Well, kids, for anyone who missed the news — this is the last episode of Coffee With Creatives. At least, it’s the last one for now. I have decided, after much deliberation, to put the show on indefinite hiatus.
But I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect guest to bring to you for this occasion.
Nathalie Sejean is a champion of creative entrepreneurialism. She provides indispensable service to creatives, via her newsletter (Sunday Interestingness) and site (Mentorless.com), and is currently in development on her first feature film (In Five Years).
Check out our talk to hear Nathalie testify to the power of:
Turning to books at an early age (and, later, to bookselling) to jumpstart her interest in learning and storytelling
The advantages of building a skill set, while avoiding perfectionism, by moving from experiment to experiment
Leveraging daily creative challenges to source and iterate ideas over time
Showing your work, and why this is a crucial action
Keeping yourself accountable and taking continuous action — while staying humble
Fostering virtual communities
Transforming virtual relationships into real life meetings
Repetition, and how it serves not only output but quality and growth
An effectively employed and genuinely considered newsletter
I’m glad to be ending this endeavor on a high note by sharing this episode with you. Definitely follow Nathalie on Twitter, and sign up for her email list. You won’t be disappointed.
As for me, I am going quiet for a while. But you’ll hear from me soon. It will be a growl from a mountain.
Thank you for your listenership and readership. If you want to stay in touch, reach out anytime. Or sign up for my email list. I’ll likely keep active there, for now.
You can also listen to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes.
My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. My first film, The Videoblogs, about mental health in the age of tech, is available on iTunes. I’m currently working on my next film and also a novel. Once per month or so, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this special group here. Thanks for reading.
Greetings, Fellow Creatives! Today’s episode of the podcast is a bit of a clip show, but I think it will be very useful to longtime listeners as well as anyone new to Coffee with Creatives.
As many of you may know, I try to make a point of asking guests on Coffee with Creatives for actionable advice for anyone who is just starting out, or perhaps feeling stuck with any one project or in the career, or who is just generally on the look out for practices and tactics that might help them create and keep on creating.
That’s the goal of the show at large, and in this episode you’ll hear from some of my more popular guests in terms of:
One piece of advice they would offer to help you generate and realize your vision,
Getting your work made and/or seen,
Moving through fear,
The benefits of mindfulness,
And other important methods that go hand-in-hand with creating professionally.
If you enjoy this episode, here’s the full list — in order — of guests whose longer interviews are excerpted. I’ll be back in a few weeks with a new full-length interview.
Happy Saturday, Monsters and Sprites! I don’t know why ya’ll are mythical, today.
Actually, I do know why.
I have great faith in you. I believe in you. You are magical beings that sustain me over the internet, and in real life. There’s no rule that says magic can’t exist, and pass back and forth between people — even in a world where seemingly everything has become a statistic.
The magic persists.
On that note, I want to make sure anyone who is a general fan or tolerator of my work knows about tomorrow. What’s tomorrow?
Tomorrow brings a Live Group Watch and Commentary Event to you, over the interwebs. We’re set to watch The Videoblogs with a group around the country (maybe the world!), in partnership with Nick Savides at the nsavides podcast, Producer Jenna Edwards (April Showers), Writer/Producer David Paterson (The Great Gilly Hopkins) and more cool people. The event begins at 230PM EST.
The event is free, we’ll be releasing The Videoblogs for free for the day, AND there are over $500 worth of prizes for participating. One of the prizes comes from me. I will read the script of one lucky victim — I mean, winner — and follow that up with a consultation.
Other prizes include a 30 min interview with Nick on his podcast, and a consultation package from Jenna, who seems like a pretty badass producer.
The reason I bring this up in the context of magic is because…well, this is what The Videoblogs is about. Strangers connecting online in the pursuit of something better.
Does that mean that I think watching The Videoblogs will make you better? Maybe!
I wouldn’t have made the film if I didn’t think there was a chance. But, to reiterate, it’s not really about that. It’s about a few sturdy handfuls of us (or more!) getting together, taking a real look at some real issues, and bonding over a mutual desire for greater hope.
I’d love to see you there. If you haven’t yet watched The Videoblogs, and want to participate, it might be most helpful to do that today, if you can. As always, you can rent the film on iTunes.
You can also watch it here, for free. To be honest, it’s a lot more helpful to us when you rent (or buy!) the film. But if you can’t do that right now, or want to sample it first, or live outside the US — go for it.
Have a great weekend, my mythical friends. Trailer!
My 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.
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!
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 don’t have a lot of thoughts right now. This is one of the joys of writing so soon after waking up.
The sunrise, as I write this, is brilliant. My head is still in the fog of sleep. I’m sipping tea, now, so soon the brain will begin its mad rush.
But, for now, the quiet is peaceful.
Thank you for reading. Today is three straight weeks of daily posts.
So far, this is the most popular post. Then this one. Then, this one.
And while we’re thanking people, thanks to Mike Birbiglia, for the inspiration to write so immediately on the daily, to Shay Carl for the idea of publishing something every day for a month straight, and to Tim Ferriss for bringing both ideas to my attention via his kickass podcast.
I know I’ve said it before — but this is fun. I need some fun, right now, when it comes to my relationship to writing. The act of recording and sharing a daily morning reflection is uncomplicated. There’s a purity to it. I don’t have to worry about managing a narrative, or searching out characters.
I’m still doing these things, separately, later in the day. But there’s less pressure involved. My general writing responsibilities are similarly rendered less complicated, by the simple act of defanging the nagging question many writers face — “Will I Write Today?”.
There’s something to that, I think.
This is part twenty-one 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.
Director Joshua Caldwell got tired of waiting for permission to make his first feature film and decided instead to gather what resources he could — including his past experiences as a filmmaker — and then he and his team just went for it.
When I first “met” Josh on Twitter, we were already on a similar path with The Videoblogs, however I was impressed right away by the quality (and sheer existence) of his $6,000 feature film, Layover, which was shot a few years ago but would soon lay the groundwork for the next stage of his career.
As we talk about in this episode, it’s no small task to complete a feature film at all, never mind doing it successfully on a barebones budget.
But taking a big career step takes more than just the desire and the means. It especially takes more when those means are limited. In this episode, we also touch upon:
How and why directing can be an all-encompassing art
Why Josh turns more often to books, than movies and TV, for inspiration
Navigating Hollywood when there is no real, specific path to success
The importance of moving on to the next thing
What filmmaking is about more than anything else — “actors performing in front of the camera”
How writing down your vision can help you move forward over time
This talk should be of great help to aspiring or early-career filmmakers, or really anyone who’s ready (or wants to be ready) to take on his/her first big project. Feel free to ask follow-up questions in the comments or on Twitter (Josh, me).
As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.
I first learned of Megan Feldman Bettencourt and her book, Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World, on The One You Feed (an excellent podcast). Shortly after, we connected on Twitter, I read Megan’s book, and then we “met” on Skype for an interview.
I love all of my podcast episodes equally, however I will say that I think my talk with Megan might be of the greatest general interest to creatives and aspiring creatives — as a sort of all-encompassing group — than any I have released so far.
The reason for this is because this episode is about Megan’s experience, research, and reporting on not only forgiveness but personal and professional redemption. My own journey in these terms over the past few years, which has been well-documented on this site, has not only led me to a productive place, but also a happier and more fulfilled place. This pattern itself has engendered better, more connected work.
Just some of what we covered:
How an early childhood experience in writing about trauma led Megan to the realization that she could connect with and help other people through writing
How Megan’s early work reporting on things like war, poverty, addiction and other issues laid the groundwork for Triumph of the Heart
How the story of Azim Khamisa, who had forgiven the murderer of his only son, inspired Megan to both write her book and embark on her own journeys in forgiveness
Approaching forgiveness from a place disassociated from religious dogma or contemporary judgements about weakness
The commonalities between forgiveness and mindfulness (simple but not easy)
How listening to others share about the impact that our actions have had on them can allow us to stop causing pain for others due to our own personal issues
I’d love for you to listen, and please feel free to let Megan and/or me know what you think about the talk. You can find Megan’s book here. As I say more than once in the episode, I highly recommend you check it out.
As reminders, you can also subscribe to Coffee with Creativeson iTunes and/or support the podcast on Patreon.
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.
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.
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
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 TheSandman: 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 Videoblogswill 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.
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