouver Island, also a 4.5 hour journey to Vancouver.
And a full 6.5 years ago I moved my daughter and I away from the small (but vibrant) town that we were both born and raised in – in the the Yukon Territory, the far north of Canada, which is a 2 day drive / 2.5 hour flight from Vancouver.
Some of you know that 2.5 years ago my daughter, 13 years old at the time, got scouted by a Vancouver-based talent agent for acting on film.
Because my daughter was interested in trying acting on film (no surprise to me, I’ve known since she was wee that performing was in her future) and I was interested in supporting this new direction and opportunity, I was launched into the world of stage parents, and learning how to, particularly as a completely solo parent, support a child’s dreams (with the remarkably compelling carrot of big money and fame dangling in front of us) without going broke and becoming heartbroken.
The agent saw potential in my daughter which sparked her desire to dive into acting on film, and to be honest, I found the adventure really thrilling – I’d studied dance and always wanted to try acting but had been, at my daughter’s age, far too shy and inhibited and self-deprecating to take the risk of getting involved, even at my highschool. Or, I should say, especially at my highschool.
I started learning all of what acting on film and having an agent while not living in Vancouver meant, key among them being the necessity of:
- industry-standard headshots (expensive)
- regular acting coaching (adds up)
- travel for auditions on 24 hours notice (costs $$ and requires juggling work/school)
- monitoring personal style/appearance (because any drastic style/hair/body change requires new headshots)
- constant e-mail/telephone checking
- learning how to deal with nerves and excitement and pressure (crucial, and a hard-won skill)
- learning how to deal with constant disappointment (heart-raking and challenging – because even successful actors generally have to audition 100 times to get 1 or 2 roles)
I was excited by the possibility that if my daughter got a commercial or two, it would cover the cost of her coaching and lessons and headshots and the travel to and from Vancouver for auditions, which I was putting on my credit card and gambling that it would pay off. The daydream extended to her booking a movie or TV show, which would be lucrative, fun, cover the bills and extend to a wondrous pile of savings for my daughter to use for her university/continuing education.
I was excited, too, by the possibility of being pulled out of my world on Vancouver Island, which, outside of a couple of friends (you know who you are!) was feeling so very isolating and lonely.
At the time I was juggling three different part-time jobs and feeling stretched time-wise as well as financially, and deeply lacking in kindred spirits and/or a community that I could lean on and feel understood by. I had also known fairly quickly after moving there that it wasn’t home, and that our time on Vancouver Island was specifically for my daughter to be in her Waldorf School with her wonderful teacher (from age 10-14) but that the second she was finished with that, we’d be leaving.
My three jobs, at that time, were offering part-time bodywork, working a sometimes part-time, sometimes four full days a week as a carpenter’s apprentice, and simultaneously developing my transformational memoir-writing course and learning how to market it, which means I was always just barely paying the bills. Even though every single job I was doing was rewarding in it’s own way, and was, I realize now, cultivating in me the skills I’d need to really refine and offer my course and start making it my sole vocation, I was always overwhelmed and frazzled.
To be honest, most of my 30s felt like a terrible stretch of constantly trying to figure out how to change the circumstances of being a lower-income solo single mother, not really being able to shift my circumstances no matter what I tried to juggle, and feeling absolutely at the end of my tether, almost all of the time, with very few people to talk to who got it, and many who instead offered soul-stripping versions of a ‘just try harder // law of attraction’ peptalks.
So when my daughter was scouted, and I saw someone with influence and power seeing her potential as clearly as I’ve always seen it, I hitched my star to my daughter’s super-charged-wagon lickety-split and launched into what was the latest iteration of trying to figure out how to get the bills paid with a little more ease, and maybe even have fun while doing so.
And if that meant, as it does for all parents of underage actors, becoming the support person/manager to an ambitious young person with talent and having them pay the bills (because the parent has to legally be with their child on set and at auditions), well, so be it.
I was excited to put my energy and skills towards lifting up my daughter’s talents instead of my own, because my goodness, marketing oneself as a highly sensitive empath with severe self-doubt is such a painful experience, and that is what most of my 30s felt like.
So we dove in. But because we didn’t live in Vancouver we couldn’t dash off to all the auditions, and because of other factors, like a racist, sexist, film industry that still prioritizes white male perspectives and stories as well as heteronormative coupling (ie: boys being taller than girls in pairings), the fact that my daughter is quite a tall young woman and is not white, but mixed race, meant that the roles available for her were, and are, less than what a more average height white/white-appearing girl of the same age would have access to.
These are simply realities of the industry.
However, as her acting coach (one of the most stellar humans I’ve ever met) reinforced, the qualities of her young actors, which often come across as limits and barriers because people don’t ‘get’ them, are late the qualities that become the compelling catalyst for amazing opportunities and creative projects.
What seems to shine too bright at the beginning is exactly the same thing that shines like a lighthouse, guiding people their way.
All of which is to say, 2.5 years ago I launched myself and my daughter into what was a fun, but wildly challenging adventure.
A year and a half ago, when we left the Island, I had two options and desires. One was to move to Vancouver and finally, for a while, live in a city and be able to more easily support my daughter in her acting efforts – rather than saying no to most auditions, then traveling 4.5 hours each way for the ones we said yes to – saying yes to most auditions and take a 30 minute walk/bus ride to auditions, easily. What a dream!
The other option and desire was to move back to the Yukon Territory, our hometown, to be closer to my family. However, that would mean closing the door on my daughter’s acting on film dreams and ending the relationship with the agent.
Since my daughter wanted to continue trying to book a role as an actor, moving back north was out.
Since I didn’t have any disposable income or savings to cushion the inevitable months of living expenses I’d need to cover in a very expensive city while setting myself up as a bodyworker/self-employed person in the city, despite my prayers and my deep hunger to make it happen, Vancouver was out.
In the middle of that conundrum, the other option I came up with was to move to the Okanagan Valley to be closer to my two cousins as well as my cousins’ young sons – my daughter’s cute little second cousins, in order to feel less isolated, to have a fresh start, but also to be able to drive her to the city for auditions.
So that’s what we did, and I got super savvy about offering rideshares to cover the costs of gas, crafting my schedule to flexible enough, and attempting to manage our collective nerves/excitement in a healthy way, ie: make the auditions into adventures and learn to diffuse the anxiety and stress and pressure, for my daughter, of putting her heart and soul into the roles and auditions, then being rejected. Over and over.
It was around this time that I came across the idea that one should, when pursuing creative projects, go after a high number of rejections as the ultimate goal, rather than going after winning a gig/getting an opportunity.
Here’s the basic concept: set a goal for 100 rejections per year (in whatever heartfelt thing you’re pursuing) because then acquiring the rejections becomes kind of fun and the distress of putting yourself out there and waiting on an answer fades into the background.
In the midst of our move to Vernon the audition opportunities dwindled, and then, 4.5 months after leaving Vancouver Island and choosing the Okanagan Valley as a home – a year ago January – the agent decided that because my daughter hadn’t booked a gig yet (agents don’t get their 15% until their client books something) and we were far away from Vancouver, she wasn’t going to represent her anymore.
It felt like such a blow. Disruptive and discouraging and overwhelming. Thankfully, we had a great relationship with the acting coach, such an experienced woman, who gave us some perspective: “getting dropped by agents happens all the time. It’s not such a bad thing. Don’t forget you have agency in this too – you want an agent that really gets you as an actor, and has your best interests and skills in the forefront of their mind.”
And then she planted this beautiful creative seed. To make our own creative visions real.
She did a bit of research on successful creators that have simply done their own thing, enjoyed what they’ve created, kept sharing it, and eventually made their careers out of their unwillingness to bend themselves into someone else’s vision.
They’ve created their own visions.
Issa Rae of Netflix’s Insecure comes to mind. Did you know she sparked her career by writing/filming/acting/directing/producing a webseries on Youtube eight years ago called The MisAdventures of An Awkward Black Girl?
The acting coach also said she had some amazing agent friends but that it might be a great idea to simply take a break, live life, have fun, play, create our own work and circle back around when the time was right for my daughter.
I agreed. Since getting dropped by her agent, I’ve become a casual and locally based mom-manager – I looked up and joined some film/acting facebook groups for the Okanagan, and stayed on the artsy listserves for the Yukon.
By simply paying attention to what’s going on, I saw and sent her out for an audition for a Yukon Tourism commercial (while she was up there visiting her Gramma on spring break!) She booked her first gig as a background actor, made a bit of money and got to be in a commercial.
I’ve submitted her for extras work locally – about every 5 months a feature film is shot in the Okanagan Valley, and although extras get paid terribly (usually minimum wage) it’s kind of fun and interesting and I wanted her to have another tangible experience of being on a movie set and really getting a sense of the rhythm and style of that kind of life, and whether she’d like it. Because she’s still under 17, I was on set too, as a chaperone, which satisfied my hunger to be in the field of a big creative project.
And, we’ve dreamed and schemed up plenty of webseries ideas.
Truly, this is fun and, remarkably, we’re in an unprecedented era, where access to equipment and ideas and the ability to film, upload and share homemade series and videos is possible without breaking the bank. In fact, it’s very possible to create beautiful, amateur, short films with a smartphone camera, tripod, cheap editing software and a great deal of patience, creativity and imagination. Also – plenty of problem solving skills.
You might be thinking, at this point in my story, that I’m about to reveal some stunning and awesome webseries, starring my daughter.
The fact is, we had fun daydreaming, and playing with planning and skills building. In fact, we even decided to use a short story series my daughter wrote on a typewriter when she was 12 – a dark, gothic and wildly hilarious story series – and we schemed up a scene set in a cabin at the cross country skiing facility we go to.
We managed to do some costume design. Some scene planning and prep. We even managed to play with filming – and you can see one of our sweet little filming experiments here which ends in a dramatic skiing collapse.
The truth is that in the year since our idea, we don’t have a web series posted, or even one episode filmed.
However, this entire story that I’m writing was sparked by going skiing two days ago, remembering those awkward, fun and silly adventures we had a year ago, and then browsing through my phone until I found that video clip.
The thing is, trying is better than perfect.
Much of my life – and when we jumped into the acting on film adventure – I’ve daydreamed about ‘perfect’ a great deal. The idea of perfect as a strategy of putting my money, time, energy and efforts into supporting my daughter’s auditions and skill-building so she could get a gig (because damn, does it ever pay well when you finally get something – it really does) so I could just be a stage-mom manager and let my multiple jobs go for a while. The idea of ‘perfect’ being relaxing a bit into just one task – taking care of my daughter.
I daydreamed about the idea of perfect as having this brag-worthy shining star daughter whose glow I could bask in (really, who doesn’t have these daydreams from time to time – either about ourselves and/or our loved ones) and I daydreamed about the enhanced idea of perfect being that then I would be ‘discovered’ and my imagined latent acting ability would also be put to use.
That I could be fully immersed all the time in a creative project as part of a wildly creative team.
I daydreamed about perfect meaning that my efforts would be rewarded before my daughter got too old to want me around. I didn’t daydream about my daughter being a star after the age of 18. I daydreamed about her being a star before so I could, vicariously, be in that environment with her.
So, yes, trying is better than perfect because perfect is almost always this abstraction of the things we think we want, rather than the ways in which the world transpires to give us growth and beauty and pleasure in the moment.
Trying is better than perfect. My daughter has been trying the whole time, regardless of the end results. This trying, with her acting coach and myself and the auditions, has given her the gift of acting skills but more importantly, deep compassion for the human condition and an ability to empathize and embody what people/characters with different life experiences go through.
She’s been given the gift of learning to persevere, try and try again, pursue rejections rather than hang off of one or two slim chances, and grow her creative drive and desire towards the visions she can achieve without needing to be ‘chosen,’ such as writing books and DIY film projects and school plays an whatever else her creative heart desires.
I’ve been given the gift of learning more about my suppressed hungers for more creativity, community and culture in my life, and I’ve gotten the gift of being a vicarious acting student – being able to listen in on the acting coaching videocalls and be astounded by how much I’ve learnt from this stellar coach as well.
Trying is better than perfect.
Which brings me around to my subject line – I’m not writing a memoir. I have no plans to write a memoir. Because I know that if I aim for that perfect ideal of a book-length memoir before I’ve got enough perspective and distance from certain parts of my lifestory, I’ll fail. I’m not ready for that. It’s my experience that most people aren’t, and this is why so many people hold their writing and healing longings so close and so tight for far too long.
But I am, slowly and steadily, keeping writing and non-fiction writing a part of my life.
Because I know that if I just keep going with it, all of the material I’ll need or desire for a project the size of a book-length memoir – it’ll be there when I’m ready. I’m generating it day by day, but focusing on the act of trying rather than the idea of the perfect project and end goal.
By narrowing my scope to the manageable bits and pieces I’m creating in the parameters of my life as it is now, which includes my regular daily life, which eats up most of my time – of teaching the Art of Personal Mythmaking online, of marketing and promoting it, of teaching in person, and also juggling a small ,very part-time but enjoyable job-job – I know that although it doesn’t feel as fast as I’d like, the act of trying is creating some sort of body of work that won’t be perfect, but will be there when I’m ready to take the next steps of crafting it into a book.
And this, I think, has been the lesson of my 30s, and also the lesson of my daughter’s big dreams and my vicarious hungers.
Trying is better than perfect, so I’m not planning on writing a memoir.
I am however, committed to collecting my stories and drawing them near, then sharing when ready (like in this story here). Because I know that at some point, the tidal rhythms of my creative process will show me the shift that I know to look and listen for.
At that point – you’ll probably hear about that webseries. A webseries generated through play, curiosity and pleasure, with no constricting hopes of being ‘discovered’.
At that point, you’ll probably hear about my intentions to craft all my writings into a book-length memoir, whose form and theme, I’m certain, will surprise me.
And in the meantime – I’m going to just keep on trying, and supporting everyone who also wants to just get going with their creative projects, their memoirs, and finally exchange the idea of ‘perfect’ for the experience of being always in-process.
Ways to work with me:
FREE MEMOIR-WRITING WORKSHOP – I’m offering my free Outline Your Memoir workshop twice more this winter – January 31st and February 2nd. These workshops are 2 hours long, free, and live. I don’t record them. So, if you want to join in – please do!
TRANSFORMATIONAL MEMOIR-WRITING COURSE – Twice a year, in early February and late August, I offer my 5 month transformational memoir-writing course, The Art of Personal Mythmaking.
If you’ve been dreaming about writing your lifestory down, but find writing alone insurmountable, the perfect idea too much and if you’re also finding the painful parts of your story too overwhelming – this is the perfect solution.
I’ve still got some room in my classes (I keep them small, no more than 10 people each) and you can check it out and sign up here.
WRITING RETREAT – Because connecting in person, with kindred spirits, in beautiful, nourishing and strangely, simultaneously relaxing and super productive. We’ll be writing together, eating exceptional food together and anchoring the entire tranformative experience with the Celtic mythology of the Selkie Folk.
Join me and 11 other wondrous women + non-binary folks for Mythic and Marvelous, my transformational writing retreat, October of 2019. In Canada.