Friday, January 30, 2015

Fictionless Friday: Morning Thoughts on Writing

I'm no good unless I write. The thoughts, emotions, and ideas crowding my brain can render me useless until I have to write. Writing lets everything out.

If I'm lucky, what flows from my brain takes some shape on the page that resembles a story. Other times, it just dumps out in a random collection of thoughts like this. Either way, I let it flow. Better out then in.

In the early days of my writing life, I needed to force myself to write every day. Now, I know that nothing in my life works unless I'm writing. It heals me and saves me at the same time it's stressing me out and making my life hell.

Why do it? Other writers will understand – I write because I must. It is how I breathe – my pen streaming along the page. It's where I rest, where I live.

Oh, to have enough money in the bank to just write, write, write. What worlds I could create, what stories I could tell. Room service and the housekeeper would be helpful, but I don't need much – just a comfortable chair, cozy socks, my notebook, and a pen. The rest is magic.

I love writing. It is my joy, my pain, my lifeline.

Here I go...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fiction Friday: In Bed

(Because sometimes you just can't get out of bed. Sometimes you just open your notebook and start writing. That's what happened to me last week. Here's what I wrote...)

I could live my life in bed. Well, except for going to the bathroom. Bed pans are gross. Okay, so I’ll get up to do my business, but otherwise, I can do everything else I need to do in life from the warm comforts of my bed. Especially with this down comforter that Dad bought me from Costco. Fake down but so fluffy. It’s like Maria Von Trapp’s bed in the Sound of Music movie, but without all the jumping kids ruining the fluff. Just me, cushioned in pillowy warmth.

I never want to get out of bed anymore. Fuck all those people who get up at five AM to go for a run or whatever. Are their lives really better than mine? Sure they have less body fat, but they probably have fewer brain cells too. Sleep is important. 8 hours a night. Or is it 6? I got ‘em all beat at 10. Color me an overachiever.

Why is everyone so obsessed with people who climb mountains and shit? Is the metaphor on top of the physical achievement really that impressive? I’m going to start my own thrilling endeavor – living a full happy life in bed. I’ll do everything here – work, eat, rest. People can join me for breakfast in bed or a late night snack. This isn’t about being antisocial. It’s about me living my way. The way I want. The way I’m comfortable.

Because out there – that’s a doozy. The world is mean and demanding – there’s no respite for any of us. It’s relentless. There’s a whole industry devoted to getting people to relax – spa products, salad restaurants, getaways to Bali – but all that shit costs money, which adds to the stress. It’s a vicious cycle that we’re all buying into like fools. Lisa is so caught up in it, she doesn’t even realize she’s a hamster on a wheel. Destination: NOT relaxation.

I think I’m onto something here. The real secret to a happy life is to sleep in, stay in bed, and force the world to come to you. Because sometimes you hear your roommate banging around in the kitchen making coffee with her new Keurig machine, which she swears is saving her money, even though the whole thing cost almost a hundred bucks, and that’s before all the different flavored K-cups and the damn accessories. Can’t keep those K-cups in a drawer when you can have them on a spinning display!

Sometimes I hear Lisa doing her K-coffee routine and I think, I just can’t. Not today. I’d rather face plant into this pillow and rest for another hour than deal with Lisa’s judgment before she goes to work. She wouldn’t call it that, of course. She’s just “asking questions.” Like, “Are you going to do something today? Anything happening with the job search?” And my favorite on Saturdays, “Did you just wake up?” Of course I just woke up you bitch it’s Saturday if you can’t sleep in on the weekend then what’s the POINT? I dislike her.

Besides, I can look for a job right here in bed. app for the win. I applied to two jobs this morning before falling back asleep. I’ll look again in a minute.

A life lived in bed. That will be the title of my memoir. All about the life and times of Meriwether Washington. That’s my pen name, I’ve decided. Wait, can you write a memoir under a pen name? I’ll be the first. See, already a trailblazer and I haven’t opened my eyes in an hour.

People really underestimate the power of bed. In bed, everything is wonderful. You’re warm, you’re relaxed, and you’re safe. If I could just stay here, maybe I could stay safe. I could avoid people I hate and news that bums me out. I won’t have to see that doctor again. I should really sue him anyway. Doctors are supposed to follow some oath, right? Something that says they have to heal people and treat them well, not like damaged goods when they come to you for help. The problem was in my uterus, not in my head, you asshole. Such a dick. He’s probably one of those five AM runners. I hope he gets run over by a car sometime.

It would have been better if Damian had just come with me, but he’s the biggest dick of all. Fucker was actually relieved – RELIEVED – when I lost the baby. Like he was being dismissed from jury duty or something. “Oh thank God,” he said. I should have punched him in the face.

But I didn’t because he’s not worth it. That would have been more work and all I wanted was my bed. My comfy, cozy sanctuary covered in fake feathers that my dad gave me. Dad would have bought me a crib. Baby and I could have both stayed in bed all day, right next to each other. And dad could bring me breakfast and bring me the baby for his breakfast and Damian could just go fuck himself.

Oh Daddy, I miss you. Fuck cancer. That’s the other thing bed is good for – crying. You can literally curl into the fetus position and no one calls you melodramatic because they can’t see your body under the covers. Where else can you feel that free?

I need to pee. Could I rethink my stance on bed pans? Ew, no. Gross. Fuck. Maybe I’ll get up and then reward myself with a cup of coffee from Lisa’s Keurig. If I take a K-cup from the box in her cupboard instead of her spinning display, she’ll never know. I haven’t had coffee since...well, since before. That damn doctor told me not to have any because of some study on miscarriages so I didn’t but it happened anyway. Fucking quack. They should take his license. What does he know?

I still have that card he gave me. Bereavement counseling. Fuck him. He doesn’t know me. I don’t need to talk about it. I need to stay in my bed. The pain will go away eventually. My fake down comforter will soak it up. I’m sure it’s already done me good these last few months. It’s a very good comforter.

I’m not getting out of bed. The last time I got out of bed, it was a disaster. I opened the door thinking it was my Fuji Wok delivery and found Damian there instead. He drove all the way over but didn’t have anything to say except, “I wanted to see you.” What the hell is there to see, Damian? A broken girl with a broken uterus and a broken heart that you feel more guilty about than anything else. Well stop coming over if you don’t want to feel guilty. Just stay away – forever! At least he paid for the Fuji Wok on his way out.

Damn, now I really need to pee. Okay, here’s the plan. Bathroom, Lisa’s coffee, grab the Chinese leftovers, then back into bed. I can do that in 10 minutes tops.

I think a lot about my dad lately. What he would say if he saw me trapped in my bed. He never judged – not like Lisa. So what would he say? I can’t think of anything except that thing he always used to say on Sundays before getting me up for church. “Are you ready for a Sunday Fun Day?” It wasn’t that funny but I always laughed. He honestly thought going to church was fun. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t a party. Dad started wearing bow ties to church later in life – just another way to make Sunday a fun day. I miss his bow ties.

Maybe I’ll go to church today. There’s an evening service on Wednesdays. It is Wednesday, right? Damn, it’s already 12:30 PM. I’ve been in bed all morning. If I add a shower to the end of my game plan, I can be out the door by two at least. Then it’s just four hours to kill before church. I’ll go see a movie or something. All the good ones are long these days. I’ll go see the one about that boy who grows up on film. I heard that one’s long.

Okay, here we go. Off for my adventure. Bye, bye comforter. My bed experiment will continue tomorrow. I know I can make it work if I really apply myself. For now, I’ll make Wednesday my fun day. Dad would be proud.

Friday, January 9, 2015

#100in2015: My 2015 Resolution

Compiling my year-in-review blog posts "The Numbers" is always a sobering experience. Flipping back through my yearly planner and reviewing how I spent my time can be both enlightening and depressing.

Total glass half empty / glass half full mind stuff. While some might look at my 2014 calendar and see the jobs I booked and the meetings I had, I inevitably focus on all the empty space - the weeks, days, and hours spent developing a pilot that went nowhere, the auditions for roles I really wanted but didn't get, things I had to miss because of writing deadlines - and my God, I only went on ONE date?!

I even looked at all the social gatherings I attended - happy hours and dinner parties - and thought, "I should have been getting work done instead of having fun!" Such is the life of a stressball overachiever...

But as I compiled last year's post, one area did present itself as an opportunity for change in 2015 - my number of auditions. Sometimes I think I audition a lot, other times I feel like I don't. The numbers don't lie --
  • 2014 - 50 auditions
  • 2013 - 37 auditions
  • 2012 - 37 auditions
  • 2011 - 14 auditions
  • 2010 - 25 auditions
So I'm generally trending upward. Good - that's how it should be. But can I be doing better?

I've said it before - the job of an actor is looking for a job. And I believe all work is wonderful - paid or unpaid, TV or commercial, studio or indie, web series or industrial, etc. I'm an equal opportunity actor. I just want to work.

So I'm setting a radical, pie in the sky goal for myself in 2015 -- 100 auditions. That's right, twice the number from last year. Because increasing the odds can only work in my favor, right?

To reach this goal, I'm going to need to kick up my efforts - submit myself more, do better at the auditions I do get to impress the casting directors, and commit to going to every single audition, no matter what writing deadlines are hanging overhead. It will be an interesting experiment - likely stressful at times - but I'm up for the challenge. (I already wonder what percentage will be for nurse/doctor roles...)

So there's my 2015 resolution - 100 auditions! Follow my progress on Twitter or Instagram using hashtag #100in2015 as I update my total count throughout the year.

Why don't you join me? If not 100 auditions, then 100 of something else. How about 100 hours on a writing project? Or 100 trips to the gym? I know there's someone out there who's up for making 100 Pinterest recipes. Let's do this together!

Onward and upward in 2015!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Best Gift You Can Give an Artist

I love looking at gift guides during the holiday season. You know, those curated lists of gadgets, gizmos, and goods for a particular recipient. Gifts for Her. Gifts Under $25. Gifts for the Techie.

I even found a few gift guides for actors and writers --
I considered curating my own gift guide specifically for actors or writers, but the more I pondered the task, the more I realized that there would only be one item on the list --


Faith is the one thing every artist needs more of because we are constantly fighting not to lose it. Faith in our talent, faith in our work, faith that we are good enough, faith that chasing our dream is the right thing to do. We need faith to survive and we could always use more.

Because, as I've said many times, the most difficult challenge that all artists face is not losing faith in ourselves.

If you're an actor, writer, or any other type of artist, I'm sure you're nodding your head in agreement. You know it's true - losing faith is devastatingly easy. "My script is terrible. I haven't booked in months. No one will sign me. Why am I even doing this?!?" The self-talk and self-doubt spills into our mind freely and quickly, regardless of what our reality may be.

So if you have an artist in your life, give them the gift of faith. Believe in them. Tell them they're talented and mean it. Give them a compliment on the last role they performed. Congratulate them on just getting the audition. Read that story they wrote, watch that video they made - receive their art and tell them what you liked about it. Encourage them to keep going. Keep writing. Keep acting. Keep creating.

Now some of you might be saying, "What if I don't believe in my artist friends? What if I think they're honestly not that talented and should do something more worthy with their lives?"

If that is the case, give them the gift of shutting the hell up. Seriously. If you can't muster any kindness as compassion to supersede your judgment of what they're doing, then don't say a damn thing. Don't be the person who takes faith away from them.

Because that's what you're doing with all your well-meaning concern and "reality" talk - killing their faith. And like I said, artists need that faith to survive.

So spread the love, people! Support the artists in your life and receive the art they create with open minds and hearts. It's the best gift you can give them.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: The Numbers

# of blog posts written: 20 (This blog definitely took a back seat this year...)

# of followers on Twitter: 860 (Follow me!)

# of followers on Instagram: 199 (Follow me here too!)

# of acting auditions: 50

# of paid acting days: 15

# of acting days spent playing a doctor/nurse/medical professional: 13 (Yeah, it's my thing.)

# of unpaid acting days: 4 (And I loved every second!)

# of staged readings I participated in: 1 (My return to the stage)

# of books published: 1 (Huzzah! Buy HEARTBORN for just 99 cents!)

# of writers group meetings: 33 (Very grateful for these...)

# of showrunner meetings: 1 (Same as last year - optimistic about next staffing season!)

# of pilot ideas developed that went nowhere: DOZENS

# of scripts written: 1 (SO pathetic!!)

# of Break the Cycle presentations or events: 19 (Love this non-profit!)

# of shows/storytelling events attended: 34 (Thank goodness for Goldstar...)

# of weddings attended: 4 (Congratulations Sara, Adrien, Deidrie, and woman in Vegas!)

Happy New Year Everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Teresapalooza!! Holiday Gift Guide

AKA small businesses with great products I think you should buy this holiday season instead of shopping at stupid Walmart...

Everyday Love Art by Nidhi Chanani

My favorite artist! (And a friend!) Beautiful, uplifting prints on her Web site and mugs, phone cases, & other goodies at her Zazzle store.

Each piece captures the simple moments in life that live forever in our hearts. Spread her message of love and make someone happy.

Perfect For: Romantics, mixed race couple friends, San Francisco residents, and new parents decorating nurseries & kids' rooms.

Krista Bermeo Studio

Another talented friend who makes handcrafted glass jewelry. Simple, elegant, and full of hearts - a blast of color we all need.

My favorite is her Horizon Necklace, a bright twist on a bar necklace that will surely draw attention.

Perfect For: Ladies who love it when you compliment their jewelry.


Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling took a simple idea to Kickstarter - a toy for girls that encourages them to build and think like engineers.

Now GoldieBlox is a girl-empowerment toy empire inspiring a generation of future engineers through the power of fun. (Check out their float at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!)

Perfect For: Any girl age 4 and up who is more than just a princess. (Hint: That's all of them!)

Keyprop & Flipcase by Integral Design

These innovative products, designed by a sorority sister from MIT, are brilliantly self-explanatory.

This is a Keyprop:

And this is a Flipcase, the collapsible sunglasses case:

You want them both now, right? I have one of each and I use them all the time!

Perfect For: Anyone who owns a smartphone or a pair of sunglasses.

Storytime Toys

Gorgeously designed dollhouses that inspire imaginative story play beyond the outworn tea party scenario.

Created by another sorority sister from MIT, these toys are built to be treasured for a lifetime. (Plus they pack away in the box case - fun and efficient!)

Perfect For: A playful kid who enjoys a good story. (Again, that's all of them!)

Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner

This isn't a small business - just a damn great book with practical, easy-to-understand straight talk about getting your money in order.

I've read dozens of personal finance books, and while I'm still a huge fan of Suze Orman and David Bach, this is hands-down the best starter book for anyone who wants to take control of their financial future.

Perfect For: Recent college grads, siblings you shake your head about behind their backs...and probably you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wake Up and Smell the Character Development

After years of calling myself an aspiring TV writer, pounding out 7 original pilots and 5 spec scripts of existing shows, I recently had what can only be described as a rude awakening --

I don't know what the f#*% I'm doing.

Seriously, when this realization hit me, it was bad. An absolute whopper. A hundred times worse than every writer on the planet feels on any given day.

Allow me to explain --

My rude awakening was about how I've been approaching the writing of a new original TV pilot. Up until now, I've been coming up with ideas - imaginative worlds, cool conflicts, plot twists and cliffhangers. I've filled pages and pages in my brainstorming journal with discoveries and stakes that spill forth as the concept takes shape - "And then this happens, until so-and-so realizes they're the same person! Oh SNAP!"

Then I would create a whole series proposal that includes season arcs and mythology tracking. Story beats would be thrown onto my board, reorganized, and rewritten until an outline was finally formed. Then I would start writing the pilot script.

And it would be around this time that I would ask myself, "Now who are these characters and what do they want?"

Wrong, Teresa. Wrong.

I recently attended an event at the WGA with Jason Katims, creator Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and About A Boy. The evening opened with a series of clips from his shows, including a hospital scene from Friday Night Lights.

Fans of the show will recognize it just from this screenshot, I'm sure.)

Within minutes, I was in tears. Free flowing, can't-stop-even-when-the-lights-come-up tears. I didn't know the show's logline or underlying theme or anything, but I was hooked. In a heartbeat, I loved these characters, connected with them, felt they were alive, organic, and real, and I wanted to see more.

That's good writing.

And I realized that everything I've been doing - the plotting and the organizing - doesn't mean anything if I don't have characters who captivate and excite - like every single character in a Jason Katims show does. I've been trying to birth characters inside these meticulously planned worlds, when I should have been doing it the other way around.

I should be creating incredible characters and letting the world unfold in my mind around them. Develop a character I connect with first and then develop the conflicts, relationships, and story engine that will send that character on a compelling journey that I want to watch for 4 seasons and a movie.

It's all about character, stupid. It's television.

I've seen true fandom at Comic-Con - t-shirts, cosplay, action figures. Would anyone create fan art of the characters I've created in my 7 original pilots? Big fat NO. live, you learn.

That's why this pilot rewrite I'm working on is a page one rewrite. The first iteration was an action-packed script with plot twists and oh-no moments, but the characters didn't sing. In fact, they could barely hum a tune. They were just pawns in my plot game.

So I'm taking my concept and turning it inside out. Starting with the characters and rebuilding the story from there. And so far so good! I'm liking it much more and I think the concept is stronger. More importantly, I'm enjoying the writing process more. It feels less like managing a chess game and more like telling a story.

I guess you really can teach an old dog new tricks. Writing is a never ending journey of learning. Thank goodness I found this breakthrough.