“I believe a lot of the world’s problems could be solved by people owning their stories and answering the call in their hearts. When people are living from their authenticity, they make better decisions, are more generous and tend to be a little less anxious. It opens the possibilities right up. If every single person decided to honor their heart-centered will, instead of their ego-centered will, I believe we could heal a lot of the troubles ailing the world. We live in a time where people don’t believe in miracles, we don’t believe in change, we don’t believe we can do better. I think individuals who are tapping into their creativity and honoring their highest self are the change agents of our entire world. Every single person on this planet is creative. It’s just a matter of owning it.”
– Courtney Romano
Actress, Writer and Creative Coach
Courtney Romano is an actress, writer and creative mentor, currently living with her husband and cat in Queens, NY. She believes authentic, bold creativity has the power to heal the world. Courtney is a Barrymore-Award nominee with performances ranging from Off-Broadway to commercials. Her writing can be seen in a number of publications, and her book, The First Ten Years: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Creative Longevity, was published last fall. Not only does she work as a marketing strategist for Distinct, an app that connects and empowers creatives, Courtney also has her own creative mentoring services where she guides creative people towards fuller, more profitable careers. Her next live workshop for creatives and entrepreneurs will be held in New York City on June 4th. Read on to find our more about Courtney and her work.
Tell us about your blog and how you got started on your creative journey.
I’ve been an actor in NYC for the last ten years or so. I had been focusing pretty specifically on growing my acting career and didn’t touch my writing for quite some time. My blog happened very haphazardly. I was writing for my friend’s style blog, and after awhile, we decided to part creative ways (because I didn’t actually have much to say about style). I still had this reignited writing energy to get out, so I created my own blog more as a way to exercise my writing muscle. I knew I wanted to be writing more, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write. So I practiced uncovering my voice with my blog posts. The blog was really the catalyst for me to realize there was a book living in me.
Was this always what you wanted to do or did it emerge over time?
It’s funny because as a kid, I was writing my own stories, dancing around the house and making up plays non-stop. Any free time I had was used for storytelling. I’ve always wanted to be telling stories, but the way I’ve done it has evolved. I started out in my career wanting to be the leading lady of Broadway shows. Never in a million years did I think I’d write a book. I’ve been a storyteller at heart my whole life, but my tools in telling those stories have definitely evolved.
Who has helped you in the process of following your dream?
My parents nurtured that ambition in me right from the start. They saw what I loved to do and they were the first encouragers of it. I grew up believing that if I was willing to work really, really hard, I could create anything I wanted. It was really a true gift for them to give me that mindset.
My husband has been so integral in supporting my ambitions as an adult. He’s also a creative (an actor and photographer), so he keeps me honest. If I start to fall off my creative track, he keeps me grounded. He gives me feedback, offers advice. He’s the ultimate partner.
Did anyone know about your dream?
Haha. Everyone knows about my dreams. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.
What inspires you?
I find a lot of inspiration in films, podcasts, books, music, museums. The most energy I get for my creative process probably comes out of conversations, either real ones I’m having with other people or the associations I make in my head between material I’ve consumed. Right now I’m really drawn to Joseph Campbell’s exploration of the monomyth in “The Hero with A Thousand Faces.”
What blocks your success and how do you overcome this?
The times I have gotten stuck have been the times I was most attached to the outcome. If I’m obsessing over how people will receive my work, whether it’s a performance, my book or even a coaching session, I lose my presence in the moment. To help with that, instead of focusing on the result, I turn inward to the process. I force myself to notice, not to judge. For instance, if I’m writing I don’t edit along the way. I get to the end of the day, end of the chapter, whatever marker I’ve set for myself. I don’t allow myself to go back and edit until it’s all out on the page. This way, I stay attached to the moment, not the end result.
Have you encountered burnout and how do you deal with it?
Absolutely. I have a bad habit of overworking myself. The first step for me is just noticing it. Then I reframe how I’m spending my time each day. I try to batch activities, so instead of constantly checking email or immediately answering texts, I give myself 1-2 hours where I’ll write back to everyone. My biggest challenge is juggling so many different facets of creative life, so the more I can focus on one kind of task at a time, the more productive (and more creative) I am. Also, as soon as I feel my temper raring up, it’s probably a sign I haven’t been meditating and I’ll clear some time for that.
You want to help people break out of the status quo. Tell us a bit more about the message you are sharing you’re your work.
I believe a lot of the world’s problems could be solved by people owning their stories and answering the call in their hearts. When people are living from their authenticity, they make better decisions, are more generous and tend to be a little less anxious. It opens the possibilities right up. If every single person decided to honor their heart-centered will, instead of their ego-centered will, I believe we could heal a lot of the troubles ailing the world. We live in a time where people don’t believe in miracles, we don’t believe in change, we don’t believe we can do better. I think individuals who are tapping into their creativity and honoring their highest self are the change agents of our entire world. Every single person on this planet is creative. It’s just a matter of owning it.
How did you learn to deal with criticism?
I wrote a whole chapter in my book about this, because it’s a real and tough thing. When I first started acting, I really cared about my reviews. But that obsession was more about not knowing who I was and looking to others for approval. As I’ve gotten older (and a tiny bit wiser), I know myself a bit better and give myself reviews / edits / critiques along my creative way. I also keep people close who will tell me the truth about my work, but they do it in service of my getting better. If someone is criticizing my work and I can’t grow from it, then the criticism is useless. I love feedback. I love those butterflies in my stomach when I realize someone just pointed out a new way to work through the work. I love the danger of asking for a conversation about my work. What I don’t love is someone offering an opinion when they haven’t put their own vulnerabilities out into the world or when their feedback gives no opportunity for growth. That to me is simply a waste of time.
What is it that you love about what you do?
I love the unknown of it all. You can start making something, have such a clear vision for it, but eventually, if you’re following your instinct, it’ll take a life of its own. Ultimately, the work is just living through us.
What advice would you give to aspiring creative people?
Do it, don’t wait. There is absolutely nothing you can’t figure out on your way. If you spend your life waiting to start because you think you’re too young or too old or too under-educated or too over-educated or not in a city or not in seclusion or whatever, you’re lying to yourself. You have everything you need to start. Just start. Now.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
I’d say, “Love yourself, baby.” I wish I had cultivated that deep self-love earlier on in my career. I was so hard on myself. I still am to a certain extent, but I see it and temper it now. With a little more love, I think the fears that held me back would have been a little more surmountable. At the same time, I wouldn’t change one line of the story that got me here.
What are you most excited for in the future?
I’m excited about challenging myself. Learning new mediums. Trying something with the potential of absolute failure. Seth Godin says that humans want to dance on the edge of failure. We don’t actually want to be safe, we want to feel that edge. I’m excited to keep pushing the edge of myself. I want to pioneer all the way out, and when I think I’ve really hit my limit, I want to push a tiny bit more.
Actress, Writer and Creative Coach
*Photo by Craig Hanson