Pad Thai Whiskey Farts in a Bathtub Full of Ice (Notes from Readers)

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When I redesigned this site earlier this year, I removed the subscribe tab at the top of the page in favor of direct links and a pop-up. The overall redesign is temporary — I’d like to put a bit more work into a sharper look, eventually — but recently I discovered that something had been lost in making this particular change.

On the old list sign-up, which you can still access here, there was an option to add a note, along with your contact info. The prompt was/is to share your favorite moment from the day of the signup.

In the madness of this last year, I had forgotten about that prompt. This week, though, I rediscovered some of your answers. I thought I would anonymously share a few of my favorites.

These are real answers from real readers.

  • “The moment I realized there was leftover Pad Thai in the fridge.” Legit.
  • “When I learned Michael had an email list.” Teacher’s pet. A+ for you.
  • “Drew a cool robot in the margin of my notes during a morning meaning.” Priorities!
  • “Waking up in a bathtub of ice missing a kidney.” Would not be my favorite moment.
  • “Reading your blog and agreeing with it.” New teacher’s pet. A+ for you, too.
  • “Whiskey neat and a beer back.” Tears of pride from nostalgic Young Michael.
  • “Talking to you on Twitter.” Daww.
  • “Early morning wind.” Early contender for first prize.
  • The Videoblogs.” You sweet.
  • “My black dog covered in white snowflakes.” That does sound nice!
  • (Several nice notes about my talk with Diane Bell on the podcast). Diane is awesome.
  • “Signing up for your email list. It will warm my heart for years to come.” You are warming my pants.
  • “Reheating my leftover black beans for breakfast.” I’m hungry.
  • “Eating cereal.” Okay, now I have to go eat breakfast.

What’s your favorite moment from the day so far? Or what was your favorite moment from yesterday? Why not sign up and let me know? Once a large enough new crop comes in, maybe I’ll share more notes from the readers/listeners.

Subscribers to my list received The Videoblogs for free. Did you know that?

It’s because they’re special. They eat hot and cold breakfasts and love Pad Thai and drink whiskey and fart and draw robots and get themselves involved in shady dealings that result in midnight kidney theft. They’re also sweet and intelligent and very good looking.

So, basically, you already belong. Have a great day!

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

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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.

How To Carry a Fresh Mindset Through The Day (and Week)

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I was able to get up early this morning. It’s quiet.

There’s plenty of sound — people are waking up, all around me — but in comparison to what will come later what I am hearing now is really only the beginning of sound.

A day is starting. A work day. So far, it is clean and un-ruined. Soon, new sounds will come, outside in the world and inside our heads.

I woke up too late. That horn is so loud. I don’t want to do it today. I can’t do it today. The train is late. Fuck this train. Look at that cute baby. Look at that old woman, eating her breakfast on the go.

There’s a union guy. Look at his clothes. Real hard work dirtied up those clothes.

There are two people kissing. There’s love in the world. Two people arguing — fear and hate.

We have a choice, much of the time, to start fresh in the moment — I think. I try to do this. It’s helped me, to turn away from locking into any one mode of certainty, which imbues any sound, colors any observations, with convenient evidence for either my continued victimhood or perpetual gloriousness.

It’s a fuck of a wild horse, the human brain. But the day, right now, in the dark or pre-dawn — it doesn’t care what I’m feeling, what I think. It merely proceeds as it always has, and always will, for a long time yet to come.

My intention for this day is to appreciate each moment, to avoid judging any as good or bad, to accept what comes, and to allow myself some leniency for any “failure” in this regard. If the day is likely to remain fundamentally the same no matter how we might impact it, no matter what might happen, I can allow myself to react according to my nature, but I don’t need to stay in reaction. I can seek my connection with this nature, and go no further and be content with this.

So, I retract my earlier words. This earliest part of the day is not clean and un-ruined compared to what else might come, it is my perspective that naturally and understandably shifts and vacillates as time goes on.

Sleep just happens to often provide a natural reset, and in reflecting here now I realize that I am fresh with the benefits of that reset. There’s something to be said for the effects of noise, and the added complications that come when more and more people — with their own wants, needs, and reactions — are brought into the mix of the day. It’s not meant to be a completely ordered, rational process.

This is life. Like each day, it continues on with or without my participation and acceptance. In this light, it seems to make more sense to meet what comes with openness and a willingness to show patience.

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

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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.

Doing It.

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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 Arc of 2015: In Good Time

The following was written a few weeks ago, while I was away for some R&R in the woods. That was the only way this year’s update was going to happen.

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Winter 2015: Just add snow. Also, I’m destined to become a mountain man.

The Setting: New England Winter

I’m sitting, propped up by pillows and legs outstretched, on an old firm couch in a guest house above a garage on a farm in rural Connecticut.

The temperature outside is at freezing point, but it’s warm inside. I woke up just in time to watch the sun finish rising out the three large windows that face the forest that surrounds the properties.

New England winters mean something to me. I grew up with them. Despite the bitter cold and the ice and the snow typical of the season in the region — I usually enjoyed them. Especially  I enjoyed them when sleeping somewhere surrounded by forest.

I’m here with my wife, who’s out running right now. I already made myself breakfast and ate it. I’m on my second cup of tea. This weekend is a necessary time-out, and not the only one I have taken this year.

This house is small but perfectly designed and artfully furnished. The couch I am on runs alongside a set of window perpendicular to those through which I watched the sun rise. Now the sun shines upon the large table where we ate dinner last night.

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I have to say, I aced the cook on this rib-eye.

A pair of blue jays have been fluttering around the giant, stately bushes outside. I can see the main house from here. It’s large and also stately but in an un-obsequious way. The owners seem kind. We’re here, probably, for a few more days.

A fly is buzzing around and I’m pretending not to care. That sort of thing is easier to do here.

I had planned, in view of this setting and circumstance, to continue with the new fiction piece I have been working on. It’s a story that I have been wanting to explore for a long time, but hadn’t up until recently been able to start. Now it’s started. Not only that, I am happy to be engaged with it. I can see, now, why I left it in its prior uninitiated state for years. The time wasn’t right.

No, that’s wrong. It would be more accurate to say that the time hadn’t arrived yet.

Musings on Time

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This book rattled my brain. I like it when that happens.

I have been thinking about time, recently. This is partially a result at having read Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, and also Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Overture. Both books, in their ways, jab at popular notions of time.

I worry about time a lot. I used to worry about it a lot more. I would like to worry about it even less.

A good portion of the lessening can probably be attributed to aging. What “they” say, as far as it concerns me personally, at least, appears true. I worry less now than I did in my twenties.

I can see and feel my body aging, now. This has been both a new cause of a concern and, at the same time, an clear indication of my powerlessness against time.

Contrastingly, in career terms, I have lately begun to accept that, at thirty-one, I am mostly still considered young. There are still days when I feel like I should be “further along” by now, or that I “should have” accomplished “x” or “y” — but I try to respond to such ideas with self-compassion and a plea for personal patience.

When I still felt young, which was still going on as recently as three or four years ago, I was, as I have said, much more obsessed with time.

I never felt able to keep up. I never believed I was going to get to where I wanted — had –- to go.

That’s changed. It’s changed for a few reasons.

Withdrawing from Time’s Pull

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This journal has been a great “next best thing” sub-in for morning pages.

First, while it’s still a battle I lose for hours and days and sometimes weeks at a time, I committed some time ago to working towards presence.

Nearly every day, I write this sentence out as an affirmation in my Five Minute Journal:

I am present, mindful, grateful and kind.

Also every day, I second-guess myself, wondering whether it’s “right” to affirm both presence and mindfulness. It could be argued that they’re the same thing. But I still do it, every time. And, today, I think I know why.

My affirmation of presence is a reminder. That, whether I believe it or not, remember it or not –- I am here. This is a fact I have had difficulty believing and facing in the past, despite its more than obvious truth. We are all, always, here, until we’re not.

But do we always feel that way? Do we acknowledge it? I don’t, not always, or often enough.

Sometimes, honestly, it hurts to be here. My own mind, the internet, social media, TV or films or books — even my work — they offer a welcome reprieve from the difficulty of acknowledging the pain that sometimes seizes my heart when I consider the sheer power and responsibility of being here.

And I don’t mean to suggest there’s not joy in that knowledge, too. But, for some (me), the process of courageously pursuing that joy can become a loaded one with its own potential to overwhelm.

Still, presence is truth. As such, it’s impervious to regret. That makes it work fighting for, to me.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, is the path by which I seek and access truth. It’s how I come back to the present, and to myself, when I’m obsessing over the past or worrying about the future.

Worrying about the past and the future is a normal, natural thing. Arguably, these anxieties even hold some utility, when indulged in a balanced way. Even when I’ve found myself worrying too much (and thus slipping from mindfulness) — I try not to judge myself. It’s part of our nature to “leave the planet” in spots.

It’s the coming back that really counts.

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The wife and I went for a hike. Found this. Felt good.

That’s why, I think, I started this post the way that I did. I was settling into life, in the moment.

This can be a delicate process, when writing, or creating. Creators face a difficult balancing act during each engaged act of genesis.

Creativity, unsurprisingly, is much like sex in this way. It’s about both being fully in and outside the moment, extending outside the body through the body.

Acknowledging Time’s Power

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The view from the exact spot wherein this was written. Cozy, right?

Now, obviously, we cannot be creating constantly, just as we cannot be constantly having sex. Reprieve from the realities of friction and fluid depletion, social order and sustained healthy living — these necessities preclude such behavior.

While time conceptually may be much less harsh and villainous than we often consider it to be, in cosmic terms it’s still one of only a few primal ruling elements of our lives.

However, also in cosmic terms (we’re keeping topics small today), time can be viewed simply. It proceeds and we ride its current, unable to do more than pretend at stopping or going (in relative terms) at spots along the way.

This is why, when caught up by concerns of time — I turn to gratitude.

Gratitude as a Perspective on Time

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Cannot begin to express how grateful I am for this little hairy genius.

Gratitude is about perspective — about taking a particular view of one slice of time, at one such stopping point or another, and appreciating it.

I am fortunate to be in this house, at this time, writing this –- to you. I know this. I appreciate it as a captured, treasured moment of grace, an example of the exact relationship I seek in this world that speaks to my needs and wants as a person.

Often, though, in the busyness of trying to do and be more, all the time and in the midst of so many others doing and being their own things…I forget it all. I forget the moments of grace, I forget what I know to be true about time and life and the importance of remaining in the moment with my feet on the ground. I forget it all.

Being an artist, for many of us, is not a choice. Finding an audience, however, is a privilege. One that needs to be cultivated, earned, and sustained.

So, as 2015 gives way to 2016 — I say it again. I am not only grateful for the life I have been given and have built, but also for you. I am grateful for your time, support, and for the occasional commiserating moments we have shared and which I hope we’ll continue to share in the future.

Kindness as The Ultimate Expression of Time Best-Used

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We were able to shoot The Confession due to the kindness of our audience.

Kindness, to wrap up, represents the ideal state I wish to arrive in, on those rare, joyful occasions whereupon I am able to remove myself from time.

It’s the core appreciation of life, and of living, that feeds my beliefs. Probably, it fuels all the work that I do, that I have always viewed not as my own, but as something rooted in more primal, fundamental life-stuff than can be claimed as having originated in a single, struggling human.

Struggle As The Space Between Accomplishments

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I found a kitten this year. Here he is struggling to get away from Rebecca.

Struggle is the final key word, here.

Prior to writing this, I had been struggling to determine the appropriate lens through which to review the prior year.

Two years ago, on the first anniversary of this site, I remarked upon an arc of what I viewed as progress — observable inroads made against the injustices of the day. Last year, on its second anniversary, I celebrated a productive year of movement. Those posts have as much to do with my own natural evolutions through time, and through self-discovery, as they do with the conditions, histories, and developments of which my experiences are but a part.

Now, it’s three years later. The Videoblogs will be coming out (relatively) soon. It’s possible I’ll be compiling my first book of fiction as that happens. The podcast continues to grow. Time moves on and I try to ride its currents and appreciate its mystery, rather than pretend there’s a damn thing I can do to control where it takes me, when or how.

If you had said to me, three or four years ago, that this is where I would be, in this exact place in the woods, settled firmly in this moment, taking some time off with the woman I love in the midst of a years-long pattern of being in constant touch with all of you, who have supported my endeavors for years (via both your attention and your direct patronage), perhaps I would have been pleasantly surprised — but I also would have believed it.

This is because, as I am learning, time is much less measurable than it seems, or than at least I had thought.

It helps to set goals and mark progress, but change more often occurs, I am finding, via a day to day commitment to more courageously pursue those truths which compel us. The pursuit is the important thing. Everything else is at best a nice detour or a short break, but more often an unnecessary distraction.

Time is not containable. That is its beauty and our privilege.

Thank you for your continued readership, listenership and support. You are loved and appreciated. I wish you the best for each of the days that make up the new year.

602066_10100681300095942_1773576913_n (2)Subscribe to my list for exclusive access to posts like this one, and advanced (and free!) access to new (creative) content produced by yours truly. I send one email per month (sometimes less).