Little steps. Big steps. First steps.

Last week, I finished the first draft of my screenplay. It was a goal I’d set for myself so long ago – a goal which I had so often delayed – that part of me couldn’t believe that I had actually achieved it, and that I was really, truly, typing the words “Fade Out” on the bottom of page ninety-eight.

However, though I felt an initial surge of excitement upon reaching this milestone, my joy quickly turned to dread. I felt scared. Heavy. Worried.

The negative self-talk started screaming through my brain. “You finished it?” “So what?” “It’s not done. Not by a long shot.” “You’ll probably never finish it.” “And even if you do, who cares?” “Your story isn’t particularly interesting, Sarah. No one is going to want to see this movie.”

It took me three days after completing the first draft to force myself to sit down and read the whole thing from beginning to end, with an eye on what needed to be clarified, edited, and fixed. The process was horrible. As I read along, my self-judgment got worse and worse. Words like “stupid,” “cliché,” and “boring” sprang to mind. One particular scene made me laugh out loud as I covered my mouth in horror, thinking, “I can’t believe I wrote that.”

And on and on it went. My younger self would have been so discouraged at the end of it, I would have buried the entire document in a folder on my laptop and not looked at it again for months, until one night after I’d had too much wine and was feeling masochistic, I’d pick it up again and cry my way though it, bemoaning my poor talentless self and all the months I’d wasted on writing something that was never going to be any good and was never going to see the light of day.

But I am not my younger self. I am older now, and I – usually – know better. The older me took all of my harshest criticism and wrote it down, trying to make my notes as constructive as possible. The older me reminded myself that first drafts are almost always terrible, and I didn’t write this first draft to be brilliant, I wrote it to get to the end. The older me knows that this process is painful, but also knows that the only way to make the pain stop is to keep writing, keep pushing, keep showing up and doing the work. The older me knows that I can’t give up, because if I do, the unfinished work will turn into yet another unrealized dream that will haunt me. And I have too many of those already, thank you very much.

I am fortunate enough to have lots of amazing friends who are actors, writers, artists. And I believe that if we’re honest, we all grapple with the same fears, the same longing, the same self-doubt. We all worry that we’re not talented enough, not smart enough, not unique enough to add our voices to the crowded chorus of storytellers already out there in the world. But it’s not just the artists, is it? Don’t we all harbor a secret “Who do I think I am?” that holds us back from taking bold steps toward our biggest dreams?

After beating myself up for a good long time, I picked up my much-beloved copy of Steven Pressfield’s book “Do the Work.” (If you are trying to finish anything, get it, use it. I am not kidding – this book will change your life). I paged through it as I often do, to remind myself that nothing worth doing is ever easy. I laughed when I got to this part on page 46:

Sometimes on Wednesday I’ll read something that I wrote on Tuesday and I’ll think, ‘This is crap. I hate it and I hate myself.’ Then I’ll re-read the identical passage on Thursday. To my astonishment it has become brilliant overnight. Ignore false negatives. Ignore false positives. Both are Resistance.

And then, in big, bold letters, he writes:

Keep working.

In the end, I have no control over whether people love or hate my story. By extension, I have no control over whether people love or hate me. Making people love me is not my job. My job is to show up and do the work on a consistent basis, and to try every day to get a little bit better. The story that’s burning a hole inside of me deserves that. So every day, I try to remind myself that the process, not the end result, is what I have control over. The process, not the end result, is what demands my focus.

And I also try to remind myself that I have a community of friends and supporters – many of them right here on WordPress – with whom I can share my process, my fears, my journey. And this community reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with the struggle. The struggle is part of the story.

Lucky me.

Until next time, friends.

The Cottage on Cashio Street.

As the late afternoon sun descends, its rays catch the side of my face – warm, but not too hot. Directly in front of me, a lone, impossibly tall palm tree ascends up, up, up into the cloudless blue sky, stoic and proud, as though she were keeping watch over the entire neighborhood. The same gentle breeze that blows through my hair causes the palm fronds to rustle softly and rhythmically, the music of the trees joining the chirping of tiny birds and the occasional melody of a far-off police siren as this lazy late afternoon slides into evening.

Palm Tree

As I sit on one turquoise mesh folding chair, my feet propped up on a second turquoise mesh folding chair, legs extended, gazing out from a white stucco patio framed by an impeccably-manicured hedge blossoming with pink and yellow flowers, I’m willing to admit that the view from here looks pretty good.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, for much of the year that I’ve lived in this one bedroom cottage bungalow with its near-perfect patio, I didn’t enjoy or embrace my life here. I didn’t relax and I didn’t settle in. But now, as my second spring begins to unfold on Cashio Street, I find myself inching ever closer to something that resembles happiness. It’s a feeling that’s been foreign to me for so long, I’m not quite sure what to do with it. It’s a feeling that, if I’m honest, scares me a little. What if it’s not real? What if it goes away?

When I first moved to the cottage on Cashio Street, it was to seek refuge. My marriage was toxic, my life was a mess, and I was reeling from an overwhelming grief that I hadn’t been able to fully process or accept. I needed to start over. I moved in with some friends, temporarily, until I figured out what to do next. And then it happened: with almost zero effort on my part, this beautiful little bungalow materialized. It fell into my lap so seamlessly, it was almost as if fate had stepped in on my behalf.


At first, the sudden change was exhilarating. Both my home and my life were a blank slate, to be redecorated and refashioned in whatever way I saw fit. I had a new neighborhood to discover and a new life to explore.

But after the novelty wore off, reality set in. I was isolated, living far away from most of my friends in a city where perpetual traffic jams mean that even a separation of a few miles can present a serious impediment to regular social gatherings. The more time I spent alone with myself, the more I realized that I no longer knew who I was. My marriage had defined not only my relationship status, but many of my friendships and associations – both personally and professionally – as well. I felt adrift, homesick, and unsure of where to turn. I missed the places and faces of my past life and wanted to retreat back to the familiar and the known.

But I couldn’t. And I didn’t. Gradually, I began to seek out new ways to fill the empty spaces left in my life by the absence of so many people and things. I used this blog as a tool to write my way through sadness and loss and the changes I felt unfolding within me. Through my writing, I met a community of other writers, both online and in real life. A few months after my move, I went on a writer’s retreat in the San Juan Islands in my home state of Washington and was amazed to find that there were so many other people out there just like me: people who were brave yet broken, people who had profound stories to tell, people who found their solace within the safety of the written word.


The void still gnawing at my insides, I kept going. Along with a close circle of friends, I started a weekly creative workshop for fellow actors and writers. I reconnected with a college friend, joined her theatre company, and began rehearsals for an autobiographical solo performance show that will open this upcoming summer. I became a volunteer for an organization that works to empower teenage girls in L.A.’s underserved communities and I’m now a mentor to a fourteen-year-old girl who has plans to finish her first novel before she graduates from high school. Once again, I picked up an oft-abandoned screenplay loosely (or maybe not so loosely) based on the worst year of my life, but this time with a renewed sense of commitment and enthusiasm. I’m almost done with the first draft, and I’m planning to hold my first table read next month.  And I’m finally – finally – in counseling with a good therapist.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I am a work in progress. Change is scary and it’s difficult, and some days are easier than others. But through stubbornness and persistence, I’m starting to find a way out of the darkness. I’m starting to find that this new, ever-evolving me is someone I actually enjoy spending time with. And I’m starting to recognize that caught as I am between impatiently pushing for a “better,” happier future and brooding over memories of a past that I can’t change, the only place I can safely reside, the only place I want to reside, is right here, right now.

One day at a time, as they say.

Until next time, friends.


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