The Arc of 2016: Fight Smart and Do Less, Better

be-still-when-you-have-nothing-to-say-when-genuine-passion-moves-you-say-what-youve-got-to-say-and-say-it-hot

I knew Donald Trump was going to win.

At least, a part of me knew it. A part I didn’t want to hear. I suspect there are more than a few of us out there, who knew and yet couldn’t — desperately didn’t want to — believe it.

There’s a friend of mine, out there right now, who might still have a voicemail from me, that I left a few days before the election. I remember knowing what was going to happen, even then, as I clung to the belief that it couldn’t possibly happen, and did my part to avoid the result.

But it did happen. It has happened, hasn’t it — despite any recurring, sudden seizures of bewilderment. (Today, I heard someone say the word “trumpet”, and winced.)

We all know this, by now, that Donald Trump will soon be our President.

Some of us have even begun to accept the fact, as reality, if not on any further basis of principle (more on this later). Others haven’t yet accepted it, may not ever. And I suppose that is their right.

For myself, I was quick to accept the results of the election. They make, in retrospect, a perverse “sense”, at least to anyone who has been paying attention to the mood of the country and the world for the past decade.

This is not to suggest either that I am happy with what has happened (I’m not, if that hasn’t already been made clear) or that I am currently without hope for the future.

But it is a complicated, difficult time for sourcing out hope.

I can remember the day I left that voicemail more vividly now, as well as the scattering of others, occurring more recently, wherein I was similarly seized by anxiety, anger and sadness — when confronted with that sense of knowing what was about to happen, what has happened.

I can remember them more vividly because now I’m looking at those moments for what they were, as opposed to fighting against the knowledge that this is reality, as were the factors which led to (and now sustain) this unfortunate reality (for now).

Most of all, I remember the inner conflict. The sense of sinking dread.

This can be avoided. This can’t be avoided.

I refused to believe it. Still, sometimes, I can’t believe it. Perhaps that’s my sin, shared with countless others on both sides of the political spectrum. Certainly it is the sin of our media, which did not see this coming and, in fact, most likely contributed to this mess in a major way, by validating the theatrics of a bully via their mere “serious” attention.

Make no mistake, a time of reckoning has arrived in America.

People are going to suffer. The arguing will continue. The fear will continue.

Justice, fairness, equality — all supposed bedrocks of our democracy — will continue to absorb blow after blow. And we very well may wonder, soon, finally, if any of these crucial aspects of this contemporary brand of civilization can survive.

But they will survive, ultimately. We will.

I believe that. I can see and feel this belief clearly. The shock of Donald Trump’s Presidency has, at the very least, thrown our failings as a country into sharp relief against the task of safely securing a future — for all our citizens — about which can (eventually) be proud.

My acceptance does not make the pain or the sadness at our plight any lighter to carry, but it does imbue the carrying with a much-needed charge of hope.

So, what does this all have to do with my annual recap, as an artist, as I deliver it here once again? (That is, incidentally, nominally, the reason for this post.)

 

This site, the central hub for my work as an artist and activist, is now four years old.

When I started it, I was still struggling with anger, resentment and fury — against the injustices of the day. I was ready to talk about the issues, but not yet strong enough to truly engage them — or myself.

The year after that saw progress. I re-discovered a consistent creative voice, and I got to work. Along the way, I found myself heartened by the number and quality of like-minded people also working to make this country a better, more accepting, more equitable place.

Then, last year, I found peace. I began to feel capable of showing patience, of practicing faith. I’m still working on this, every day.

And, now, here is a great test. And a pressing question — how to conduct myself as an artist and a citizen during the presidency of Donald Trump?

It is a question, and a crucial one, whether its reality shocks me or not.

I have been turning this question over, regularly — but in a non-obsessive way — in the many days since I shared my initial thoughts on this deeply disappointing turn of history.

As I mentioned in that post, unfortunately, this sort of reaction comes more easily to me by nature of my demographic reality.

As a straight white male, the likeliest form of suffering in store for me has to do with my economic class — the same one I am in now, that I was born into over thirty years ago — even if I am sure to suffer by proxy as I watch friends and loved ones shake with anger and fear, and legitimately suffer, over the next four years.

And yet it is in this fact, in my similarity to Trump, that I find a point of access for the decision and announcement I am about to deliver.

 

The reason I knew this was going to happen is because it was inevitable.

I don’t mean that in a fatalistic way. I’m not being cynical or conveniently revisionist. This was inevitable because of how straight white people like me are handling the type and rate of change currently sweeping through the world — in a word, poorly.

But that is not to say that this is entirely their fault.

If there’s any justice left in the world, Donald Trump will in later years prove to be nothing more (or less) than the last gasp of a fading American power structure owned and engineered disproportionately by straight white males.

He is the face of our enemy, of our collective oppressor, not due explicitly to his whiteness or his straightness of even his maleness, but, rather, based on how he conducts and employs the power and privilege that come part and parcel with these things.

Once a bit of a misogynist, a bit of a racist and a homophobe, but always a skeptic of bureaucratic power — I now state plainly that I pride my contemporary self on being the polar opposite of someone like Donald Trump, despite our shared demographics of gender, race and sexuality.

Personally, at the very least, no matter what I do from here, I can move forward knowing that I struggled through change, learned and trusted in the goodness of people who looked and acted differently than me, and acted out of decency and courage rather than fear and hate.

It is no secret to regular readers, to anyone who saw The Videoblogs, or listeners to the podcast, that I have now absorbed goals of fairness, representation, and economic equality into my mission as an artist and a human being. However, I believe this all bears repeating for one very important reason.

 

While Donald Trump has provided a face to our enemy, he alone is not our enemy.

It is what he represents, and how he came to power, that we must understand and combat.

Politically, the answers might seem clear. And, in fact, they are.

Truth itself is under attack. It has been for a long time. I think the main reason I knew this was going to happen (despite my disbelief) is that I had already been fighting against men like Donald Trump for most of my life. Many of us have been.

Except, oftentimes through no fault of our own, we’ve been distracted from this truth, and this fight. By the machinations of the powerful, we have been bent, manipulated, and pushed away from Truth.

Our lives are not our own, in many respects. We are controlled by a power elite that, despite certain vestiges or illusions of democracy, care very little about the average American.

These people mostly only discriminate in regards to race and creed, insofar as it benefits them financially and politically to do so. They have very little actual faith in anything, apart from money and power, which are themselves faithless things.

These sad, desperate people know all this, and it destroys them inside — but they know no other way to behave, in the face of their own fears. And so they continue to hold fast to that fear, thereby, by virtue of the reality of our contemporary crony-capitalist economics, squeezing us.

And while they squeeze us and misdirect us and distract us, even to the point of their own continued and dangerous disillusionment, we turn against and fight one another, despite the overwhelming commonality of our fears and concerns as citizens. In this way, democracy (rule by the people) remains perpetually arrested, and plutocracy (rule by a wealthy elite) continues to maintain its grip on the throats of the everyday citizen.

Donald Trump may be the face of our enemy, but we must be very careful in the next several years of civil combat not to focus the majority our energy squarely on him and his administration. True deliverance from this plight requires us to go deeper, and fight longer.

This is what I have come to understand in these past few weeks.

My own distractedness, my own fear and faithlessness, have been my failure. I don’t say this to diminish the gains I and we have made over the last several years. I only mean to point out that there’s much work left to be done.

 

Trump is the symptom, not the disease.

The disease is the faithlessness, the dejection, the weariness, of contemporary America — and much of the world. We (the people) are angry, we are depressed, we find ourselves fundamentally exhausted and estranged from true hope. We have been beaten down and driven insane by the elite, confused and harried by the speed of innovation, and neither the tyranny of the elite, nor the advance of machine-dependency into our lives — show any signs of letting up.

There is no other way to explain how someone like Donald Trump can win office by claiming to represent the will of the people, while lying through his teeth about his intention to fight against the very elite that he wholly (and vulgarly) represents.

All that our cowardly, selfish, greedy President-elect intends to do for the next four years is consolidate money and power among his elite.  That much was clear all along, and has been proven by his cabinet appointments. When he’s done he’ll abandon the destruction and foot us with the bill and — barring a miracle — carry on with his greed and destruction until the moment of his lonely death.

To be clear — to repeat — in actual reality, there is no one less-representative of the average American than Donald Trump.

That millions of people either do not understand this, or refuse to believe it, that our political and economic system all but excludes the possibility of an actual champion of the people successfully reaching office (or at least one empowered by a consensus of reasonable political allies on all sides of the political spectrum) — this is the sickness from which we desperately need to recover.

 

For this reason, for myself, I find that this year has brought with it a lesson in focus.

I cannot afford, or tolerate, anything less than fully-committed, principled conduct and expression from myself. I need to fight smart and I need to move quickly. The only way to do this effectively is to put out work of real depth, that is of a larger scope, and work smartly and strategically to get the work out to as many people as possible.

To be clearer, I intend, beginning in 2017, to do less — better.

This site will remain online indefinitely. But this is likely the last blog post for a while, although I might chime in on occasion and will continue to run my email list. Beginning next month, Coffee with Creatives is going on hiatus, indefinitely. My presence here will be sporadic, as compared to previous years.

I have big things to do, in regards to the main areas of battle central to this essay. I intend to go at these things, full tilt. I’m ready to — truly, passionatelly — fight.

Are you? Because we’ll need you.

 


profpic_squareMy 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.

 

Dear Self: You Are Not Garbage

shutterstock_133599371

 

I woke up cold, in a little pain, and more than a little cranky. It’s dark outside, there’s a lot of wind and rain, and I didn’t want to get out of bed.

These are triggers for depression in almost any human being, but my brain still sometimes has a tendency to take the excuse of such triggers and double down on the resultant feelings.

This morning, because I  also slept late — on a Sunday before a Monday off — I started to beat myself up a bit.

The dog had gotten into the trash. Because I hadn’t taken out the trash when it was full.

Not her fault. Annoying, but not a big deal. Still, instead of making a note to take the trash out sooner next time, I turned the annoyance on myself.

Why didn’t you take out the trash sooner this time?

I ambled to the kitchen to make tea. We’re almost out of tea.

Why didn’t you get more tea?

Yet there is still tea enough for a few days. Then the cat started yelling for food. She does this whenever she is awake. And she had a late dinner last night, so it really wasn’t much of a problem that she was going to be eating a late breakfast today.

You don’t take good enough care of the cat.

I made tea. There was only one clean mug, and I usually make tea for myself and my wife. These things often happen after a busy week working and art-making in New York City.

Why didn’t you do the dishes? You’re dirty. You’re a dirty garbage-person.

I cleaned a mug. Our sponge needs replacing soon. Of course, this morning, my brain interprets this as something I failed to do earlier.

Nice job. You didn’t do that either. Dirty sponge for the garbage-person. Fitting.

By now, I suppose you see the pattern. These are all minor things, and none of them a big deal. But they roll down the hill of my head and combine forces and gather momentum.

Shut up. Stop complaining.

So, what to do in this situation? Do I just give up the day?

No. Not anymore.

I can’t do anything about being tired, in pain, or the shitty weather (except maybe rest). I can’t do very much about yesterday’s mistakes — except let them go and forgive myself for them. I can do something about the dishes, the tea, and the sponge. One task at a time, when it’s reasonable to do so.

Still, my self-worth does not depend — definitely not completely — on any of these things. More so, it depends more on how I defend myself against my own reaction to my “mistakes and failings”.

Right now, for the rest of today, you can watch The Videoblogs for free. I mention this because I made the film as a means of contributing to the conversation about mental health in this country. Which is what I’m trying to do as well, in micro, right now.

Mental health isn’t something we talk about enough, on average. Later today, I’ll be talking about it a bit with some collaborators and fellow storytellers. I’m sharing these details about what sometimes happens inside my head, because all of it just happened — because it seems important to keep talking.

Especially because I’m a man, it’s important. Men have some catching up to do in the department of squaring up to our feelings.

It’s not weak to struggle with your sense of self-worth. It’s human. What’s less human is to externalize “negative” feelings about ourselves by diverting them into attacks or mistreatment of others.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little better now.

First — once I realized what was happening — I stopped. Paused. I breathed.

I thought about the rain, and decided to employ a practice that has helped me in the past, also called RAIN. The more I do this the more effectively and efficiently it works.

Then I started writing. That always helps.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment, here or on social media, if you have anything to add to what I’ve said. And please join us later today if you’re available to participate in the Live Commentary of The Videoblogs. The event is free.


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.

 

TOMORROW (10/9): Watch The Videoblogs for FREE! Then, Let’s Chat

vbcomm

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!


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 Dangers of “The Project Wheel”

practice

 

I have been itchy lately. I don’t mean in the pants.

What I mean is that I want to make something. Direct something. Shoot something. This seems to happen every year around this time. The Videoblogs, Multiverse, The Confession, all were shot in the fall.

I’ve got an idea. A random one. Again, this is how each of those projects came about.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the new script, or the other new script. It’s a separate thing. That has concerned me a bit — am I just spinning The Project Wheel?

I don’t think so. It’s an understandable question. But I’m not sure my situation is any different now, as a completely independent filmmaker, that it would be if I were taking meetings. The Videoblogs is done but still out there, so the question naturally occurs as to what is next.

At the same time, I just can’t manage a production of that scale, at such an effectively high budget (at least in terms of labor) right now. I can’t fit it into my life, and I won’t sacrifice my health again.

And yet staying in the creative mindset is healthy for me. So, what to do?

I think it might be best for me to do what I’m doing here, with this daily blog post experiment. Namely, to jump in. To fit the idea into the space, and give it the resources, that I have. Nothing more, nothing less.

Writers write, directors direct, I’m a writer and director.

The Project Wheel only becomes a danger if and when we turn it but never let it stop to rest on one idea, that we then execute. Or if we constantly change the face of the wheel. There will always be fears, and/or legitimate challenges in the way of completing a thing. We can’t let fear rule — I want to lead with an open heart.

But Simon Taufique and I spoke about this on the podcast. People — the audience, decision-makers and gatekeepers, collaborators — are always looking for new and different things. We need to keep on creating, not only for ourselves but for our careers.

So, I’ll probably scratch the itch. Glad we had this talk. More later.

This is part twenty-eight of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

Day 20: All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

Day 21: Why I’m Writing and Publishing, First Thing Every Morning

Day 22: The Routine Dance: Rewards and Perils

Day 23: How to Be Better: Perspective and Self-Compassion

Day 24: Still The Finger, Silence The Vlog

Day 25: A Light Chill Wind in Early Fall

Day 26: The Case for An Open Heart

Day 27: How Can I Help? CWC Interview (Composer/Producer Simon Taufique)

All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

 

I suffered through a small depressive episode last night.

I think I felt over-exposed, after sharing some of my internal creative dialogue here, after this guest post (on depression and suicidal ideation) was published on The Mighty, and after The Videoblogs received a few bumps in attention.

On the surface, these are all good things. They also represent sincere efforts at helping others. Still, it is the curse of those so afflicted that even good things can kick up old fears and insecurities.

Except now I have a base of acceptance, understanding, and compassion that I can fall back on, when I’m having a tough night, or day, or week.

I’m still not feeling the best. It was tough to get out of bed this morning. I similarly didn’t feel like writing this.

But I have a lamp and my dog to help me. Let me explain.

I’m also, more importantly, married to someone who both understands mental illness and knows how to react compassionately when someone is struggling.

It started with some physical symptoms, that appeared on my way home. My body started to ache. I felt tired. I lost the energy to do much of anything. I eventually found myself standing, staring blankly, in the middle of the apartment.

My wife asked if I was okay. I talked to her. This is the first right thing I did — by telling the truth to someone I can trust.

I decided to lay down in bed. Sometimes, you just have to do that. It’s no different than if you have a cold.

Some time later, my wife came in and asked how I was feeling. Not much had changed. She gently suggested that lying alone in the dark might not be helping. I heard her, but didn’t want to move. She left to heat up dinner, and we talked about me joining her to eat and watch some TV.

After a few more minutes, the dog showed up.

It is well-documented how helpful a dog can be when you’re feeling down. I let her up into the bed. She seemed to want to play. It wasn’t long before we were playing a bit, and her joy lightened my mood.

I kept it up. During a lull, I thought about what my wife had said, and turned my bedside lamp on — at its dimmest setting. For the next several minutes, I continued to focus solely on the dog.

Eventually, it was time to eat, and I was able to get up and watch TV. I felt significantly better. Before bed, I journaled for a few minutes, as a means of (non-judgmentally) externalizing my feelings. I slept without too much trouble and had odd, but not entirely dark, dreams.

As I’ve mentioned, today has been less difficult, so far, though I’m still feeling somewhat…flat.

It helped that my wife gently nudged me this morning, when I was snoozing a bit, because she knew I wanted to get up and write. It furthered helped to turn on the living room lamp, to offset the predawn darkness, before I sit down to work. I do that every morning.

Finally, there’s the dog. Without fail, she settles in beside me while I write. She’s here right now.

10806473_10101691511259672_1247149900258809877_n

These are touchstones of light and connection. It helps to turn to them when thoughts go dark and lonely. As for the rest of the day, I plan to take it easy. To stay in touch with people. To take care of myself.

Already, these things are working. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

This is part twenty 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

 

Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

skepticism-is-the-sadism-of-embittered-souls

 

Often, the correct course of action is not one that we wish to take.

We resist. Understandably so, in many cases. A course of action suggests change. Change can be (often is) scary. There’s more certainty in what is known.

There is also more pain and sadness, in my experience, in ignoring the call for change. More general disquiet.

Dissatisfaction. Resentment. Anger. And yet, it often takes much suffering, and/or one big sign of the need for change, for many of us to finally take that action.

This is okay. It has to be, I think, if we are to at all improve at narrowing down this cycle.

Growth, obviously, comes up often on the podcast. I had a nice talk about gaining experience, about the importance of forward motion and learning, with the guest for this week’s coming episode. And when Leah Bonnema came on the show, she similarly stressed the importance of “going to work every day”.

All of this to say, I still have room to improve. We all do. Good work begins with the small stuff. I think I’ve been showing up in this way for a long time.

But the big, risky actions? Those can be difficult. But, to again echo a guest on Coffee with Creatives (Laura Goode) I think much of this seeming bigness is illusion. Smoke and mirrors and words both smooth and stinging.

When we choose to make art, which invariably also does cost money, we do not do so thinking of the money first and the art second. But when you aren’t an artist, or acting completely as one within a financial or social transaction, certain additional realities must be dealt with one way or another.

Despite my general practicality, and the cautiousness with which I usually ration my optimism, it surprised me, in recent months, to find myself being misled by various third-party partners, as we went about completing The Videoblogs.

Perhaps this was naive. To again echo Laura, who found it far easier to raise extra money to finish her film after it was accepted to the Tribeca Film Festival — the truth is that most people are conditioned to seek pre-sanctioned, external validation before they commit their full energy to something.

That’s not necessarily unfair. It’s a difficult time for commitment. There is, seemingly, a never-ending stream of options, sometimes even flowing back and forth in time, vying for our attention and resources.

And, so, as storytellers, we have to prove ourselves. Constantly. In order to provide evidence that we are worth The Risk — of money or time.

Still, I think that’s mostly garbage. It’s short-sighted, and arguably cowardly.

It seems to me that, out of fear, we have defanged true risk in our society. We’ve broken it down into pieces, seeking to understand and control as much of as we can — because we’re desperately afraid of failing.

I know I have done this. But I’m growing weary of it. The deconstruction destroys the construction, in a way.

Should we be smart? Prudent? Strategic? In taking a realistic view of the aforementioned market saturation (for content especially) — I would have to say yes.

But to only lean on these preparations, to give them so much disproportionate weight, and to thus unsteady and rob the counter-balancing power of the risky idea at the core of an enterprise — this to me is folly.

A real risk costs much, and yet nothing. It reveals no certain answers in terms of prudence and strategy, instead promising growth and experience, if faithfully executed. It is deeply personal. It draws its power from sources we can barely identify of explain.

Inspiration. Passion. Faith. With these sources of power, a true risk becomes easy to make. If and when we remember to believe in the risking itself, and not only outcomes.

A risk is a story. We need to protect our stories. Their true worth is not measured by intermediaries.

Intermediaries have far less power than they’d have us believe. It can become difficult to remember this, as they massage messaging and make promises or suggest futures that they have no real influence over.

They are struggling for survival as much as we are, if not more so. They likely feel just as frightened or desperate. And I pity them, somewhat, for that — because they aren’t dealing in pure stories. As a rule, they must mitigate risk. To do this, they must find, be shown, or invent evidence. We’ve seen, in this country, how badly that can backfire.

Whereas we, the storytellers, might find flashes of solace — in the knowledge that we are attempting true change.

This is part nineteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

 

6 Ways to Bring Balance to The (Artistic) Force

 

they-are-sick-that-surfeit-with-too-much-as-they-that-starve-with-nothing-2

 

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.

1. Prioritize

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.

 

Script
The earliest version of The Videoblogs.

 

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.

 

13227465_10102429808950182_8567527542589561944_o
Taking time off from business to hang with friends.

 

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.

 

It was a squeeze to produce The Confession. We did it anyway.
It was a squeeze to produce The Confession. We did it anyway.

 

4. Commit

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.

 

Wrote the first draft of a book this year -- a few words at a time.
Wrote the first draft of a book this year — a few words at a time.

 

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.

 

Take time off -- and away.
Take time off — and away.

 

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.

 

I keep this one around to remind me not to sweat it.
I keep this one around to remind me not to sweat it.

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!

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

The Waiting Place

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

 

I find myself at a crossroads in my work.

There are two ways to look at this, since I don’t know where each road leads. I can worry about turning and heading down the wrong path, or continuing down one that it would have been better to turn from. Or, I can close my eyes and breathe, and then decide to try my hand at luck. To follow the wind, so to speak.

The first reaction doesn’t appeal to me. Though that doesn’t mean I haven’t incrementally tried it on, by nature of being human.

The second sounds nice, but I have trouble consistently showing the faith it requires. There’s always that voice, prodding me with the question: “But what if it doesn’t work? What if we’re wrong?”

At this point, while I still do worry about these questions, it’s not completely a case of fear of embarrassment. Age and experience has helped to mostly defang that avenue of paralysis. I can’t help how my work might be received. I can only do my honest best to tell an authentic, heartfelt story, and to give it a fair chance in the world.

No, more often, I worry about making the wrong choice because of a fear of lost time. And thus the double-edged sword of age and experience is revealed.

I love The Videoblogs. I’m proud of the film. But I beat myself to crap making it, at such a low budget and while living in New York City and working a full-time job. Beyond not knowing if I could pull off such a feat again, physically — I just don’t want to do it that way again.

I’m working on a few new ideas for the next film. One is big and heady. It’s been bending my brain a little bit, thinking of how to make it work on paper. To make it work as a production is going to take a much bigger budget than we had for The Videoblogs. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, yet. I very well could be, but that script needs to be RIGHT before I’ll move on producing it.

The reality is that it’s only been a few months since The Videoblogs came out.

There’s no hurry. I have other ideas I’m poking at, for smaller films, there’s a silly concept for a short and simple comedic web series I might want to try, and I somehow also have the first draft of a book of fiction waiting for me to re-write.

I’m forced to confront the reality that my fear of lost time is just the same old fear of being wrong, dressed up in a new skin suit it liberated from an innocent soul after its last round trip to and from the hell that it calls home.

Hah. Demon humor.

But, seriously — binary thinking is often a trap. And that’s what I want to address today.

It may be true that I’m at crossroads. Or, it may be true that I feel this way, and will feel differently a few years from now. Regardless, I don’t think what I’m going through is so simple or pat a thing as staring down various paths, from an intersection, and attempting to source out which way to go.

This manner of thinking might be too rigid for me. I might have outgrown it by now, even if I still need to slough it off to make room for a newer, fresher outlook.

I’m into skin imagery today.

Anyway, it could be that every road has its charms, holds its own opportunities. It’s equally possible that I’m meant to set up camp, right at the intersection, and hunt small game and live in a tree and howl at the moon for a while.

Perhaps there will be loincloths. Who am I to say?

During the course of this post, in my mind’s eye, the backdrop to the crossroads has morphed from desert to forest to jungle. This could be reflective of my current ambiguity, or of the proper aimlessness I am in this moment best led to inhabit.

For so long, I have treated myself rigidly, in terms of having to decide what to create next, how and why — right now.

When I have relaxed, and focused instead on the day-to-day, I have been gifted with ideas like Multiverse, The Videoblogs, the book.

And then there is the simple fact of the last sixteen days.

What I like about writing here daily is the immediacy of it. The simplicity. It’s uncomplicated. I’m a writer — I write. I share what I’ve written, then I do it again. Is each post perfect? Far from it.

But the pursuit feels pure. That’s what I’m starting to believe I need to wait for, not the next project that feels the least “wrong”, but the one that feels the most right. This has always been when I have known to move forward.

It’s not a crossroads at all. It’s a waiting place.

This is part sixteen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

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

theres-no-excuse-for-rudeness

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Name?”

The man said his name. His annoyed expression deepened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We just don’t have time for it.

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

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

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

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

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 5: On The Future of Labor

Day 6: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 7: The Word for World is Earth

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

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

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

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

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

I’m trying to employ an appreciation for difficulty.

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

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

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

Such have been my thoughts, in summary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

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

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

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 5: On The Future of Labor