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Planting the Seed of Your Artistic Identity


Madeline MerrittSpring is the season when we plant our seeds. They will be nurtured by April showers (please return to us, April showers!) sprout and grow, to be harvested in the fall and stored over the winter months, digested, and re-sowed with new dreams and goals in the following cycle. In many traditions this time of planting: of crops and of dreams, marks the New Year. As artists, Spring is the time when we reinvent ourselves: new headshots, new representation, new classes, updating our website, and expanding our network with casting directors and other artists. Spring brings new opportunities to dream big, to let go of what is no longer serving us, and to plant new directions in the soil of our lives- through daily practice, and positive vision.

Many of us are afraid to dream big. So much of our lives as artists involves containment, “getting ready” for the next step, so we are prepared for opportunity, and asking permission for our career identity. We are constantly seeking recognition from others, rather than owning our own vision for ourselves and moving forward with a huge, bold, unbelievable vision for our lives. But who told you that you aren’t good enough to dream big?

Negative self-speech is the ultimate saboteur of the artist. We are too this, not enough that, and the world isn’t ready for what we are longing to share with it. On days when we are feeling dreamy and restful, rather than moving with the flow of that in our lives, we beat ourselves up and maybe miss the inspiration that was trying to reach us. Life is like breathing, and when we speed up the process of the breath of life, we miss the hollow place at the end of the breath, that emptiness which allows for a strong next inhalation, for strong inspiration. In a world where we tell ourselves only those sprinting succeed, we may miss what makes us unique, what defines our vision and why we have chosen this wild artistic path anyways. It may be years into a sprint, when we turn around and wonder how we got here, and what is inspiring this breakneck pace anyways?

Margaret Wheatley, author of many books on leadership, organization and community in troubling times, suggests a simple practice to all her western students: unconditional personal friendliness. This practice, of being kind to oneself, of not internalizing the “nay-sayer” into our own constant judge that sounds like us yet only serves to block and limit us, is the single most important aspect of birthing our identity as artists. Those that can embrace the quirks and oddities of themselves with unconditional love and acceptance are able to be present, unique, and confident in their voice and contribution. The internalized negative voice is not a natural state of being, it is something unique to our culture, and while that constant drive to “improve” can move mountains, it can also kill artists. In a constant quest to be what’s “it” right now, you miss the opportunity to be YOU, and that will be what you regret when you look back.

I am really into Anthony Meindl’s At Left Brain Turn Right. It is for actors and is about embracing a bigger vision for yourself, and letting go of that inner critic. Its central thesis is that our subconscious creative brain is often thwarted by the ego, survival driven, fear-based brain which holds us back. Again, that internalized critic. To counter-act that voice, we must be bold. We must be kind to ourselves and we must be daring enough to imagine in much bigger ways than our fear-based brain will allow. So I challenge you all to dream big this spring. Let go of all the limits you put on your imagination and let yourself envision the career, the life, the artistic contribution that you want to make, the sky is the limit! Spend five minutes a day just imagining. Pretend you are a child and let your dreams run wild, stop holding back, or waiting until you are “ready” to dream big. Dream big today. Make it a regular practice, and don’t judge your dreams. Your dreams are what keep you moving forward. They are the seeds that you plant in spring, which you foster and see grow into your reality. So plant good seeds my friends. Seeds that do good, seeds that give you freedom, seeds that give you wings.


Madeline Merritt

About Madeline Merritt

Actress, Freelance Writer - Madeline grew up on stage and has loved telling stories her whole life. From the Bay Area, California, Madeline received her degree in Theatre and Political Science from Northwestern University and moved to Los Angeles in 2008. She recently spent a year in Paris, France but missed the city of Angels and the entertainment industry here. She cares deeply about social issues, including women’s rights, indigenous rights, poverty and the environment. She feels the role of storyteller through entertainment is very important in opening dialogue and creating change in the world. You can see her in The Guest House (available on Netflix, Itunes, Amazon and Time Warner on Demand) and the soon to be released American Idiots, coming to a Redbox near you in June 2013. She is thrilled to continue her journey of collaborating with women in film and television through Ms. In the Biz.