Day Thirty One.

Black and White Batgirl

Well, I did it. I officially quit booze and cigarettes – cold turkey – for thirty days. It was difficult, though not nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I definitely had moments where I wanted to cave, particularly when life got rough.

But, even though I’ve been feeling everything these days, my emotions didn’t overwhelm me like I thought they would. When left alone with thoughts too intense to handle, I was forced to get creative. Rather than my traditional cop out – pouring a glass of wine – I went for a run, or staged an impromptu dance party in my living room, or made a collage out of old photos, or – on one really tough day – dressed up as Batgirl and went out with Wonder Woman (thank you, Elisa) to dinner and a show on a Friday night in the heart of Los Angeles. I wouldn’t trade the interactions I had with curious strangers that night for anything.

Over the last thirty days, what I missed the most was the camaraderie that goes along with drinking, the social aspect of smoking. There was the collective tequila shot with acting class friends on a day when a tequila shot was a really, really good idea. There was the wine and gossip with girlfriends. And there was the late night philosophy that occurs while bumming a cigarette from a friend (or sitting on my patio, contemplating my future, blowing smoke into the darkness.)

But here’s what I didn’t miss. I didn’t miss worrying if I’d be OK to drive after a night out with friends. I didn’t miss starting my weekend already hung over from Friday night. And I certainly didn’t miss the bar tab. Thanks to the money I saved from abstaining from my vices for a mere thirty days, I was able to treat myself to a luxurious facial, a massage, a new dress for a friend’s wedding, and a whole bunch of new music on iTunes. Not bad.

I set lofty goals for myself to accomplish during my thirty days, which I’m sad to say, I fell short of. Most notably, I didn’t finish the first draft of my screenplay, like I had wanted. The prior-to-thirty-days-me would have beaten myself up about that, but I’m not going to. Because here’s the truth: the goal that I set in theory turned out to be way bigger than I anticipated when I put it into practice. I put in countless hours of writing – including two weekends where I essentially didn’t leave the house – and I ended up totally reworking my outline, scrapping a lot of what wasn’t working, and writing fifty new pages. As a result of my work, I’m way more excited about and committed to the story than I’ve ever been, and – while I’m a bit behind where I wanted to be – I know I’ll finish it soon because I can’t stop thinking about the characters and I can’t wait to see them achieve their (sort of) happy ending.

In the end, the most important reason for me to take this thirty-day break was to prove to myself that I could. To prove that I could navigate through a difficult time in my life in a healthy way and stick with it, despite an abundance of temptation. All the great things that came along with my detox – the money saved, the glowing, hydrated skin, the formerly tight clothes that are now loose-fitting – are just the fringe benefits of setting a goal for myself and accomplishing it. So, hooray. And now I ask myself the inevitable question that I always ask at the culmination of any project, endeavor, or challenge: what now?

Well, for right now, today, this weekend – I’m going to let my hair down. After thirty days of behaving like a schoolteacher, I’m going to have some fun. I’m going to enjoy quality time with some of my besties, I’m going to rejoice at the celebration of a dear friend’s wedding, and I’m going to get dolled up and go OUT.

And in a week, my much-anticipated summer vacation to the Pacific Northwest will finally be here. Ten days of relaxing, swimming in the sound, enjoying family time and doing what The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron calls “filling the well” – renewing my spirit with fresh life experiences, so that when I return I’ll hit the ground running and tackle the next project (whatever that may be) with gusto.

In the meantime, who’s up for some shots?

Until next time, friends.

Extra Dry Martini.

Main blog photo chrome filter

My name is Sarah, and this is my blog. I’ve been quite a few things in my life – an actress, a producer, a director, a publicist, a sports fanatic (go Hawks), a photo stylist, an amateur vocalist, a lover of fine wine and strong coffee, a world traveler with a serious case of wanderlust – but through it all, I’ve always, always been a writer.

Coming of age in the 1990s, I grew up watching the Today Show, and my greatest ambition was to be the next Katie Couric. After writing articles for my school paper and a brief stint anchoring my high school news show (if that footage is lurking out there somewhere, someone for the love of god, burn it), I entered USC as a Broadcast Journalism major. But getting cast in student plays and a semester in London immersing myself in the world of West End theatre ignited the spark of my performance bug, and I set off on a different path.

Yet through it all, writing has remained a vital part of my life. Whether for artistic purposes – penning plays, solo performance monologues, sketches, short screenplays – or to make money – copywriting, branded social media content, press releases – the pen, the notepad and the keyboard and I have never spent very much time apart.

When I began this blog in early 2012, I didn’t have a clear direction of where I wanted to go with it. I only knew that I’d lived through some incredible moments and I wanted to share my stories in a way that was funny, entertaining, and (hopefully), moving. I started with the name, Extra Dry Martini, and its tagline, Straight Up With a Twist: a cheeky take on my favorite cocktail, a tip of the hat to my blunt Sagittarian nature and my edgy, sarcastic sense of humor, and a thinly-veiled attempt to position myself as a female 007.

But life, as it’s wont to do, had other plans. Shortly after launching this blog, life took me on an unexpected and – frequently – painful journey. I now have more material than I know what to do with, but in a case of be careful what you wish for, I’ve discovered that my best writing has been born from my greatest challenges and the most crushing heartbreak I’ve ever known.

This blog has been my platform as I’ve struggled through grief and loss. It has been my attempt to make sense of the senseless, to shine a light in the darkness, and to refine and reclaim my voice. Through it all, I’ve realized that my only safety net is found on the page, my only sanctuary the warm blanket of the written word. If a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor, then consider this blog my attempt to navigate my own perfect storm, compass in hand, ever aiming for my true north.

I don’t know where this road will lead, but I thank you for joining me on it. Thank you for venturing with me into the great unknown. Welcome into my world, my life, my heart. This is, has been, and will be, incredibly personal. This is the thing itself.

Until next time, friends.



Father’s Day.

King Salmon copy

Father’s Day has never been a holiday that I’ve gotten super mushy about. Throughout most of my life, my relationship with my Dad has been layered, challenging, complicated. (Everything you’d want to know about our relationship can be read on my blog titled, Dad.) While my Mom was always the emotional center of my life, my Dad was more like a loving antagonist, egging me on from the sidelines. Year after year, the task of choosing a Father’s Day card was a formidable challenge. So much of the cheesy, cookie cutter sentiment simply didn’t fit.

As I got older, and Dad got frail (and ultimately, sick), I started to see him differently, and I began to appreciate qualities that I couldn’t as a young girl. I started to realize that the reason Dad antagonized me so much and was so brilliant at pushing my buttons was actually because we were way more alike than I cared to admit.

Now that my Dad is no longer here, I remain grateful for every quality – both positive and negative – that I inherited from him. I learned so much from him, mostly from the way that he lived his life. In honor of Father’s Day, here are the most important life lessons I take away from my Dad:

Dad, D, Nora and I

Life is a gamble. As much as we’d like to believe that we can control the outcome of events, the reality is we have no control. Life throws what it will at us, and more often than not, we have to make the best decision we can with the information that we have at the time, and forge ahead. Risk is part of being a human being, so you might as well embrace it. And if the worst thing that could happen happens – you risk it all and lose everything – you must rebuild. If you can do that, and come out on the other side of it, you’ll not only learn what you’re made of, but you’ll also realize that worrying about things you can’t control is a terrible waste of time.

Risk taking is good, but some risks are just stupid. As a personal injury lawyer, one of Dad’s favorite phrases was, ‘That’s an accident waiting to happen.’ There’s a reason I’ve never been in a helicopter or a racecar: because they’re both death traps. For all those thrill seekers out there, more power to you. Skydive or bungee jump or race fast cars to your heart’s content. But any activity where my odds of dying increase exponentially is not one you’ll catch me doing. I’d rather take my risks in other ways, like creative ones.

Keep your sense of humor, even when it gets dark. Especially when it gets dark. No matter how grim things got, Dad always found a way to laugh. When I was little, I used to be a bit horrified at Dad’s macabre sense of humor and his ability to find the funny in stuff that really shouldn’t be funny. Years later, my ability to laugh through cancer, through death, through just about anything, has kept me sane through some trying times. If you can keep your sense of humor throughout the darkest of the dark, odds are, you’ll always be OK.

Dad and Nora Cat in the Hat

Stick to your guns. If you believe in something with all of your heart, then stand up for it, and don’t flinch. You may end up making enemies, but at least you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror. This doesn’t mean being dogmatic, unyielding, or unwilling to listen to the other side. It does mean to thine own self be true. Nobody respects a flip flopper.

Sports are life, and who you root for says a lot about you. I watched Dad suffer for years as a devoted Portland Trailblazers fan, a Seattle Seahawks fan, and a Boston Red Sox fan. I saw Dad’s loyalty rewarded when the Sox finally broke Babe Ruth’s curse. I saw my own rewarded last February when the Seahawks finally won the Super Bowl. Sure, it feels good to root for a team that wins, but it feels even better after hanging with that team through years and years of losing and knowing you were there through it all. It can be demoralizing to support a team that loses year after year (the Seattle Mariners, anyone?), but for the loyal fan, hope really does spring eternal. Dad taught me to have no patience or respect for fair weather fans, or fair weather people. And on that note: when in doubt, always, always root for the underdog.

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right. Dad moved through life with an air of confidence, and an unwavering belief that no matter what, things would work out in his favor. And you know what? He was almost always right. Now, whenever someone tells me something can’t be done, I can’t wait to set out proving them wrong. Even if it’s something as simple as getting a table at a popular restaurant that won’t take reservations. If you believe you can do it and act accordingly, more often than not, you’ll win. Attitude plus perseverance is a powerful combination.

Mom and Dad at M's law school grad copy

Eloquence is important. If you want to sway someone to your cause, make them feel something. Dad loved to quote Shakespeare and recite poetry, often to the point of sappiness. No matter. He knew how to affect people, and how to move them. He also understood this: if you don’t believe it, then nobody else will either.

Life is a great adventure, or nothing at all. So many people spend their lives being afraid, playing it safe, living a life that’s smaller than what’s in their hearts. Why? We’re all going to end up in the ground or scattered to the wind anyway. There is so much in this world that’s thrilling, that’s beautiful, that’s worth savoring. Grab it while you can. Dad lived with a sort of big picture perspective and a zest for life that is more rare than it should be. And I’m pretty sure he went to his eternal rest with no regrets. He many not have been the perfect man, or the perfect father, and he probably made a few enemies throughout his life. But he also understood that ‘you can’t win ‘em all.’ Stop working so hard to get other people to like you. They will or they won’t, and what other people think of you is really none of your business anyway. To thine own self be true.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for all that you taught me.

Until next time, friends

Young Dad



I’ve met the enemy, and its name is Resistance.

I recently revisited Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, a book that, in a very direct, plainspoken voice, cuts through the crap and correctly calls out all the ways we self-sabotage and rationalize our way out of designing the lives we want. The book is brutally honest, and it’s brilliant.

Pressfield identifies the pernicious beast that stands between us and our heart’s desire as Resistance. (Resistance with a capital ‘R,’ as it must be taken seriously.) What is Resistance? It doesn’t come from other people, or your life circumstances, or where you live, or your lame job that you hate. Resistance comes from you. It’s the judgmental voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough, the voice that leads you to make false comparisons between yourself and other people, the voice that causes you to make a million excuses for not living the life you want. Resistance leads to (among other things): procrastination, poor life choices, boredom, depression, guilt, addiction, and unhappiness. Pressfield calls Resistance ‘the enemy within.’

In The War of Art, Pressfield details his own daily battles with Resistance in his work as a writer. As I, in turn, struggle to get my story out of my head and onto the page, I identify with that battle. About writing, Pressfield says this:

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

He’s right. Sitting down is the hardest part. Because just the thought of it, the thought of staring at a blank screen, of struggling to string a sentence together, is pure agony. And I really like to write.

I recently gave up one of my favorite forms of Resistance, alcohol (and its sidekick, cigarettes), for thirty days. I did this to detox and cleanse my system, but also – mainly – because I have work to get done and I need to be super-focused in order to do it. I have a full-time job and countless other responsibilities in addition to my writing, so if I’m ever going to finish the screenplay that has been tugging at my heartstrings, there’s no room for zoning out over wine at the end of a long day until it’s done.

So here I am, sober as a judge on day five* of thirty days and barely any closer to completing the damn thing. I have found a million excuses not to start. I’m lonely and I’m sad. Being alone with the voices in my head is too much. I want to go out, call someone, distract myself. I remind myself that this time is a gift, that I’ve worked hard and sacrificed much in order to create space for it. I can’t waste it.

But the voice in my head is a real bitch. She tells me that what I have to say isn’t important to anyone but me. She tells me that even if I do finish my screenplay and even if I do have the courage to put it out into the world, that it will ultimately just be a waste of time. That people will hate it. That I’ll hate it. Or even if I don’t hate it, and other people don’t hate it, even if it’s actually good, then what? I’ll spend all of my money producing the movie, which is way too hard for me to do on my own, and I’ll screw it up and then I’ll be broke and have nothing to show for it. So really, what’s the point?

This is the sort of Resistance-style crap that leaves me finding all sorts of other things to do during my detox, like washing dishes and folding laundry and making grocery lists and painting my nails and surfing Facebook and posting too much shit on Instagram. And it’s dumb. And I hate it.

So I picked up The War of Art. I’ll keep picking it up and I’ll keep countering the negative voice in my head with Pressfield’s fighting words, to remind myself that Resistance never goes away. I wrote this blog post to remind myself that making art is an act of war and that we have to do battle against the Resistance that threatens to derail our dreams every single day. It’s not glamorous or sexy or all that fun to do our work, but, goddammit, the only way to get it done is to sit down and do it.

I don’t know about you, but when I do force myself to sit down and write one of these blog posts, or bang out a couple pages of dialogue from my script, the bitch inside my head gets a little quieter, and I start to feel ever so slightly relieved. Doing the work is hard, but it’s also – truly – the only thing that keeps the demons at bay.

So here’s to doing what’s hard. Here’s to the struggle. Here’s to waging war. Every. Single. Day.

I’ve pasted the last page of The War of Art – a section entitled The Artist’s Life – below. I hope it helps you along in your own personal war.

Until next time, friends

*It was day five when I wrote this post. It is now (at the time of publishing), day seven, and since spewing out this blog, I’ve revised the first twenty pages of my script, written twelve new pages, and have completely re-worked the outline. Go to hell, Resistance.

The Artist’s Life

Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

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