Day 83: Necessary vs. Unnecessary Stops

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Day 83:  Necessary vs. Unnecessary Stops

Day 83.  Everything has pretty much come to a screeching halt for the last three days and will continue to be at a snail’s pace for the next week or so.  My resemblance to a chipmunk is diminishing though—hallelujah.  This morning I look more like bloated drunk.  I’ve been there before so I can handle this look better.  I was able to get off the crack—Vicodin—yesterday.  Woo hoo!  I can tell I’m healing as the swelling goes down and the pain lessens.  And whether I like it or not, healing takes time.  I simply can’t do everything I would normally do while I’m in the middle of it.  It stops me because it has to.  All this has me thinking about what else, besides health issues, stop us in our lives.  When is being “stopped” or “stopping” necessary?  And, when do we stop ourselves just because we think or believe we’ve been stopped or we have to stop?  It’s a tricky trail to navigate, a slippery slope to slide down this idea of when we’re stopped or should stop for real or legitimate reasons, or when we should forge ahead and not stop.  When do we consciously or unconsciously want an excuse to stop because we’re scared or freaked out?  Fear of failing, succeeding, looking like an asshole, being judged, or when what we want to do or create is just really freaking hard—all of these things can stop us unnecessarily because we let them.  We’re stopping ourselves.

What briefly stopped me from moving forward with my yearlong experiment in prolific creativity was a tooth.  After not acting for over two years, I realized I was craving that creative work again in August 2011 while I was in New York.  The last time I had been there, two years prior, I was doing The Columbine Project Off-Broadway.  It was one of the most amazing times of my creative life.  Being in New York City again ignited my creative fire.  That small seed of a realization led me to begin thinking outside the box inside the box in the first place.  As the concept formed, I began assembling elements that I could combine to create projects for me to produce and act in.  It was exhilarating.  But as I was putting together my new company’s mission statement and deciding on the film projects something crazy happened:  My right lateral incisor snapped off during a chips-n-homemade salsa snack at 6:48pm, Monday, October 24, 2011.  The crunch I heard and felt in my mouth was not right.  Once the partially masticated goo was spit from my mouth, I discovered what really wasn’t right:  a broken tooth in my hand and a big gap in my front teeth where pearly white number 7 would normally be.  Yes, I was suddenly, and horrifyingly missing a tooth—a front tooth.  There, I’ve given full, mortifying disclosure.


Needless to say, I was a basket case and my new “condition” stopped me in my wanna be creative tracks.  How am I supposed to be on camera in a movie or ever show my face in public again for that matter when I am missing a front tooth?  After a prompt visit to my dentist and a subsequent consult with an oral surgeon followed by emergency oral surgery, I was not only toothless but going to continue to be toothless for the next 10 to 12 months while I went through the process of a dental implant.  Holy guacamole.  My panic rose exponentially and reached a fever pitch that night with a swollen face, a throbbing upper jaw and bloody spit as I popped a Vicodin and cried.  I’d never be able to actually go through with my yearlong experiment in prolific creativity in 2012.  It was over before it ever got started.  I was stopped.

“How can I start my new venture now?  I can’t act for almost another year,” I wail over the phone to my mother.  Not missing a beat she says, “Sounds to me like this is your chance to play a hillbilly.”  My choked sobs instantly turn into a guttural laugh.  “I’m not joking,” she adds.  I blow my nose and dry my eyes.  “You’re saying I should move forward as planned?”  “Yes!  Just come up with a script you can use the missing tooth in.”  Oh the woman whose loins I was birthed from is brilliant.  This conversation with my mother began turning a “big fat missing tooth” lemon into some potential lemonade—she was thinking outside the box inside the box when I couldn’t.  I was too traumatized, too embarrassed, too much in an ego driven frenzy to see the potential in my new toothless state.  My mother shifted my thinking and made me realize I simply had something unexpected and new to create from:  a missing tooth.  Oh, how I love you, Mother!   My mind explodes—in a good way.  I don’t have to give up my plans for the year—it only feels like I do.  I don’t really have to stop.  I just have to get creative with what I have right now.  How perfect is that?  I’m being forced to practice what the entire new venture is about.  And when I really slow down and think about it, what an incredible opportunity this is for me as an actor.  I get to play a character with a missing tooth when I’m really missing a tooth!  I quickly come up with a seed of an idea for a new script that incorporates a character with a missing tooth.  But who’s going to write it?  I consider writing it myself for about 30 seconds then realize I just have too much on my plate.  I’m in the middle of writing a script, I’ve got a documentary to finish editing and I have a whole new venture to launch.  That’s when I think of Screenwriter Monica—Monica Zepeda—a writer I knew a few years back who was an ABC/Disney Fellow at the time and a really wonderful writer.  I shot off an email, she was interested, we met, talked and voila, she was on board to write a toothless script.

As I think outside the box inside the box and create from what I have I remind myself to always consider what’s a necessary stop versus an unnecessary stop.  In reality, I did have to “stop” for almost a week after that first, emergency oral surgery because I had to heal from it.  But within two weeks though, Monica was working on the toothless screenplay and my brilliant dentist, Dr. Beverly Woss, had me fitted with a beautiful new temporary tooth that absolutely no one, not even those closest to me, could tell wasn’t my own.  I was back in action.  This was such a huge lesson for me in realizing that what looks like something stopping me actually isn’t, it’s just me stopping myself by not thinking creatively enough.  There are times when I have to stop—necessary stops—and times when I stop myself unnecessarily.  Here’s to being able to tell the difference.

Until tomorrow, create from what you have…and only stop when stopping is truly necessary.

Kelli Joan Bennett is a filmmaker, actress, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for creative thinking and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Think Outside The Box Inside The Box Media.


  1. This is so true, Kelli. It takes a wise awareness and open mind to see the other side of a negative situation as an opportunity. Yea, Mom! It’s the yin and yang of life, right? On the other side of chaos is calm. The opposite of a falsehood is a truth. And, the old adage, when a door closes a window opens couldn’t be more at play as you create a toothless character to go along with your toothless self! Brilliant! I look at opposites as well as new ways of looking at things a lot as I continually explore thought changing ideas and behaviors. Can’t wait to see your movie!

    • Thank you, Cindy! Here’s to the yin and yang and all the opening windows!

  2. I loved todays visit with you. It reminds me so much of my own life story. Allowing fear and circumstances to stop me in my tracks. You help remind me the only thing standing in my way is me.

    • Thank you, Sherri! Love this! Let’s forget the fear and overcome our circumstances. If you will, I will. 🙂 Let’s make each other strong. You’re brilliant, talented and capable of anything!


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