Monday, April 12, 2010

Naysayers and Say-Yayers

People love to warn others of impending doom.

When I was spending a summer at my parents' house in Lubbock, right after my college graduation, I signed up with a temp agency, hoping to scrape together enough money to move someplace interesting and theatrical, like Chicago or New York. I interviewed with the owner of the agency, a lumpy, unhappy looking man in a brown suit sitting behind a beige desk in a khaki office. He looked over my resume, then told me they had an opening right there in the agency.

"You'd be working full-time," he said. "Permanent. You'd be placing people in jobs."

I had a sudden vision of my soul lying limp in the corner of the office, flopped against the wall like a worn pillow, wheezing, "Why, Abi? Why have you done this?"

I politely declined, informing the gentleman that I was only planning to be in town temporarily; I was an actor and would be moving to a theatre hub soon.

The man made a few notes on my resume and said, without looking up, "Heard a statistic recently. Less than half of one percent of people who try to make it as actors actually succeed." He looked at me then, as if to triumphantly view the shattering of my ambitions.

I smiled back, assured him I knew how difficult it would be, and asked him to call me if any temporary positions opened up.

Let me tell you, when your career plans involve acting, you get this speech a lot. Same with writing. And probably with any other art career a person would wish to pursue. What kills me is that so many of these anti-pep talks also come from within. Seasoned veterans with lofty careers warning you in arrogant tones that "If you can do anything else in the world and still be happy, for heaven's sake, do it!" Now, I get this line of thinking for would-be Marines and young women who declare they want to have 12 kids and raise them alone. But for a wide-eyed young artist pursuing what he or she loves best, or at the very least, what he or she believes he or she loves best, I think the statement is overkill. Very few deaths result from young artists pursuing a very difficult career that they don't love enough. Usually the "nightmare" that ensues involves a couple years of frantic trying and failing, several months of your standard early adulthood depression, and eventually a little bit of self-discovery and personal rebirth as our harried-but-wiser artist embarks on a new path.

My personal theory on the naysayers is this: people (and I humbly include myself in this) love being able to say, "I was there." Even more, we love to say, "I suffered through that." And even more than that, we love to hold up our suffering and say, "Behold my credentials! Honor my sage advice!"

And the result is many young actors, writers, painters, and puppeteers shuffle home with their heads lowered, feeling as though they've failed before they've begun, and weakly promising themselves that they'll still make their dreams come true, even though that person clearly doesn't believe they can.

Now, obviously I can't very well end on that dumpy note; not in a blog dedicated to Pockets of Joy . . . Pockets of Joy like supportive friends, inspiring mentors, and those few but satisfying moments when your own personal naysayer looks at how far you've come and says, "Well, I'll be."

Hopefully you're blessed like me, and your social circle is bursting with good hearts and good energy. Undoubtedly, you also run into doubt in your journey, whether it comes from other people or boils up unexpectedly inside your tender little gut. I want to make sure you're armed against doubt, and that's why I'm starting Sunday Pep Talks.

Starting this coming Sunday, I'll be posting weekly Pep Talks, designed to give us all a boost for our weeks . . . a dash of hope here, a spritz of can-do there, maybe a pom-pom or two. Because as my brother, the ultimate Pep-Talker, says, "There's no reason you can't do whatever you want to do."

No reason at all.


  1. So glad you're doing this! Your blog posts are always a bit of sunshine to my days, and I'm looking forward to real life encouragement from you!

  2. Also, the word verification for my comments was "slityers." I found it amusing. Perhaps because I'm on cold medication and sleep-deprived.

  3. Thanks, as always, for your awesome support, Nikki! And I don't think it's your medication and sleep deprivation . . . "slityers" had me delighted, too!