The Power of Habit

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I don’t know that I have much to say, yet, today. Today might be one of those days where the real value lies in showing up.

I’ve now posted here for 41 straight days. Not bad.

This streak is a testament to the power of habit, or a habit smartly chosen. I love to write. I love sharing what I’ve written (most of the time). It’s still hard to get out of bed early, most days, but it’s not hard to prioritize a sit-down for some writing and reflection.

I think that’s the trick of it.

First, we choose a habit we want to build, out of sincere desire. Then we set a goal that not only depends on daily commitment, but is at once manageable (technically I could write and publish a single word, and keep the streak alive) and aspirant (my original goal of thirty straight days took some extra work to hit).

Then it becomes about execution. Sitting down and doing it. If it helps, I’ve been laying down, with a blanket over me and dog and cat interns. I’m cozy.

So much daily stress has been muted by this exercise, as well. No matter what happens today — unless it’s something truly awful — I can at least say that I have written and have been read. Sometimes, you sweet gentle creatures even comment on what I’ve said on a given day.

It can be this simple. It feels important, here and now, to be reminded of that.


profpic_squareMy 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.

Keep Your Artist Alive: Actor Phoebe Allegra

Phoebe as "Vee" in The Videoblogs.
Phoebe as “Vee” in The Videoblogs.

I have had the pleasure of working closely with Phoebe Allegra. If you haven’t already seen her in The Videoblogs, you’re in for a treat with this episode of Coffee With Creatives.

Among other things, this conversation touches upon:

  • The daily work of building a character
  • The importance of honesty on an off screen
  • Acting as a way to escape, and/or experience new and different aspects of life
  • Choosing NYC over LA
  • Parsing industry feedback
  • Separating your self-worth from career highs (or lows)
  • Approaching racial and gender identity from a place of honor

We definitely dig way in on all those subjects in our talk. Phoebe works hard and has a great attitude. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Enjoy. You can find Phoebe on Twitter here.

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

Convergence and Grit: Screenwriter, Strategist, and Festival Programmer Brad Wilke

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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 Creatives on iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.