Professor Gabra Zackman: Session 3 – Part 2


I hope you all enjoyed Part 1 of our “Love Professor’s” interview.  In today’s post we will discuss what how to fight those ‘Vampire Voices’ and love yourself well.  Being a creative can often lead to us comparing ourselves to others whom we think are more successful than we are, which can lead to moments of giving up on our creative journeys.  Gabra speaks to this fear and gives practical tools on how to fight it as well as finding ways to give back with the talents you have been given.

I hope that you are inspired to continue your creative journey and have courage in the face of fear.

EV: How do you fight pressure from others and comparison?  New York is a pressure cooker for comparison because you see everyone else around you is winning a Pulitzer over here and getting the Richard Rodgers over there or winning a Tony and it’s all happening in the same city, this little city.  How do you deal with that, because can be hard?

GZ: It’s so hard.  I think the thing that gets us the most are the comparisons. When I was having a particularly hard time I had moved my life to Denver and I was really trying to reinvent myself. I had to actually remove myself from Facebook for a while, because I found it was one of the places where I couldn’t…I just couldn’t engage. And that lasted for quite a long time.  I literally, when I went to Facebook, I would only ever go to my own page. So, that I could get messages from people and respond if there was something particular for me.  But, I actually couldn’t go to the newsfeed for years because I couldn’t stand to see put in front of me everyone else’s accomplishments when I felt so low. You know, I mean, I do a lot of affirmations because I find, we are in a city, maybe we’re in a world, in which in every way, we are just not as good as the person next to us.  And it’s just so obvious.  We don’t have as much money as the person next to us we don’t have the family the person next to us has, we don’t have the hair the person next to us has.  I just think that in some way, our culture is built upon that and so I just sometimes have to do affirmations. I’ll confess something to you because it’s so dorky, but it actually has changed my life several times, but I haven’t had to do it in a while. There’s something I do called, “Team Zackman” and I literally coach myself. Like I’m the best coach ever and like I am the winning team that’s been on a losing streak and I think, what would I tell, if I was the best coach ever and if I knew this was the winning team, how would I coach them back to winning again.  So, I look at myself in the mirror like I’m “Team Zackman” and I coach myself, like I’m the best coach ever and I say, “This is what you’ve got going for you, this is who you are..” I mean, it’s literally changed my life around. And that’s when I’ve been at the darkest level, the lowest moment when I just felt like everyone else had everything and I was a total loser. I’ve team coached myself back into joy.

EV: I’ve heard, in fact, one of my Bible study leaders when I was back in Missouri. It’s like a proven fact, I think it’s a scientific fact that if you look in the mirror and you speak to yourself, it helps to create the new grooves in your brain. She gave us all little mirrors and she put a verse about how the Lord saw us on it.  And so you were supposed to look in that mirror and you had to say it to yourself seven times because that’s when it begins to…because when there is a lot negativity that also creates grooves in your brain, so you have to make new ones.

GZ: It’s worked and I haven’t done that in a long time, but I might…I’m feeling good in my life right now, but I might bring it back.  I mean, why not? The Coach should be there any way, right?  It does work.

EV: You already told me about the mediating and the yoga in the morning.  Tell me about how you get your creative juices flowing.  Can you just give us some other tools? Because some people who are [reading] this have a creative streak but may be don’t necessarily get to do that for their work.

GZ: Absolutely, how do you get that flowing.  I was very lucky this summer to get to meet this woman whose name is Cynthia Morris.  I think her website is but right now, what I’m doing with her has been very helpful for me in the field in which I feel like I’m not…my juices have not been flowing in the way I’ve wanted them to which is writing.  She does this thing, something called a “Free-Write Fling” where you are guided towards writing fifteen minutes every morning at least.  And your prompted a bit and there’s a whole classroom.  I find that this has been a great engine for the car.  So, that’s one thing I’m doing and there are all sorts of things like that where there are people who can hold you accountable for certain things.  Now, along those lines, I have often had sort of partnerships with people where we’ve kept each other accountable.  Maybe it’s me and a friend who are both trying to write and we have sort of checked in.  So, I think that often that’s a good idea.  If you wish to be doing something creative or you have an idea, if you know anyone else who might be doing something creative, to form a partnership where you just check in with each other.  You know, maybe it’s once a week is convenient for your or maybe it’s just an email to say, “Hey are your writing or are you singing or you know…whatever it is.”  What else, creative inspiration, where does that come from? I find that I’m often inspired by…all of my friends are in the industry, so I’m very inspired by my friend’s work.  Which means, the teacher I mentioned, my friend who’s teaching these Vets.  I was very inspired by him the other night. I’m very inspired when I see a play that’s beautiful.  I’m very inspired when someone writes something that I can read that is meaningful.  A blog post or an article, so I do get a lot of inspiration from my friends as well.  And then I think that everyone gets inspired by nature.  In New York City it’s a little hard to do that sometimes.  Whenever I can find my way to water, I do. If I can just look up at the sky, I do. I get very inspired by nature.  I think everyone has their own thing, but I think it’s always a smart idea to take a note pad with you, sit somewhere.  I’ve been walking through Central Park a lot more lately and have had ideas start to flow.

EV: Name three things in your life that bring you joy and happiness.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be your work, it could be. What are 3 essential things?

GZ: That bring me joy and happiness?  My apartment, my apartment is such a place of peace and joy to me.  It’s the first real nest, I think I’ve ever had and it brings me unceasing joy.  My New York apartment brings me unceasing joy.  That’s number one.  Number two is the community around me.  I’m endlessly in admiration of the friends and family that are around me and how I feel loved and supported and inspired by them.  And I grew up in the area and have a lot of friends in the arts.  So, it’s a combination of family up in Westchester and my friends in the audiobook business and my friends who are actors and my friends who I grew up with in Westchester that do all sorts of things different things down here.  My friends who are musicians.  I get great inspiration and real joy from them. 

GZ: And let’s see number 3…this is such a strange one, such a weird one.  Because of some health issues that I’ve gone through I’ve had to be on a very restrictive diet.  So, I’m on the Canada diet. Which is just a horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible diet.  Basically take anything that you love and remove it.  And that is this awful, awful, awful diet. But, I will say that I have felt a kind of energy and peace that I haven’t felt in a long time.  I think it has balanced…among other things my energy levels and my hormones. I find a kind of contentment within my own skin from eating, for the most part, non-processed whole foods. I’ve always been passionate about nutrition and I’ve always been fascinated by how different foods affect me, so I’m always on a different diet.  There’s something you need to know, that whenever you and I go out to eat I will always be on a different diet.  And that is known among my community of friends. Whenever I go to someone’s house for dinner they always ask me, “Please tell us how you are eating right now?”  Because it’s always different.  But this one I would never have done it if I hadn’t been advised by a couple of different doctors that it would be helpful.  And I have got to say that I feel just wonderful. I feel a kind of contentment in my own skin and a sort of energy level that is bringing me a great deal of joy.

EV: What is the thing right now that you are most passionate or excited about?

GZ: I think the thing that I’m most passionate about is that I can feel that there is new writing that is coming out of me and that is about to come out of me and I can feel a new project brewing. And I think I know sort of what the seeds of it are, but I’m not sure what the medium of it is.  I’m not really certain if it’s a book or a blog post or a podcast.  I have been toying with a whole bunch of things, but I can feel it brewing and that’s really exciting me.

EV: Can we talk about fear for a quick second? When you’re working on something or you get a burst of an idea and you know that terrible voice that gets in there and starts to tell you, “Well, this is a stupid idea!’ “I don’t know why you think you’re going to be any good at that?” “Somebody’s already done it better!”  How do you fight that beast?  Because I feel like it’s taking down people and I feel like it’s taking down work that would really contribute amazing things to our world, because people get paralyzed by it.

GZ: I think you’re exactly right. That’s a huge question and I don’t really know the answer except to say…I think that you need an advocate in those moments.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to be your own advocate and advocate for yourself, then that’s great but most people can’t be.  And that’s where I think a coach, a therapist, a spiritual practitioner, a teacher, a friend, a guide comes in.  I think you need a guide.  If you find yourself in those moments, you need a guide.  And it is to each individual person to say who that guide should be.  If it should be a counselor, a yoga teacher, or a spiritual practitioner or a minister who knows?  It doesn’t matter.   But I feel like I have several guides in my life who have really pulled me up by my bootstraps in the darkest moments of fear and self-doubt.

I hope that Part 2 of Gabra’s interview has been encouraging.  In closing I am going to leave you with an oldie, but a goodie.  “Die Vampire, Die” from ‘Title of Show’ the musical. I first wrote about this song in 2016 during the Buffy post which inspired this interview series.  Gabra and Michelle Ward were the biggest influencers of that post and as we’ve ended this portion of Gabra’s interview with how to fight fear, I think that the song bears repeating.

Remember, no on is asking you to not be afraid, everyone is afraid. We are in this together.  But what you can know is that courage is strength in the face of fear.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Die Vampire, Die!

To The Revolution!!