Come for the adorable monkey puppet. Stay for the vehicular homicide cover-up.
Come for the adorable monkey puppet. Stay for the vehicular homicide cover-up.
Well, I’ve been writing . . . rap lyrics. This is the culmination of a month or so of collaborating with my writing partner. We’re working on more stuff, so this is just a start. We’ll publish under the name “Very Good Listeners,” so keep an eye out for that. It was a fun process – the back and forth edits, giving each other notes, recording the audio (we have some work to do on that), and filming / editing the video.
Without further ado, our xmas cookie rap video, “Brodazzle”
A few of you have noticed that I haven’t been blogging lately. Thanks to those that have taken
the time to say something. I’m encouraged, knowing that I have some sort of audience. It’s not that I don’t want to be creative, it’s just all of the hard work of DOING creative that gets in the way.
I guess you could say I’m in a bit of a creative slump. I relate to Dan Harmon, creator of the sitcom “Community,” who recently blogged about the need for an outside stressor to motivate him in his creative writing pursuits: ” . . . if nobody’s waiting to hear from you, why say anything, if you’re not saying anything, nobody’s listening, slipping you deeper and deeper into a creative coma.”
Dear reader, please don’t think I’m calling you “nobody” or dismissing you as not worth writing for. It’s just that you don’t give me a paycheck. You don’t fire me if I let a deadline slip a few days or months. I’ve made myself the promise that “I’ll write a little something every day” countless times, but it’s just not working. I always peter out. Even though I dream of one day quitting my day job to write funny stuff professionally, I apparently don’t have enough internal motivation to take the small steps necessary to make that happen.
Interestingly, in some areas of my life, I have incredible willpower, and can just pull myself up by my bootstraps and make big changes without requiring external pressure. Eating, for instance. I’ve let myself go a few times, and have put on 20-30 extra pounds. When I decide it’s time, I can instantly start eating better and shed the pounds at will. I can resist desserts and high calorie temptations on my own without any special diet or food overlord. Why don’t I have this kind of self-control when I comes to creative pursuits?
So, writers and creatives, I could use your input here. What keeps you in the game? What tricks have you learned to keep you on task? So far the only ideas I’ve got are:
There! I made it all the way to the end of a new post! I shall reward myself with a cookie.
One of my favorite author-bloggers, Kelly Barnhill recently wrote a great post about the antics of her son and his friends entitled If those boys would stand still for five minutes, they’d write a damn good novel. Based on their conversations, I think I’d get along handsomely with these young men: “Okay, fine. We all speak fluent Wolf.” “Toe jam is just the nice way of saying toe poop. No one likes to believe that their toes can poop, but they do all the time.“ “We have to stop Dr. Nimblenuts and his atomic EXPLODING ANTS!” If I could only capture that kind of wild creativity in my own writing!
But it wasn’t so much the boys’ dialogue that struck me as much as Kelly’s summary question, “What’s distracting you from your writing today?” My answer came quickly, as I’ve been in a distractible state lately. Like Kelly, I have been enjoying the distractions, so I’m reluctant to move on and do the work that I know I need to do. I have the goal of writing a sample sitcom script, and I’ve been “researching.” I’ve read how-to books and articles, watched (too?) many sitcom episodes for inspiration, listened to several hours of Ben Blacker’s Nerdist Writers Panel podcast, downloaded script writing software, read scripts from Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation – everything but write my own sitcom script. All of these activities are important and justifiable, but they’re all ancillary, and it’s time for me to buck up, face my fears, and start writing that script!
I’ll close with the same question Kelly asked, but slightly broader. What’s distracting you from your goals today? What excuses are you making to yourself? Are you stuck in preparation mode, afraid to take the next steps?
When living in Detroit in the mid-nineties, we had a very strange experience with a door-to-door salesman. We opened the door, and there stood a VERY enthusiastic young man with a bottle of citrus spray cleaner and a rag. He animatedly (including some dance moves) jumped into his presentation: “I have this amazing new cleaner that will clean anything! Let me show you!” He proceeded to spray and wipe dirty surfaces within arm’s reach – our front door, a window, the corroded metal hand railing, and even my shoes. He showed us that his cleaner was non-toxic by spraying some in his mouth. He interjected his pitch with plenty of finger snaps, winks, high fives, and entertaining gimmickry. And you know what? The stuff worked! We probably would have bought a bottle, but when it came time to wrap up his pitch, he just smiled wide and said “Well, thanks for your time! Have a nice day!” He never asked for the sale! He just danced his way to the next house on the block, fingers snapping to the tune in his head.
We stood there, semi-stunned, wondering if we had narrowly escaped a porch mugging. More than likely, though, despite his confident exterior, he just lacked the nerve to commit and ask for the sale. Maybe he was afraid of rejection. Maybe he wanted us to beg him to come back. I don’t know. He didn’t follow through, and he lost the sale.
I still struggle with communicating my desires. I assume the people around me, especially those closest to me, will be able to read my mind, or know me well enough to know what I want without me having to actually say it. I’m often afraid that speaking my mind will lead to rejection, humiliation, or some form of demotion. This mentality can lead to some really damaging thoughts: “Nobody understands me. Things will never change. I’m stuck in this situation, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll just mope about until the skies part and drop opportunity in my lap.” Like the spray cleaner salesman, I dance around and hint about my inner desires, but rarely truly express them in a way that lets people know I’m serious about making a change.
Are you keeping your desires and passions squashed down deep inside? Is the “real you” ready to burst out, but only if the right moment presents itself? If you’re serious about changing your circumstances, get serious about saying so. Don’t let your fear of rejection keep you from speaking up.
“Nice job!” “I like what you said.” “That was really entertaining.” “You’re really good at that.” Compliments are great. They can help motivate us as we move toward our goals, but they can also be stumbling blocks if we let them.
Picture a runner who has a goal of running a 4 minute mile. He trains every day, pushing himself a little bit further every time he goes for a run. He consistently wins every race, but that’s not his goal. His goal is the 4 minute mile. After one particularly great race, in which he sets a personal best of 4:10, and the fans go crazy: “That was amazing!” His coach adds “Best running I’ve ever seen.” Even his parents chime in: “We’re so proud of you! Way to go!” At this point, the runner can react in two ways:
It’s especially easy for people engaged in creative pursuits to settle for the “I did it” when we receive compliments. Even in writing this little blog, I’m tempted to relax and take my eyes of the goal when people tell me “I like your blog,” or “That post described exactly how I feel, too,” or “You’re a great writer.” Picture me with hands behind my head, elbows out, leaning back in a leather executive chair with a stupid-wide grin plastered on my face. (Deep sigh) . . . “Yep, I’ve arrived. My complimenters speak the truth.”
But we must press on, or the little milestones mean nothing. The Sirens’ complimentary song is beautiful and tempting, providing temporary comfort, but it is death to our goals. Instead, we must take the compliments in stride, and keep at it until we’ve reached our destination. And once we’ve done so, then we must set new goals or risk stagnation.
How about you? What do you do with compliments? Are you able to use them to motivate you toward your goals, or have they become a stumbling block to you?
I’m choosing to push through my tendency to be overwhelmed by big things. I’m choosing to take baby steps. Today, I read an article on making SEO improvements on my WordPress blog. I collected 10 more jokes to add to my list of 50 for an exercise from a comedy writing book. It’s taken me over a week to make that list, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I just proceeded with the task in small bites until it was done. And right now, I’m keeping a promise to myself to post at least one blog entry a day this week, and I’m doing it with only 40 minutes left in the day. These daily little tasks are keeping me focused. I’m less and less overwhelmed every time I take just five minutes to work toward my goal of transitioning into a new career.
So what steps have you taken today? What little things have you done to work toward whatever big goal that looms overhead? Do something. Anything. Is your house a disaster and you can’t see a way out of it? Go put 10 things away. Is there a project at work that terrifies you? Dive in, take a break, then dive in again. Need to talk to your teenager, but you’re scared about how they’ll react? Talk with them about something they love first, then slowly work your way into the deeper stuff. You don’t have to have everything figured out before you take action. Stop making excuses to yourself and act.
I stumbled across a couple of really good blog posts about selling your talent recently. The first post comes from People and Chairs, a great improv comedy blog. In their post How To Write a Kickass Performer Bio, they talk about how to make a resume/bio stand out from the crowd by including humor and personality in well written sentences, rather than just listing a bunch of stuff you’ve done. While this post was written specifically for performers, the concept applies to just about any resume or piece of writing that sums up your life’s work and career goals.
The second post was a link at the bottom of the first post, and is even more radical than the first post. In his post Why Bother Having a Resume, Seth Godin talks about being awesome enough in your work to eschew the resume altogether. In other words, if you’re really all that, you should be able to prove it your work RIGHT NOW, not just list what you’ve done in the past. Without a resume, you can show your worth with extraordinary letters of recommendation, well written blogs, or actual physical finished projects. I read this post, and I was like “Yeah! That’s who I want to be!” With my own professional resume, I’ve often worried that the employer might think I’m bluffing with my impressive list of expertise. Worse yet, what if I actually AM bluffing?
I think I’ll combine both of these approaches and start with a more personal prose-based bio, with the goal of becoming resume-free down the road.
I started roughing out some ideas for sitcoms yesterday. That felt really good. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately for inspiration, and have especially enjoyed the Nerdist Writer’s Panel with Ben Blacker where writers of popular TV Shows (and sometimes websites, magazines, etc.) sit down and talk about the writing and production process. It’s been very fascinating and inspirational to me. It takes some of the mystery out of entertainment writing, and reinforces for me that successful writers are real people with the same kinds of fears and frustrations that I have.
Sitcom writing really appeals to me. It incorporates most of the elements of what I am looking for in a new career, and would be a constant challenge that would keep me fresh. I’d love to hear from readers who’ve had any experience with broadcast television writing. Even if you weren’t the writer, have you met or known any? Maybe worked on a set? Have you done a pitch or written a spec script? Maybe you submitted something and got rejected? I’d love to hear any of those stories.
I’m working on a new post about some possible careers I’d like to pursue, but this tweet really captured me this morning. It’s exactly what I’m trying to do: step out of my comfort zone, take it to the next level, take a risk – whatever you want to call it. Thanks to @ActorsComedy for the bold suggestion to do something you love or you’re terrified of.