Getting Through the Day: Leading a Creative Life

Over the past few days, I have been sick in bed with a really bad cold, and I can barely talk. But I can write, so here I go. There are things that I think follow us throughout our lives, without us being very aware of the fact that we acquired a passion or talent for something at an early age. When we read, or see a biography of someone, oftentimes, a point is made that they began to do whatever they are good at from childhood. Certain things I wish I had been doing from an early age, but I’m quickly coming to realize that my talents are what they are. No, I didn’t start dancing at 3 to become a ballerina professionally, or sing before I could talk, or even sit by my mother and watch her sew and follow suit.

What I did do was use my imagination. I would play dress up, write short stories, create characters, do funny voices, and put on plays for my cat (I was an only child, can you blame me?) My imagination and my interest in human behavior have always been constant forms of stimulation for me as an artist. I love  acting, writing, and creating.  For the last few months however, I have been in a creation-less slump. When my grandfather died in September, I didn’t get to go to the funeral because I was committed to filming Boardwalk Empire on HBO. Filming and the funeral fell on the same day. That day will stick with me as one of the most difficult days of my career and my life. Why I am compelled to write about it now, I am still unsure. I felt a sense of vacancy, joy, and sadness all in one day. I felt lost because I missed my Papa so much, but I knew that I had to get through the day. I did get through it. I could feel a sense of calm throughout, that made me realize that he was with me in spirit. I knew he was proud of me. We would have long conversations about what I wanted to be when I grew up; when I finally moved to New York, our conversations expanded to what my goals were, and “How’s New York?” was always his first question.

How’s New York? It’s fabulous because I am learning and growing everyday. I am surrounded by interesting people, so there is really no excuse for me NOT to be in a constant state of creation. Whether I am taking the words from the page and interpreting them so that they come off as a cohesive monologue or scene, or I am filling a page with words from  my brain, I should always be creating. There is always an opportunity for creativity and for sending it out into the world so that others may benefit from it. My grandfather was a chemist so he was a creative person as well, just in a different way. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to listen to his stories and gain new appreciation for how one views their world.

A little over month after my grandfather passed away, my aunt lost her fifteen month battle with leukemia. She created things as well. She was crafty, loved to knit and make jewelry. She was a creator, an inventor of her own happiness. This year, I am slowly learning to be my number one inventor. I am creating a life as a writer and actor; slowly but surely, it is paying off (literally.) The last time I saw my aunt, she was in the hospital, I had just filmed Boardwalk Empire, and she was so proud of me. She told me that she loved me, and to not give up. But that’s what had happened shortly after she died. I gave up. I became over analytical of an industry I love, and more importantly, myself. I tried to deny my career goals and fell into a rut. I played the blame game. And it wasn’t fun. Then I realized something. The fire is burning in my belly more now than ever. My passion for the arts and for telling a story through acting and writing is still alive  A project is out there. Someone is out there needing a curly-haired, curvy, slightly goofy, character actress. I am going to persevere. I have to create, invent, interpret, be just who I am–and be happy with fact that my talents are what they are: mine.

Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.

Madeleine L’Engle


3 responses to “Getting Through the Day: Leading a Creative Life”

  1. What an excellent and moving post, Stephanie. I hope that all young (and old) artists have a chance to read it.

    Like you, I had a big acting commitment that I couldn’t break away from on the day that my beloved grandmother passed away. I’d gotten the call from the hospital and wanted to be there holding her hand, but I had a job to do. I felt awful for months until the day that I was on location doing something that resulted from my commitment on the day she died, and I felt my Nana smiling in approval that I’d continued to follow the dream that she’d helped me to nurture. I burst into a flood of tears, part joy, part sorrow, and that moment has continued to drive me as I move forward.

    Each day is a struggle to keep standing against the waves of doubt that come, both internal and external, about pursuing a life in this crazy business. I take comfort in the fact that God blessed me with these gifts and I am responsible for ignoring the demons that say “no way your dreams will ever happen” and forging on in a way that honors both my maker and the unique talents that He gave unto me.

    You are an inspiration, Stephanie, I wish you much happiness and continued success.

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