It's a hit! Oh wait...nevermind.

Most of my professional creative life I've been thinking about my big "hit".

It's a little embarrassing to admit that but because this blog is about creative self reflection with the intent of helping others at my expense, I'll go ahead admit that.

My quest for "the hit" has been in several different arenas, resulting in a wide body of work but lacking consistency. 

My closest hit thus far has probably been the publishing and Los Angeles premier of Real Housewives The Musical. I wrote it to be a hit. 

It was not a hit.

It's good and I'm proud of it. Admittedly it was not going to change the world and that was never the intention. The aim was to make a light hearted musical comedy based on a brand that is a...what?

A hit.

There is a common trend among hit books, movies (barring franchises), indie films, viral videos, blog posts, or breakout music. Most of them are surprise hits. The author is often surprised that they became popular.

Still the quest for writing a hit seems to be a trend among most creatives wanting to break in.

I ask these two questions of myself.

  • Do I want to write a hit to be noticed?
  • Do I want to write a hit for the money?

Answer: I want to write a hit in order to be noticed, in order to make money, in order to be able to do the work again.

Let me ask another question.

  • Would I rather write a wildly popular hit that paid me, oh I don't know, three million dollars and never work again OR produce a somewhat popular mid-sized bump of something that gives me 1000 true fans that would allow me to create a body of work over time?

Answer: I'll take the 1000 fans.

  • Would I want both?

Answer: Yes, obviously, but that's just not very realistic.

If my ego wasn't involved would my creative mind would be satisfied with the daily process of creation?

No. I'm not interested in being part of the longest tail in the equation. I aim to be in the middle of the tail so I can actually make a living. Don't know about the long tail? Read about it here. 

I don't need to make a ton of money. I do need to make money. I also need to make the money I believe I am talented enough to make. It is after all what makes me a professional creative by definition. 

Here's what I know.

If you spend all your time thinking about writing a hit then you may miss the nuance, the quirk, the individualism you bring to your creative project.

A majority of people buy one or two books a year. Did you know that? That seems low doesn't it? 

The point is, if most people buy ONE book during the course of the year, what are the chances that they're going to buy YOUR book? 

Perhaps you're better off creating a body of work that 1000 people will buy? It's the theory of 1000 true fans by Kevin Kelly. Read about that here.

Those 1000 people will tell their friends and it becomes 3000, and then 10,000.

Then you got yourself a career. 

You may even become an international best selling author like my friend Lyndsay.

Lyndsay Faye is a great example of this. In 2004 Lindsay and I did the world premier of Andrew Lippa's "A Little Princess" at Theatreworks Silicon Valley. She is a ridiculously talented pop and opera singer but along the course of her career found out that she is a kick ass novelist who has made her amazingly steady career within the niche world of mystery novels. 

This is not the story of a hit.

This is the story of a young actress who moved to New York and found herself with free days because her day job restaurant was knocked down by bulldozers. She started to write and launched herself into an almost seventeen year career as a novelist.

How did she do that? 

I'm guessing she didn't set off to write a hit. She set off on a creative pursuit. She loved Sherlock Holmes as a child and turned that passion into a full fledged career. Five books later and nine short stories later her career is on fire. Her latest book, Jane Steele reimagines the victorian character Jane Eyre as a killer who strikes out at men who have abused her. Amazing right?!  The movie rights to Jane Steele have been purchased by movie producer Chris Columbus. Exciting!

Lyndsay is a reminder to keep your eye on the work rather than the outcome. Sure, it takes an extreme amount of focus, solitude and discipline but it makes for a much more dynamic body of work.

If it produces a hit in the process? Well all the better!

Now let's get back to work.


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Part 2: Worry about your input NOT your output

I could have NEVER predicted my career at age twenty four.

No way, no how. Instead it's been one thing to the next, slowly progressing building block upon building block. Just take a look at my about page to see that.

In my 20's my initial goal in life was to be a Broadway star.

I actually still have this goal, but I think it'll happen when I'm in my 50's- if I decide at that point in my life that it is still on my bucket list. But I digress. The point is that I am not a Broadway star because I never wanted to move to NYC, I wanted to have a family and raise them on the West Coast. Instead I have had a fairly successful professional musical theater career.

I started working on projects and shows that were headed for Broadway and originated a few roles, which I consider a success in itself. This is where I learned how to take risks and make quick decisions as I watched other writers and then copied them (five and ten years later) when I wrote my own musicals.

In my 30's I added writer to my resume.

I thought I had my big break when my last musical, Real Housewives got picked up by Stage Rights and producer Roger Bean and was produced at the now Garry Marshall Theater. I was so lucky to meet and work with him a bit about a year before he passed away. I literally received a note "From the desk of Garry Marshall" with a couple of joke ideas to try out in one of the previews. Seriously awesome you guys. Although the show sold well, extended a bit, and I think is very funny, it didn't resonate with enough artistic directors around the world and has not really been touched. Who knows? Maybe it will soon. I still think about changing the name, re-thinking it and trying to approach it with the mindset of INPUT versus OUTPUT. Maybe I will and we can all test it.

I moved from goal to goal, project to project with about forty different gigs, careers and jobs and now that I'm in my 40's I am now starting to see the narrative that weaves throughout my long career as a creative.

I am good at risk taking.

I am great at making fast decisions. I often have the guts to put them out there into the world and yet I don't always feel in alignment with the world.

I am obsessed with learning every single day, honing my different skills, combining them and on a very good day, week, month I can focus on the input not the output.

It's not easy, I still fight it. I'm fighting this blog idea, right here right now. Cause it's hard y'all. It's not an income stream yet and will take me a long time. And I've been fighting it for a LONG time. But I know to trust my gut and to not worry about the OUTPUT. Well sometimes I know to trust it, and then on the other days I spin out.

But enough 'bout me, what do you think of me? LOL...

Okay, sorry.

So what exactly is focusing on the input rather than the output? Well, it's hard work kids.

  • It's me sitting down and taking the time to edit this post, reading again, editing, making sure the content  can help someone rather than letting me shine.

  • It's me sitting down and editing videos so they're clean, entertaining, responsive and deliberate rather than thinking about how the audience or client will respond.

  • It's you putting in your 10,000 hours at getting good at something rather than being jealous about someone else's seemingly overnight success. (Not usually the case btw)

  • It's you trusting your gut instinct that your micro steps along the way are working in your favor rather than giving up and going to the next idea. (Learn that from me okay?)

  • It's us, together, not worrying about how old we are and putting fake timelines on something that has to be done by age 25, 30, 40, 50, because sometimes you need to be more mature to get the real work done.

  • I'll say it again, it's the grit work, the work the work the work. Did I mention it's the work?

  • It's the draft process. Doing something first, getting feedback, trying again, getting feedback, and on and on until you have something that resonates with people rather than putting out the first, second or third draft.

For you to try today:

Try making deliberate choices to slow down and think about your input by asking yourself, what is my intention here? To do great work during the process or to get noticed, hurry up and announce it on FaceBook? THEN, decide to work on the input and see how you feel at the end of a long day of doing just that. I'm willing to bet you're gonna feel awesome and inspired.

I already am.

As promised, a few of my favorite podcasts. I have so so SOOOOOO many more, but I don't want to overwhelm you!

https://jamesaltucher.com/

https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/podcasts/

http://www.goodlifeproject.com/

Let me know how you feel after by leaving me a message in the comments.

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How I may have spent 20+ years imitating others

With my new diagnosis of Bipolar 2 disorder (Bipolar description here) I feel as if I've opened Pandora's box and started to unpack my behavior and experiences.

I’m almost, but not quite, embarrassed to admit that I feel like my 20+ career as a creative has been someone else’s career. I remember very clearly my voice coach say that I was very good at mimicking other’s styles. He went on to explain that eventually I would find my own unique voice and that’s when I would really blossom.

I’ve used my ability for mimic to my advantage. I have said more than twice to someone off stage, “They’re not laughing. Okay, i’ll turn up my fake Kristin Chenoweth impression and watch them laugh so hard they don’t even know what they are laughing at." Works basically every time. It’s not a skill I’m proud of, manipulating an audience into thinking they are seeing great work because the frenetic pace and high pitched nasal voice that I use is so quick and sounds funny they think “I think this is supposed to be funny, it sounds funny, I’ll laugh.”

I met Kristin Chenoweth at a New Year's Eve concert with her headlining and Andrew Lippa conducting. I met her at the after party and she's lovely and indeed short.

I met Kristin Chenoweth at a New Year's Eve concert with her headlining and Andrew Lippa conducting. I met her at the after party and she's lovely and indeed short.

In twenty years I have blossomed.

I’ve done fairly well creating a name for myself in my little bubble in Silicon Valley. I made a clear decision not to make my career in NYC because of a very specific reason. I have many friends working successfully and I do panic every six months or so that I will regret my decision and will never fulfill my dream of being on Broadway. Just last week I almost made a phone call because I’m fairly certain that I could charm, finagle, use my salesmanship and talent to get into the chorus of a show appearing in NYC right now.

In my experience, however,  working on a Broadway show doesn’t necessarily lead to contentment. There’s always more to hope for.

  • Get your first show chorus

  • Understudy lead

  • Get to go on on Wednesday/Sundays for lead (disappointing the audience-even though in my opinion understudies are usually better, especially in the case of a star lead)

  • Get supporting lead

  • Get leading role

  • Headline show

  • Get name above masthead in Broadway Show

  • Get television show because now known in Broadway community

  • Move to Los Angeles

  • Move back to NYC

  • Want more

  • Want more

  • Want more

It seems exhausting to me even though I know this is some people’s life

I knew enough about myself to know it is not mine.

I suspect that if I had danced my way down that path I would likely be divorced with no children. My friends who live in NYC have given up  a lot of this. Now you may say, that’s their choice, maybe they didn’t want children? Totally, I get it. Good lord, I get it. This is not about them, they’re truly talented people and have more guts than me. This is not about them. This is about me.

I wanted the life I was brought up in. A happy marriage, an artistic lifestyle, children, a house inspired by the clutter free issue of Real Simple Magazine. And technically, I got both. I strive to be clutter free because it helps me keep control of the clutter that is in my mind. Once again, I blame the bipolar 2. (This bipolar thing is sure good to blame stuff on).

Technically I made my Broadway debut opposite Neil Patrick Harris in a concert reading of Party Come Here written by David Kirshenbaum and Daniel Goldfarb at The Manhattan Theater Club, a Broadway theater, on a Monday evening, on an Equity contract, playing NPH’s wife and killed it.  So yeah, I did that. It was wonderful to be in Manhattan, put up in a hotel and paid a union wage while I rehearsed. I was the only non-Broadway actor on the show, but I held my own and stood out as the “non-Broadway” person, something that happens to me a lot as if being on the West Coast means that we are less talented.

Neil-Patrick-Harris-Party-Come-Here.jpg

NPH

"Party Come Here" by Daniel Goldbarb and David Kirschenbaum at The Manhattan Theater Club, I'm just gonna call it my "Broadway debut"

Truthfully, we are not necessarily less talented. I’d call it less committed to a certain lifestyle.  I don’t think that’s entirely accurate either and therefore I sense this idea somewhat controversial and so I will explore this topic in another post. Let me say that each year each year somewhere between 5-15 students, friends, co-worker choose to move to NYC, stay a bit, not really getting jobs and then come back home to live a normal life as an artist. Did they fail? I don’t think so.

Anyway, let’s get back to the main topic...

Me. Duh :)

I flirt with success. I wrote and composed  Real Housewives The Musical opened at Garry Marshall’s Theater in Burbank one year before he passed away. Previously called The Falcon Theater, the cute little gem is a small theater with a big name so it got some attention. I got to live in Los Angeles for six weeks, rehearse with super talented women, one man and my producer/director Roger Bean a wonderful man who took a chance on me and helped me bring my ideas to life, silly as they were.  I received a memo,  from "the desk of Garry Marshall" with a few joke ideas after the first preview. In other words, amazing stuff. But the show is not written in my true voice

When I perform in the show I have the ability to move it closer to my voice and the show succeeds, people are swept away with my charm, my ability to move the script along at a pace that is too fast for them (the audience) but yet they still laugh because I put them at ease. But when others play the role it does not quite succeed. It has very little to do with the actors talent. It has more to do with the audience not always connecting.

I played Joanne the main character in Real Housewives The Musical. It's a fun story about a woman who has it all, loses it all, and uses authenticity to get her way back. Me anyone?

I played Joanne the main character in Real Housewives The Musical. It's a fun story about a woman who has it all, loses it all, and uses authenticity to get her way back. Me anyone?

And so, I flirt with success.

Let’s call it “my success.” It is not lost on me that I literally sing, act, dance, and teach others to play, dance and sing for a living. I could work a “normal” job, in a cubicle, most likely killing it in sales. As I’ve mentioned before, and I don’t mean for this to sound annoying but rather factual: If it was a priority  to make a million dollars I could do that.  Truthfully, I may have made half a million but have spent it rather than reinvesting into my business. Again, I blame it on the bipolar! Seriously though, I would quit everything I’m passionate about, hire a babysitter and go work from one of the 20 + companies I have developed relationships with from being a networker in the Bay Area. I think about it a lot, almost every other day. It seems like a simpler life in many ways.

But something stops me. I continue to flirt, never feeling truly successful because I know deep down, well not even deep down anymore, I just know that I am not speaking in my true voice. I’m just not. I have taken on the role of mother of two and Lululemon wearing blonde wife who seemingly has her life together. I do have my life together. Well, except for the fact that I’m having a SERIOUS mid-life crisis.

I take my mania just up to the edge of not bothering others, sometimes,  

just mildly annoying. 

I teach too fast, I move too quickly, I speak in what my therapist says is a male voice in a female body. I take initiative in the room. I’m aware that some people might think, “geez Molly is once again taking the lead.”

Several times this past year and just last week on The James Altucher Show I have made note of the fact that innovation, clarity and breakthroughs come at the intersection of two ideas. I’ve said it out loud, clarifying the idea in my head. It’s not really a new concept.  It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time now.  In true Molly fashion I began formulating a plan to  merge my voice coaching style with my dance fitness background. This will eventually become SING by Studio Molly. The website is done, the idea clear and ready to be executed. And has been for five or six years.

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I use the technique on my students to great success. I think, oh my god, I’ve really got something here. Then I think, wait, I’m not a trained choral coach with a vocal pedagogy degree. Hell, I just had to look up vocal pedagogy. I don’t even know how to say it.

I stop.

I think, I’m such a fraud.

I picture all the people who know what vocal pedagogy is shaking their heads at me. In my head they’re usually white older men- I have the most difficulty with older or authoritative white men who do not like my tone. They’re the same people, btw, that shake their heads at me when learning that I wrote Real Housewives The Musical and Becoming Britney (yes that Britney) with co-author Daya Curley and there’s no pedagogy in that unless you count vocal fry...which I do, so let’s just leave that for later.

BBritney-StudioMolly.jpg

But wait. My student has just told me that never in their lives have they sung with such ease. They understand, now, the way the air moves through their body, they feel a release because my technique has allowed them to get out of their head and into their body.

But, vocal pedagogy. Fraud. I’m halted.

And now here we are again. I am at the cross section of multiple streams of my life. Two distinct cross sections are Common Variable Immune Deficiency and Bipolar 2 Disorder.  And from behind all the wires crossed in my mind,  I hear my voice. It’s hidden behind other streams in  my life:, writing, singing, comedy, entrepreneurship, business, parenting, wifehood, teaching, leading. I think to myself. Do I have the guts? Can I be authentic?

Have I found my voice? Maybe.

Have you found yours? Let me know here. Resonated with what I said? Feel free to share :) Thank you for reading.