When To Press On (And How and Why)

12909413_10102353318158342_7349604932416695832_o-1

 

Last night, the idea got into my head to skip today’s post. I’m not contracted to be here, either literally or by any promise made to continue last month’s experiment into October.

I thought to myself: you’re tired. It’s been a long day. Maybe, tomorrow, sleep in a little.

And yet, here I am. Because I want to be here.

You can’t force this sort of “discipline”, I don’t think. In line with yesterday’s post, though, and to speak to the power of streaks — I think there’s something to be said for fostering habits that are so deeply embedding in our sincere desires that any sustained daily practice, targeted at those desires, can develop the power to overcome daily obstacles.

Of course, there’s a fine line between finding the will to keep things moving — and forcing the issue. For a long time, I think I did too much of the latter and not enough of the former.

Sometimes we need to press on when we’re tired. It provides a private sort of moral victory, to do so. On other occasions, it’s more prudent to rest. If I were sick, for instance, it might have made more sense to sleep an extra thirty minutes to an hour.

But I got to bed early last night, and slept well. There’s some lingering exhaustion — yesterday was a long day — but I can take it easy and yet still do what I can.

So, here I am.

The reason I think this is important to talk about is because it can become very easy to put off what we want to do, when we are exhausted by our idea of what we feel we have to do. To be fair, the dance is not easy.

Yet there are ways to do what has to be done more efficiently. There are daily sacrifices that can be made that hardly remain as sacrifices over time, because their importance shrink in comparison to what is personally essential — and the room these create can be vast.

Finally, there are boundaries we can place around what we must protect, from day to day.

There are many things I think we tolerate, on average, that general fairness and decency would reveal as intolerable, if we stopped long enough to look at their effect on us in a rational, unsparing light.

To be specific, I see these things as the parade of distractions and triggers, engineered to keep many of us feeling overwhelmed, not enough, in need of reprieve. They are means of control.

By contrast, to follow our creative or other intrinsic instincts — these are not exercises in control, either of us or by us. They are wild, frightening, electric explorations of possibility.

This is why, I think, it’s important not to invite any reason to pause in the journey. To be alone with our desires and to move towards them can be frightening, but the essence of such pursuits bring some semblance of peace, in their truth.

11903868_10102022863132862_3363202786901023781_n-1My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

The Benefits of The Small, Achievable Daily Goal

13653282_10102565148029582_1616643092885637644_o-1

 

Move, just a little. That can be enough.

Any move, forward or backward, in any measurable increment, is progress. An opportunity to learn, to gain perspective, to gather courage. And a lifetime of slow progress, or even a few months of it — despite or in defiance of the apparent mad rush of our daily lives — might be enough to promote real growth and change.

Or, to bring things down to the ground level, a little slow progress, today, has the capacity to build up momentum for tomorrow (and so on).

This is something I have learned, in recent years. As I’ve grown up and matured, as I’ve failed plenty and have gained just a few victories.

I wrote a book of fiction this year, in the middle of completing my first feature film. I did it one day, and often only a few hundred words, at a time. If you had told me ten years ago that those would be the conditions under which The First Book would be written — I wouldn’t have believed it.

But I might have smirked a little, in considering the prospect. It’s a subtly bad-ass move. The picture about provides a snap-shot of how I did it. At a certain point, fear had set in, and I was afraid of stopping halfway through the first draft. That would have hurt, so I set small daily goals, to pursue each morning. And it worked.

I believe that the real heavy work behind any big thing, whether a book or a script or a shot list, or an engineering problem or a code problem — it gets done on the peripheries of life and consideration. We think for a while, softly in increments, or even with speed and heat, but ultimately we tire or become frustrated and must turn away. Then, suddenly, something clicks out of nowhere and we move forward in a leap.

This is the way it goes, much of the time. And yet it becomes difficult to depend only on such leaps, of inspiration or intuition, to sustain progress. Too much pressure is put on something outside our control, if not our sphere of influence, and we become constricted.

This is why and how small steps help. It’s why focus, and simplicity, and then deliberate unfocused time, spent without a clear purpose other than enjoyment or physical engagement, lead to  sudden, significant, measurable progress over time.

It takes a degree of faith, to trust such a process, and not wring it or ourselves dry.

In addition, many that don’t have the patience or the talent for it spend much of their time leeching off those that do, intent on convincing the talented how indispensable they themselves are…in their steady blandness.

It’s a much less heavy burden, to proceed at a monotone, than to subject oneself to the rises and falls of creative productivity. There’s some utility in it, perhaps, but not much of that faith, upon which the real success of any one enterprise often rests.

To me, this reproves the proper and natural order of the creative process, within the macro as well as the micro. Keep the creativity, the calling, in first position.

Remain deliberate, and stolid in such deliberation, until all the answers that are going to come are given in the quiet moments of inspiration, themselves providing color and depth to the daily grunt work completed by yourself and others in pursuit of truth. This is all we can do.

No amount of extra magic exists. It is that simple, and that difficult. The rest of it comes second, is so much filler (which can be dispensed with) or distraction (which can be handled by others).

I do believe that, if we march on, we’ll eventually get somewhere. Until the time comes to get up and do it again.

11903868_10102022863132862_3363202786901023781_n-1My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

Answer The Call, Quiet The Demons

untitled-design-4

 

It’s a few minutes shy of 7AM, on a Saturday, as a write this — and I hate you.

Sorry. I don’t hate you.

I love you.

I feel as if I might be sending mixed signals.

Yesterday concluded my experiment of writing here everyday for a month. Today marks the start of a new month. Technically, I am not committed to posting today. But here I am.

The truth is that I’ve been having too much fun. The exercise has grounded me, which in retrospect was probably part of the intention all the long. Before I started it, I was thrashing a little.

Too tired to jump into another film so soon. Too scared still to begin rewriting the book of fiction I finished earlier this year.

But now? Today? I have the will to begin, or at least to begin considering, these bigger things. The daily practice of doing just a little, at the earliest point if the day, and doing it wholeheartedly and without complication or expectation — it’s been instructive.

Daily practice. That’s what I’ve been turning over, in my head. What do I need to do, today, right now, to answer the call and quiet the demons?

Earlier this morning, I found myself standing in the hallway outside my bedroom. I had woken up a few minutes ago, had gotten up for a nice strong morning pee. I looked at my bed, and my wife sleeping soundly in it, the soft dim light of a clouded morning just barely illuminating the edges of everything in the room.

I set a timer on my phone that would wake me up after forty-five more minutes of sleep — if I went back to bed.

But I didn’t go back to bed. I thought about whether it was what I wanted. It wasn’t. Then I considered how I might physically feel, having woken up and then gone back to sleep. I know that feeling. Wet cotton in the temples.

I didn’t want it.

I’m excited to be here. I’m excited for today. So, here I am showing up and owning that excitement. That I want.

11903868_10102022863132862_3363202786901023781_n-1My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

Doing It.

we-are-happiest-and-most-effective-when-the-doing-comes-first

 

I’m feeling a bit run-down so I’m going to keep things short for today. I’ve now written here every day this month. It feels good. I might keep it up. Full list of posts below.

Prior to this experiment, on most weeks, I would write about four or five times per week. That’s a pretty good average — but this feels better.

At first, though I did initially need a break from screenwriting, it worried me — that I was directing energy towards these essays (and I use that term loosely) instead of the script of the day.

But then I adjusted, and soon I was doing both. We make time for what’s important, if and when we’re able to gather the courage and keep up the momentum needed to turn daily to what’s important.

It’s not always easy, though. That’s what I’ve liked about this practice.

By getting up early, and writing and publishing first thing, I accomplish something important. I communicate with those following this site and my work. I get some thoughts out of my head. Some of those thoughts lead to new thoughts.

It’s work, but it’s work I love.

I don’t love it every day. On some day’s, it’s tough. On others, it’s fun(ny).

This came up in my talk with Simon Taufique on Coffee With Creatives, and with other guests as well — it’s about the doing. The doing is what we love. Do strategy, forethought, planning have their places? Yes. But it’s about that balance.

We are happiest and most effective when the doing comes first. And, yes, that can be applied to love and sex as well. Thanks for reading!

This is part thirty of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

Day 20: All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

Day 21: Why I’m Writing and Publishing, First Thing Every Morning

Day 22: The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

Day 23: How to Be Better: Perspective and Self-Compassion

Day 24: Still The Finger, Silence The Vlog

Day 25: A Light Chill Wind in Early Fall

Day 26: The Case for An Open Heart

Day 27: How Can I Help? CWC Interview (Composer/Producer Simon Taufique)

Day 28: The Dangers of “The Project Wheel”

Day 29: Why It’s Essential to MOVE YOUR DAMN BUS

The Dangers of “The Project Wheel”

practice

 

I have been itchy lately. I don’t mean in the pants.

What I mean is that I want to make something. Direct something. Shoot something. This seems to happen every year around this time. The Videoblogs, Multiverse, The Confession, all were shot in the fall.

I’ve got an idea. A random one. Again, this is how each of those projects came about.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the new script, or the other new script. It’s a separate thing. That has concerned me a bit — am I just spinning The Project Wheel?

I don’t think so. It’s an understandable question. But I’m not sure my situation is any different now, as a completely independent filmmaker, that it would be if I were taking meetings. The Videoblogs is done but still out there, so the question naturally occurs as to what is next.

At the same time, I just can’t manage a production of that scale, at such an effectively high budget (at least in terms of labor) right now. I can’t fit it into my life, and I won’t sacrifice my health again.

And yet staying in the creative mindset is healthy for me. So, what to do?

I think it might be best for me to do what I’m doing here, with this daily blog post experiment. Namely, to jump in. To fit the idea into the space, and give it the resources, that I have. Nothing more, nothing less.

Writers write, directors direct, I’m a writer and director.

The Project Wheel only becomes a danger if and when we turn it but never let it stop to rest on one idea, that we then execute. Or if we constantly change the face of the wheel. There will always be fears, and/or legitimate challenges in the way of completing a thing. We can’t let fear rule — I want to lead with an open heart.

But Simon Taufique and I spoke about this on the podcast. People — the audience, decision-makers and gatekeepers, collaborators — are always looking for new and different things. We need to keep on creating, not only for ourselves but for our careers.

So, I’ll probably scratch the itch. Glad we had this talk. More later.

This is part twenty-eight of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

Day 20: All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

Day 21: Why I’m Writing and Publishing, First Thing Every Morning

Day 22: The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

Day 23: How to Be Better: Perspective and Self-Compassion

Day 24: Still The Finger, Silence The Vlog

Day 25: A Light Chill Wind in Early Fall

Day 26: The Case for An Open Heart

Day 27: How Can I Help? CWC Interview (Composer/Producer Simon Taufique)

How Can I Help? Composer/Producer Simon Taufique on Coffee With Creatives

simon

 

Simon Taufique loved music, but didn’t have the full training or the opportunity to pursue the craft — until a convergence of circumstances led him to just take the leap. He eventually began to specialize in composing for film.

Before long, Simon’s additional predilections — for working collaboratively, helping others to achieve a shared vision, and for leveraging strategy to the benefit of any one project — drove him to begin taking on producing responsibilities. As part of his philosophy of asking “How Can I Help?” he now produces films so that he can help collaborators pursue their combined vision, including his own contributions to the score.

Simon’s biggest project to date, Imperium, finds him working with A-list talent like Daniel Radcliffe and Toni Collette. We had a great conversation on this episode of Coffee With Creatives.

Topics covered include:

  • How Simon was inspired by friend M. Night Shyamalan to be creative by any means necessary
  • How his start in tech allowed him to make enough money to escape the 9-5 and focus more squarely on creative pursuits
  • How and why September 11th became a personal turning point for Simon creatively
  • The indie ethos — focusing on positioning and strategy, and figuring out a way to get it done
  • How and why careerist decision-making can be a wrong-headed approach in the long term
  • Owning the creativity, but letting go of the results
  • Making challenges and boundaries work for you
  • The benefits and importance of decisiveness
  • The obvious and less-obvious advantages of working with A-list talent
  • Relieving professional and career pressure by creating constantly

That’s a ton of good and useful stuff. Imperium is available on most digital video platforms, and you can follow Simon on Twitter here.

 

Finally, I have two announcements to make, which are also covered in this episode of the podcast.

The first is that Coffee With Creatives now has over 5,000 listeners! Hooray, us! In celebration, I am giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

For a chance to win the gift card, send an email to me through this site and include a screenshot of either: 1) An iTunes review of the podcast, written by you, or 2) A social media post, written by you, in which you link to this or another favorite episode. A winner will be chosen randomly from all those who write in. Or maybe I’ll decide to award the review or share that most strikes my fancy. Only time will tell.

Also, I will be participating in a Live Director’s Commentary for my film, The Videoblogs, on October 9th. The event is virtual, and is being presented by the nsavides podcast (and its host, Nick Savides). Producer Jenna Edwards is also participating, and there are over $500+ in prizes being offered to participants. So, get on it!

As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creatives on iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.

 

14424924_10102658958298052_4143904899027883556_o-1

 

How To Be Better: Perspective and Self-Compassion

if-you-want-others-to-be-happy-practice-compassion-if-you-want-to-be-happy-practice-compassion

 

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!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

Day 20: All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

Day 21: Why I’m Writing and Publishing, First Thing Every Morning

Day 22: The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

untitled-design-2

 

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!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

Day 20: All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

Day 21: Why I’m Writing and Publishing, First Thing Every Morning

Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

skepticism-is-the-sadism-of-embittered-souls

 

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!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

 

6 Ways to Bring Balance to The (Artistic) Force

 

they-are-sick-that-surfeit-with-too-much-as-they-that-starve-with-nothing-2

 

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.

1. Prioritize

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.

 

Script
The earliest version of The Videoblogs.

 

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.

 

13227465_10102429808950182_8567527542589561944_o
Taking time off from business to hang with friends.

 

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.

 

It was a squeeze to produce The Confession. We did it anyway.
It was a squeeze to produce The Confession. We did it anyway.

 

4. Commit

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.

 

Wrote the first draft of a book this year -- a few words at a time.
Wrote the first draft of a book this year — a few words at a time.

 

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.

 

Take time off -- and away.
Take time off — and away.

 

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.

 

I keep this one around to remind me not to sweat it.
I keep this one around to remind me not to sweat it.

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!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place