Distractions

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?

Funny Friday: Top 10 Funny Things – Feb 1 2013

Ten things that I found funny this week.

1.  It’s a trap!

It's a Trap!

2.  From a friend, context irrelevant

If I hadn’t been stuffing my face with nachos, I would have been more emotional.

3.  From my uncle on Facebook

Quote of the day- “Ask a college student what they’ll be doing after graduating and they’ll tell you they don’t know. Ask them what they’ll do at the zombie apocalypse and they’ll tell you immediately and in great detail.” – a Montana Tech student.

4.  Sunbathing robots

Sunbathing Robots

5.  A four year old dance student to her teacher

Student:  “Why’d you bring beer in here?”
Teacher:  “What?  It’s not beer.  It’s Diet Mountain Dew.”
Student:  “I know what beer looks like, and that’s BEER!”

6.  I’m a sucker for Key and Peel skits lately.

7.  Baby + treadmill

Baby and treadmill

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.  I very much want to test this theory

glock-minnows

9.  I’ve been working my way through Community, and found the physical comedy of this hilarious.

10.  Not necessarily funny, but a fantastic article by Tom Ceraulo, writer for the very funny “30 Rock” about the final days of the show.

Behind The Scenes At The Final Days Of “30 Rock”

 

Overcoming fear of rejection by communicating desires

No Sale

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.

Speak Up

Speak up and overcome your fear of rejection

Speak up!

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.

Brian and Stormtrooper

Setting goals and living beyond the compliment

“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:

I did it.
OR
I’m doing it.

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?

Brian and Stormtrooper

Funny Friday: Top 10 Funny Things of the Week

Here are the top 10 things that struck me as funny this week, in no particular order

1.  Yep.  They’re exactly the same

Amsterdam is like the Tour de France. Just a lot of people on drugs riding bikes.

2.  The mental picture this creates is beautiful

Will you hold my hair while I eat this KFC Bowl

Will you hold my hair while I eat this KFC Bowl

 

 

 

 

3. Trust Fall Fail, wrong of passage

4.  Mitch Hedberg with a great visual

A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer

5.  Key And Peele on dubstep

6.  Community La Biblioteca Spanish Rap

7.  Anonymous friend

I have to work really hard at not being smart.

8.  Patron at local coffee shop

Patron: Give me your most unhealthy, most powerful drink!  
Barista: How about an espresso or a latte?
Patron: Oh, no.  I can’t handle that kind of stuff.  Just give me a regular coffee.

9.   Love the comparison here

Ray Nagin's 21 corruption charges aren't that bad.  Like most things that are 21 in New Orleans, it's probably only 18.

10.  The “Sparks Nevada, Marshall On Mars” segment on the Thrilling Adventure Hour Podcast

The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast is my favorite comedy podcast recently.  I especially like the “Sparks Nevada” segment.  It’s got that old-timey radio feel with a touch of modern smarminess.  Warning:  You may swerve from laughter if listening while driving.

Sparks Nevada, Marshall On Mars

There you go.  I plan on making this a weekly feature on this blog, so stay tuned for more.  What did you find funny this week?  Please share!

 

Brian and Stormtrooper

Overwhelmed? Take small steps and stay focused.

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.

Brian and Stormtrooper

Changing Careers – Making the big transition

This is my biggest question right now regarding changing careers:  How do I transition from a good paying secure job where I have marketable expertise into a totally new career field and still make ends meet?  I know that there are success stories out there, and I’d like to hear more of them.  I have 4 kids still at home, one preparing for college, and I’m the sole bread winner in the family.  There’s not a lot of wiggle room for me to take any kind of financial hit while shifting into a new career.  For now, I’m taking baby steps, like writing this blog, brainstorming creative ideas on the side, reading a lot from experts in fields that I’m interested in, which is probably the path on which I need to continue.

I’d love some feedback here.  Do you have success/failure stories about making a really big transition?  What helped?  What didn’t?  Who were your influences?  What kind of support network did you have?

Brian and Stormtrooper

To resume, or not to resume? Sell your talent

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.

Brian and Stormtrooper

Sitcom writing – What I’m up to

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.

Oh, and other podcasts that I’ve enjoyed recently, for your listening pleasure:  The Pod F TompkastThe Dead Authors Podcast, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, The Truth, and Comedy Bang Bang.  Enjoy!

Brian and Stormtrooper

Career Ideas and Next Steps

I’ve established that I’m no longer content with an Information Technology career.  I suppose it’s possible that a shift in attitude, maybe some utopian working environment, or being surrounded by the right people might change my mind, but I’m fairly certain my next “thing” will be in a completely different field.  So, if not IT, then what?  Here are some possibile career ideas I’m considering.  I haven’t landed on anything yet – just have some ideas floating around in my head.  Forgive me if the categories aren’t consistent.  I’m just brainstorming here.

Oh, and before I get to the list, there’s another big factor I sometimes forget about:  people and relationships.  I need to have both in order to thrive.  I can only work so long in isolation.  I sometimes dream of creative careers that are largely void of human interaction like writing novels in some picturesque hideaway in the woods, but I know I wouldn’t last long in such conditions.  I burn out quickly when I’m shut off from people.  If I’m writing something or brainstorming new ideas, I usually try to find a public place like a coffee shop, just so I can have an occasional conversation between stints of heavy concentration.  This paragraph is really more for my own good, so that when I go back and re-read this, I’ll remember this about me.  So, with this out of the way, here are some new paths I’m considering.

Writing

I do enjoy writing, but could I really make a career out of it?  Do I have the dedication necessary to become one of the successful ones?  I think whatever I do for my next gig, writing will definitely be part of it – either professionally, or as an outlet.  I’ve read about people that are able to make very decent livings from blogging.  I love the idea of the freedom that would come with such a career:  working whenever and wherever I want, being my own boss, maybe traveling with my family while I work, but I do realize that these success stories take time, and only a very small percentage of bloggers ever get to this point.  I know it’s possible, and that’s exciting to me.  Getting there would be tough, but I’m fairly certain I could do it if I put my mind to it.  I might also consider copywriting, depending on the situation.  I’d LOVE to write comedy sketches or sitcom material for a living – I’ll talk more about that, below.  A friend recently suggested writing screenplays.  That’d be a hoot, but I know that market’s super saturated and I don’t think I know the right people yet.

Social Media / Marketing / Advertising

I think I’ve got the right combination of creative and analytical skills to fit somewhere into this. Social media work seems like a really natural fit, as I enjoy the fluid conversations that this advertising medium elicits, and the near-instant measurable results from social media efforts can be very rewarding.  Ideally, if I were to work in this field, I’d love to work as an independent consultant, managing the social media marketing efforts of several small to mid-sized companies.  Again, I don’t have much on my résumé that indicates that I’m qualified to do such work, but I know I have the aptitude.

Humor

Like writing, I want to utilize my sense of humor in any new direction I take.  And by that, I don’t just mean to maintain a sense of humor alongside of my work. I want to make humor a central characteristic of the work I do.  I love making people smile, helping them lift their eyes up out the muck of the hardness of life, bringing levity to otherwise tough situations.  It’s not just a childish game to play on the side.  Laughter is a reflection of the joy for which we were all created.  It eases tensions, breaks down communication barriers, and can help in the process of restoring relationships.  Humor is a part of who we were meant to be, and I take great pleasure in reminding people of this.

I’m currently involved in some comedy sketch writing with a friend, which has been very rewarding.  I dream of being on the writing staff of SNL, Conan O’Brien, or possibly a sitcom.  I don’t know that this is realistic to do with a family, but I think I would be good in that kind of role.  I’m also planning on taking some improv classes in the next month or two.  I’m not sure where that will lead, but I expect it will at the very least help increase my confidence, inspire any writing I do, and encourage me to take more risks in everyday life.  Comedy is just part of who I am.  I’m just now beginning to embrace this and explore possible outcomes, and I’m very excited about the possibilities.

Professional Brainstormer

Can one make a career out of brainstorming?  Because I love to brainstorm.  Is there such a thing as a professional idea-comer-upper?  I think I could do that.  My mind is always “outside of the box.”  Lock me in a room with a group of co-workers, task us with nothing more than listing a bunch of great ideas for eight hours, and I’m a happy man. Does this job exist?

Acting

I’m keeping this one in my back pocket as something I think I could do, but don’t really have much experience with it.  I’m hoping to explore some of my potential here as I take the improv classes.  Maybe voice acting, occasional commercials, or something like that.  Honestly, I’m not sure I have what it takes to act professionally, but it interests me, so I list it here.

Music

I’ve flirted with music as a career since college, but I’ve never put in the time to make a serious go at it.  I play drums in a couple of bands, and have just enough skills to not embarrass myself while singing at the local acoustic coffee house open mic night.  Perhaps something in concert promotion, band management, or even songwriting could work.  I have a feeling that making my musical hobby a career could suck the fun out of it, but I do still think about the possibilities.

I have several more ideas of some possible next steps.  These are just what’s sticking out to me right now as I write.  My biggest concern right now is figuring out how to make a transition.  I’ve waited for years for something to just fall in my lap, and I think I’m now ready to take some proactive steps to make something happen.  I’m just not sure what those steps are.

I’d love to get some feedback from others who’ve successfully made the transition into a new career.  What’d it take for you?  Who or what motivated you to stick with it?  Or maybe you tried and failed – I’d love to hear those stories, too.  What did you learn?  What would you do differently next time?  I’m especially interested in hearing from people with families.  I know, for instance, many people are able to somehow take time off of full-time work and go back to school while raising a family.  How the heck is that even possible?

I really do hope that writing out my thoughts here is helpful to others.  Maybe my words will encourage you to get off your duff and take some first steps.  Maybe you’ll just take comfort knowing that someone else is going through what you’re going through.

Thanks for reading.  Please leave a comment, below.