My business coach encouraged me to start working for myself. To start making something that my heart would guide...that was important to me. Little did I know this journey would lead me to become a writer/producer/actor and master of my fate, but also to live abroad and pick and choose which jobs I will take or not. It freed me.
Creating my own online teaching business in tandem with producing my own work was definitely the key to a turnaround in my thinking. The effort it takes to create a structure that will support you both financially and spiritually is no easy venture.
But here's what I learned:
When you give birth to your dreams,
fears of not being enough
worries about what tomorrow
will look like fade away.
What happens is you take your attention off of your fear and place it on a task that needs to happen do or die.
I didn't like the roles I was auditioning for and I didn't like what producers were trying to pay me for my ivy league education
I wrote a solo show and a multi-character play and produced them. Learned how to produce film and Broadway by doing it. Ended up on a Tony-winning producing team and taking four films to Sundance.
Once I got to work and believe me,
it's hellified amounts of work,
I had no time for doubt.
I was too exhausted.
But something else happened in the process,
something mystical, but real and totally kickass:
I was hired to understudy a broadway play with the understanding that I would definitely be going on for the lead. So, I got in there and rehearsed like a mad woman.
At the same time, I was also on the producing teams of two other Broadway shows where I learned so much about how to raise money, marketing, what reading nightly performance reports was all about, how much money people lose investing in storytelling, but they still do it. I was exhausted on a two show day, but the record release party for Porgy & Bess was happening around the corner from my theatre. As one of only three black women broadway producers, it was my job to show up.
When I got there, I saw all these amazing artists who looked like the people of Catfish alley...with voices of angels and thought, "Why have I never seen these actors before, they are brilliant?"
The answer was right there in my face, but I wasn't trying to accept it, until a beautiful chocolate man with a hot-syrup-on-a-drop-biscuit voice walked up to me and said,
"Are you the black lady producer?"
And I looked around and saw I was the only one and said,
"Thank you...thank you for giving us work. I ain't never seen no Black lady producer on broadway."
I was a puddle.
I'm a weeper
soft to the core and
nothing makes me more
tearful than someone
acknowledging that something I did had deep meaning for them….connection...
He then proceeded to fix me a plate of collard greens and cornbread while handing me tissue.
There were a bunch of actors around the table laughing and handing me tissue as well.
I was so busy being on the task of making all the projects I was working on come to fruition that I had no idea what my being involved meant to be people. I was a part of a project that gave black artists work, 401K contributions, mortgage payments, health insurance. I was doing what I wrote about in my plays: creating institutions of power for black people.
Learning how to create wealth and work by working for myself was the most important turning point in my life. It taught me my worth. It is self-love in action, there’s no place for low self-esteem when you’re dream building because the truth of who and what you are becomes evident by the things you create for yourself in others. The ability to change someone’s life for the better in concrete, tangible beautiful ways is powerful.
I was no longer a prisoner to my industry, to other peoples fears, to relationships that were draining, but never refilling my tank, loneliness in a very big, dirty, cold city. It gave me power and it taught me how much having power over my destiny is integral to my happiness.
It also gave me freedom to focus on things that make me happy:
Writing (instead of running to auditions for stupid jobs in the rain, sleet and snow)
because i make my own work, i get to pick and choose which projects I give my time toand the rest of my time is there to have adventures, learn new languages, take a vacation every couple of months instead of waiting until I retire to start living. It gave me the freedom to start living now. And most importantly, it gave me the freedom to travel to Morocco and figure out how to live part-time abroad and how freeing and expansive that lifestyle choice is.
It gave me time to stop being defined by American racism which was draining, terrifying and slowly killing me every goddamn day
I don't have to worry about getting on the Brooklyn subway and a shaved head, swastika nazi sitting across from me on the train and then following me home. (yeah, shit got real …and I bought a ticket to Morocco a week later)
Working for myself
and traveling gave me
peace of mind
I no longer chase things
because what's good for me
simply comes for me.
Traveling taught me not to settle for the status quo;
to do things just because everyone else is doing them
as if that's the only way to live or survive.
Traveling taught me how to thrive and that my life is mine
to do with as a I please and the expectation that people will
treat me well is always fulfilled.
You see because when you treat yourself well, it sends a message to the world.
It glows on your skin. Your light is clearly good, healthy and beautiful and your spirit will accept nothing less from others.
When that message is clear, you get acceptance in return.
See how that works?
How you manifest the life,
the work, the relationships that
feed your soul by changing from the inside out
is the key.
This deep kind of transformation is completely within your power and has nothing to do with anyone else.
not white people
No one can do anything to you that you don't allow.
After that day with the Porgy & Bess cast, nothing felt the same. Never mind if you look at the Tony pictures I look like a starved scarecrow because I dropped 20lbs in one month (trust I've since made up for it), but the why of what I was doing was clear and the results were tangible.
This was a turning point that allowed me to put rejection from my industry in perspective. I was doing what I felt was truly important for me and for black people. I've never like the idea that my entire life and welfare lies in the hands of some random white people giving me an acting job based on some lame "strong black woman" stereotypes.
I've never fancied how my industry reduces me down into something predictable and manageable in its storytelling. I didn't like being dependent on a system I fundamentally didn't believe in for my livelihood.
This moment was enormous. And this is where my DreamingOutLoud technique began to take shape. So, I got more insistent in my morning pages. And the focus was on my dreams. I began writing them down...And whatever popped up in my head during the course of my heated day.
The day after the Porgy & Bess Listening Party, I had an amazing dream that held the keys to unlocking my purpose.
I knew my dreams had to do with storytelling, making my own work and dreambuilding. Somehow writing and travel were all wrapped up in that, but I was overwhelmed with getting there.
Every time I thought about the steps to live this life of freedom and fulfillment all the time, I just stopped.
I’d write, my hands would shake, I’d quit.
Then I learned how to self -guide myself into writing down my dreams.
That’s what I’m doing during this Saturdays, Make Your Own Work Class.
Guiding you through the baby steps of writing down your dreams.
Once you learn how to write them down
You can decode them: figure out what your next steps are that are right for you, not anyone else. You have the power to rewrite the story of your life.
I simply have some simple steps to guide you there. Steps that make it not so scary and free you to DreamOutLoud.
Join me in the final Make Your Own Work class this Saturday @12:30pm (EST).
You don’t have to be a writer.
You don’t have to know what your story is
You only have to be willing to allow yourself the space to dream.
I’ll help you write it down.
And we’ll figure out what it’s meant to be later.
It could be a screenplay
It could be a memoir
It could be a business plan for your online business.
It could be a dream timeline for moving to the next stage of your career.
Learning to write down your dreams is a way to change your life.
To make you aware what’s possible.
You don’t have to know what you’re going to write to start writing.
You also don’t have to know where you’re going to begin the process.
You just have to allow the journey to begin when you’re given the opportunity.
So, let’s do this.
Click HERE to register for this Saturday’s class.