Nothing was coming this morning. But I still wanted to post, and keep up my end of the bargain of publishing daily for September, so here you go. I decided to record a video. But my wife was still sleeping so I had to keep things quiet.
Enjoy! Or don’t. You have full permission to rejoin the party tomorrow. This is a mere goof. Rated R for referenced vampiric violence.
This is part twenty-four of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I continue to think about and reflect upon balance.
It’s a tricky dance, keeping forward progress, while also respecting the creative process — all in the midst of managing daily life. We’re all called upon to do it, though, aren’t we?
Grow and thrive. Be better. Pursue happiness.
But it’s not that simple, most of the time, is it?
If I have learned anything, it has been to do less. To listen more. Still, I know it’s a hard thing to do. I have a lot of respect for everyone trying to understand or pursue something outside the everyday tasks of what we “must” do, everyone intent on personal growth and exploration. It takes courage. It takes extra work and focus.
And I admire those able to simplify. Especially in a city like New York, where stimulus is a fact of life for most hours of the day — if not immediately and temptingly accessible at any hour via subway — it’s a tall order.
Along the way of seeking balance, it has occurred to me (again) that I have been very hard on myself at points. That I have pushed myself too hard, too desperately, for too long. This observation, as regular readers might note, is nothing new.
The self-compassion I have been feeling lately, however, is new.
Caught up in the rush and the madness of life, not to mention the snares of the past, it can become easy to forget that we all deserve the opportunity to grow, thrive and be happy. It is not our fault when the circumstance of life or our social structures fail to live up to or follow up on the promises of these things.
But it does become our responsibility, to ourselves, to shift perspective as best we can, and do what little we can, day by day, to give ourselves and others the chance to…be better. To feel better.
Not for accolades. Not for attention. But for the chance to approach balance and feel serene, the opportunity to throw off regret and to be satisfied with the gift of living. So I grieve for a self less able to see that he deserved gentler modes of conduct, and I try today to provide and seek out new support.
We’re worth the effort — all of us. It’s a big thing to do, to show up and say: “I deserve better”. It’s a less obvious response to realize that we already are enough, and that it’s our perspective, and what we do from that point, that might need to change. That’s the real hard work.
Have a great weekend. If I may — do one small nice thing for yourself this weekend. There will be a quiz.
This is part twenty-three of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I have come to enjoy and depend upon routine. This is not a bad thing — but I have learned to be careful with it. All dependencies can benefit from periodic inquiry, if not disruption, I think.
Right now, at this moment, I’m starting in on this post later in the morning that I otherwise usually have over the last three weeks. I overslept a bit. This annoyed me. I carried that annoyance through to this moment.
But I have to let it go.
Because I just “wasted” a few more minutes in paralysis — because conditions weren’t perfect. Or safely comfortable. I couldn’t get moving. There were false starts. Some dumb nervous blinking occurred.
It helps to turn the problem against itself. Here I am, admitting that routine can be dangerous — not only to productivity but to creativity.
The unhelpful reaction was when I started thinking. Now is not the time for thinking. I just made that point yesterday.
It’s a dance, isn’t it?
On the one hand, the routine of waking up early every day, and writing here, has made me happier, has benefitted readers (people have written in to me, I’m not making that up!) and has increased traffic to this site.
These are all clear benefits. But they aren’t the purpose of it all, are they?
The purpose is expression.
While the fact of publishing here and then sharing with you is nearly as crucial, there’s no way for it to be causally as important so long as each post depends on the creative impulse for its existence in the first place.
That is why I keep up on writing here. Why I produce the podcast. This is about championing creative expression — and conversation. Sometimes, I worry about getting too meta-textual. That seems a fair thing to worry about and protect against.
But I’m still creating, directly, during the day. It’s my hope that these posts, and each episode of Coffee With Creatives, helps you to more often do the same. An additional hope is that, together, we can share in the joys and the pains that come along the way.
And I’m not just talking to artists. Everyone is creative. Life is creative. I believe we could use a bit more creativity, a bit more spiritual verve, in our daily lives.
So, here we are. Routinely imperfect but showing up anyway.
This is part twenty-two of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I don’t have a lot of thoughts right now. This is one of the joys of writing so soon after waking up.
The sunrise, as I write this, is brilliant. My head is still in the fog of sleep. I’m sipping tea, now, so soon the brain will begin its mad rush.
But, for now, the quiet is peaceful.
Thank you for reading. Today is three straight weeks of daily posts.
So far, this is the most popular post. Then this one. Then, this one.
And while we’re thanking people, thanks to Mike Birbiglia, for the inspiration to write so immediately on the daily, to Shay Carl for the idea of publishing something every day for a month straight, and to Tim Ferriss for bringing both ideas to my attention via his kickass podcast.
I know I’ve said it before — but this is fun. I need some fun, right now, when it comes to my relationship to writing. The act of recording and sharing a daily morning reflection is uncomplicated. There’s a purity to it. I don’t have to worry about managing a narrative, or searching out characters.
I’m still doing these things, separately, later in the day. But there’s less pressure involved. My general writing responsibilities are similarly rendered less complicated, by the simple act of defanging the nagging question many writers face — “Will I Write Today?”.
There’s something to that, I think.
This is part twenty-one of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I suffered through a small depressive episode last night.
I think I felt over-exposed, after sharing some of my internal creative dialogue here, after this guest post (on depression and suicidal ideation) was published on The Mighty, and after The Videoblogs received a few bumps in attention.
On the surface, these are all good things. They also represent sincere efforts at helping others. Still, it is the curse of those so afflicted that even good things can kick up old fears and insecurities.
Except now I have a base of acceptance, understanding, and compassion that I can fall back on, when I’m having a tough night, or day, or week.
I’m still not feeling the best. It was tough to get out of bed this morning. I similarly didn’t feel like writing this.
But I have a lamp and my dog to help me. Let me explain.
I’m also, more importantly, married to someone who both understands mental illness and knows how to react compassionately when someone is struggling.
It started with some physical symptoms, that appeared on my way home. My body started to ache. I felt tired. I lost the energy to do much of anything. I eventually found myself standing, staring blankly, in the middle of the apartment.
My wife asked if I was okay. I talked to her. This is the first right thing I did — by telling the truth to someone I can trust.
I decided to lay down in bed. Sometimes, you just have to do that. It’s no different than if you have a cold.
Some time later, my wife came in and asked how I was feeling. Not much had changed. She gently suggested that lying alone in the dark might not be helping. I heard her, but didn’t want to move. She left to heat up dinner, and we talked about me joining her to eat and watch some TV.
After a few more minutes, the dog showed up.
It is well-documented how helpful a dog can be when you’re feeling down. I let her up into the bed. She seemed to want to play. It wasn’t long before we were playing a bit, and her joy lightened my mood.
I kept it up. During a lull, I thought about what my wife had said, and turned my bedside lamp on — at its dimmest setting. For the next several minutes, I continued to focus solely on the dog.
Eventually, it was time to eat, and I was able to get up and watch TV. I felt significantly better. Before bed, I journaled for a few minutes, as a means of (non-judgmentally) externalizing my feelings. I slept without too much trouble and had odd, but not entirely dark, dreams.
As I’ve mentioned, today has been less difficult, so far, though I’m still feeling somewhat…flat.
It helped that my wife gently nudged me this morning, when I was snoozing a bit, because she knew I wanted to get up and write. It furthered helped to turn on the living room lamp, to offset the predawn darkness, before I sit down to work. I do that every morning.
Finally, there’s the dog. Without fail, she settles in beside me while I write. She’s here right now.
These are touchstones of light and connection. It helps to turn to them when thoughts go dark and lonely. As for the rest of the day, I plan to take it easy. To stay in touch with people. To take care of myself.
Already, these things are working. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.
This is part twenty of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
Often, the correct course of action is not one that we wish to take.
We resist. Understandably so, in many cases. A course of action suggests change. Change can be (often is) scary. There’s more certainty in what is known.
There is also more pain and sadness, in my experience, in ignoring the call for change. More general disquiet.
Dissatisfaction. Resentment. Anger. And yet, it often takes much suffering, and/or one big sign of the need for change, for many of us to finally take that action.
This is okay. It has to be, I think, if we are to at all improve at narrowing down this cycle.
Growth, obviously, comes up often on the podcast. I had a nice talk about gaining experience, about the importance of forward motion and learning, with the guest for this week’s coming episode. And when Leah Bonnema came on the show, she similarly stressed the importance of “going to work every day”.
All of this to say, I still have room to improve. We all do. Good work begins with the small stuff. I think I’ve been showing up in this way for a long time.
But the big, risky actions? Those can be difficult. But, to again echo a guest on Coffee with Creatives (Laura Goode) I think much of this seeming bigness is illusion. Smoke and mirrors and words both smooth and stinging.
When we choose to make art, which invariably also does cost money, we do not do so thinking of the money first and the art second. But when you aren’t an artist, or acting completely as one within a financial or social transaction, certain additional realities must be dealt with one way or another.
Despite my general practicality, and the cautiousness with which I usually ration my optimism, it surprised me, in recent months, to find myself being misled by various third-party partners, as we went about completing The Videoblogs.
Perhaps this was naive. To again echo Laura, who found it far easier to raise extra money to finish her film after it was accepted to the Tribeca Film Festival — the truth is that most people are conditioned to seek pre-sanctioned, external validation before they commit their full energy to something.
That’s not necessarily unfair. It’s a difficult time for commitment. There is, seemingly, a never-ending stream of options, sometimes even flowing back and forth in time, vying for our attention and resources.
And, so, as storytellers, we have to prove ourselves. Constantly. In order to provide evidence that we are worth The Risk — of money or time.
Still, I think that’s mostly garbage. It’s short-sighted, and arguably cowardly.
It seems to me that, out of fear, we have defanged true risk in our society. We’ve broken it down into pieces, seeking to understand and control as much of as we can — because we’re desperately afraid of failing.
I know I have done this. But I’m growing weary of it. The deconstruction destroys the construction, in a way.
Should we be smart? Prudent? Strategic? In taking a realistic view of the aforementioned market saturation (for content especially) — I would have to say yes.
But to only lean on these preparations, to give them so much disproportionate weight, and to thus unsteady and rob the counter-balancing power of the risky idea at the core of an enterprise — this to me is folly.
A real risk costs much, and yet nothing. It reveals no certain answers in terms of prudence and strategy, instead promising growth and experience, if faithfully executed. It is deeply personal. It draws its power from sources we can barely identify of explain.
Inspiration. Passion. Faith. With these sources of power, a true risk becomes easy to make. If and when we remember to believe in the risking itself, and not only outcomes.
A risk is a story. We need to protect our stories. Their true worth is not measured by intermediaries.
Intermediaries have far less power than they’d have us believe. It can become difficult to remember this, as they massage messaging and make promises or suggest futures that they have no real influence over.
They are struggling for survival as much as we are, if not more so. They likely feel just as frightened or desperate. And I pity them, somewhat, for that — because they aren’t dealing in pure stories. As a rule, they must mitigate risk. To do this, they must find, be shown, or invent evidence. We’ve seen, in this country, how badly that can backfire.
Whereas we, the storytellers, might find flashes of solace — in the knowledge that we are attempting true change.
This is part nineteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
For the past few months, I have been working hard on a script for a new film I’d like to make. In recent weeks, I hit a bit of wall with it.
To sum the main issue(s) up simply — the concept and story represent quite the tall order, in terms of development. It’s not that I don’t feel up to the task, it’s that I don’t know if I’m up to the task right now.
Maybe I’m just learning something all filmmakers begin to learn, once the first feature is out of the way.
I have the general framework of the next re-write built. When I think about moving forward, though, I get tired. I don’t know that I have what I need in the tank, right now, or enough space in my brain from day to day, to tackle a project that’s a bit heady and which, as a scifi piece, is going to require quite a bit of ground-up creative detail.
This has upset me a bit. But I believe I am starting to accept the circumstance.
Nothing prevents me from proceeding with this project at my own pace. At the same time, it could just be that it’s not “next”, as I had imagined or hoped it might be. Is there a chance that might change? Of course. But, in the meantime, we must keep moving.
I started tossing around another idea, for what to make next. It didn’t seem to quite fit, but I let the general parameters behind it ride, from day to day. I kept them in the back of my brain.
And then it happened — I ended up starting in on a new script. It’s different than the original new idea. It feels, as the one before, like it might be next. Again — that could of course change.
What doesn’t change is that I can still take my time. Independent filmmakers hold few advantages. Time can be one of them. How might I be feeling now if large sums of money were already committed to the first script I brought up in this discussion? Might I have tried to force it to work?
Perhaps. Then again, also, when there is money there tends to be more room to do things fully and steadily. I look forward to that day.
On the other hand, a lack of deadlines or resources can quickly lead to making excuses. I don’t worry about such stasis nearly as often as I used to — and I tend to think it’s a useful concern, these days — but I do think that it’s important to keep making work and to keep getting it out there, especially in today’s artistic/economic climate.
I wanted to share all this because I think I would have been feeling much more anxious if I hadn’t attempted patience, and instead of forcing the issue — tried to listen and to let go. That’s what allowed a new possibility to bloom.
I have to constantly remind myself of this. My long history with this sort of existential/career tension came up in the most recent episode of Coffee With Creatives.
I am not the steward of any one story. I’m a storyteller.
This is part eighteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I’ve written about this before, but lately I’ve been thinking again about balance.
Beyond this, I’ve been thinking about the complexities of negotiating balance, such that we might hopefully arrive at and sustain a general level of contentedness and passion — by which we might thrive in life.
This becomes a tricky subject, when you’re artistically inclined, or similarly believe in or are attracted to some calling. That’s so loud to you that can’t ignore it, despite all evidence that, to many others, it’s either a non-sound, a far-off whisper, or manifests instead as a quiet alarm.
How exactly do we thrive, do we find and maintain balance, when there’s so much else to modern life that runs counter to such a comparatively liberated lifestyle?
By now, I’ve figure out some of the answers, even though I often forget to trust in them (more on this later).
Many have been oft-discussed by artists and people more experienced than me. Still, here are some ideas, in case they help.
If you’re goal is to write — prove it. Write. Early and often. Everything else can be slotted in below. If it’s something else that you want to do. The answer is the same. Put in the time. It doesn’t have to be all day, but it does have to be the most important and focused part of the day, as often as possible.
2. Live Life
There is no ideation, no creation, without the raw materials of experience and observation. And our relationship with both or either can range from small to large.
A spec of dust drifting on the air at dawn. Heartbreak — which only happens when we risk our heart. Both are of the stuff of life. We must tend to such things.
And then, beyond living, there is the stickier point of making a living.
3. Accept The Necessity of Sacrifice
Barring inherited wealth or quick luck, any major artistic or business pursuit that begins with one or a handful of people is going to require sacrifice.
This can be a tricky concept. Sacrifice is a loaded word in our culture.
It’s neither noble, nor appropriate, or even ultimately helpful to us, to sacrifice relationships, or balance (see examples above) in the nominal pursuit of the time or space we “need” to create and thrive.
To mistake such avoidance as sacrifice is to hollow out any eventual victory. It frames the very basic and understandable needs we all have as humans in the world — to be understood, to feel important — in baser terms. To be understood by an eventual, adoring audience or customer base, who will not (cannot) sustain us during the hardest and loneliest part of the process (the making of a thing), to be called essential by them after it’s done and we’re depleted — these things do not replace the basic human need to be loved by the self and one’s family and friends.
So, this is not what I mean when I say that, to negotiate the time and space to pursue passion in the midst of a busy life, we must be willing to make sacrifices.
It is my experience, instead, that there are plenty of opportunities, every day, to let go of as much as possible that is not made of life-stuff, or sustained by passion.
That means genuine fun stays. Distractions go. Procrastination — goes. What this basically means is that you can stop viewing 85% of what’s on TV and/or your other screens.
This is all very difficult, in execution. It can’t be figured out in a day.
In a week, momentum can be built. In a month, progress can be made. And much more can be done in six months than we might think. And across the years? Sometimes it shocks me how different I am, how much I have accomplished, over a year or two.
In the midst of it, we might feel exhausted, afraid, angry and hopeless. But if we stay true, and maintain balance and health, time elides.
Sometimes, now, I forget what day of the week it is, or what point I’m at during the year, in terms of holidays and seasonal social patterns and such. I don’t worry or feel guilt about this. I let my calendar remind me of what’s essential. Otherwise I keep working towards the goal, even if and as it shifts.
5. See to Your Health(s)
This is the most crucial aspect of negotiating balance. Everyone will have their different needs and thresholds here. My struggles in these terms have been well-documented on this site.
You will get tired, if or when you decide to fit something big into the general madness of everyday life. It is crucial to rest.
Similarly, I find it crucial to respect the quiet nastiness of the everyday fight.
We are bombarded daily by the smiles of pushers.
Buy this. Eat this. Drink this. Give us your money. Your time.
What’s left of us if we constantly listen to this steady stream of broadcast manipulation? None of us are immune. I’m not. We must pick our battles, and set our boundaries. Ultimately, the pushers are as beholden to us as we are ensnared by them.
What’s worked for me, foremost — denying the typical American diet. On most days, I stay away from sugar, carbs that break down into sugar, dairy, and alcohol. I’m not formally exercising right now, mostly because I’m still recovering from the damage I’ve done to my body while producing The Videoblogs (and the related spiritual exhaustion), but I go out of my way to walk as much as possible.
I make plans, more often, with friends, so as to blow off steam. One day a week, I open the gates to sugar and dairy and alcohol (pizza and beer and ice cream).
And I pay attention to my mental and spiritual health. I journal. I meditate. I try to take long breaks from my phone and computers.
6. Forgive “Failure”
Also, I fail. I forget. I succumb to fear, or anger, and other emotions Yoda warned us about.
And that’s okay.
It is a very difficult thing, to negotiate balance, in life and art. It’s especially difficult when we’re not wealthy or yet being paid steadily to make the things we love.
But if we love them, and if we love ourselves — even if we have to fake our way in these respects for awhile — we overall find more days of solace and pride, than of hopelessness and depression.
The dark days do come. They’re part of life, and perhaps even essential for the contrast they provide. We are imperfect. We will falter. Part of balance, of negotiation, is make adjustments back towards the center.
This is part seventeen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
There are two ways to look at this, since I don’t know where each road leads. I can worry about turning and heading down the wrong path, or continuing down one that it would have been better to turn from. Or, I can close my eyes and breathe, and then decide to try my hand at luck. To follow the wind, so to speak.
The first reaction doesn’t appeal to me. Though that doesn’t mean I haven’t incrementally tried it on, by nature of being human.
The second sounds nice, but I have trouble consistently showing the faith it requires. There’s always that voice, prodding me with the question: “But what if it doesn’t work? What if we’re wrong?”
At this point, while I still do worry about these questions, it’s not completely a case of fear of embarrassment. Age and experience has helped to mostly defang that avenue of paralysis. I can’t help how my work might be received. I can only do my honest best to tell an authentic, heartfelt story, and to give it a fair chance in the world.
No, more often, I worry about making the wrong choice because of a fear of lost time. And thus the double-edged sword of age and experience is revealed.
I love The Videoblogs. I’m proud of the film. But I beat myself to crap making it, at such a low budget and while living in New York City and working a full-time job. Beyond not knowing if I could pull off such a feat again, physically — I just don’t want to do it that way again.
I’m working on a few new ideas for the next film. One is big and heady. It’s been bending my brain a little bit, thinking of how to make it work on paper. To make it work as a production is going to take a much bigger budget than we had for The Videoblogs. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, yet. I very well could be, but that script needs to be RIGHT before I’ll move on producing it.
The reality is that it’s only been a few months since The Videoblogs came out.
There’s no hurry. I have other ideas I’m poking at, for smaller films, there’s a silly concept for a short and simple comedic web series I might want to try, and I somehow also have the first draft of a book of fiction waiting for me to re-write.
I’m forced to confront the reality that my fear of lost time is just the same old fear of being wrong, dressed up in a new skin suit it liberated from an innocent soul after its last round trip to and from the hell that it calls home.
Hah. Demon humor.
But, seriously — binary thinking is often a trap. And that’s what I want to address today.
It may be true that I’m at crossroads. Or, it may be true that I feel this way, and will feel differently a few years from now. Regardless, I don’t think what I’m going through is so simple or pat a thing as staring down various paths, from an intersection, and attempting to source out which way to go.
This manner of thinking might be too rigid for me. I might have outgrown it by now, even if I still need to slough it off to make room for a newer, fresher outlook.
I’m into skin imagery today.
Anyway, it could be that every road has its charms, holds its own opportunities. It’s equally possible that I’m meant to set up camp, right at the intersection, and hunt small game and live in a tree and howl at the moon for a while.
Perhaps there will be loincloths. Who am I to say?
During the course of this post, in my mind’s eye, the backdrop to the crossroads has morphed from desert to forest to jungle. This could be reflective of my current ambiguity, or of the proper aimlessness I am in this moment best led to inhabit.
For so long, I have treated myself rigidly, in terms of having to decide what to create next, how and why — right now.
When I have relaxed, and focused instead on the day-to-day, I have been gifted with ideas like Multiverse, The Videoblogs, the book.
And then there is the simple fact of the last sixteen days.
What I like about writing here daily is the immediacy of it. The simplicity. It’s uncomplicated. I’m a writer — I write. I share what I’ve written, then I do it again. Is each post perfect? Far from it.
But the pursuit feels pure. That’s what I’m starting to believe I need to wait for, not the next project that feels the least “wrong”, but the one that feels the most right. This has always been when I have known to move forward.
It’s not a crossroads at all. It’s a waiting place.
This is part sixteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I dreamed again last night, but I’ve lost the memory. This used to bother me — I’m typically so sure I’ve lost something crucial, the moment that the recollection of a dream slipped finally away — but now I don’t mind it so much when it happens.
Generally, I’ve come to believe that my subconscious knows what it’s doing, so long as I keep up the (sometimes uneasy) truce by feeding it the stuff it needs, like meditative breaks, general self-care, extended stretches of time spent with friends, rather than alone and in solution mode.
I wonder if I’ve also been sleeping deeply because I’ve been keeping longer days. While I’ve been waking up earlier, to write here, I’ve generally been going to bed at the same early time — as close to 9PM as possible. It still shocks me that I now do this regularly.
But it’s nice. I’m not missing anything, in turning the lights out —
Okay. I am going to get real with you right now. I can’t pretend like I’m able to continue focusing on the prior discussion.
I have neighbors who have sex at odd times during the day. When they do, the man sort of bleat-moans, as if a breathless sheep were doing an impression of a person moaning during sex. I have gotten used to this.
But it just started happening– at the exact same time that my cat began a morning vomit-fest.
It’s like she had finally had enough.
Now, nobody (including me) cares about some boring story about how I go to bed early and read myself to sleep. There is only the dark symphony of bleating and puking.
Let’s just sum it up by stating that I am both an adult and a child. I don’t think this is bad. Have a nice day!
This is part fifteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!