Tuesday, February 26, 2013

the joy of surfing

I don't know about you, but I've been surfing a lot lately.

Not, like, surfing-in-the-water-surfing, though. HAHAHAHHA No. Nope. We'll work on that, uh, later. When I have a sense of balance, hand/eye coordination, and can swim. Three things I've heard help one's ability to surf quite a bit.

No, I've been surfing my career.

Someone once explained that having an acting career is a lot like surfing. You train every day, you work hard to make sure you have the ability to ride a wave successfully, should a wave actually come in, and you spend a majority of your day waiting. Waiting for that wave. Gauging how far you can go on it, how far the momentum will carry you. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. 

It's tough to disagree with that metaphor. I know some of my more proactive Go Out and Grab Life by the Balls blogger friends are gonna reply, "You have to go out and create waves, not wait for them," but I think there's a time and place for both attitudes. And a lot of us feel like we're waiting. We do the daily work, we train ourselves to be as skilled as we can in whatever our artistic craft is, and then...we wait. We play the waiting game, waiting for the right opportunity to come along. It takes patience, and an utter love for our art that's so big, that we can get by on one wave a week or month. Did you see that, we crow, after catching the first wave in six weeks. It made all the waiting worth it.

But it's tough, to wait, day in and day out. Wondering when the next wave is gonna come, if the payoff is gonna be big enough, if the high we get off of catching that wave is gonna outweigh the six weeks of waiting with very little else to show for it. There's a reason why there's about thirty professional surfers who make huge money with endorsements from surfing, while the other few thousand professional surfers probably can't afford their rent another month if it's all they do.

As an actor, I understand this perfectly. I understand the waiting, and the patience, and not being able to skip a single day of knowing my craft inside and out, just in case that right opportunity comes along when I'm on my B Game instead of my A Game. And that's okay. Because right now, the love still outweighs all of it. Will it next year? In ten years? I don't know. But today, it does.

The hardest part is describing to others what you're doing with your life. If you spend six hours in the water, waiting for some good waves, and didn't really get many that day, how would you describe your day to someone? Would you tell them you did nothing? That you're lazy, because you're waiting, because we live in a culture that doesn't see waiting or patience as very important qualities? A culture that actually looks at waiting as a weakness. 

So when I logged in today to tell all of you beautiful people - that I miss quite a bit - what I've been up to for the past month, after struggling to define it on my own head  - I came up with: surfing.

I've been surfing. I've been training every day, actively waiting for those waves to come in, and I've been patiently loving every minute that I sit in the still water between each wave, and the love that's keeping me afloat is the same love that gives me enough courage to go out into the waves, which is the same love that gives me the courage to wait every day and know that it's worth it. 

So I've been surfing. What have you guys been up to? I'd love to hear about it :)



Rosaria Williams said...

Artists need a community to support them, appreciate them, find ways to encourage them. Most of them, (I have a daughter and her husband who are musicians/songwriters/teachers) try to find what paying work they can as they continue to sharpen their skills, create, and support each other.
May your wave come often to keep you at the peak of your skills.

JJ said...

Tracy: I have dealt with that over two different careers. The first time I was crushed, but the second time I learned the secret and I have been happy as a lark since (forgive my poor metaphor).

What I discovered was life changing. As a writer, I was frustrated for many years until I read a story about Herman Melville. In his lifetime, he sold only 300 copies of Moby Dick. It hit me like a brick. I was a writer regardless of how many books I sold! Once the light bulb went off, my books began to sell. Don't ask me why, but it is an artist thing.

Anthony Duce said...

The analogy is great, for so many desires in one’s life. The waiting doesn’t feel like waiting as much when you are working to be prepared almost all the time. It becomes part of the experience. And even after the big accomplishments in a career, the waiting and practicing doesn’t end, preparing for what comes next. You really do have to be in love with all of it, life…

Along These Lines ... said...

Over the years my work in journalism has given me the opportunity to interview a lot of interesting actors. I’m convinced it is rarely a learned skill - you just have that gift, or not. I met Ernie Borgnine the year before he died. Was there ever an actor who just didn’t look like he should be an actor? Yet he was very good at creating a character’s personality and making it come alive and be believable. Can you do that? If so, success will surely come whether or not you take lessons.

Ms. Faustus said...

Wow, I so hear you on that one. I'm in a different field, working on my PhD in English lit (on Melville no less - nod to your friend JJ above), but the questions sound very familiar. I've been working on it for 6 years and I only just started writing (*screams*). In the meantime I spent four semesters teaching at university, freelance translating, and doing a Fulbright research year, in parallel with my studies. People still don't get why it's taking so long, nor why anyone would want to research ships and sailors and whales anyway. How can I explain that there are some nasty mofo philosophers out there whose works can only be read ten pages a day, and that, at the end of the day, I really love my work? The key is self-motivation, and genuine understanding from those closest to you, methinks. And that's something you and I can both relate to. Good luck with your big wave, keep on splashing and don't forget to enjoy the sunsets :)

Lira Kellerman said...

You know I love your face. And I love your metaphors.

Here's the thing though - Surfers don't sleep, breathe, live in the water waiting 24/7 for that next wave. They get out of the water, go home and paint seascapes, collect shells, jam on their bongos, sleep, and wake up and do yoga.

There are other things besides surfing that make a surfer.

You are lacking a creative outlet in your life. Instead of waiting, waiting, waiting, you can be waiting/creating, waiting/creating, waiting/creating. So that when six weeks go by and you ride that wave, you finish and think, "wow! those six weeks I waited sure went by superfast. And look at all this cool jewelry I made with all those shells I collected!"

Maybe I should shut up, though. You work better when you come to these truths on your own time. You're stubborn like that. <3 <3 <3

Marion said...

Oh, how I love your surfing metaphor, Tracy. Life itself is about surfing. (Don't laugh, but Ray had a surf board when we got married from when he lived in Florida during the Navy. We used to take it to the lake and put our Siamese cat on it and ride her around the water. She'd jump off and swim to shore. She loved it...)

You are so beautiful, smart, witty, kind, loving, talented, creative...I just know that you're going to make a success of your life. The journey itself is a major theatrical production, no? I pray for you every night when I wake and pray for my family. I see you as one of my own.

Lately, I've been thinking of Spring, reading, writing and starting my heirloom tomato seeds. My pink Azaleas are blooming wildly as are my Blueberry bushes. Feburary always kicks my ass and I fall flat on my face into the mud...then March skips gayly into the yard and lifts me out of the mud and fire ants and sticks a Daffodil into my open hand. The cycle begins again ;-)

Love & Hugs,
Marion, your Louisiana friend.

"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." ~William Feather

drollgirl said...

you explain this so well!!!!!!

i think it is akin to being an artist, or a musician, or a fashion designer. just working your butt off waiting, hoping to get discovered, hoping to get a break. it isn't an easy life. but sometimes it is what one feels destined to do, so one keeps up with it.

i was an art major long ago in my college years. i loved making art. but i had a defeatest (or practical/pragmattic attitude?) that i would never be able to earn a living making art, so i got a real job and said i would make art on the side. wellllllllllllllllllll, i have had a "real" job for decades now, and i haven't made any art for DECADES now. ugh. sometimes it bugs me; sometimes not. these decisions are not easy!

p.s. a $250 ticket for jaywalking?!!?!?!?!? omfg! ticket prices are insane!!!!!

Wine and Words said...

Well, ya know kiddo, if my non-profit ever does another ad with paid actors...I'm calling YOU! It's California after all, and what better than a surfer to act in your commercial!

I'm up to "not a hellova lot"...just moving, growing, healing, and fixing. It's f*cking repair central in this soul. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. Surf, wait. It's all ocean :) Might as well get wet :)

Anonymous said...

Mayhem and Chaos...that is what I have been up to. Rocking the established order. This world has become complacent...needs to be shaken up a bit.

By the way, have your peeps thought of taking your stuff to Netflix? They are starving for content. And I would love to see you on TV.

Robin said...

Active waiting is like active listening. They share the appearance of doing nothing, but in reality you are working very hard. I love the surfing metaphor. Surfers are always alert. And I liked JJ's comment, too, about the arts. I think that understanding that their is satisfaction in the doing will bring the reward. I love the Melville story. The only thing we have control over is the doing after all. And we can be active "waiters." You know I am not talking about servers... but many active waiters do some of that, too;)

I left something for you on the Thursday post. I hope it speaks to you:)

Red Shoes said...

I'm trying to get well... it started with a cold that went to the flu and now I have inflamed vocal cords... and that is NOT good news for a professor... blah!!!

I like the surfing analogy as well for the idea of promoting yourself. Afterall, you do have to put yourself out there...

I hope all is continuing to go well for you!!


Bathwater said...

I hate to say this, because I think of you as the goddess of all wisdom, but Lira does have a point. Surfing is call with me, but someone with your talent should have creative outlets too.

Think of it as the party portion of the surfer life still, or the part that put food on the table...even better.

Hopefully however you spend your time, be it surfing or partying or scraping by I hope you are enjoying it.

Snowbrush said...

Me? Same old same old, although I did relate your surfing metaphor to Qi Gong.

Eric W. Trant said...

Got your Striking Out post, and CONGRATS!

I tell my wife this: Don't just think positive thoughts. Believe them. Believe them in the way you believe in the ground.

Nobody walks up to me (on the ground), looks at their feet, and says, Hey Eric, you see that down there? Do you believe it, the ground I mean?

The question doesn't even make sense. That's the same analogy I use when discussions turn to God/Creator, and it's the same belief I have in my own chances of success. I don't question, or doubt. I don't second-guess anymore than I would second-guess the ground beneath my feet.

I am patient, like you. Your advice is so perfect it shines.

I prepare, practice, study, waiting, waiting, waiting, and when the time comes, I do not hesitate. I ACT! Fast as a rat-trap, because I am ready, because for seven years I prepared for this week!

You are ready. You are acting. Do not hesitate, or doubt, or question. Believe in good things, and good things will find you. Your post was timely on me, and mine on you, and that is not random. That is the twining of two like-minded dreams, two folks in the same boat about to jump out and swim, even if in opposite directions.

See how that positive thinking works? You're not alone in life or prayers, nor in the belief that you will continue to find success.

- Eric

Tammigirl said...

I've been procrastinating, mostly. But tomorrow? Tomorrow I am going to paint, caulk, sand, clean, mop, shop, and do my nails!

You are so much braver than I am. I would never try to describe what I did the past six weeks. ;)

basicrowan said...

This is an awesome post Tracy and I may spin it into one of my own if that's ok.

Sooner or later waiting isn't enough. You have to get out and "do." In looking at the careers of some successful directors they didn't become successful because they were anointed by the Hollywood System, they became successful because they had the bravery and audacity to do their own thing and became successful in spite of the cynical and oppressive mechanisms of the Industry that put downward pressure on new talent. So stop surfing, paddle further out to sea, well past your comfort zone, and start making waves.

The other thing I would say is this, don't bob in the sea waiting for your wave to come in so long that all you do is watch life happen on shore. I know how tempting that is, but I hit a point where I could continue waiting, or I could do something that changed my life forever. As you know my wife and I chose to change our lives forever, and I wouldn't go back even if that was a choice.

Lira's right. Surfers come in from the sea because they have lives off of the water. Come in from the sea once in a while, Trace. There are good things and people who love you waiting on the beach, and the sea is constant.

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