When It Comes to Patience, First Learn the Math
(Written for the LA Times Magazine’s ‘Rules of Hollywood’ column.)
Everyone in this ‘I need it yesterday’ town is waiting for something: the overnights, the weekend read, the end of the day when they can finally take the edge off all the waiting with a drink.
More than the play, in this business, the waiting’s the thing. Which is why the image of the Sardi’s booth, with a post-show cast huddled in anticipation of the early edition, is one of the stickiest images in show business iconography.
And it’s why waiting tables is the quintessential Hollywood day job. “Can I help you,” the waiter asks. “Yes,” says the diner. “Let’s see. I’m not sure. Hmm. Give me a couple more minutes will you?” And what does the waiter say? Nothing. They just wait. Because you if you do not learn how to hurry up and wait when you are a waiter you do not get your tip.
But I never did wait tables. Ironically, I learned my waiting lesson at MTV, a network devoted to an aesthetic of impatience. We’d made a pilot of my talk show for them. A pet project. A dream project. And it was looking good. The show was announced in the trades, people were telling me they’d heard great things, there was buzz. But we were waiting for an official yes. Then the network “asked”, if we’d wait beyond our contractual ‘end of wait’ date.
Unfortunately I had not yet learned the primary axiom of Hollywood Math: the absence of yes over time equals no. So I kept waiting. And not doing anything else unless you count burning candles and chanting.
The night that we finally got the call that we were not ‘getting picked up’ – cruel phrase meaning put down – all we could do was play “Let It Bleed” over and over again. At least that was one thing I could control. And I felt oddly reassured every time I heard that if I wanted to I could bleed all over Mick.
And then I had one of those you’re going to have to change moments where the sound gets narrow and the light start pulsing. I knew that if I was going to continue on in this business, or even in life, I was going to have to get good at waiting.
But what would it take? I’m a very be in the moment girl and waiting is not being in the moment. Waiting is future focused. It has an element of hope. And if you’ve lived in Hollywood for more than ten minutes you know that it’s the hope that will kill you. So I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I upped my yoga practice. And one day, while I was waiting for my teacher to release us from a chatarunga hold, I noticed I was waiting and yet not waiting. I was waiting with grace. And that when waiting is graceful it’s called patience. And patience means waiting without waiting. Waiting while breathing. Waiting while moving on to the next project, celebrating your anniversary, devoting yourself to world peace, napping, tracking the moon, trying not to keep other people waiting any longer than necessary. In essence, living. Waiting without waiting means that you are prepared for a positive outcome of the thing you are waiting for but that you proceed as if the possibility of the thing you are waiting for does not even exist.
Recently my people told me I would definitely be receiving a particular offer. A few weeks went by. No offer ensued. Applying the absence of yes over time formula I figured the deal was dead. I called said people, to confirm my suspicions. They checked and said that the offer was in fact still in the works and now had a number attached. A nice number. A few more weeks have gone by. And by a few more weeks I mean a month. No offer. So I continue to wait for the offer without waiting for the offer. Because every rule needs to be broken and sometimes the absence of no over time equals yes.