Monday, October 31, 2011

49. Setting My Intention For The Week

“Be gentle with yourself, but do the work.”

This will be my theme for the week.

Stuff’s gotta get done, for sure… and I want to accomplish things… but not push myself sooooo hard that it becomes counter-productive and I’m falling over with exhaustion and crying into my scrambled eggs... So unnecessary.

Gentleness and listening to one’s own internal barometer are KEY to happiness… 

And consistent actions are KEY to doing the work…

Balance? Ha! Easier said than done.

“Stop trying to control others and focus instead on being kind to them.” - Leo Babauta, 

The above quote applies to the self too! 

Focus on KINDNESS! 

Self-kindness = super important… and nice... especially while working.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

48. Your Creative Calling

“When you are called to create, the psychology of the endeavor… changes. Experiencing a calling creates a sense of deeper conviction, of purpose that often you, even as the creator or vision leader, don’t fully understand… 
This sense of deep commitment changes how you experience the emotions and challenges of the process. It helps steel you against the demons that dance around in your head, the resistance that taunts and teases you away from your work. It fortifies your uncertainty scaffolding, giving more ability to lean into risk and exposure, to act when you’re being judged from all sides. Judgment be damned, you’re doing what you’re here to do. 
When you are driven by a calling or a deeply personal quest and you allow that calling to inspire action, you live in the world differently. You do a thousand little things you’ve never done before. You act and interact with more confidence and vitality. Your personal energy changes. The way you speak, the way you carry yourself, your willingness to move heaven and earth and to share and evangelize your vision become palpable manifestations of your will to succeed. 
You begin to radiate the quest. You come alive. And people around you not only feel it, but become drawn to it. And to you… Purpose and passion enchant people. They want to be around you. They want to help you. They want to rally to your cause... 
You may have experienced the power of being called to create, either as the visionary or the one captivated by someone else's vision. It may well have been more compelling than any well-constructed argument for action. 
But in the end, such a calling is often based on a blend of unyielding faith and deep conviction that "this must be done." Nothing more, nothing less. And on the backs of that hard-to-defend faith and conviction lie some of the greatest creations and careers the world has seen." 
-- Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear & Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance

You were put on this plant to do something GREAT. To contribute to the world in that way that only YOU can. Commit to doing that thing that you cannot NOT do. Let your light SHINE. Be dedicated to the quest of generously sharing your gifts with the world and the world will support you abundantly.

I am reading Uncertainty right now... and I have to say that it's completely on-point with my life and my heart and my thoughts and my philosophy and well... everything. So if anything that I've written over the past couple of months has resonated with you in any way... I urge you to go out and purchase this book or click on the link above and get it at Barnes&Noble online.

Reading this book may totally ANNOY you with all this motivation to do something bigger and greater and SCARIER than you ever thought yourself capable of doing. So if you're interested in sitting on your boo-tay and eating bon-bons and letting these precious moments of your life tick by and thinking to yourself, "If only I could... but... ugh... I can't... so what's the point in even trying?"... Then DON'T even think about touching this book.

Just sayin...

The quote I've included in this post is just a tiny nugget of the solid-gold insight into greatness contained within it's pages.

Way to go, Jonathan Fields!!!

Every chapter reveals another keystone to understanding the psychology of the creative process and gives simple tools to help overcome the fear and resistance we all experience when trying to do something that we've never done before and is waaaaaay outside of the comfort-zone... but that we feel MUST be done.

I am so encouraged and inspired by this book that I just bought four more copies to give as gifts. True story.

I cannot say enough about it's wonderfulness... Except that I can't put it down and I feel like I want to call Jonathan and thank him personally for writing it.

Seriously... don't pass on the opportunity to let his words soak into your brain and experience the alchemy that will inevitably result. He's like the Rumplestiltskin of the creative mind... spinning normal thoughts of complacency into the GOLD of action.

Wishing you all a golden Sunday afternoon.


"The most successful people in the world are comfortable with discomfort, embrace uncertainty, and have fun with fear. Read this brilliant book and you will too." - Michael Port, author of The Think Big Manifesto (commenting on Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields)


Saturday, October 29, 2011

47. Learn On The Job, Get Paid, Feel Good

“To enjoy now, there was something… I was going to have to master: my dread of criticism. Too much concern about whether I was getting praise or blame, too much anticipatory anxiety about what my detractors would say – those kinds of fears spoiled my pleasure in my work and, what’s more, probably weakened by work.” – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project 

When you get a new job and you’re learning how to do it…whether you are making lattes at Starbucks, rehearsing new dance numbers or writing complex reports… nobody expects you to do it perfectly your first day on the job.  There’s always a learning-curve. You learn as you go and improve your skills as time goes on… and the best part is… you’ve already got the job and you're getting PAID for that learning.

You were hired because they see that you have the skills to be able to LEARN how to do the specific tasks required for the job. Every job requires learning new things... And the process of getting really good at anything takes TIME, but … as long as you keep at it… you will improve. True story.

Once you've accomplished a certain amount of mastery of those new skills... you can look back on your first rocky days at a new job and laugh (hopefully), knowing that you could have probably cut yourself a little bit more slack and not stressed yourself out about it so much. 

Everybody's been the newbie and hopefully your co-workers and employers will have compassion for you as you become a master of your new job.

RE: Men & Women

I read a study earlier this year (wish I could cite it directly, but I couldn’t find it) which discussed the different ways that men and women approach the concept of “learning on the job.” 

The study showed that the majority of MEN felt no qualms what-so-ever about the idea of getting paid to learn how to do a new job. In other words, they didn’t stress-out about the fact that they had just gotten hired to do a job that they essentially didn’t know how to do yet. They felt confident in the fact that they would be able to learn it over time and felt that getting paid during this process was due compensation for their efforts.

WOMEN, however, had a different experience on the whole. Many of them expressed high levels of anxiety at not knowing how to expertly execute all the duties of their new jobs from day one, and felt a sort-of guilt at being paid to do something they were still learning how to do.

I thought this was so strange! I had never considered that new-job-stress could actually have some gender associations. Still... every human being is different, so these kinds of studies must be taken with a grain-of-salt. But it certainly made me think and reflect on my own expectations for myself when starting up any new project.

I’d like to be totally okay with getting paid to learn. You want to pay me to get good at doing something? Okay. No prob. I'm on it!

I mean, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to get paid training at your job... take it!!! That's such a gift! Your employers are investing in you… teaching you new skills… for their own benefit (of course), but these new skills will benefit you as well because you can apply them in future job situations or in your life in general. And you can always learn about yourself in the process... in ANY process. So really it's a win/win for everyone.

And as someone who spent many, many years and many, many student loans… paying my way through classes, so that I could learn things… the whole concept of "learning on the job" and getting PAID is pretty freakin’ awesome.

Re: Acting

Sooo, when it comes to acting, learning on the job is the NORM. Even the BEST actors in the business are constantly learning new skills for their roles. 

In a previous post, I discussed how much l learned from attending the alumni talkback sessions at the callback weekend at NYU. I wanted to share with you one specific conversation that helped to shift my mindset about learning on the job...

After the Q&A was over I walked up to Billy Crudup, an NYU alum, and asked him what his name was again? HA! (I knew I had seen him in a bunch of stuff, but honestly had no idea what a well-known actor he was.)

Me = Ridiculous

He smiled and said, "Billy." I said, "I'm Virginia. Nice to meet you... I was just wondering how you feel that your training at NYU prepared you for a film career and dealing with the unique skills required for on-camera work?" 

(I asked this question because, in all the three years of training at NYU, on-camera training only happens in your third year. It is not a program that has a great focus on on-camera acting, but sooooo many of the alumni have gone on to great success in that medium. So I was trying  to understand where the connection was between the training at NYU and what I was seeing on the big and small screens.)

Billy’s answer was, of course, brilliant and gracious. He smiled and said that at NYU he had learned all the essential skills that an actor needs to have to prepare for ANY kind of a role in ANY medium, but most importantly, NYU taught him to just say “YES.” Meaning… that he would "go for it"… do whatever was required for the role… whether he “knew how” to do it or not or “felt prepared” to do it or not. He’d just DO IT. He felt confident enough from his training at NYU that he could LEARN ON THE JOB how to be a skillful film actor. 

And he is.

At NYU he established a strong foundation of acting training, practice and confidence and used it to help build a solid film career. 


As he stood there discussing this early part of his career with me, I could see that he saw great humor in many of his early foibles on-camera and had clearly learned not to take himself too seriously somewhere along the way as well. Adorable. 

He is a kind and generous human being and I will always be grateful for him taking the time out of his busy schedule to show up at that alumni talk-back and share his experience with potential students. Just awesome.

In conclusion, it all comes back to the freedom from anxiety that being okay with “not knowing” provides... Being able to just say YES and trust that all that you will discover everything you will need to know in time. 

What a stress-free, suffering-free existence we’d all have if we could just trust that all is well and everything will work out fine!?


Or as Jack Plotnick affirms for himself when walking into an audition, “I am going to take it from where I am.” Because where I am right now is the perfect place to begin.

Billy began where he was... trained at NYU... learned on the job... and now he's dancing with Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love.

Sooo, I hope we can all take Billy’s lead, here… and feel GOOD about learning on the job!

Begin. Feel good. Learn. Feel good. Get better. Feel good. Get paid. Feel good. Learn more. Feel good...

You see where I am going with this?...

Now go!


“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all." - Michelanglo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, architect & poet (1475 - 1564)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

46. A Master’s Edjumacation In Acting

“The world is filled with many colorful characters, one or many of whom would be absolutely thrilled to play along in any drama you’d care to create,  – romantically, socially, financially, comically – any. You just have to let the Universe do the casting – have to. You decide what you want, physically move in its direction and I’ll “send in the clowns.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe
Speaking of clowns… Ricky Gervais, a great modern-day comic genius, is getting a quality education from a MASTER actor in the clip below.  Enjoy…

It’s funny because it’s TRUE!!! Ian is a great actor, but when you simplify what he does into it’s components it sounds absolutely ridiculous. 

He’s essentially a master pretender…. excuse me, SIR Master Pretender.  ;-)
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” – Mohandas K. Gandi (1869 -1948)
Even a Master is no match for the giggles…

Happy Thursday, People!

Take time to laugh at yourself today as you’re baby-stepping along your journey.

The most seeeeerious of pursuits have the greatest opportunities for humor.



“Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.” – John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902 - 1968)


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

45. Life/Art... Art/Life... Same Thing

"A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art." -- Jorge Luis Borges, writer (1899-1986)

The idea expressed in the quote above has always brought me a ton of comfort during tough experiences in my life. It helps me somehow to think of challenges as opportunities for LEARNING and GROWTH. And that the places I go and the people I encounter are all coming into my experience for a purpose... to help reveal something to me about myself... or for me to reflect back a revelation that they will grow from.

Sometimes these discoveries and encounters feel wonderful and sometimes painful... but I've come to trust that both are valuable because the lessons I am learning as a result are helping to shape who I am as a human being. And since acting is the art of being a human being living in imaginary circumstances... I feel like the more varied experiences I allow myself to have... the deeper my empathy for other humans will grow... and my acting will naturally become more nuanced as a result. At any rate, lessons will be learned, if we are open to them!

So, really, by living my life... from the mundane to the spectacular... I'm always working on my acting. Awesome! That's a great feeling for me. Very freeing. I can do ANYTHING I want and the growth I gain through the experience will automatically fuel my work. Love that.

Life/Art... that's the lens I use to see the world. I like it. Keeps me engaged, invigorated and appreciative of the both the easy and the tough moments in my day. Always looking for opportunities to learn and be shaped by the world feels like great motivation to get up in the morning.

And when I'm 102 years old... I wonder how my life/art will end up looking? I hope that I feel like I've created a beautiful piece of life/art that I can be proud of. I will die a very, very happy woman, if that is the case.

What's your life/art shaping up to be? Looking forward to seeing the future of what we all are creating!

Wishing you a life-time of learning and joyful growth,

"See yourself as a cooperative force in the intention of a better world." - Lena Stevens, The Power Path

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

44. Looking For A Good Time? Do Dishes.

"The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else - we are the busiest people in the world." - Eric Hoffer, philosopher & author (1902-1983)

Hey, Peeps!

I know you all have busy, busy lives. That’s the way of the world these days, right?

I often forget that I need to give myself space to actually ENJOY my life. Every time I check something off the to-do list, it just seems to get longer.

In the interest of regaining some of my sanity, I am going to be mindful to single-task today. I will do one thing at a time and enjoy focusing on doing that one thing really, really well.

What will you do today to be more mindful and experience a deeper sense of joy? Don’t know? Need inspiration?

Here’s a gift for you! … A guest post from my FAVORITE blog: ZenHabits. See below…


Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.


“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” - Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk

The idea of being mindful — being present, being more conscious of life as it happens — seems a bit impossible to many of the super busy.
But not only is it possible, I’d submit that it’s desirable, and that it’ll help the busy (and non-busy) achieve their goals and enjoy life more fully…

 “Do you have patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?” - Lao Tzu

How to Be Mindful
1. Do one thing at a time. Single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing or driving. Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
2. Do it slowly and deliberately. You can do one task at a time, but also rush that task. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.
3. Do less. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do. But you’re busy and you can’t possibly do less, right? You can. I’ve done it, and so have many busy people. It’s a matter of figuring out what’s important, and letting go of what’s not. Read more: The Lazy Manifesto: Do Less.
4. Put space between things. Related to the “Do less” rule, but it’s a way of managing your schedule so that you always have time to complete each task. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.
5. Spend at least 5 minutes each day doing nothing. Just sit in silence. Become aware of your thoughts. Focus on your breathing. Notice the world around you. Become comfortable with the silence and stillness. It’ll do you a world of good — and just takes 5 minutes!
6. Stop worrying about the future – focus on the present. Become more aware of your thinking — are you constantly worrying about the future? Learn to recognize when you’re doing this, and then practice bringing yourself back to the present. Just focus on what you’re doing, right now. Enjoy the present moment.
7. When you’re talking to someone, be present. How many of us have spent time with someone but have been thinking about what we need to do in the future? Or thinking about what we want to say next, instead of really listening to that person? Instead, focus on being present, on really listening, on really enjoying your time with that person.
8. Eat slowly and savor your food. Food can be crammed down our throats in a rush, but where’s the joy in that? Savor each bite, slowly, and really get the most out of your food. Interestingly, you’ll eat less this way, and digest your food better as well.
9. Live slowly and savor your life. Just as you would savor your food by eating it more slowly, do everything this way — slow down and savor each and every moment. As I type this, for example, I have my 3-year-old daughter, Noelle, on my lap. She’s just sitting here quietly, as the rain pours down in a hush outside. What a lovely moment. In fact, I’m going to take a few minutes off just to be with her now. Be right back. :)
10. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Cooking and cleaning are often seen as drudgery, but actually they are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house).
11. Keep practicing. When you get frustrated, just take a deep breath. When you ask yourself, “What should I do now, Self?”, the answer is “keep practicing”.

“When you drive around the city and come to a red light or a stop sign, you can just sit back and make use of these twenty or thirty seconds to relax — to breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy arriving in the present moment. There are many things like that we can do.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ll leave you with a video from one of my favorite mindfulness teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh (check out his books, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, and True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

Monday, October 24, 2011

43. You Don’t Get To Choose Your Family… Or Do You?

“It is fortunate to be of high birth, but it is no less so to be of such character that people do not care to know whether you are or are not.” – Jean de la Bruyere, essayist and moralist (1645 – 1696)

Some of my favorite actors come from “acting” families or families that are “in the business.” How awesome is that? I mean, my parents are both working-class, non-actor, “normal” people. Booooring. 

I used to get so jealous of the Drew Barrymores and Gwyneth Paltrows of the world… How AMAZING to grow up in a family where being an actor was the norm. They have already established business connections in the industry to be able to get involved in high-quality projects working with really talented people and being able to get paid an actual living wage from your very first acting job? What a privileged way to be born into this world!?! 

But rather than being mad at God for inserting my soul into a non-acting family… I've decided that I’m glad that I was born a Wilcox and that I went through my own process to discover that I wanted to be an actor all on my own, not 'cause it was the easiest thing... but because it's the thing that I really feel called to do. 

I certainly didn’t decide to start acting because my parents pushed me into it. HA! In fact, my Mom was always so surprised that her daughter had this innate desire to want to get up in front of people and sing and dance and act. 

She was always supportive of me, but a little frightened for me too… That by putting myself out there that I might be made fun of or something… or realize that I was actually shy and slink back into my shell… LOL! I remember her getting so nervous for me at my performances as a kid. Sometimes she was more nervous than I was!

Anyway, after I got over the fact that I wasn’t born into an “acting” family… I began to discover at a young age that it is possible to create that sense of family for yourself by getting involved with a theatre company. That’s alllllways accessible. Non-profit theatres are always looking for volunteers! And ushering or working backstage or helping load-in/load-out sets are great ways to get involved, gain experience and get to feel like you’re playing a small part in the theatre family. I loved doing that kind of stuff growing up. So rewarding. And when auditions roll around, you already know everyone! You feel comfortable with them... they feel comfortable with you. You audition and... BAM!... You're cast! Awesomeness. You are in.

Cut to yesterday...

I attended a Juilliard “Spotlight” Session last night, which consisted of a campus tour, Q & A session with faculty and a ticket to see the 4th Year MFA students in All My Sons

This was my second campus tour, though this time it was lead by Lee Cioppa, Associate Dean of Admissions. Her enthusiasm for all disciplines at school was infectious. She joyfully lead us through some of the music and dance spaces, the library, performance spaces as well as the acting rooms. It was great just to get to walk through the halls again and feel comfortable in the building. Juilliard is an amazing place to be. 

Though, as James Houghton said, it’s just a building… Juilliard is really made up of people. I love that. It’s the PEOPLE that make Juilliard Juilliard. So as a student you get to help shape the program, just as the program is helping to shape you.

During the Q&A session I got to thinking… that this is a beautiful family of people up at the front of the room… a loving and nurturing family, all of them keeping the students’ best interests at heart. 

And the philosophy of service at the school, of the “Artist As Citizen,” inspires me to want to continue to persevere through the hardships and uncertainties of this crazy business-of-show in hopes that my art can actually be of service to others. Because isn’t helping people and bringing enjoyment to their lives just the best thing ever?  

I was sitting there, joyously taking in the moment and thinking to myself that THIS was the kind of show-business family I want to be born into. I’d rather be a part of this family than be a Barrymore any day of the week!

Then, I got to see All My Sons... Wowie WOW!!!  

Michael Curran-Dorsano gave one of the most moving performances I have seen onstage since I saw August: Osage County on Broadway. And that was my FAVORITE ever. 

Michael played Chris Keller, opposite veteran stage actor Harris Yullin, and he held his own every step of the way. There was no pretense to his portrayal of Chris. He skillfully maintained the style of the time with vocal choices and movement, while keeping an honest and open emotional life bubbling underneath the surface at all times. He totally made me believe that all of the given circumstances of the play were ACTUALLY happening to him. He was magnetic. 

I became so immersed in the storytelling that I started to forget that it was a PLAY. LOL! I felt like I was actually peeking over a fence into a neighbor’s yard and watching them fight and seeing their lives unraveling right before my eyes. I cannot tell you how unusual that experience is for me. I LOVED it! Thank you, Juilliard!

And, as I made my way back to the subway, I felt overwhelmed with JOY! Why?... 

Well, in this case, I didn’t have to leave it up to God or the fates or chance… as to who’s family my soul would be born into. In this case, I have a choice… I can choose to apply to be a part of this creative family… and hopefully, grow-up as an artist with a nurturing faculty as mentors... and sisters and brothers like Michael Curran-Dorsano to look up to and inspire me to continue in the process of becoming the kind of artist I hope to become... and the best part is... That process? It's already happening. It's happening right now.



“We need to approach [the world] with enthusiasm and anticipation of something wonderful instead of fear. We need to go back to the innocence of a child and face our future without being jaded about what is possible and what is not.” – Lena Stevens, The Power Path

Sunday, October 23, 2011

42. “New Thoughts For Actors” or “Jack Plotnick Is My HERO”

“Most of us go around thinking that not only are the thoughts in our head the truth, but that everyone else has the same thoughts, and holds the same things to be true. This is exactly why people go to therapy.  It is to find the things that we take as “truth”, that other people don’t. As soon as we realize that other people don’t necessarily feel the same way, we are freed from the constraints of that old belief.” – Jack Plotnick, New Thoughts For Actors 

Ladies and Gentlemen… my new HERO, Mr. Jack Plotnick

In my on-camera class at The Barrow Group (which has no affiliation with Jack Plotnick, FYI.), I recently made another HUGE self-discovery...

I. Have. Issues.

Lol! It’s true. I know you guys are all in shock at this information.

Fo realz… I’ve got some major negative-thought issues that seriously inhibit my own personal enjoyment of my work as an actor. The end result may be a “good scene,” but at what cost? If I spend the whole time SUFFERING in my own head while doing it, is it really worth it?... NO! 

Ugh! Bleh. Torturing oneself with negative thoughts of self-doubt feels sucky and is no way to build a sustainable career. Acting should feel FUN and EASY… and if it feels that way… It’ll probably look that way too. 

And by learning how to get these unhelpful negative thoughts gone from my brain, perhaps others will be inspired to do the same. Then we can all be happy, living in our fun, non-judgmental world of creative joy!   Ha!

So here’s my main issue…

When I get overwhelmed as an actor… (for any reason) incorporating new business, new acting notes, new lines, anything that needs to be adjusted on-the-fly with no time for “practice” or “preparation”… I suffer in my own head… big-time… Negative thought over-load! 

Why? Because I have this BELIEF that with no time to practice I will never be able to do it RIGHT and hence I am about to FAIL and therefore I am a BAD actor that no one will ever want to work with and my bad acting is about to be recorded on-camera and EMBARRASS me for all recorded time. 

~Shudder ~ Terrifying… and TOTALLY FALSE.

Here’s what Jack Plotnick has to say about my negative overreaction to actor-overwhelm:

““If it’s hysterical, then it’s historical.” In other words, if your reaction to something is bigger and more emotional than the situation really calls for (“hysterical”), then you are not really reacting to the present situation, but to some situation in your past (“historical”).”

Oh, Jack... your bounty of wisdom knows no bounds! 

Yes. I am being hysterical and I do know that it’s rooted in some historical s*#t. True dat.

However… I do not have to be a victim to these historically ingrained bad habits of the mind! Cut to Jack...

In becoming more self-aware about my self-destructive-self-talk-issue I can now start to practice seeing this issue for what it REALLY is… an illusion of my own creation.

The REALITY is... I am just as capable of being "connected" in a scene with 2 minutes of preparation as I am with 2 weeks of preparation. In fact, sometimes 2 minutes of preparation is preferable, ‘cause I won’t have time to over-think things and end up too polished and boring. Having 2 minutes of preparation forces me to stay in the moment and listen and react because I LITERALLY don’t know what’s about to happen in the scene. Now... if I can just learn to trust and not be so afraid of the "not-knowing" thing... THAT's the key to having a good scene and ENJOYING the experience of being in it. 


So, as Jack recommends, when my self-destructive thoughts come up, I can use an affirmation to disempower the negativity avalanche in that very moment… like…

“I release and destroy my need to get this right... F*%k it. Dare to do it WRONG.”


“I am going to take it from where I am. The amount of preparation I have done on this scene is enough for me to approach this scene as an improv.”

That'll shut my "vulture" up, right quick! And that will lead to...


Now I can play! Now I can be in the scene and not be wasting my energy judging my own performance while I’m in it... which is soooo not helpful to doing good work.

And the more I practice this affirmation technique, the better I will get at it. Until, eventually, I will have created a new HABIT Of POSITIVE THOUGHT and my old, forgotten, negative way of thinking won’t even BE an issue anymore. 

That’s what I’m looking forward to… And I’ll get there too...

One. Thought. And. One. Affirmation. At. A. Time.

After all… a belief is only a thought you keep thinking. So I might as well spend my time thinking some really good thoughts and begin to BELIEVE that I am a great actor… because if I don't believe it, how will anyone else believe it? 

But more importantly, I LOVE acting and I want it to be an enjoyable experience... always!

Anyhoo, enough about me. What about YOU? We've all got issues... and even if you're not an actor, these same skills apply. 

What’s your issue? Is there an affirmation that you can create to counter-act it?

Don’t sit idly by and let fear and negative thoughts control you! It’s never going to help you do anything great in this life. And you are a powerful being with love and talent and gifts to give the world, if you will get out of your own way and let your light shine! Soooo, find your affirmation! Listen to your TRUE voice… a voice based in LOVE.

For more inspiration and some really useful tools… check out Jack Plotnick’s FREE online book New Thoughts For Actors: A Practical Guide ToLoving Acting (and even auditioning!) Again.

Vultures are for the birds,

P.S. Just for fun, watch this…

Saturday, October 22, 2011

41. Keepin' It Real

"Acting is natural to you. It's what you do, because what you are doing as an actor is just living life. But you are living it on stage. The trick is to live it as fully on stage as you live it when off stage." - Kathryn Bild, Acting From A Spiritual Perspective
YouTube is an amazing place.

I could spend hours and hours watching videos and learning about anything from weight-lifting to cooking to how to re-cover a chair. And a cornucopia of incredible resources for actors are there as well.

This morning I stumbled upon this... Ms. Rachel McAdams' audition tape for The Notebook.

The thing I LOVE about this audition is how honestly she believes that all of this is REALLY HAPPENING to her. She believes it so deeply... that I believe it too. That's brilliant acting... in a nutshell.

And, the emotional transparency that she's demonstrating is an amazing service to humanity. How many hundreds of thousands of people have seen this film and cried along with her at the heart-break of having to leave someone you know you love? As an audience member, it's a beautiful catharsis to see your innermost life represented honestly by other humans. You know you're not alone!!! It's a shared human experience.

Sure, it's entertaining. But more importantly... if you see a certain performance at just the right time in your life... it can also be LIFE-CHANGING.

That's why acting is such a cool job. You get to be a catalyst for other people's emotional journey or thought-altering experience... and you'll NEVER know who you're affecting or how they've been changed. Mind-blowing!!!

I had an acting teacher tell me once that he's only interested in the REAL. Fake is boring. That was his philosophy.

I mean, in life... "fake" people are not my favorite, I must admit. I much prefer "real" people. Real people are magnetic and interesting. And what is true in life is also true in acting.

So don't be fake. Live your life FULLY. Keep it REAL. It may not always be pretty, but it's waaayyy more powerful.


"Everybody has their own way of tapping into their realness." - Sandra Bernhard


Thursday, October 20, 2011

40. Thoughts Become Things

"Most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it." - Seth Godin

Will Smith is my MAN!!! What an inspiration! Take 10 minutes of you life to watch this video. He has some brilliant things to say...

"You want something. Go get it. Period." ... I LOVE THAT!!!

"He who says he can and he who says he can't are both usually right." - Confucius

Protect your dream, people. Don't be "realistic." That's boring. Go for it!!!! Keep to your vision and build it thought by thought, day by day, brick by brick and you will feel the satisfaction of seeing your vision becoming a reality because YOU CREATED IT.

"Don't wait for opportunities. Prepare for them; create them." - Khalid Al-Falih

Don't wait around for life to "happen" to you. Make it happen for yourself! 

If something about your life sucks... CHANGE IT. You can. You are POWERFUL. 

Create your own reality. Become your own dream come true.


P.S. A big THANK YOU shout-out to our newest email subscriber... the talented Ms. Anna Alaimo... for sending me the link to this video. You RULE!!!

"Isn't it cool how when your thoughts become things and your dreams start coming true, they invariably bring along with them totally unexpected, life-changing manifestations that just blow your mind?" - Mike Dooley, Tut's Universe


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

39. Recap – 2011 – NYU Grad Acting Auditions

Year 2: MFA Auditions & Waitlist

"Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” 
– Mary Tyler Moore 

My experience auditioning:

After my AMAZING experience at auditions and callbacks at NYU my first year, I had both high-hopes and great fears for Year 2 auditions. My worst nightmare was that I wouldn’t make it through the first cut and wouldn’t get the opportunity to audition again for Janet Zarish and Mark Wing-Davy, who had both gotten to know me a bit during the callback weekend from the year before.

That morning at NYU, my first-round audition was for Victor Pappas, whom I had never met. (I believe he was on sabbatical the previous year.) What a joyful spirit! He welcomed me into the room with a bright, genuine smile. I liked him instantly. And that calmed my nerves and made me super excited to share the monologues I had been working on for months in preparation for this very moment.

It felt so good to get up there and say the words and feel the feelings... Doin' the acting thang.

I had been spending most of my year sitting in an office, making money to pay off my credit card/student loan debt. I had set this as a personal goal for the year, so that I could get into grad school with less of a debt burden. Money stress had become a huge issue for me. Scarcity thinking had been ruling my life in a really negative way and had been sapping my creative energies for YEARS. Now that I was aware of it, I had made every effort to get that debt-burden GONE, which resulted in a feeling of lightness and freedom in ALLLL areas of my life.

So getting up and doing my monologues for Victor felt like a two-fold joy…
1. Getting to do something that I love to do…  AND...
2. Knowing that by taking a break from acting and by NOT doing it for a while, I was enabling myself to appreciate it more deeply and with greater sense of freedom from financial stress.

After auditioning for Victor, I walked out of the room thinking… “Well, even if that’s all I get to do today, it was worth it. I had FUN and it felt like a successful audition to me, no matter what the outcome.” And I believed it too.

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” 
– Dale Carnegie

In a little while, Jonathon Ward came out to the waiting area with a stack of headshot/resumes in-hand. He read off the names one by one…

My heart = pounding in my chest... Unfamiliar names ringing in my ears, as Jonathon breathed each word and then I heard…  Virginia Wilcox.

Ahhhhhhh!!!! That’s my name! He called me!

I made the first cut. Whew! I would get to see Mark and Janet again! YES!!!! Sweet joy!!!!

When it was my turn to go in for the second-round that same day, I practically bounced into the room to see Mark and Janet. I felt like I was coming home to old friends. I greeted them with a grin and a wave of familiarity... and I was met with looks varying from vague recognition to complete blankness… Yikes!

In my head:
Expectation adjustment NEEDED!!! I had hoped that they would remember me, but if they did,… oh, boy,… they sure weren’t letting on! Oh, dear... I thought I was more memorable than that, but apparently not. LOL! Shake it off, Wilcox… Give them a chance to remember you from now on...

Mark looked at my list of four monologues and asked me to present my non-Shakespeare classical (very dark/dramatic) and my dramatic contemporary.

Drama + Drama = HEAVY.

And who wants to spend 3 years with someone who has no sense of humor? Not me... and probably not them.

I blinked. I blinked again. What to do now? I knew I was about to serve up a depression cocktail. He didn’t choose anything that had any lightness to it. I wanted to say something, to warn him, but I wasn’t courageous enough to speak up for myself.

In my head:
Just do it, Wilcox. If he wants to see some comedy, he’ll ask you for a third piece. It’s gonna be fine. Let it go... But I didn't/couldn't.

So I went to start my classical piece… and I couldn’t think of the first line… and I couldn’t think of it… and I couldn’t think of it...

I just stood there. Staring at the floor. My brain racing with a million thoughts except for the one that would really help me to be thinking in this moment… namely: MY FIRST F*@ING LINE. Then after another interminable eternity I “calmly” said to Mark and Janet, “I’m sorry. Just give me a second.” And I turned upstage and I breathed. Thinking… “It will come to you, Wilcox. Breathe. Let it come. Breathe.”…. And, thank the dear lord… it finally came to me.

Jeeeeesus that scared the S*%t out of me though… forgetting the words… losing focus… and I was totally out-of-body for the rest of the audition. Words were spoken but it was someone else speaking them. I was residing on the ceiling staring down at myself with a constant awareness of my complete and utter terror.

After I was done with my two uber-dramatic pieces… You could cut the angst in the room with a knife. And Janet broke the silence with… “Ah-hem… Virginia, would you like to sing for us?”

I sighed a small sigh of relief and smiled and said, “Sure! I’ll be singing… Get Happy.”

HA! And they laughed. Which was nice. Cut some of the tension, at least. And no third monologue was mentioned.

I sang my little ditty and dutifully dragged myself out the door… wondering all the while…
1. Where, along the way, had I lost my bounce? …and…
2. How had I managed to give all my power away? …and…
3. Why did I feel like I had totally lost control of myself during that audition?

A few minutes later, after the next hopeful applicant had gone in to the audition room, the monitor in the waiting area smiled and said…“That’s all we need to see today, Virginia. You’re free to go home. Thank you.”

Me: “Oh, okay… (all my blood dropped into my toes and my face went completely white)… Thanks... (gulp… hold it together… hold it together). Best of luck with the rest of the auditions today… (the best smile I could muster) … Bye-bye."

...Bye-bye, NYU, bye-bye...

I spent months analyzing it, for no good reason, really. I couldn’t go back and change anything. All I could do was move forward. But I was having a tough time figuring out what I was supposed to have learned from this experience.

The only thing that I could come up with as a major regret… is not speaking up for myself when Mark asked me for my two dramatic pieces… It would have made ME feel better to have said something like, “Mark, just wanted to let you know that you’ve chosen two dramatic pieces, which I am more than HAPPY to do for you. Just wanted to let you know, in case you want to see something a little lighter, as a contrast.” In which case, he may have still opted to go with his choices… or maybe he would have reconsidered and chosen a comedic piece… it really wouldn’t have mattered to me. Either way would have been fine. But, in retrospect, I would have felt more courageous and more in-control and more focused and prouder-of-myself in that situation, if I had followed my impulse and spoken up for myself in that moment… rather than blinking back my qualms and feeling like I was about to dutifully sacrifice myself to the drama gods. That only lead to me feeling super conflicted, getting distracted in my own head… and going up on my line… and losing confidence… and losing focus… and losing them… and, ultimately, disappointing myself.

By trying to be a "people-pleaser" and by stuffing my own internal impulse to speak up, I had succeeded in pleasing no one.

“Resiliency, I think is the KEY to success. The most successful people I know are so resilient. They’ve failed many times over. Whereas most people fail once or twice, and that’s it.” – Adam Gilbert, MyBodyTutor

Thank goodness I would be permitted to come back and try again next year!!! Do over!!!

My measure of success:

I did make the first cut… which felt like a great accomplishment.

Several weeks later, I received an email from Jonathon Ward informing me that I would not be invited to the callback weekend but that I was on the “waiting list.” Apparently they keep about 100 applicants on a waiting list, in the case that they are not able to find their 16-18 students from the 50 that are invited to the callback weekend. I was grateful to be included on the waiting list, but I knew that the likelihood of making it to this year’s class from the waiting list was very, very slim.

I would not be holding my breath.

Then, after a time, I received another email notifying me that they had chosen their MFA students for the year and they wished me best-of-luck in all my future endeavors.


Well, at least I had the courage to show up for the second time… and I had tried again. That was very important to me.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to happen yet. Whah-whah! What was supposed to happen… had happened. And as not-so-fun-and-awkward as that audition was for me, I survived to tell the tale.

“Whenever something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would, instead of thinking that something went wrong, see it as something that went unexpectedly well, but for reasons that are not yet apparent. Everything plays in your favor.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe

Learning and Resolutions for Year 3:

I wasn’t supposed to be at NYU yet. I had other stuff to learn/do elsewhere. And it has been a year of GROWTH… for which I am truly, truly grateful.

Good thing I'm such a prolific failer... otherwise this blog wouldn't exist. Hee, hee! And, last year, I sure didn't foresee becoming a "blogger." That never entered my mind. So that a cool and unexpected bi-product of failure. Ha!

"Laced throughout every day of your life are hidden highways of opportunity, invisible crossroads of time, and golden avenues for personal transformation that if only traveled upon would reveal the extraordinary, the sublime, and the unexpected." - Mike Dooley, Tut's Universe

When reflecting on my experiences preparing for grad school auditions, Year 1 and Year 2, I realized that the thing I disliked most about the process was my feeling of isolation. Actors are collaborative artists and I wanted to have a sense of community collaboration and support in my 3rd try for acceptance to grad school.

Cut to me setting up this blog. Cut to you subscribing. And here we are now… collaborating daily. Success!
“I still don’t get why people are so surprised that the turtle beat the rabbit over the long run. Consistent effort, no matter how small, sparks magic, fills sails, butters bread, turns tides, instills faith, summons friends, improves health, burns calories, creates abundance, yields clarity, builds courage, spins planets and rewrites destinies… No matter how small.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe
This year has ALREADY been a way better grad school audition prep experience for me than the last two years combined and I won’t even be auditioning until January! With this blog, it feels great to be making a small impact on the world in my own Virginia way... by staying focused on my dreams/goals... by posting daily about my creative process... and by connecting with friends who are pursuing their own dreams/goals and are using the blog as a means of inspiration on their journey's too!

It's all about grad school for me... but not at all about grad school... all at the same time. It could be anything that you aspire to be or do. All the same kinds of skills apply to any creative process of growth.

I digress.

Thanks for collaborating, folks. Hope that you’re finding some value in sharing this journey with me.

Year 3 auditions are going to be a whole new ball-game. Yale (3rd try). NYU (3rd try). Juilliard (1st try).

Wish me luck!

Who knows what will happen? But for now, I’m preparing… little by little, day by day, brick by brick, thought by thought, action by action. And as long as I am moving in the direction of making my dreams a reality… I am happy.

Life is good.

Wishing you all... a life-time of risk-taking, failure, learning, unfaltering determination and success,


“Remember that we are all works in process, perfect in our progress and always moving towards our own personal growth and evolution.” 
– Lena Stevens, The Power Path
  P.S. Sorry for the late, late, late post. This one kinda took me allll day. Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

38. Recap – 2010 – NYU Grad Acting Auditions

“If you want to make a living at what you love doing, you need to get good at it.” – Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

Year 1: MFA Auditions & Callbacks

My experience at auditions:

I am sorry to say that I cannot remember who was in the audition room for my first audition at NYU. It was a female faculty member and she was lovely and kind. I did my two pieces, the same ones I had done at Yale. But this time, my name was called when my group had completed the first round… Me and about 6 others in our group of 20 made the cut. Whew!

Later that day, during the next round we all got to audition for Janet Zarish and Mark Wing-Davy. I felt an absolute kindredness with Janet from the moment I saw her. She exudes love and support. And Mark has a wonderful sense of humor and a smart, insightful groundedness to him. When he speaks, he always has something to SAY. I love that. Both of them were welcoming and seemed genuinely glad that I was there to audition for them, which I appreciated greatly… because I was NERVOUS. I really, really, really wanted to do well. 

Did my two pieces. Mark asked for my non-Shakespeare classical, which was super fun and I LOVED doing. They may have asked me for a third piece at that point… I can’t recall. Then they asked me to sing. I belted out some short 16-bar Judy Garland ditty (‘cause I’m a fan) and I then was asked to stay for the “final round” that day. Which, for me, ended up being a pull-up-a-chair-and-lets-chat type of interview. I don’t remember exactly what was said. It's been a while. But I remember feeling good when I left.

… Then a few weeks later… I got a voicemail... “Hi, this is Janet Zarish over at NYU. We’d like to invite you to come to our callback weekend, if you’d be interested. We’ll be sending you an email with all the info. Please reply to Jonathon Ward and he’ll get you set-up with all the details. Hope to see you soon!”

ME = Over-The-MOON!!! Heck-yeah, I'm INTERESTED. Sooooo excited!!!

My experience at the callback weekend:

This weekend changed my life... not an exaggeration… and I’ll try to clue-you-in as to WHY...

When I first moved to New York in 2007, I hardly knew ANYONE. I reconnected with a few friends from college and some acquaintances from past shows, but no real strong COMMUNITY of people that I felt like I was a part of. So when I showed up at NYU’s callback weekend and Janet welcomed us, asking us to be a part of the NYU family for the weekend so that we could really experience what it would feel like to be a student at NYU.... I was overwhelmed with JOY! I felt like I had finally found my PEOPLE! 

Here I was being embraced by this amazing COMMUNITY of actors and teachers with such a profound commitment to the work and deep respect for actors and an unshakable sense of professionalism. It felt like actor-utopia. Seriously.

The 50 of us were divided into smaller groups. We got to do classwork/workshops together, tour the school, do our monologues again for Janet and Mark and..... the other truly-life-changing-part-that-I-will-never-ever-forget… the alumni talk-back.

“Before we set our hearts too much on anything, let us examine how happy are those who already possess it.” – Francois duc de La Rochefoucauld, moralist (1613-1680)

As you may have guessed, I am into this whole idea of “community,” so here’s this group of NYU alumni, back at the school to share their experience and talk about their lives after graduation… and I am in freakin’ heaven. They are all super down-to-earth and talented as all-get-out and soooo open and giving and willing to answer any freakin’ question, no matter how silly. And they’re all in different places in their careers… film, tv, broadway, off-broadway, writing, directing… ev-er-y-thang… you-name-it! 

And... they actually HAVE careers and get paid to do what they LOVE…That is NOT how it is for many actors where I grew up. These NYU alumni are committed to this crazy business of show as their passion and their life’s WORK! And they are so supportive of each other, such generous people! 

NYU had clearly had a profound impact on the actor/professionals that each of them had become. I sat and watched and listened and felt like I was already a part of that community, in my small way, just by being there that weekend. 

It was like crack. I was totally addicted. I wanted MORE. 

I longed to spend 3 years with amazing people like that… and graduate… and be a part of the greater NYU family of artists… and come back years later to the callback weekend and sit on that stage and tell some young up-and-comers how NYU had helped transform me into the artist I was becoming and welcome them into our family too! 

Being a professional actor isn’t just a pipe-dream. And all those alumni were sitting there as proof. They’re making it happen and NYU was a powerful part of that journey for them. So inspiring.

Now I KNEW I really wanted to get in!

… Then on April 1st, I got a letter in the mail. 16 applicants had been chosen out of the 842 that had auditioned that year. I was not one of the chosen.

Me = Super disappointed… which later turned into… determined not to give up.

But, AHHHHH! Audition again? I had already been REJECTED. What if I failed... AGAIN?


“Don’t let the questioning mind get in the way of what you know to be emotionally true. Pay attention to the signs of spirit and don’t argue with or resist what is obvious.” – Unknown, (The Power Path, perhaps? Sounds like something Lena Stevens would say)

It was OBVIOUS to me that these were the kind of passionate people that I wanted to surround myself with, that would inspire me to not just do good work, but to strive for GREAT work. I couldn't allow myself to be afraid to try again for fear of failing. That's totally RIDICULOUS. I had to continue to follow this path! Got to try again. I would always regret it if I didn't. I mean, why not!? I know that’s what I want. Why not go for it 100%? I already know I can survive failing at it. Done that!

Sooo... Now I had the opportunity to spend a whole YEAR preparing! Year 2 auditions... were going to ROCK. Awesome.

“Look for opportunities rather than bemoaning the losses.” – Lena Stevens, The Power Path

My measure of success:

I got sooooo close. I felt HONORED to have made it that far at NYU, my first time auditioning for grad school. It was a hugely successful learning experience and completely changed the trajectory of my life. Rather than focusing on what my next acting job would be in the short-term, my whole goal-structure shifted to “how-is-this-going-to-help-prepare-me-for-grad-school?” And that’s how I have made my decisions and modeled my life ever since then. 

Learning and Resolutions for Year 2:

I learned that I loved the prospect of being a part of a community of great actors and that I didn’t want to move on to the next step in my career without allowing myself that experience of going through professional actor training at the Masters level… that time to grow and germinate and set a foundation of support and risk-taking that would serve me throughout the rest of my career. 

Those NYU actors were freakin’ FEARLESS… well, maybe they felt fear, but they never let it stop them. They just said YES and did whatever was necessary to be the best story-tellers possible.  I WANT TO BE ONE OF THOSE ACTORS! So, I resolved to up-my-game for year-2 auditions and spend my year becoming more like the actor/human I wanted to be… FEARLESS.

On that note... gotta go... I'm afraid I might be late for work!  :-p

More on Year 2  - NYU auditions… tomorrow.

Soooo many words... rest your eyes for now.


“It’s often from a sense of discontent, feelings of incompleteness, or even a twinge of true unhappiness that the seeds of great accomplishment are sown.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe