Category Archives: Purpose Quest

An Ode to Lena Dunham and Girls

I have a confession to make. I’ve been obsessively googling “Lena Dunham interview” videos on YouTube for the past few days – sneaking them in the background at work, while I cook, while I tooth brush. Not to mention the frantic episode review searches every Monday, since no one in my circle is a devoted Girls Season 6 follower (that, or they don’t have cable).

Part of it is nostalgia for sure, since the series finale is tonight (how?). Part of it is because Lena Dunham and I are the same age, with similar neurosis and evidently, similar dreams. Perhaps it’s based on identifying with three of the main characters (35% Marnie, 40% Shosh and 25% Hannah), going through similar painful life lessons at roughly the same time.

The younger, poorer and more vulnerable Sex and the City knock offs circa 2012

The younger, poorer and more vulnerable Sex and the City knock offs circa 2012

The Courage To Create From The Heart

I first heard about Girls shortly after accepting a content and programming role at a telecom (“TV Everywhere”, they call it). Reps from HBO were very excited to share the premiere news, like all networks that pitch and pimp their fresh meat in order to get more marketing and merchandising love.

When I watched Season 1, I loved to hate it. And then I tried to watch Tiny Furniture and fell asleep. I thought Lena Dunham was overrated and a little weird but mostly I was just jealous that she had hustled and created her way to producing, writing, directing and acting in a fearless series that was based on her most shameful, raw, vulnerable moments and observations.

Lena Dunham’s commitment to portraying the truth, from awkward sexual experiences to UTI’s, Facebook stalking to brawls with best friends, masturbation to silicone penises is a sharp contrast to the veneers we share on social media and the benign pleasantries we exchange at work.

It requires facing the judgmental voices in our heads and the fear of being found out. Because once our most shameful traits and memories are out in the open, we for sure won’t be lovable. At least that’s what’s kept me cocooned in writer’s block half of the time.

What will my current and future employers think? What will my Ex’s think? What will my parents and grandparents think? What will my unborn children think if I published the moments that mattered most? Surely I would never get married, get hired or live a normal life again.

But maybe the relationships we’d outgrow are the ones that would fade out or temporarily hold anyway. Maybe we’d attract a tribe like Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner who celebrate and support the real us. On that note, the oral history of Girls in The Hollywood Reporter is a fascinating, must read about the universe conspiring.

The Courage To Keep Going When Critics Say No

Lena has faced an inordinate amount of scrutiny and criticism since the debut of her show from valid journalists and critics to random trolls on twitter. They’ve criticized and applauded her appearance, torn down and built up her work, questioned her morals and values. There were even lawsuits from stories in her book. I had my own experiences with critics (outside of myself) and it didn’t end well.

In grade 12, my friends and I entered the “Sears Drama Festival” with an ensemble play about a group of friends and I was to play Martha, the one they could barely tolerate. The plot line cut a little too close to home, as I often felt like an outsider in our group of friends. Her character had the greatest emotional arc, with a breakdown at the end as her carefully crafted façade came tumbling down.

I remember crying backstage during our dress rehearsal because the Director wasn’t feeling it and I felt blocked internally and like I would fail. True to form, the festival judge praised a couple of my classmates but told the room that, “Martha just wasn’t believable.”

I was devastated…and he was probably right. I really wanted to deliver a flawless and inspiring performance that would validate my childhood actress dreams and help win us a prize. I wanted OUTCOMES. But I’ve come to learn that perfectionism kills presence and vulnerability, two key attributes for creating inspiring work.

That same year I tried halfheartedly to get an agent but was told very kindly by one to take acting classes and come back (spoiler alert: I didn’t). Another female agent told me the bags under my eyes were so deep that “not even stage makeup could cover them up”, among other harsh opinions. I cried during the car ride home with my dad, feeling like an idiot. Who did I think I was?

I decided that I didn’t have the thick skin required to endure endless rejection in that industry and so I focused on business school, a place where I could rely on my intellect and relentless work ethic to thrive and feel good about myself. It was 100% a fear-based + ego saving move. I didn’t realize then that the corporate world could be full of critics too.

SO, even if you manage to silence your inner critic enough to produce a work from your heart and soul, you have to continue to stand by your conviction, believing that you belong in the arena, while being open to perspectives that can truly help you grow. In Lena’s case, learning about diversity inclusion and racial sensitivity.

Slightly less entitled more aware versions of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa & Shoshanna

Slightly less entitled more aware versions of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa & Shoshanna in the final season

The Courage To Live Your Values AND Use Your Voice

Finally, Lena is a woman of cause and conviction. She is a huge advocate for mental health, sharing her own struggles with OCD and anxiety, so we can all feel less alone. She’s passionate about feminism and Planned Parenthood and sisterhood. YES, she’s in a position of power and influence where she’d naturally be more “role-model” conscious. AND these activities benefit her personal brand and therefore wallet. BUT her actions still feel authentic to me.

When the Women’s March happened around the world shortly after the US election, I realized I’ve never protested for anything. Been more of a blah, sit on the sidelines, “what’s the point?” kind of girl. But I want to give a sh*t and put my money where my mouth is now.

I want to be the 12-year old girl who auditioned for a drama program with very little experience, put her heart into it and got to jump up and down on her modest porch, smiling from ear-to-ear after receiving her thin acceptance letter in the mail. It felt like magic. And I think that’s the last time I took any major action from the heart.

So thank you Lena Dunham, I’ll be watching for an untidy and realistic ending to the confusing cluster f*ck that is our 20’s, reflecting back on how far (or not) we’ve come.

PS this very emotional interview with Jemima Kirke ( the character “Jessa”) is worth a watch.

PPS Who inspires you lately? Tell me in the comments. Remember what you see in them, you have in yourself. xo

How to Overcome a Shitty Start to the New Year (2015 Edition)

I spent Christmas Eve through December 29th more or less glued to one of three toilets in my parent’s home, with my first ever bout of the stomach flu. Thankfully, it wasn’t the vomiting kind – allowing me to avoid my life’s greatest fear. Oh but how I worried it would happen as the grand finale to end all symptoms. In the end, Immodium saved the day after a valiant return (we broke up two years ago). Yay TMI.

Not only that but my mom accused me of being depressed and manifesting the entire illness due to stress and anxiety. I knew in my heart she was wrong but for a minute I had visions of stretchers and strait jackets, a la Girl Interrupted. Double fist pump.

I fought with the person I’m dating (multiple times). I fought with her. My parents fought. The days leading up to and following “THE NEW YEAR” were, well, really shitty (in more ways than one). And let’s just say Instagram wasn’t helping matters.

I didn’t feel safe and secure in my parent’s home, but I didn’t want to leave. Because I wanted to be taken care of (and car access…fine cable too). Suddenly, all the inner work and calm of the past twelve months flew down the drain. I spent December manifesting how I want to feel in 2015 (I recommend the Holiday Council Course, but here is a FREE intention setting resource by Nicole Antoinette). My reality was the opposite of: RADIANT, CONNECTED, DELIBERATE and BOLD. How ironic.

I sulked for a while and then got down to work. Here are small, habit-forming changes I’m committed to making this year. I hope they spark some ideas & action for you too!

Core desired feelings of radiant, deliberate, connected and bold

This is what rooted for growth looks like (Pinterest you so fine)

Commit to these eight new habits in 2015 to feel radiant, deliberate and bold

1. Plaster your vision (board) everywhere

2015’s theme is “Rooted for Growth. ” I spent most of last year floating through life, not committing to anything all wishy-washy. This year I want to renew my vows to myself, my career, romance, real estate you name it.

You can use Pic Monkey to create a digital collage of images and then make it your laptop screensaver (your iPhone too). You can post it in your cubicle (ultra glam) or stick it to your fridge (hi magnets) so your bleary-eyed ass gets a stare down every morning (hiss: “are you game?”)

Last year I created a poster size collage and never looked at it. So far, this new method is much better at keeping me inspired by and in touch with my vision.

2. Meditate Twice a DaY (to keep the doc away)

If I had a penny every time someone recommended meditation generically or specifically after speaking with me I’d be rich. It’s like FINE. You wore me down. I’ll DO IT!

By July of 2014 I was using this theta wave song once or twice a week for 15-20 minutes. This year, it will be like brushing my teeth (non negotiable). Five minutes in the morning and at least five at night. Here is a video on how to meditate monk styles. Click here for a bunch of guided meditations I have never tried. Click here for a 30-day meditation challenge beginning Feb 1. Or try this App.

3. Do a 5 minute Daily Journal Reflection

I listened to a podcast with UJ Ramdas who is the founder of the “five minute journal.” Just answer three questions in the morning and two at night to keep you in a positive frame of mind. I just started yesterday but am excited. It is very manageable time wise.

4. Create a Gratitude/Positivity Jar
Someone in Holiday Council shared how she wrote down positive moments on paper, folded them into a once empty jar and then re-read them when she was sad, as well as at the end of the year for review and reflection purposes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hot date with Dollarama.

5. Get your Fitness on at least Twice a Week

Last year I was lucky to get active once a week and that just isn’t enough. I took a break from yoga for a couple of months and missed it. I might also pick dance back up and dabble in kickboxing during this polar vortex season.

But from spring until fall, I’m going to jog two to three times a week for a half hour. I always admired runners but never felt motivated to be one of them. After California I felt the call and started to use the “Couch to 5K” App but then it got too cold and dark to continue (bah humbug). I’m also running a 5k this year for the first time ever – preferably a fun one like “Colour me Rad”.

6. Stop Waiting for someone to come along before you hit up your bucket list

I would rather invest in real estate with the power and safety of dual incomes and life savings. I would rather go back to school or make a significant career change when I have the emotional support and financial safety of a partner to temporarily weather the storm. I’m even saving a visit to Toronto’s new(ish) aquarium because it would make a great date night. Not to mention travel. Even if I replace boyfriend with friend, I am still making myself dependent on someone else’s whims and/or life circumstances before doing what I want to do.

Okay so this one is more of a mantra or mindset but I’m going to commit to the experiences I’m craving and inform my friends and anyone I’m dating at the time of the details. If they want to join, great! If not, I’m doing it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

7. Dress for Success

I decided to invest in boxing week sales and upgrade my professional wardrobe because a button up dress shirt will not define me. And when I make it (wherever that is), I will no longer wear one. But until then, I’m going to fake feeling like an adult until I make it (courtesy of Banana Republic, land of the spontaneous daily sale).

8. Don’t Rely on Chance: Get an Accountability Plan

I’m going to mark down with stickers on a physical calendar the days I meditated and journalled (Gretchin Rubin styles) and then expand it to other goals. I’m going to check in monthly on my 2015 plan instead of holding my breath, closing my eyes and hoping for the best. I might recruit a buddy to be an accountability coach. IT’S ON!

So tell me, did your New Year start off rocky or was it fabulous? What habits do you want to integrate this year?

Why Paying Attention to Introverts Matters

DENIAL is what happened When Myers-Briggs slapped me with an INTJ label. Luckily Susan Cain’s Quiet helped me own up to my introverted temperament. It’s like that ugly quilt you hide from company but pull out on the coldest of days. Share the warmth my friends. And don’t call it ugly – it’s called character.

Defining the term Introvert

In a nutshell, introverts are highly reactive to both positive and negative external stimuli, making them very alert, sensitive to nuance and emotionally complex. They also have rich inner lives.

Our disposition to introversion is genetically predetermined, on average by 50% (ranges from 0% to 100%).

I can’t tell you how many times I wished I was different. Knowing that at least part of my disdain for clubbing is genetically driven is freeing. If your idea of a wild Saturday night is staying home with a book or movie, own the shit out of your preference.

How to manage your introverted temperament

The first step is self awareness. Once you have that down, self coaxing is an effective way to get you through difficult situations, by leveraging the Neo Cortex to soothe unwarranted fears brought on by the more primitive amygdale.

You can also try to become an effective self monitor by looking for clues and then modifying your behavior to the social demands of the situation. Sounds rather inauthentic to me, so maybe it is less about changing who you are and more about making choices that play to your natural strengths.

Cain also illustrates how being true to your introverted temperament can still fuel social and cultural change and inspire others via public speaking or other acts of courage.

Let your inner introvert shine through

Let your inner introvert shine through

8 Career Options for Introverts

After proving that our school system is geared towards extroversion in order to prepare children for the real world, Cain highlights the pitfalls of an extroverted workplace. I don’t know about you, but this explains why I have felt extreme discomfort in both the concrete jungle and schoolyard.

Apparently in the 1990’s the workplace was geared towards solitary work. Since then, cubicle square footage has shrunk and poorly run meeting invites have multiplied, leading to a decline in productivity and a rise in personal ailments.

If you have to work in a corporate setting, try to choose one that:

  1. Allows for enough “in-character” activity (i.e. solo work)
  2. Provides a private enough work space and enough restorative niches within your day to regroup
  3. Makes use of your persistence and tenacity to solve complex problems
  4. Partners you up with an extrovert who is better at handling information overload, multi-tasking and performing under pressure; you will complement each other
  5. Allows you to pursue restorative niches in your spare time: whatever floats your boat

But if you find yourself hungry for a career change, consider this:

  1. What did you enjoy doing as a kid? What kind of work do you gravitate to now and who do you envy? Let these answers guide you
  2. Find an activity that you enjoy so much that you pursue it for its own sake, without needing a reward. This will lead you to a state of flow, where you can naturally act “out of character” for the benefit of your cause
  3. Choose a career that lets you avert novelty and live in your own head. We’re talking artists, writers, scientists or thinkers (side eye to myself)

The goal is to attain an optimal level of stimulation most of the time. Or as high school science class taught me: seek equilibrium.

Psst! You won't regret reading Quiet (whisper)

Psst! You won’t regret reading Quiet (whisper)

You won’t regret buying Quiet

Cain’s writing is fueled by passion and her tone is conversational, despite the academic subject matter. If you are an introvert this book will help you understand yourself better. And if you live with one, work with one or are raising one, it will help you interact with them. Highly recommended for parents, teachers and managers in my opinion. And thank you toSandyB for recommending to me – it has kind of changed my life.

So there you have: let your freak flag fly, whatever your temperament.

On Finding Your Silver Lining from Liberal Arts, Your Voice in My Head & Losing Clementine

On Finding Your Silver Lining from Liberal Arts, Your Voice in My Head & Losing Clementine

The first three months of this year have been a soul searching, existential struggle. After an urgent and unplanned escape to Jamaica, I have a renewed sense of hope to share with you.

MOVIE WATCH: Liberal Arts

I caught this gem of an indie movie on Air Transat’s in flight experience, but it also available on Netflix. The premise revolves around 30something year old Jesse – recently dumped and uninspired by his job in college admissions.

His retiring professor invites him back to his alma mater for a final hurrah. While there he meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olson), a sophomore bursting with possibility and maturity beyond her years. Side note: I now have a girl crush on Olson who is so authentic and delicious to watch. Think Maggie Gyllenhaal meets Jennifer Lawrence.

This film could have become a predictable rom com but the Zibby/Jesse relationship is really just a catalyst to explore the fact that adult life has not lived up to 20 year old Jesse’s expectations.

On a personal level, I connected with this yearning to go back in time. To shrug off the chain-linked cloak semi-adulthood has gifted me. The past always looks rosy through hindsight’s glasses. But we all have to keep moving forward and embracing the next phase, which was emphasized by the Professor’s departure (Richard Jenkins).

As Jesse struggles with his decision to get intimate with Olson, he’s really wrestling with igniting passion back into the adult version of his life. But how and does the fire still burn? If you feel lost, this movie will make you feel less alone.

MUST READ NOVELS: Your Voice in My Head / Losing Clementine

Both pieces of fiction revolve around female protagonists who are clinically depressed yet successful in their creative careers. Don’t be put off by the heavy subject matter – these women see humour in everything and are endearing because of their self deprecating and honest world view. Both books are page turners that will give you perspective.

Your Voice in My Head is a memoir written by Emma Forrest (coming to theatres in 2014), who developed self defeating behavior in adolescence (bulimia, cutting, attempted suicide), despite growing up in a normal, loving household.

Emma sank deeper into self loathing behaviour after unhealthy relationships with both men and women until she met her therapist Dr. R. She ultimately gained freedom from her demons after dealing with his untimely death and a heart wrenching break up all on her own.

Emma’s writing is breathtakingly beautiful, here is a taste:  Time heals all wounds and if it doesn’t, you name them something other than wounds and agree to let them stay.

 

Losing Clementine review

Losing Clementine, a great beach read.

On the other hand, Ashley Ream’s Losing Clementine is about an artist in her late 30’s who cannot overcome her scarring past with therapy or medication. She was abandoned by her father and raised by a single, maniacally depressed mother who ultimately died alongside Clementine’s sister.

Clementine gives up and hatches a meticulous and thoughtful suicide plan. She has 30 days to tie up loose ends and live each day like it is her last. It is her pursuit for closure that forces her to confront forgiving herself and her family history.

A Caution on Comparisons

If I were to give advice right now to myself and by extension to you, it would be to stop blindly comparing yourself to people who have more than you because you are ignoring the other half of the population that has less. #1 doesn’t really exist and the race is in your head.

Despite the bombings in Boston, the universe is doling out energizing surprises to everyone around me. It is easy to  ignore the blessings we already have and engage in self pity. Let’s choose to believe that the positive energy is contagious and we’ll be eating fistfuls of confetti sooner than we think.

7 Short Film Screenwriting Tips & Other Life Lessons

I just finished taking a six week short film writing course at the magical Hart House and it was the highlight of my week.

For starters, the instructor was legit, with an LA Agent and TV writing credits. Homeboy knew a lot. Not only that, but he was outgoing and personable (can be rare with writers), passionate and eccentric.

The class size was small (6 – 8 people) so it was an intimate environment, with the ability for personal attention. That being said, most of the coaching came from the instructor’s willingness to review work outside of class time.

While I’ve read my share of screenwriting books, the in person format was far more effective likely because we saw real shorts and identified their critical moments and themes.

I can’t believe I waited this long to take a formal writing course – it just goes to show that I wasn’t willing to invest in myself or my dream before. I didn’t believe it. Friends, do me a favour and believe in your dreams. Invest in yourself.

Anyone want to take themselves seriously? Anyone?

7 Ways to Make your Short Film Script even Better

  1. 1. Focus less on the dialogue and more on the visuals. Try to convey world, character and conflict with as little dialogue as possible (this one is tough for me).
  2. Use as many symbols as possible to relate to your theme and key conflict, including but not limited to: the weather, a colour and its meaning, a name, an object and much more.
  3. The inciting incident that propels the action forward should happen on page 1
  4. The action should happen quickly with one scene per page. Each scene can be in the same location with the same characters, but a mini conflict happens to shift the balance/power and move forward.
  5. Weave positive and negative moments through the script. The moments can be a visual image and are not restricted to dialogue from the actors.
  6. 2-3 distinct crisis points precede the climax. Did you know that? Because I sure didn’t. In fact, a whole series of mini conflicts build up to it; everything adds tension.
  7. The climax does not have to be a larger than life, overwrought, dramatic moment. It can be understated and still have meaning.

I got stuck on my feature (still am) but now have 3 short film scripts in development (still challenging to get them just right). Writing shorts was so personally freeing for me – anything goes (not that mine are too outlandish), but you get to create worlds and characters around any one moment in time.

Maybe I’ll hate them a week from now but they gave me the confidence to integrate writing into my life more than once a week and to simply try and fail and experiment and write.

If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, try setting a smaller more attainable goal first to build your confidence and skills.

What single action did you take in 2012 to get your mojo going?

 

PS here’s another helpful article on how to write great short film scripts from Raindance Canada.

PPS here is the next screenwriting course offered at Hart House in February