The Art of Asking, Making Decisions, and Being Thankful

I had the pleasure of attending Amanda Palmer’s event for her new book, The Art of Asking, at the First Unitarian Church in Los Angeles this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to the book, which is based on her awesome TED talk, for a long time, because she espouses a view that I firmly believe in – that asking (for help, for support, for guidance, for what we want and need) isn’t audacious because it’s shameful or selfish, nor is it a sign that you are incompetent, because you can’t do things on your own; and that giving to one who asks doesn’t mean you’re being taken advantage of simply because you had the audacity to give. I was looking forward to reading this book about how Palmer’s history of asking has propelled her forward – mostly because asking has propelled me forward.

I’ve asked for job opportunities, for financial assistance, for guidance, for connections. And I believe I’ve evened out the scales by providing help in return, by paying it forward, by offering writing that people seem to find valuable for whatever reason. People seem to marvel at how easily I ask, and receive. I think it’s because 1) I never expect a “yes.” “No” is always an acceptable answer; and 2) I give freely when I’m asked for things, be they time, money, expertise, or anything else. If I have it, and can give it, it’s yours. Trades are even so long as both sides are getting something they value. The arrangement doesn’t have to make sense to any outside party.

But the event itself was about more than just the topic of asking. It was a mixture of Palmer reading excerpts from the book, playing some songs, and having an on-stage conversation with legendary music writer, Bob Lefsetz, and her “book doula,” Jamy Ian Swiss. Some highlights:

1) Palmer sang “The Bed Song” in complete darkness: I sat snuggled next to The Boy as we Had a Moment, and I realized that this song is the complete opposite of our relationship. And I’m so grateful for that. 🙂 (Fun fact: Amanda Palmer’s music is one of the first things we bonded over when we got together, and this was the first Palmer event we’ve attended together.)

2) Massage therapist Courtney, from Seattle: in The Art of Asking, Palmer tells a story about dealing with internet hate, and how she was feeling particularly shitty about it on her birthday as she was being pilloried over the “She’s Not Paying Musicians” kerfuffle. She and her husband were in Seattle, and he booked her a massage to make her feel better. As it turns out, the massage therapist, Courtney, had written some scathing, deeply angry things about Palmer on the internet, and wasn’t going to take the appointment with Palmer at first. But she did, and she told Palmer before the massage that she wanted to be completely honest about having written things about her, and not being her biggest fan, etc, etc, giving her an out if she wanted one. But Palmer stayed, Courtney gave her a full-body massage in silence, and it was apparently a hugely healing experience for both of them. Well, Courtney was in attendance at the L.A. event, and it was cool to hear her and Palmer talk about what fuels internet anger and what can lessen it. Courtney, a singer-songwriter herself, sang a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You,” which both sounded amazing and was hugely appropriate. It was a really heartwarming and inspiring moment. People can change. Wounds can heal. Relationships can be formed despite a tumultuous beginning.

3) The part about Henry David Thoreau: my favorite excerpt – the one that made me really glad I bought The Art of Asking – was the part where she humorously talks about Thoreau and the experiences that lead to his famous work, Walden, which is entirely about living living simply and independently apart from society to gain perspective on it. People hold it up as an ode to self-sufficiency while ignoring the fact that the cabin he was staying in was on a friend’s land, and that his mother and sister brought him food (including doughnuts!) every day. We wouldn’t have a book like Walden if an artist didn’t get support from a tight-knit community of people believing in him and helping him live day-to-day so that he could produce his great work.

A sweet moment I captured between Palmer and a young fan who brought her a piece of art she made.

A sweet moment I captured between Palmer and a young fan who brought her a piece of art she made.

So, what does all this have to do with me? 

The entire evening of conversation about art, asking, pursuing passions, the business of entertainment, and the place where hard work and creativity meet got all the wheels turning in my head about what I want to focus on and what I want my career/writing/life to look like in the coming year. You may have noticed that my output has been low lately. I haven’t posted much this month here at the blog, or over at Beacon. Writing-wise, I’ve been in a cocoon trying to nurture the stories I’m creating and laying low on the internet. I’ve been working on the production side on Incredible Girl. I’ve been meeting weekly w/my writing partner, Adam, to work on our hour-long pilots. I’ve met w/my writing mentor and am working on developing a project with her, and I’ve met yet another, kind writer who’s agreed to show Adam and me the ropes to the best of his ability.

What I want and need most is the freedom to pursue the projects that are most meaningful to me. I’ve been a pop culture critic for a long time, writing about all things geeky, interviewing geeky creators and actors, analyzing television and film from a feminist perspective or through the prism of race. It’s work that’s important, and that I enjoy doing. But my ultimate goal is to create stories. To write things that will eventually be criticized by other pop culture critics. To make things up for a living. 🙂 I’ve built a name and a career on my non-fiction, and since that’s where a bulk of my money has come from, it’s what I’ve focused on. Because hey, writers gotta eat.

What I’ve been wrestling with as we approach the end of the year is starting to make decisions based on the path I want to be on, rather than the path I have to be on. I’ve built a wonderful resume writing for some amazing outlets, but I want to start being paid for the stories I create, and there’s no way for me to do that if my writing time continues to be taken up with hustling for non-fiction gigs. I want to expend my hustle energy wisely! Of course, I’ll always want to talk about representation in media, or gender equality, or activism, and it’s likely that I always will somehow, but I don’t want, nor did I ever intend for that, to be my job.

Also, there’s the matter of needing to make more money, period, than freelance writing is paying me at the moment. However, I don’t want to take a full-time job unless it’s on the path I want to be on. I’ve spent too many years working jobs that go nowhere I want to go, running in a hamster wheel in the name of practicality.

What’s funny is that, even having flown across the country to Follow My Dreams, my decisions have been based more in fear and practicality than they have been in moving forward in the career I want. And yes, I’ve built up a quality resume as a writer. Now, I want that resume to reflect more of the writing I love.

Basically, if I’m gonna have a 9-5, it’s gonna be in the industry I want. And if I’m gonna be making freelancer money, it’s damn well going to be writing stuff I love, because the stress of this kind of life is just not worth it any other way. 

I have three major goals for next year:

  1. A full-time job anywhere in the television industry (office work in any department, PA, assistant, agency – doesn’t matter. As long as it’s in the television neck of the woods).
  2. A Patreon page, so that I can earn financial support for the projects and stories I want to be creating, rather than churning out writing that has outlived its usefulness to me.
  3. Adam and me getting to know L.A. (and the television industry specifically) as a Writing Team.

All of the decisions I make from now on to be in the service of these goals. 🙂

Lastly, since Thanksgiving is coming up, I want to say how grateful I am to all of you reading this. To those of you who’ve already supported my writing up until this point. To those of you who’ve reached out to me at various times to tell me that, for some reason or other, something I’ve written has struck a chord with you. To those of you who’ve subscribed to me at Beacon, purchased my chapbook, bought an anthology because I was in it, written a kind blog comment, or shown your support in any way over the past few years.

I write, because I hope that, by revealing the ideas and feelings rattling around inside me, you will recognize yourself and feel less alone. I hope that my work allows communities that don’t know each other well to get to know each other and communicate better. Your support makes me feel like my work is doing what it’s supposed to do, makes me feel like my work has value – and that is amazing. Thank you so much, and I hope that I can continue to contribute to your lives in a valuable way.

More to come… 🙂

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SONG OF THE DAY: “Girl Anachronism” – The Dresden Dolls

Song: “Girl Anachronism”

Performed by: The Dresden Dolls

Album: The Dresden Dolls (2003)

Aaaand…we’re back! 🙂

Welcome to The Teresa Jusino Experience 2.0, which pretty much just means that I’ll be posting more regularly and reliably, there’ll be some new regular features, and the blog will have a new fancy-schmancy design next week! And now, ON WITH THE SHOW!

From the moment I first heard The Dresden Dolls’ “Girl Anachronism,” I’ve identified with it as my Theme Song. Maybe it’s because I was born by Caesarean section. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a late-bloomer, hitting life’s milestones just a touch out of step with the rest of my peers. Maybe it’s because, despite my best efforts, I’ve always felt a little bit like a weirdo, and have eventually become proud of being one. Maybe it’s all of those things.

As I do consider this a Theme Song of mine, I thought it the perfect song with which to re-vamp The Experience! So let’s all get into a time machine and step back into 2003 to get cozy with “Girl Anachronism” by The Dresden Dolls off their self-titled debut album.

Enjoy!

** DON’T FORGET THE POUND BY POUND PLEDGE DRIVE –RUNNING APR. 5TH 2013-APR. 5TH 2014 **

SONG OF THE DAY: THE THING ABOUT THINGS – AMANDA PALMER

What I love about music today is that artists are willing to take more chances, because they’re doing it for themselves on the internet. They’re less beholden to big labels, and so they have the freedom to play and, yes, sometimes the stuff they put out is crap, but sometimes it’s gold. The point is, they’re bringing their art directly to us in a more immediate way, and that’s awesome.

Amanda Palmer posted a new song she wrote the other day. It only exists as a live version, and she’s not even sure if she’s ever going to put it on an album. But in this day and age, “albums” are kind of irrelevant, aren’t they?

Today’s Song of the Day is “The Thing About Things” by Amanda Palmer. Enjoy!

*** DON’T FORGET THE POUND BY POUND PLEDGE DRIVE – RUNNING APR. 5TH 2013-APR. 5TH 2014 ***

SONG(S) OF THE DAY: VEGEMITE (THE BLACK DEATH) & I GOOGLE YOU – AMANDA PALMER (W/SOME HELP FROM NEIL GAIMAN)

Sorry I skipped yesterday. I had a horrible incident after losing my uncle’s prized sword in Chinatown and attempting to keep an eye on the spies he has working for him in an attempt to keep control of our crime family.

Or maybe I was playing Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown. Whatever.

The point is, yesterday I was also revisited by a song that I haven’t heard in a long while, but that I realized I missed terribly, and I’ve become newly obsessed with it. It’s a song about the things we put up with in relationships in order to be with the one we love. 🙂

Today’s Song Of The Day is “Vegemite (The Black Death)” from Amanda Palmer’s live album, Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under. Enjoy. It’s pretty hilarious – especially if you’re an Anglophile.

And, since I missed yesterday, I’ll give you a BONUS song today. Another one performed by Amanda Palmer, but written by Neil Gaiman! 🙂 I don’t know if it’s actually recorded anywhere, but she performs it a lot live and it’s awesome.

Song of The Day #2 is “I Google You” – performed by Amanda Palmer w/lyrics by Neil Gaiman.

SONG OF THE DAY: LOST – AMANDA PALMER & THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA

I am in love with this photo. Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra. Photo by Shervin Lainez.

When I first listened to Amanda Palmer‘s latest album with The Grand Theft Orchestra, Theatre Is Evil, “Lost” lost me within a verse. It wasn’t one of my favorites. But for some reason, because of various things I’ve been thinking about lately, this song started poking up from where I’d buried it and making sense to me.  Now, it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. Because nothing’s ever lost forever.

Today’s Song of the Day is “Lost” by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. Below is the official lyric video.

Amanda Palmer Is My Artist Soul Sister

Me and Amanda Palmer in 2009. Yes, there was a reason she posed that way that SHE didn't even know. No, I'm not gonna tell you now. :)

Me and Amanda Palmer in 2009. Yes, there was a reason she posed that way that SHE didn’t even know. No, I’m not gonna tell you now. 🙂

I’m so grateful to my friend, writer Jenner Gandin Le, for posting Amanda Palmer’s recent TED Talk on her blog so that I knew it was available! I, like all of Amanda’s fans, have been privy to her nervous, excited preparation for the talk for a while now.

And it was worth her effort, and worth the wait.

I’m not a rock star (except in my own mind), but I do seem to have what some have referred to as a “magical super power.” Generally, when I ask for something, there’s a good chance that I’ll get it – be it financial help, or a place to stay, or a ride somewhere I can’t get to on my own. I’ve asked for jobs and gotten them. I’ve asked for seemingly outrageous favors from seemingly out-of-reach people, and gotten them. I don’t think that I’m particularly special, but when I think about it, I think there are reasons why this happens so frequently. First, I trust people. I trust pretty much everyone unless they prove to me that I shouldn’t. My trust isn’t something that has to be earned, but rather, everyone gets an allotted amount and it grows or shrinks depending on your treatment of me and others around me. I don’t trust blindly or naively – I’m cautious when I need to be – but I do trust that everyone is, at their core, a human being, and deserves the respect of being treated without suspicion. My suspicion is something you earn.

I have many dear friends who find this way of thinking totally backwards; who think it should be the other way around. Yet, these are often the same people who marvel at the fact that, no matter how dire any situation I face might seem, that I always manage to have people around me willing to help. It makes me really sad that this isn’t everyone’s experience, and a big part of me wants to tell them that the reason why this works is because trust allows you to be open to people, and when people sense that you’re open to them, they’ll be open to you. Secondly, (and this sort of ties into the first reason), because I trust people, and because I’m open to people, they know that if it’s within my power to help them when they ask, I will. And I won’t expect anything in return, except their kindness. Third, for whatever reason, there are people who believe in my talent and my creativity, believe in the work I do, and feel like their helping me allows me to do more of what I do, which they seem to like. Also, they know that I’m not a slacker. That if I’ve borrowed money, it might take me a while, but I will pay it back if you’ve asked me to. That if I have a couch, or a corner of floor space, it’s yours if you need it to crash. That if I have the cash, and you need a meal, you and I are going to the nearest food establishment on me. I’ve convinced people that I am a worthwhile investment. I work hard with my writing, and I work hard to maintain my relationships, so people know that I will work hard to prove that their faith in me was well-placed.

I’m not perfect, but I do have integrity, and I think people know that.

When I watched Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, I recognized a lot of myself in it. In the shame felt for asking, and in the knowledge that I need to trust that whether people respond with “yes” or “no” (and believe me, I’ve been told “no” plenty of times – there goes that “magic super power” theory!), they will not hate me, or think less of me, for asking so long as the asking comes from a good place. It’s a difficult thing to live a lifestyle that is uncommon and unsteady. What makes it less difficult is trust. Trusting that if you fall, there will always be someone there to catch you. It could be someone close to you (as in my best friends who have ALWAYS been there to help me through thick and thin), or it could be someone you’ve never met (like the people online who supported me going to my first Gallifrey One), but there’s always someone if you’re willing to be open to them and willing to be brave enough to ask.

I realize that not everyone feels this way, or that not everyone’s life experience hasn’t taught them this. All I can say is…no war has ever started because one side was too open to or tolerant of the other. I’m not magical, and I haven’t come through life unscathed, but I’ve learned that the more I’m open to others, the more others open themselves up to me. It’s as close to “math” as the human experience can get.

Teresa’s “Watching the Wheels” Playlist

I should be writing. Instead, my mind is spinning, because tomorrow (as you might already know if you follow me on Twitter or FB) I will be hearing two important bits of news that will alter the course of my life forever. No, seriously. That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s really not. I may or may not get the perfect apartment, which means I may or may not be staying with a friend next month. AND I may or may not get into the NHMC Writers Program, which means I may or may not be off to LA to begin my screenwriting career. How I’ll sleep tonight, I don’t know.

Then again, who am I kidding. I never sleep.

The past two days have been really difficult for me in that I’ve learned what friends and family really think of what I’m trying to do with this whole freelance writing business. For the most part, I have oodles of love and support, and I am so grateful. But there is also a lot of (well-meaning) discouragement coming from some unexpected places. It hurts me that some people think what I’m doing with myself is a waste of time and that it won’t work. I have had a LOT of people help me in a LOT of aspects of my life over the past couple of months, and I’m more grateful than I can possibly say. However, what matters to me more than any monetary or otherwise physical support is that they respect what I’m trying to do. I am not a slacker. I am not lazy. I am not going about my life without planning ahead. I don’t mind living with roommates. I don’t care that I don’t have a 401K. I’ve gone without health insurance for most of my life. I don’t have children or a spouse to take care of.

So if not now, when?

When I think about my parents, one of the greatest lessons I took from them is that putting what you want or need aside in favor of doing what people expect of you will lead to more sadness and pain than you can shake a stick at. Of course there will be moments of happiness. There are always opportunities for happiness even in the midst of deepest despair. But with my parents, there was always an underlying (sometimes very overt) layer of sadness and regret in everything they did, and I think a lot of it had to do with each of them at key moments in their lives choosing what society told them was the “right” decision to make, as opposed to doing what was right for them.

Meanwhile, they always encouraged me to follow my heart. Practically, of course, but unwaveringly. I think they both, in their own way, were trying to warn me away from the mistakes they made. And I’m listening.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes since college, financially and otherwise, and I’ve gotten to a place now where I’ve set a definite course – the course on which I want to spend the rest of my life – and all I ask is that people respect that choice. They don’t have to like it, or understand it. They don’t have to help me if they can’t.

But they shouldn’t hurt me either.

And with all that rambling in mind, I present Teresa’s “Watching the Wheels” Playlist. Enjoy.

WATCHING THE WHEELS (John Lennon)

The Tale As Old As Time isn’t Beauty & the Beast. It’s people not understanding why money, or security, or success according to a societal standard doesn’t matter in the same way to everyone. Here’s John Lennon’s take on the matter. Amazing how a song written by an English dude before I was born expresses what I’m feeling better than I can right now.  🙂

GIRL ANACHRONISM (The Dresden Dolls)

They’ll say, “Just let her crash and burn, she’ll learn. The attention just encourages her.”

I don’t necessarily believe there is a cure for this, so I might join your century but only as a doubtful guest.

Incidentally, I was born via cesarean. And I was an accident…unless my parents were planning on getting pregnant in their 40s. 🙂

RAISE YOUR GLASS (Pink)

The lead-in to the chorus is a little wonky (“Why so serious?” “Just get dancey?”) But I’m a sucker for: So, raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways.

And I always was too school for cool.

EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE (Fiona Apple)

I’ve been in love with this song since the bootleg of Fiona’s third album. And I’m sorry, but I like the production on the bootleg version better than what ended up on the finished album, so that’s what you’re getting.

I seem to you to seek a new disaster every day/You deem me due to clean my view and be at peace and lay/I mean to prove I mean to move in my own way and say I’ve been getting along for long before you came into the play.

I am the baby of the family it happens, so, everybody cares and wears the sheep’s clothes while they chaperone/Curious, you’re looking down your nose at me while you appease/courteous to try and help, but let me set your mind at ease…

NO LOVE (Eminem, featuring Lil’ Wayne)

Many of you already know I’ve been obsessed with this song lately. Eminem’s half of the song KILLS me.