"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Hurt Heart

Can I blame this feeling of stagnation on the holidays?

I should be happy! I just filmed a fun little video for a friend of mine who told me she sat down to write the darn thing and thought, "What would Lira say?" She wrote it for me! And it was so fun, and easy, and great, and fun, and easy and great....

I should be happy! The webseries I shot last summer is having their premiere this Sunday at a cozy little bar (that I actually know because I had shot something there a few years before). I'm going to be reunited with a cast and crew who were a blast to work with, a joy to joke around with, and a director who pretty much sat me down and said, "Listen. You are going to happen." This is the director who told me that after my first audition, he knew I was his girl and he rewrote parts of the character and script to cater to me and what I bring to the table.

I should be happy! I already booked a commercial this year! A commercial that involves a really cute concept, and had the director take both my hands after I was finished to tell me how fantastic I was. That had three separate crew members come find me to tell me how everyone thought I was so incredibly great.

But I'm not happy. I am not happy at all. I am scared. And I think my commercial class last night is the final straw of me being able to admit, I am NOT happy. I am Scared.

I am simply not working as much as I should be. And it's really starting to hurt my heart. I could always say to myself, "Self, you're not working as much as you should be, because you're not good enough yet." But I've been in a scene study class with the fantastic Billy O'Leary for a year now.  I'm really pretty good. But I do not get theatrical auditions. I just don't. And working every week on material, and getting more and more proud of the work that I'm doing (which is a feat, as I am incredibly critical of myself) but not being able to show the payoff of studying so hard to casting directors who cast television is hurting. In fact, we even had a working actor, who's a lead in a series, audit our class based on our mutual friend's recommendation, and he had told her "There's absolutely no reason why Lira shouldn't be on tv right now." And hearing that felt so wonderful! An actor who works all the time, who is bouncing between two different states to film two different shows, sees my work and thinks I'm ready to be where he is, felt fantastic. But I'm not on tv right now.

I am struggling to make rent. I am getting tired of how much energy I am putting into this Struggling Actress life and yet still, STILL can't get a job that pays me a living.

The last two auditions my commercial agency sent me out on, I got called back for both, and booked one of them. That was a month ago. I haven't gone out since.

And I had even enrolled in a commercial callback class! I dug through couch cushions, picked up pennies on the sidewalk and finally came up with enough money to take this very expensive, heavily recommended class, only to have an incredibly overworked and angry instructor make two people needlessly cry in class.

I'm tired. I'm so tired, you guys.

Maybe, just maybe I'm so close. Maybe this is the valley before I peak.

But my nerves are shot, my future feels bleak, and if I pretend it's how many strokes I played in my last game of golf, I can be proud of my credit score.

I'm sorry to bum you out. I really am. Because I know that for every me, there are 10,000 other Struggling Actors all going through the same thing. I am not alone in this. I am not the only one who feels like they've never been given a shot.

It just kinda feels like that right now.

That I'm a failure.

And if you're a Struggling Actor reading this right now, I could really use your help. Please comment about YOUR success. Please tell me that YOU are booking commercials, that YOU are booking television or new media, that YOU are starting to make some headway in this game.

Because I need to know that it does happen. That it happens all the time.

Please let me share in the joy of your successes. I'll raise my pompoms and project with all my might, "GOOOO TEAM!"


  1. My Darling Lira, you are NOT even CLOSE to being a failure! NOT EVEN CLOSE!

    I am glad you commented on such a truthful feeling, because everyone in this town feels the same way, but because of this "fake it 'til you make it" attitude, nobody admits it. But first of all, let us remember what the Dalai Lama says in The Art of Happiness...Do not compare yourself to people who are doing better than you; compare yourself to the billions of people doing worse than you. (He really does say that, sorta.) The worst I ever feel is when I find myself socializing with people who are actually on TV or in real movies and I begin to notice how similar we are in talent, looks, everything but money, pretty much. I start getting mad, like, "What does this cat have that I don't have? Why am I not in a blockbuster for cryin' out loud?" But it's because it's not my time yet to blow them away! But I notice, when I let up off myself and get my nose off the grindstone and instead just say, "I'm gonna do stuff only for the love of it for a while"...good things happen (I'm about to blog about it in two seconds, in fact). You remember that 'tude I had a couple weeks ago? It's just evaporated! I will elaborate on said blog.

    But embrace this valley while it's here, and lay down in it and watch the grass grow, feel the sunshine, and rest your weary bones for just a minute, because I promise you will be climbing up that mountain in no time and you'll need the energy!

    You know, all successful people feel this way from time to time -- that's why they're successful, because they've got DRIVE! They're not content with all the fabulous stuff they've done. If they're, say, in a girl group, they want to be the lead singer. If they're the lead singer, they want to go solo. Then they feel stagnant again and they want to put out some booty-jeans line. Then they get bored again and want to be a Loreal spokesmodel. Then they feel they need more, so they marry Jay-Z. You are one of those people, girllll, and you ARE successful, with much more to come!

  2. My 6 year old son was adament about acting when I explained to him why one person from one show was on another. I explained, "She's an actor, she gets paid to pretend" and from that moment, he was in love with the industry. He was always hte type of kid that stood in front of the t.v. acting as if he was in the story too, so when he found out that HE could be the person in the show, he went full fledge into the persuit. I'm telling you this because it could have very well been YOU that he saw that motivated him. It could have very well been YOU for all we know. In his first year, he's done 1 global, 4 national, 1 regional, and 1 local project. Because he is so young, he's blessed to not have the stress of making a living from it all. He's at the root of the industry that all actors start, just a love for the craft. I see his joy at the auditions, and he's eagerness to continue shooting (wanting to ignore the legally required break that the crew forces him to take). It could have very well been YOU that gave him this.

  3. It makes me sad to see you feeling like this... It's a passing feeling, most of the time. We all go through it. God knows I've "made it" and booked right and left, only to be followed by "can't get a callback booked... let alone a good call" years. It goes in waves. That's why so many people quit (thank God other people quit...)

    I have a coach that I work with. I'll name him here, and he does a column on Actors Access. His name is Mark Sikes. He told me something in a consult that has really changed me, probably even more than he knows. It makes me feel responsible for my own success, and my own failures. He said, "This is a business. You could work harder. Do something every day to move your career forward." ... Every day? I already did a mailing yesterday, a follow-up mailing too, and I was working on getting back in touch with a couple of Casting Directors I had worked for a couple of decades ago. "But what have you done today?"

    Didn't he know I was busy?! I was learning lines for a lead role in a feature that I was smack in the middle of, and marketing an award-winning film on the circuit! Me do more? I'm kind of busy... And then I thought about it. He had challenged me.

    Each day after that I felt responsible to do something... anything... something... I did it too. I did something everyday until it became a habit. And guess what? Things moved faster. I felt responsible if I hadn't done something, not if someone else hadn't done something for me.

    No, that mentality hasn't stuck over the last few months as far as doing something every day, as I don't count going to the gym daily or keeping personal grooming up to "call and callback standards" (we have to do that stuff anyways...), but it has stuck as far as where the blame falls and how I feel about myself.

    If you get stuck and things aren't moving forward fast enough, do something every single day. Don't break it up (like I'm going to spend the next few days doing this target mailing or contacting these few people), but choose something to do and complete each day that moves everything forward... Such as: 1. Working on your demo reel (if you don't edit yourself, learn an editing program like IMovie), 2. Doing a mailing (who cares if they work or not? This is about being proactive), 3. Updating your resume, 4. Learning a new skill, 5. Take a new class, 6. Write a new short or script, 7. Work on your contact lists and do a follow-up mailing, etc. etc.

    The one thing that you will find that will happen is that you will feel you are in control of your career. The very worst thing that will happen is that you will network and contact and approach, and things will move a little faster. It's inevitable if you're doing something every day, and it's a lot harder than it sounds.

    Good luck. Be strong. Learn more. We can always do more.

    P.S. I like your blog : )

  4. I understand your situation very well. In addition, I feel like I need to defend my choice to act when I'm around people whose lives are impacted by my decisions. So when I audition for great gigs for months and don't get booked, a sense of feeling overwhelmed naturally persists. But I have learned something this year that I want to share with you.

    My auditions have gotten stronger. I tape a lot of auditions for films and TV work and I can see the difference in those auditions in the last few months. I also experienced a casting director specifically asking for me to read for a part that was well out of my age range because of my look. I didn't get the role but felt blessed by the opportunity.

    I started channeling my own experience into a book: ACTING MADE STUPID SIMPLE. A publisher who is well acquainted with my quest as an actor asked me to write a book using my experiences and lessons to share with people interested in getting into the business. Reliving many moments of my own journey has been helpful to remind me that I have made more progress overall than I give myself credit for on a daily basis.

    I created my own character in a series of YouTube videos. The idea came from a friend who told me about his interest in starting a vlog. That night, thanks to a borrowed cop shirt from a film shoot, I created the character of an overnight security officer at an office building. The guy records web videos for the people who work in that building, the people he is aware of but never meets. It's unscripted but each video has a single theme. Giving birth to a character that has potential to grow into something more has been an amazing experience.

    Given your circumstances, your feelings are completely legitimate. But the important thing is to find ways to remind yourself that you're just fine, developing a great support system, and discovering ways to enhance your skills as an artist in a visual medium.

    I look forward to tracking your progress from this point on.

    Marc Isaacs

  5. your feelings are justifiable and not wrong.
    but maybe that's the issue. not your acting skill, but your feelings that are affecting your attitude.

    you've got the skill and in many cases you've got the validation from others. but here's the thing. this is a business. we're not curing cancer, we're not saving the world, we're entertaining people and selling stuff. period. sometimes we get money for it. sometimes not.

    you say that's not good enough. why am i not on tv? why is it so hard to pay my rent? why am i not going out more? why can't i get in front of TV CDs?

    because you can't. that's life. why is there always traffic on the 405? because there is. does it open more doors and give you more opportunities to pity yourself? does traffic move faster when you're feeling sorry than when you're not? maybe. only you can answer that.

    but the two main things i came here to say are:
    1. what WOULD be good enough? do you have specific measurable goals and a plan of how to get there? or are you just living life based on the kindness of others to give you a job, say something nice, offer you an opportunity. are the expectations you've set for yourself really for you? or for others to fulfill for you?
    (try dallastravers.com or another career coach if you don't have a clue as to what i'm talking about)

    2. quit. go ahead. please. get out of the running so that i don't have to compete with you. because, i want to book the job and it will make my job SOOO much easier if you're not there to compete with me.
    (does that comment piss you off? it should.)

    all of the above is said with more love than could possibly be expressed through a blog comment...

  6. "When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the one hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it -- but all that had gone before."

    ~Jacob Riis

  7. Lira - I must echo some of the comments above. You are in no way a failure, just because you have made it as far as you have. For every Lira, there are tons of actors struggling to book any job (paying or not), and for every one of those actors, there are tons of people that dream of pursuing acting, but never got up enough nerve to do it. I'm very new to the acting scene and you are an inspiration to me. I hope that someday soon, I can have the same level of confidence you have in your acting. That's half the battle.

  8. Lira -- I understand how you're feeling oh-so-well. But you have to give yourself credit for the overwhelming success you've already had and know that you can keep at this. For I truly believe that those of us who make it are really just the ones strong enough to keep going when we feel like this. I'm rooting for us both :)

  9. I have a commercial running from a year ago that I had no clue would actually be this big. That was awesome...there are all of the stories of big stars just about to leave...Michael J Fox, Jessica Beales being so broke for her call back that she slept on a park bench the night before, just read an article Rob Lowe wrote in Vanity Fair about almost going to college right when he got his first feature...the list goes on and on.

  10. Maybe just remind yourself that creative fulfillment and financial fulfillment are two separate things.

    Financial fulfillment - no matter how hard you work, there will always be an element of luck. It's out of your hands.

    But you totally CAN be in control of being creatively fulfilled. And if you focus on that first, I bet the financial one might not seem so burdensome.

  11. What if it never happens? Is it really going to define who you are or what your life is going to be? Hope that is not the case. It might never happen...and everyone has to face that reality of life. At some point, we all have to think about our future and what is it going to be like if it continues down this current path. Financial security is something everyone works for, but is never guaranteed. Ever considered teaching? Continuing to rest your financial future in an industry that is impossible to predict, but continues to reward others with less to offer is a path that clearly has a higher probability of failure in the future. It's a matter of choice...but being able to live with decision win or lose. Good luck with whatever decision you choose.

  12. i hear you.

    you know what i think is really awe-some? that instead of going the misery loves company route, you asked people to share their successes. so many actors, myself included, don't want to hear about the people around them succeeding when we feel low. i really, truly hope that kind of attitude propels you.

    you are an incredibly generous spirit and i think that - despite the hardships you mention - plus your willingness, nay, insistence upon helping bring other people up makes you one of the best human success stories.

    your blog entry and all the comments are just what i needed to soothe my soul tonight, because it all comes from a place of graciousness.

    hoping for a major turn for you, professionally, but you have really nailed it personally.

  13. 'Resolve to be the "Sun". Then no matter what problems you may face, the dawn will always break, fine weather will always return, and spring will never fail to come.' Daisuke Ikeda

    Dear Lira,

    'Failure' is not a word that comes to mind when I think of you - by a long shot! What does come to mind is inspiring, generous, beautiful, kind, funny, smart, committed, enthusiastic and so so strong. How can you be a failure?

    I can imagine how hard this time must be for you because from here on out it's another stretch on your path where things are largely out of your hands. And there is nothing scarier and more difficult than not being able to control and change your situation. But you have to keep on trucking, have to keep on believing. You owe that to yourself.

    And just remember it's not 2012 yet! Do what you can, take passion projects where you can afford it and while you have the time to do them. Because, hey, once you land that series regular and that lead role in the next big Hollywood film, there's not going to be much time for a while to do that beautiful indie film or that fun web series!

    I believe in you, I root for you, so do me and yourself a favour please and do the same. You deserve it, you ARE the sun.

    Lots of love

  14. I may say some things that may be unpopular here; please know I mean kindness. My tiredness may make me miss my mark. First, you're a huge success by many measures and basically everyone who replied has likely said so, or should have. You've already entertained millions and you are clearly capable. Example: I just a few weeks ago pointed a friend to "Validation" and they were delighted. It was much needed delight after a rough few days. You have made progress, that is a fact that could be stipulated in court, not mere opinion. And making progress does not require you to be happy.

    I too know the feelings you describe in this post. Last month I let my agent ago. Two days before that I had a call back, through that agent, for a very nice national commercial, but we weren't a good match. While I know that letting go of the good to make room for the great is vital, and that no longer being with them is a good thing, there is temptation to panic since I'm currently unrepresented. It's tempting to buy into many people's stock views of what progress looks like. When I don't give into that temptation, it is partly because I remember I did not move to LA to have an agent.

    Please know I don't mean to be harsh, and also please allow for any rough edges in my words to be forgiven as the late hour at which I am typing here: you are so committed to struggling that you made it the name of your blog. Big bold letters. I have encountered your blog many times before and have not subscribed because of the name. The posts, your thoughts, and their value in my life can not blot out that name. I am not struggling. It may be seductive to ruminate on what I do not have that I would like to have, or that others have, or others think I should have. But I am not a struggling actor. Neither are you. This is not new age wishful thinking; we are not the title of your blog. The title is simply goals perverted into self-reproach and fear. Even though either of us could make up a long and thorough list of lack, want and disappointment, that is not who we are. Not what we are. It is not True. It is the explanation fear asks us to hide behind. The opposite list more solidly comes to mind; it so readily comes to mind that you could not help yourself from including it partly in your post. Things like honed skills, knowledge of both craft and market, and most of all your obvious passion and joy at acting that creeps out between words and sentences, despite the title above them.

    Your blog title is wrong. It is as wrong as anything in life can be wrong. It is a lie. Whether you believe it is or not. Using such a title does yourself, your readers, and me a disservice. If you feel like you are the eponym of your title, you can keep feeling that way, but don't for a moment indulge the lie that it is actual and any more than emotion. If you want a different first name, use your own, which as far as I can tell is either a form of money or a beautiful instrument.

    I hope some warmth made it into these words, and if not, I'm sorry for that and please forgive me. Hope you have great dreams tonight, and that they don't end on waking.

  15. The best way to look at your situation is to ask yourself...do you want to remain scared and unhappy? If the core of these feelings is based solely on financial reasons...then you have to decide what's more important the dream of starring on tv or in the movies or doing something that will provide you with a regular paycheck. There is no shame in wanting to be financially secure or actually planning for the future. People change careers all the time...you picked a tough business to succeed in, but during the journey have learned valuable lessons and more about yourself. Use these discoveries of growth and understanding yourself better for a better and brighter future...it just might not involve acting on tv or in the movies...no shame in that.

  16. Lira,
    Firstly delighted to make your acquaintance,
    secondly delighted to read your honest thoughts,
    thirdly amazing at the wonderful comments you've received.

    Thanks for sharing so honestly. The ups and downs and highs and lows of this industry are what it is really about. You should be happy and maybe you aren't right now. But I guarantee in just a few days or weeks or a month you'll be high on the acting buzz again. I looked you up on IMDB and you're doing some great stuff so just keep rocking it!

    "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."
    - Dr. Seuss

    Can't wait to hear about your successes.

  17. You should go back into your blog post and take from it every piece of good news from it, because there are many pieces-- you've done some great work, you are a success, commercials, web series, the thing your friend wrote. You're living it. You're an actor.

    But the money isn't there. I can relate to that one.

    Thing I've noticed is I can either

    a) be poor, or
    b) be poor and fully of anxiety and self-loathing.

    And I think we have to try be the first. I don't exactly know how. But it's like some spiritual thing or something -- we get hired, and people want us around, when somehow we hold onto ourselves.

    Cause when you're stressed and anxious and pissed off and alone, it kind of shows, somehow. This is my experience.

    I wanted to email these rather than whore them out on your wall. But I can't see an email address, so it'll have to be here.

    I interviewed an actor called William Duffy (The West Wing) -- and I specifically asked him about acting and the stuckness, the impossibility of it. His answer is the most eloquent and helpful thing I've ever read on the subject: http://www.kidinthefrontrow.com/2011/02/william-duffy-actor-interview.html

    But also, I wanted to show you this thing I wrote a while back-- because I think it is exactly, exactly what you're going through: http://www.kidinthefrontrow.com/2010/04/creativity-tiredness.html

    Hope you're okay x

  18. Lira -
    I've been reading your blog for a year now...your motivation, drive and determination is what I find will make you stand out above others.

    We all have bad days, but its really about how we are able to pick ourselves up and push through it...

    Your time will come...I'm positive of that. I know you are going to be a success...you have to know it too!

    I think you are talented...I know you can write...so why don't you start making your own work?

    Matt & Ben wrote a great screenplay called "Good Will Hunting" then they refused to sell it to studios if they weren't going to be cast as the leads...we all know how that turned out...

    I feel everything is a balance in life...if you feel really down right now...something great is around the corner.

    XOXOX Actress Confessions

  19. I think I know which commercial class you're referring to - don't worry! That attitude is all part of his act - you'll see in the final week of class. Plus his class does work!

    Take a deep breath Lira. I wrote a similar blog a month ago when I didn't book anything for 6 months and I didn't have a single audition for 2 months. And then, of course, I booked 2 great paid projects (a pilot and an industrial) within 2 weeks.

    You know this industry. When it rains, it pours. It ebbs and flows. You'll book your next three projects within a week of each other. And those bookings will keep you going through the dry weeks.

    It's part of the game. Don't get discouraged. Keep up your craft, so when your opportunities come, you're ready for them.

    And they WILL come!

    Much love,

    From one Struggling Actress to another :)

  20. Hi Struggling Actress,

    I just stumbled on your blog a couple of months ago and this is my first time making a comment.

    I hav a great job: salary, company car, flexible schedule, perfect boss, work from home....and yet I don't have a desire to do it.
    I would give it up for a even a small supporting role in a feature film. It doesn't make sense to persue a carrer in entertainment but it is in us. Therefore, we have to take the lows with the highs, and let the thoughts of why you are passionate about acting in the first place drive you through those lows.

    Perhaps it's not the waiting for opportunities to happen. Maybe during those low times you should really get your creative juices flowing and you should write/make your own opportunites. You already done a great job starting this blog.

  21. keep focusing on lack and you'll attract lack, because that's where you are directing your energy (a whole blog focusing more about what you "dont" have and talking about the things that have happened only as a way to highlight what you "dont" have).

    focusing on the ways you are abundant will attract abundance. start by doing that.

    i'd also suggest not tying your worth as an actress to what others (actors on series who come to your class, directors, teachers, etc) say about where you "should" be. it will drive you insane (as it seems to be doing). If you've never read it, I'd suggest reading "Four Agreements'. Pay particular attention to the "don't take anything personally" agreement. know and believe in your talent, regardless of anyone's opinions, good or bad.

    it's a tough business. if it was easy, everyone would do it. actors leave this business all the time, especially when they get to this point you're at. up to you to decide if you're going to push forward focusing on your abundance and attracting more of that vs focusing on what you don't have and attracting more of that. up to you.

  22. Though I don't have the type of success story you've asked for, I'm very proud to be working on a documentary that is close to my heart and actually means something to me so I consider that a success.

    And you have so many success stories of your own that you seem to have forgotten. You've got an agent AND a manager who believes in you, a great sense of comedic timing, a fiance who loves you, a father who supports your dreams and a God-given gift to be able to write things that touch people. You are blessed beyond measure and now you're just waiting for the world to see it.

    Waiting is never easy, believe me I know. But this industry requires it. So keep doing what you're doing until the rest of the world sees what you have to offer.

  23. Lira!

    I typed up what some might consider the best comment ever. And of course...error. So poof, it's been wiped from existence.

    Basically what I said was, yes there is work out there to be had. It's just a matter of time. I have moments when I look back and assess where I am. I am miles above where I was just last year. It just takes so much time to get anywhere in this business. I'm sill free of representation which is a nice way of saying I want an agent. Badly. I've been trying all I can to get one and still nothing. So you've definitely got that advantage.

    Thankfully I'm currently performing in Macbeth and being paid for it. Which is all any actor can really ask for. But a year ago I was in a bad bad funk. There is always something looming on the horizon. There is always work out there with your name on it. SO trust me that it's coming. I know I'm on the east coast and we're looking at things from a different point of view, but it's still the same underneath it all. You will get work.

    And to be honest, reading your exploits these past few months I can honestly say that I'm jealous of the work you've been doing. And to me thats a compliment. You might not be getting work right this second but you've made good impressions on people that have seen you work. You're networking (i loathe networking) which is just as important if not more than booking the actual gig. I know I've been called in several times in the past few months by some directors and CD's that have seen me in the past. So if I'm making those connections I'm sure as hell you are.

    It's really just a matter of time. And as my mentor use to say, "Oh just freakin breathe through it."



Play nice.