The End of an Era, The Beginning of a New Season

So those emails I alluded to in my last post? The ones I really wanted to receive? I don’t think they’re coming.

I know, I know. “Maddie, anything can happen at any time.”

Sure. Anything can happen at any time. I could have gotten that life-changing email in October 2017, I could have gotten it this morning. A year and a half spent working out in the gym, studying decades of source material, building a badass resume to prove why I’m the best, and I’ve essentially been ghosted. Professionally ghosted after falling hard for a job that I would have dropped everything and moved halfway across the world for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be on a plane tomorrow if the opportunity presents itself. But a series of recent events suggests that it won’t be happening.

So whats next for Maddie Hammond, the girl who once earned the nickname “Princess God”?

Its summer, and I’ve always been a summer girl. I’ve always defined my life by what happens in the summertime. The biggest example? In the summer of 2008, I actively changed my personality. That isn’t a joke. It was a turning point in my life, a time I needed to shine in my own way in order to live the future I wanted. I was fifteen, and the choices I made regarding how I treated others and myself ultimately led to the best years (summers) of my life so far. I believed in myself, and as a result, I went from bullied little nerd to award-winning iconic summer camp counselor.

So, I’m going to change things up a little bit this summer. Flip to the next chapter in the story that is my life. Stop playing a game that I don’t even want to win. Focus a little less on cartoon characters, and a lot more on me. Work on projects that will ultimately lead me to signing my own name in autograph books. And get this stupid dark dye out of my hair. Thats whats next.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU to everyone who has been supporting my summer project, Camp Stories. Writing the script for a podcast has been an artistic challenge, as well as a very inexpensive form of personal therapy. It is so cool to make something all by myself, and even cooler to hear that I have an audience who is enjoying it. Holding myself to a production schedule might be what is holding me together right now. Camp Stories will take me through mid-August, by which time I hope to have a few more projects up and running.

I’m focusing on projects that will help me grow as an artist, and give me a wide range of experiences. The key word for this season is differentiate. Set myself up as an incomparable entertainer. Learn from my artistic heroes, and chart my own course. Explore different ways of telling stories. Make new things. Take control of my personal narrative, take away any reason to get lost in the shuffle. Do awesome shit. Make people smile. Write “Maddie Fucking Hammond” in neon lights, so that no one dares to get me confused with someone else.

So lets toast to a new season of life, a kick ass summer of using my own voice. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. To quote one of those heroes of mine, Adam Lambert, “I’m here for your entertainment“. That’s one promise I’ll always keep.

Hey, You Should Do A Podcast

To be frank- I’m going through a season of discontent. The regular gig isn’t rewarding these days and my calendar is currently very open. So I’m bored out of my mind and going stir crazy. In times like this, it is very easy for me to wallow in self-pity. Which I absolutely have been, I won’t try to deny that. Times like this also drive me to take a step back, and assess my short and long term goals. Am I making active efforts to make them happen? Or am I just soothing my emotional pain by watching hours of YouTube videos?

What am I doing to improve myself as a person and as an artist?

Then once I force myself to look at things differently, I think about what I can do to change the current situation. Go to every audition? Submit to every casting call I find online? Sure. There are some emails I’d really like to see in my inbox this month. But I can’t spend all my time refreshing my Gmail. Thats a pretty pathetic hobby.

So its time to do something new. Something that allows me to strengthen different skills, and maybe even learn some new ones.

Everybody starts somewhere. So this is my new beginning. Welcome to Camp Stories.

Camp Stories is an anthology series, a fictional narrative podcast. Season 1 is written as the personal journal of Liz, a first-time summer camp counselor. Each episode spans a week of her summer at Camp Harwood as she navigates personal and professional challenges and opportunities. Honestly, it reads more like an audiobook broken up into weekly chapters than a podcast, but I have no plans to release a print version.

I know that some listeners will assume this season is a thinly veiled autobiography. After all, once upon a time I was a camp counselor. And if you’ve made it all the way to my blog, you’ve definitely heard me tell stories about my time at camp. But they won’t be a part of this podcast. This is a work of fiction. Are there similarities between myself and our leading lady this season? Absolutely! But her story is one that I hope all kinds of people can connect with. Its about starting a new adventure, self-discovery, and having the courage to live a story worth telling. Those are feelings I experienced when I first started working at summer camp in 2010. They are also feelings I’m experiencing today, as I plan out what the next chapter of my life will look like. There will be plenty of Easter eggs and references to my time at summer camp, but no characters or plot lines are based off specific people or events. Trust me. My time at camp was phenomenal, but it isn’t the story I plan on telling through this project.

Production-wise, I’m experimenting. I’ve been sitting on this idea for years, unsure if it will translate well for an audience. Each script is written in the same week as it is recorded and published, as if we’re catching up with Liz at the end of each week at camp. I’m recording on a $20 microphone from Amazon, piecing the tracks together on GarageBand, and uploading to Soundcloud. Artistically, this allows the character to come through, as if Liz is recording the entries and uploading them herself. Functionally, this makes it possible for me to produce in my desired schedule. It won’t be fancy, but I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

I don’t know if you’ll like it, hate it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. Whatever the outcome, it’ll be. I’ve made something. All me! Not under a cartoon alias in someone else’s costume. Written by Maddie Hammond. Read by Maddie Hammond. Produced by Maddie Hammond. Uploaded by Maddie Hammond.

I have a few personal goals for this project. I want people to enjoy it. It’ll be great background audio while you’re driving, folding laundry, or taking a bath. It isn’t meant to be provocative, or make you think. Its just for fun. Easy listening. I also see this as an opportunity to improve my writing, vocal strength, and storytelling. That way, the next project I take on can be even better. I’ll be even stronger.

Plus, my biography needs some spicing up. Xin Xia Ji!

Greatness Comes From Boredom… And Fear Of Not Being Able To Pay Rent

The starving artist trope is part of our collective unconscious for a reason- work for a performer can be very feast or famine. Sometimes, we work three gigs in a day because we can’t say no to an opportunity we to do what we love. Other times, a triple day is the result of panicking about being able to pay next month’s bills. It truly is a glamorous life we live.

I was talking with a coworker about this today, about her three shifts in 12 hours and how I have a crazy two weeks ahead of me. In the beginning of January, I was uncertain of what was ahead of me work-wise. The holidays are a great time to work here in Orlando, but the spring can be… dry. No corporate holiday parties that need stilt walkers, you know? As much as I love what I do, every job has sucky parts to it. The sucky part to mine is that I basically live season-to-season, always ready to pick up a retail job to supplement my income.

So picture me sitting at my laptop a few weeks ago, EIGHT browser tabs open with half-complete job applications. An exciting start to 2019. I had four days off that week, four off the next, and I was starting to get concerned. My brain is happiest when I’m working (as is my wallet). I minimized the tabs out of boredom and started scouring any and all audition resources, and submitted my information to some projects that were a little out of my comfort zone.

I’m sharing this not-so-fun time because I know there are people in my community who look at me and think “wow, she’s really made it”. I’m sure there are plenty who look at me and think “wow, she’s so new to all this”. I’m comfortable with that. Honesty is the best policy, and this is my true life as an entertainer.

Because I threw my name in a lot of metaphorical hats, I’ve had some really cool work opportunities come up. I know that what I’m about to do in the next two weeks is basically a full resume for a performer. I’m cartooning, spokeswoman-ing, PA-ing, and doing a parade. I get to work out of town! This month, my greatness is coming from a need to pay the rent. Fun and exciting times, all as a result of being scared about my bills and adult responsibilities. And I didn’t even have to get a retail job (yet).

But what about the other times, when money is good? Isn’t it easy to just show up to work, perform a little, and leave? Go home at the end of the day, make some mac ‘n’ cheese, and watch Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! again? Maybe. I can do that for about a week before I get bored out of my mind. Sure I can change it up, watch Sex and the City, eat a salad, and go to the gym. That really spices things up… for another few days. But the boredom quickly creeps back up, and I’m looking for my next new thing to get excited about.

I attribute my success as a performer to my constant drive to do new things. To be better. To book every role I can. The big fun gigs, and the silly little ones. Anything that lets me put on a different costume and live as a different character. Not every role gets me a great Instagram post, or the respect of those higher on the professional ladder than me, but every role I’ve done has been wonderful in its own way. I become a better artist and a better person with each new opportunity, which is why I’m always chasing the next big thing. And to me, that is the key to achieving greatness.

 

Choosing Love Over a Desk

In the summer of 2013, I decorated my flimsy brown camp counselor clipboard with all sorts of things. Triangles, anchors, and sailboats are pretty much all I’ve ever been good at doodling, so those images were visible to everyone on the backside of the clipboard. On the front, beneath all my attendance rosters, camper evaluations, attempts at new signatures, and lists of what to buy at Meijer, I had written a quote to keep myself focused on life post-camp. “A life lived for art is never a life wasted” -Macklemore. I’d catch myself staring down at it a few times a day, reminding myself that performing is what I loved, and if I worked hard enough, I might have a shot at making it my profession after college and my summers spent teaching sailing.

One day, I asked a friend (who would later become much more) to call attendance while I figured some boat stuff out. He and his buddy felt the need to flip through my papers afterwards, and found my quote. They thought it was lame, and spent a big chunk of time on the sailing porch that day making me feel bad about being inspired by a Macklemore song. Those boys really succeeded in making me feel small that afternoon. For the rest of that summer, I avoided looking at the lyric that had once given me hope and focus. I felt like a pathetic loser every time my eyes fell on those black letters.

I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential.

Fast-forward a few years to winter 2015. I was grinding HARD at UCF. I was directing a pageant, leading a publication, blogging every day, working part-time, and taking “more than the recommended number of credits”. With a few business internships under my belt and a standing job offer in an office for after graduation, I had a lot going for me as “Business Maddie”. The big problem? It wasn’t where my heart was.

I had been aggressively getting involved in college activities outside the classroom in an attempt to move out of the business space. Because I was so close to finishing my marketing degree, I was determined to get it done. But even then, I knew that post-graduation, I would not be working in an office. Traditional works for a lot of people. A lot of people wanted traditional to work for me. But traditional has NEVER worked for me. By this time, I’d worked a few little performing jobs, and I was hooked. I didn’t know how I would make an entertainment career work, but I knew there was no other path for me. Every time I saw a live performance, I would cry thinking about life chained to a desk. Dramatic? Probably. But performing has always been my one great love. Entertaining has always been my everything. I had some critical adults (and peers) try to trick me out of chasing my love, and could finally recognize and process that. The only way I’d ever ACTUALLY be a pathetic loser is if I gave up on that dream. I started to pour all my energy into auditioning for everything I could, and in January 2016, I finally got noticed. It was the beginning of a new life.

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint // the greats were great because they’d paint a lot.

Now, nearing the end of 2018, I feel incredibly grateful. I have made a living almost exclusively as an entertainer this year. I’ve had a few side jobs here and there, but mostly to keep myself entertained between gigs or have a change of scenery. It isn’t always easy waking up and dragging myself to every audition I can find, but it sure as hell beats the alternative. I’ve had some wonderful, weird, and wonderfully weird work experiences this year. I’ve tested my limits and discovered some weaknesses. Occasionally I think about how doing something else would be easier in a lot of ways, how some stability would be nice. Maybe I could do some more “normal” 26-year-old stuff for a bit. But for me, true joy is making other people smile, giving them (and myself) an escape. With some new projects on the horizon, I couldn’t be happier to live an “alternative” life. I’m out here choosing love over a desk every single day.

Macklemore’s Ten Thousand Hours came up on a Spotify daily mix yesterday, and I nearly cried hearing the first note. To me, that song is everything. From the first time I heard it years ago to this morning on the way to the coffee shop to write, every listen has filled me with hope, inspiration, and the motivation to put in my ten thousand hours. I’m reminded of everyone who has ever made me feel small, and am given a renewed strength to rise above.

A life lived for art is never a life wasted.

Finding Joy In A Routine

“The human spirit lives on creativity and dies in conformity and routine.”
― Vilayat Inayat Khan

Working as a performer makes finding a routine… challenging. Some days, my hours are similar to a “normal” 9-5 job. I’ll make a stop for coffee on my commute to work, have scheduled times to eat, and be able to get to bed at what an average person would call a reasonable hour. Other days, not so much. It isn’t uncommon for me to work three places in a day, travel out of town, or have an overnight rehearsal. This schedule variety is both as freeing and nerve-wracking as one might imagine, though I tend to focus on being thankful for the adventure.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the unique pleasure of developing a routine for certain types of days- the days where my mornings are free and I work in the afternoon/evening/night. I’ll wake up, make myself breakfast, light a candle, and settle in at my bedroom desk. I put on a movie and play with my makeup. I drink tea and experiment and daydream and practice my skills. I check out from everyone else’s reality and enjoy my alone time. Last week, I discovered the trick to winged eyeliner on my uniquely shaped lids!

I find that on work days where I practice this routine in the morning, I am happier. I can tell by the actions of my coworkers that I am more fun to work with (I’m a big believer in receiving back the energy you give). The little challenges I might encounter seem even more minute, and I enjoy performing even more.

Now, I’m working on a nighttime routine. I haven’t quite hit my stride yet, but so far it involves tea, candles, face masks, and time to be introspective. Time to practice gratitude, time to reflect, time to write and journal. More time in my own little world. A creative routine to recharge my spirit.

Now Playing: Front Porch by Spotify

Now Burning: White Pumpkin Latte

Now Drinking: Raspberry Hibiscus Herbal Tea