Answer The Call, Quiet The Demons

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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.

The Dangers of “The Project Wheel”

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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

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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.

 

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Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

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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

 

How to Decide What to Make Next

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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!

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

 

The Waiting Place

the-world-is-all-gates-all-opportunities-strings-of-tension-waiting-to-be-struck

 

I find myself at a crossroads in my work.

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!

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

Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

This is part ten of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

theres-no-excuse-for-rudeness

 

This is a story about principles and how they carry over from outside the realm of business.

I was at the physical therapist a few days ago, settling up with my co-pay after an appointment. I have to go to physical therapy now, after producing The Videoblogs on nights and weekends for almost three years. My shoulders, arms and elbows — among other things — are all messed up from overuse.

The elevator opened and someone appeared next to me. A man. Talking on the phone. He stared at the receptionist, with a look on his face that said: “I shouldn’t have to say anything.”

No greeting, no words — not even for the person on the other side of the phone. No — this man’s simmering little wrath was most important for the moment.

The receptionist, to his credit, didn’t completely take this shit. Not for the first time, I felt sympathy for the tired hordes of battle-weary medical administrative staff — the main buffer between a cold and exploitative major industry and the people constantly squeezed and tossed around by that industry.

“Name?”

The man said his name. His annoyed expression deepened.

“The name of the person you’re here to see?”

It’s a big office, with a few different sub-specialties practiced. Still, I’m not sure the receptionist needed to ask that. I think he asked out of vengeance.

I decided I liked the receptionist. The annoyed man gave the information requested. The act seemed to almost cost him his life.

The receptionist thanked the man — who resumed talking on the phone — and then indicated that he should wait in the reception area, to the side of us. The man went.

During all this, I was waiting patiently for an issue with the computer, that was preventing me from paying, to get resolved. But I was also amused by The Annoyed Man.

It wasn’t hard to listen in to his conversation as it continued — and that’s when things took a turn towards the personal, and became an example of something I decided I wanted to share, to the (hopeful) benefit of everyone.

This man continued to act rudely on the phone. By the snippets of the conversation I could pick up, since it was now The Annoyed Man’s world — that I was just living in — I soon realized that he works in the film industry.

There was talk of a Director. Of a Project. Of a Studio. Maybe it was typical talk, of a typical tone, for The Industry. But I like to think it’s not. To tell the truth, I don’t have many ways of yet knowing for sure.

What I do know is that I will always remember that man’s face. If I ever see him, in a meeting or at an event, in the future near or far — I’ll remember him.

You’re someone who is rude, and/or disrespectful to receptionists.

We’re never going to work together, if I can help it. 

I bring this up because I think it’s a good reminder, not only to do things for the right reasons — The Annoyed Man could, in fact, love film — but to comport yourself with at least some semblance of humility, no matter where you are, and what you’re doing or with whom.

Could The Annoyed Man have been having a bad day? Sure. But there’s a difference, I think, between getting snippy and being a snip. He was a snip.

Further, I don’t know that people who act like The Annoyed Man did, in this case, are going to be able to continue to conduct themselves in such a fashion so often in the near future. For better or worse, we’re becoming a culture who calls out bullshit — as I am doing now.

It’s very possible that he’ll be taken to task for how he is (or sometimes acts) at some point in his life, regardless of what I or anyone else might say on the internet. But the internet is always out there, watching — and remembering, like me — and behind it are more than a few people who won’t tolerate rudeness and disrespect.

We just don’t have time for it.

Perhaps that’s a separate conversation, because I tend to believe too many people are too quick to condemn and vilify online, and in general, these days. But it’s a separate thing to observe and to remember, and to protect yourself (and/or your work and efforts) accordingly.

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 2: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 3: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 5: On The Future of Labor

Day 6: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 7: The Word for World is Earth

Day 8: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 9: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Moments of Presence: Writer Laura Goode

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Laura Goode and I studied Creative Writing together ten years ago, and have several mutual friends, but had never really met or talked shop — until now!

Check out the latest episode of Coffee with Creatives to hear Laura’s take on such topics as:

  • How to juggle multiple projects, of varying genre or medium
  • How to find ways to get credit for stuff you’re going to do anyway
  • Why it can be a blessing to fail early — or a curse to succeed early
  • Why she took two years to develop the script for her indie feature film, Farah Goes Bang, along with the film’s director and co-writer Meera Menon
  • The process of raising over $80,000 in production funds for Farah Goes Bang, in the earlier days of Kickstarter
  • The fallacy of the lottery ticket mentality in film, literature and elsewhere
  • Respecting political conservatism within a liberal-friendly narrative, and
  • How a five year fight with a friend led to the publication of Become A Name, her first book of poetry

If you enjoy this episode, read Become a Name, watch Farah Goes Bang, and follow Laura on Twitter.


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

Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum (Day 6 of 30)

This is part six of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

This script in the process of being razed and re-built upon the holy site of its death.
This script is in the process of being razed and re-built upon the holy site of its own prior destruction.

I’m trying to employ an appreciation for difficulty.

It’s been coming up often, lately, as I go about discovering and pursuing “next steps”, following completion of The Videoblogs.

I’m still gathering energy, still resting, after the insanity of the last few years spent producing the film. I think I mentioned that on Day 1 of this project.

I need to do this. But I can’t burn out. I don’t want to burn out. It will prevent me from doing this.

Such have been my thoughts, in summary.

But I also don’t want to remain static. So, I’ve been working, slowly, on The Next Thing.

The idea behind The Next Thing is big. Unwieldy. Complex. Every time I think I have the core of it figured out — I think again, and realize that I’m just not there yet. The puzzle pieces continue to fall into place.

While they do, life goes on. I remain, overall, still feeling a bit low on creative energy. I find myself having to spend wisely.

The sheer amount of energy it takes to both buttress The Next Thing against feelings of fear of failure and despair — such that it might grow and thrive, away from such poison — and yet also allow the ideas behind it the mobility and mutability they need to develop organically…is great.

Under ideal circumstances, this project would be my only focus right now, other than matters of general living. But not only aren’t circumstances ever ideal (and to be fair, in actuality they could be far more difficult) — I’m not even sure that space is what the idea needs.

And so, we return to the role of difficulty in all this.

I use the term loosely, to be clear. When I say “difficulty” I mostly mean anything that it might be easy to decry as being “in the way” of whatever The Next Thing might be.

Daily responsibilities. Commitments of livelihood. Fears and insecurities, or the historical traumas or inherited circumstances that feel always out of our power (because they are) but also firmly in the way of pursuing or addressing what we know or believe we need to pursue or address.

As I have gotten a little older, however, I’ve grown more able to appreciate these challenges for what they are — steps on the journey. Small victories or failures for re-feeding life what it needs in order to access and process the mysterious part of me, or of us, that engenders creativity or otherworldly exploration.

More than space, for me at least, ideas need time, and life-stuff to chew on.

Yesterday, I focused on presence. On not only practicalities (What Needed to Get Done) but relaxation, and needs of the body and spirit. At one point, an important piece, of the puzzle that is The Next Thing, seemed to fall into place.

Later, I questioned whether that piece was the right fit.

This is common. What excites us as a real breakthrough in a project, creative or otherwise, can sometimes fail us later on in its lifecycle (as soon as a couple of hours or minutes). This can be disappointing, but with practice I have learned that it’s all simply part of the process of ideation and iteration.

Whereas in the past, I would have brooded on such a “failure”, now I am able, usually, to mourn the excitement of the idea and to leave the rest to tomorrow, when perhaps I’ll have the proper perspective to identify the new strand of the idea as neither the one piece of the puzzle that brings it all into focus, or a completely false match.

It’s rarely one or the other, despite what we might want, or how we might have been led to believe it at works, in mine of any other profession.

I have a different measure, now, of progress. When that moment arrived yesterday, I went deep into the idea. I explored it fully. The process lasted minutes, but afterwards I felt changed. I felt tired. As if I had traveled a great distance.

When I later began to question the actual usefulness of the new idea, to the story of The Next Thing — I paused. The judgment felt premature. I forced myself to, once again, let go.

This was difficult. My compulsion was to seize the idea, to poke and prod it, to turn it constantly over in search of an answer, once and for all, as to whether the entire endeavor — of which it was only a part — was worthy and excellent.

It hurt, to know that I couldn’t get such an answer from one mere piece of the whole, and to realize that it was going to take many more such days to arrive at an acceptable answer to this crucial question, that had nothing to do with this small piece of the thing but which nonetheless plagues me daily, co-opting and yet spurring on all progress — is this truly The Next Thing?

But, as I said, I let it go. As best I could.

Later, the small piece of the idea came back to me, of its own accord. When this happened, because I had been patient, had ridden out the difficult feelings…it engendered some clarity.

This particular piece of the puzzle might, in fact, become a permanent, fundamental fixture of this story. But it is too soon to tell.

Still, handling the natural process of creativity in this way did allow the practical side of my brain had the freedom to take over when its turns came up in the rotation.

Let’s try it. See what happens. If it works, great. We’ll be on our way. If it doesn’t, great. We’ll know that this way isn’t the right one, and perhaps we’ll gain more clues as to where to go next.

I don’t know that we can win such clarity, harness such momentum, if we don’t ride out the difficulty. It takes courage and patience, perhaps, but at least as each small journey is ended along the way, we’re left certain that we’ve done what we could — for the right reasons.

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 2: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 3: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 5: On The Future of Labor

Struggles and Wonders, and Dying in a Chair (Day 1 of 30)

This is part one of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds.

Thirty posts in thirty days. I can do this.
Thirty posts in thirty days. I can do this. YOU can do this.

Yesterday, I floated the idea of running an experiment here, wherein I would post to the site for thirty straight days. Just to see what happens. So, here we are.

Perhaps it’s not mad science but, then again, I’m writing this at 5:30AM — which if you know me is in fact a minor miracle.

Which thus leads me to an interesting topic of discussion. Let’s talk about time, and sacrifice.

Clearly, I am proceeding with the experiment. We’ll see how it goes. But the decision wasn’t completely uncomplicated.

I couldn’t see where to fit it in, between the every day responsibilities of keeping up with my screenwriting, of working to pay the rent, of running the podcast, and of taking care of myself and of being a social human being and a good husband.

On the other hand, it wasn’t that complicated. I simply decided I was going to do it. I decided to make it work, and to keep it manageable — because it felt like a good idea.

There’s a part of me that’s surprised I got out of bed this morning, to write this. But there’s another part that isn’t. If anything is going to get me out of bed, it’s the prospect of not only writing, but of writing and being read.

I’ve been working on an essay lately, about the deeper motivations behind the decision to make The Videoblogs. I’ve also been asked about these same motivations in interviews. To sum them up — it’s always about feeling less alone, or more together in my loneliness. More connected to others (like you) who are also going about life, trying to make sense of its struggles and wonders.

So, here we are. Me, a writer, writing. You, a reader, maybe reading. I don’t know how this is going to go. I’m sure I’ll want to quit along the way. Don’t let me. Because this is what it’s all about, I think.

This is not an impossible task. By the end of it, perhaps we’ll both be glad we tried it out. I wasn’t sure I was going to find the spiritual capital to start in on this. It sounds relatively simple and doable, in theory, but already it’s requiring a bit more from me. I believe, in today’s increasingly busy and noisy environment, we really need to think about when and whether to make that extra investment in time and money.

Or, rather, perhaps, we need to not think. Perhaps it’s more useful to feel an idea out. And that’s why I’m here, writing early, and trading some snooze for the opportunity to commiserate with you. It took me a full minute to remember the word “commiserate”. Still on my first cup of tea.

The truth is that I’ve been feeling a bit…depleted…since wrapping up the majority of the work on the film. I think that’s normal. But I’m less sure that it’s a good idea to continue to hang back from public work while I continue to work on some “next level” projects. I did need a break. I’ve taken one. I’ll continue to take my time in terms of taking on a new film production — maybe.

But I want to keep up the connection.

So, this morning, I woke up to my alarm. I remembered why it was set so early. Despite this, I immediately decided to “do it later”. I reset the alarm.

But I was already awake. I peed and drank some water and got back into bed and tried to snooze but it was already over.

The mind was already turning. I had a vision of an old man, dying peacefully in his sleep, seated in a chair. Probably it was a lingering vision from my dreams.

It wasn’t a scary vision. For me, who has feared worse, it was actually quite nice. I thought it would be perfect, to go that way. Perhaps not surrounded, but in the midst of loved ones. To go quietly, with a smile — because I had done justice to the privilege of being alive, for the duration of my heres and nows.

See you tomorrow. Let’s make the time for it. It doesn’t cost so much.