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!
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 Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.
An argument could be made that we aren’t meant to so live, or shouldn’t try it. Open-heartedness, it could be said, belongs outside the realm of the rational. It’s inefficient.
Except that argument is crap.
As humans, we feel. We feel all day. We feel fear, hope, happiness, dread — to list a few I’ve tried on already this morning, before my first sip of tea. We feel when we expect to having feelings (such as while consuming entertainment), and, often, when we don’t or would rather not (at work). Even when we don’t want to, think we can’t possibly, or desperately wish to stop…we always feel.
As children, perhaps, we accept this. Even as, at the same time, we don’t as fully understand it.
In adulthood, though, we often forget. Don’t we?
Either we forget that we’re emotional beings, with deep biological biases towards certain behavioral reactions, rooted in millennia of evolution — or we chose to or are coerced towards ignoring the fact.
I find this a bit ironic, and sad, considering how reliant we have become on fear — as a motivator for “efficiency” or “safety”. Similarly, it seems to me, we turn to fear for evidence to support sameness, to protect on the macro and micro level against unknown change.
But fear doesn’t do much more than that, does it — keep us “protected” from change? Excepting cases of actual, evidenced personal or social danger. Instead, it leaves us in stasis, or, worse, moving essentially backwards as we stand still and the world (as it will) moves on.
Still, as we age, we close our hearts. We grow up out of childhood, perhaps begin to feel more deeply, at the same time as we find ourselves able to consider — if not grasp — larger ideas, and as this goes on we learn to close our hearts.
Self-protection is not useless, to be clear. But close-heartedness as a default? I tried that approach for a long time. It exhausted me.
We don’t only feel fear. It’s not only bad things that happen in the world — though one would be forgiven for believing that, in absorbing the “news” of the day, and in considering much of contemporary entertainment.
The subtext to all this “reporting”? That danger lurks behind every turn. That disaster is imminent. In between, perhaps, we’re fed an occasional example that provides just enough hope-stuff to keep us going another day.
This. Cycle. Is. Exhausting.
It’s not reporting. It’s not entertainment. It’s a confidence game, wherein we are the marks, the currency is cynicism, and the reward is control.
Life is at least more robust, more balanced on average by beauty, than the narratives of the day would have us believe. This imbalance, in my view, generates and sustains much of the closed-heartedness with which many of us approach life.
We might keep our heart’s door open just a crack, from day to day, but not much wider. We might then swing it dangerously wide open, in private, desperate moments, with no intention to keep them that way as drunken nights give way to hangover mornings. And thusly a general default to close-heartedness is sustained.
We just can’t afford the risk of a more consistently open heart. Or so we think.
I would advocate for more open-heartedness. I would recommend risking a little more pain, not necessarily because it brings more reward, but because the ongoing experience of living through a fuller range of authentic emotion has the capacity to ground us more completely in our own humanity.
Such a way of life dissolves the artifice of a flat risk-reward lifestyle. It defangs fear’s claim as the ruling emotion. It leaves us dealing more readily with actual reality, versus the realities of others, fed to us with just enough of the real stuff mixed in to support direct or suggested claims that the truth isn’t being cut with lies.
After a period of adjustment, open-heartedness is much less exhausting than this addiction to fear and distress. Fear, despair, sorrow — these “negative” emotions will always be a part of our lives. It’s true that they often burn through, deplete us, as they work their way through our lives.
But this burning, this rendering-down, left alone to work naturally, will give out and give way, to make room for growth. It can’t (and doesn’t) last forever.
We don’t need to throw more fuel on the fires of fear and woe, to keep them burning. To do so leaves us only half-human, half-alive. A low-simmering fear of everything stops us from doing anything that might divert our energies away from the systems that depend on our compliance. It prevents any sort of sustained personal growth.
It’s all a delicate and maddening process, to do things differently, I know. It requires constant questioning, vigilance, much failure and re-wounding and faith. No switch exists, that we can flip.
There can be more animus to contemporary life, though, I think.
If only we could open our hearts a little wider, more often. We’re stronger, and can take a little more naturally occurring pain, than we think we can. The alternative, to numb ourselves with constant streams of antiseptic artificial woe, delivered to us externally, robs of us of the very vitalness of being alive.
We deserve more, in life. I believe that I do.
So, this is my goal for the day. In the midst of seeing to my general safety, as is practical and warranted, I will seek to keep a more open heart.
This is part twenty-six 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’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 noticed something yesterday, which might seem obvious but I constantly find myself turned away from the recurring observation, and having to readdress and relearn its lesson — so I thought I would share it here.
I took good care of myself. All day.
I prioritized what I knew instinctually I needed to do to feel content, and the result was that I felt good, had some fun, and got quite a bit done.
It often happens this way, when I remember the importance of prioritizing my own needs.
I got up early to write, not only because I have made the commitment to publish here every day this month, but also because I have noticed that doing so has been making me happy. I could have snoozed. The desire to write was greater than the desire to snooze.
I made and ate a healthy breakfast. I walked the dog and enjoyed the cool morning air. I showered and dressed and got out the door on time.
All basic, simple stuff. Some might call it boring. I don’t. I’m no longer so tempted. I look at these things as foundations of easiness, from which I can dive into the abyss when I’m writing, safe in the knowledge that when I resurface, I’ll be back in the calm of a stable day.
I listened to a very funny podcast on the way to my job, one that brings me joy and doesn’t feel like work. I got into the office and checked email and took care of business and then spent most of my lunch hour making fan art for the podcast. Then more business and another fun commute thanks to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, who I am catching up with on Marvel Unlimited after years away from him.
I spoke with a friend. I sent a script out to a studio. I went home and did dishes and listened to music and made dinner. I watched some TV, talked with my wife about her day and about all of the above.
And then I didn’t sleep well. I’m a little cranky about it but it couldn’t be helped.
So the danger is that today will be less productive. But I’m starting to learn the signs of the trap. I’m tired, so I may have to take things slower. I have to continue to prioritize a baseline of inner tranquility, this morning, to offset the fact that my mood might get choppy later today.
It’s possible I’ll have to accept a less productive day overall, in order to regain some momentum tomorrow.
That’s the trick of it, though, isn’t it? I almost turned away from the truth again, right here as I was writing.
It doesn’t help to think too much about tomorrow, in these terms. I can’t do much, if anything, to influence tomorrow. That’s how the trap is sprung. Anything I do to make tomorrow easier exists only in the today.
So, today, nice and easy. I plan to listen to my body, and the needs of my mind and spirit. And to act accordingly.
Thanks for reading. It’s been cool, checking in like this daily. As always, comments welcome.
This is part thirteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
Full disclosure — I am President of The Rebecca De Ornelas Fan Club. I would probably hold this title even if I weren’t married to her.
But, honestly, this is a full-on, serious, peer-to-peer interview, like all the rest on Coffee with Creatives. If you’ve seen the work Rebecca and I produce together, you know we don’t mess around or play favorites. If anything, we might hold each other to higher standards than others who we don’t know as intimately.
That’s one way in which we grow as creatives, to speak for myself, at least. We choose partners, professional or otherwise, who inspire and challenge us.
In this most recent episode of the podcast, I talk to Rebecca about acting (and producing, and writing) in both artistic and career terms. There’s a reason Rebecca is the first person I go to with any questions about my own work, process, and, often, just about life in general. She knows her shit. Now you can get a peek at the approach and expertise she brings to each of our collaborations, and to her additional work in theater, and as a writer.
Topics we hit upon in our conversation include:
The importance of listening, to the process of creating a compelling character
Stumbling into acting after years as a dancer
Deciding to stop something, even if you’re good at it
Undoing prior training that’s no longer serving you
Why young actors don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything
How meditation has saved her life, and changed her work
Why she likes getting older
Combatting feelings of inadequacy, and the advice a friend gave her that has helped in this respect
Have at it, kids. If you enjoy what Rebecca has to say, why not check her out as Margaret in The Videoblogs. You can also follow her on Twitter.
As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.
Brad Wilke freely admits that his life path has been non-linear. After attending West Point and making short films while in the Army, and with stopovers in graduate school (where he earned two Master degrees) and tech — he’s now the Co-Founder of Smarthouse Creative, a PR and marketing strategy firm in Seattle. And that’s just one of his jobs.
Though we’ve yet to meet in person, Brad and I have chatted about filmmaking and screenwriting over the course of many “micro-conversations” on Twitter. It was great to have him on the podcast for a longer form talk about such topics as:
His opinion that many problems actually could be solved by money
Contrary to this last point — the fundamental importance of happiness and lived experience, as separate metrics that can and do eventually converge to create (sometimes surprising) opportunities
Resilience and grit, as virtues necessary for long-term growth
How he approaches programming for film festivals, and what problems sink most films (HINT: It’s almost always a story/script issue)
The concept of Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and how this start-up term can be applied to creative pursuits
Smart, nice, thoughtful guy. Check out our conversation below, or on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play. You can find Brad on Twitter and elsewhere on the web.
As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.