Tag Archives: motivation

Mistakes I made as a first-time director

I thought about putting together a blooper reel of our rehearsals but they turned out too insane and esoteric to post in any kind of cohesive way.

Here we have the scene where Marron and Kara finally go head-to-head, where I discuss with Sarah and Charlie where their characters are and how to approach the scene.

Before we took this on, I did a lot of reading on how to be a good director and applied the following:

  • Build a schedule – this helps you map your rehearsals, schedule meetings with your producer, and so forth. It also helps to leave some blank spaces between rehearsals for one-on-one work. If you’re super-pro, you’ll include the post-production schedule also.
  • Take attendance.
  • Don’t let anyone stand around. If they’re present, they have to work. When they’re done, let them leave.
  • Give general motivations, not line-by-line instructions (I was really bad at this.)
  • Encourage the actors to work together when they’re not scheduled for a rehearsal with you.
  • Let people know when they’re doing well.
  • When someone consistently fucks up, remember that this is a collaboration. There is always something you can do to facilitate a solution.
  • A kind word goes a long way, but bullshit will destroy you all  – by bullshit, I mean false encouragement, allowing disruptive behavior to go unchecked, and settling for less than your best.
  • You’ll get a lot of advice and pushback. Some of the input will be useful, some of it won’t. Be open to new ideas, as long as they will benefit your project.
  • The more you do it, the better you get.

Note: 2/3rds of this recording were accomplished while both sick and drunk.

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Productivity Through Procrastination (Seriously)

Deadpool loves pancakes (and belongs to Marvel Comics.)

I’ve learned to appreciate procrastination as a useful force.  Procrastination, for me at least, becomes incredibly productive. Whether there’s a pancake or a crepe on my plate, I’m still eating that day, and that’s ok.

Pancakes are thick. Pancakes are a main event. You slather all this stuff on a pancake to enjoy the pancake. Pancake days are when you have extra energy — like thick ribbons of batter — devote yourself wholeheartedly to one thing, one project, one goal. When you’re focused, and you immerse yourself in what you’re trying to do, you’re guaranteed to get something out of it.

Crepes on the other hand spread thin. There’s not as much energy or motivation to work with, so it’s impossible to lay anything on thick. Crepes are usually a vehicle to deliver other things to your mouth anyway. There is no main project, but lots of other interesting things, like spinach & feta, or strawberries and chocolate syrup. Crepe days are when you devote a little bit of energy to a lot of different pursuits.

I had a crepe day this weekend. I had all kinds of writing projects I wanted to do, grown-up chores I needed to handle, phone calls I promised I’d make, and theater dates that I broke without so much as a lame excuse. I didn’t want to do a damned thing. I didn’t even want to catch up on Netflix. I was so deep into procrastinating that I couldn’t be bothered with the normal things I did to procrastinate. I ended up playing violin for hours. I haven’t touched that thing in years. As much as I wanted to get stuff done, and felt truly awful about not touching any of it, I can’t call it a wasted day.

In truth, there are no wasted days. Check in with yourself. If you feel like you’re spread TOO thin, pick a project and have a pancake day: immerse yourself in one pursuit. If you’re knee-deep and you want out, have a crepe day: reconnect with things you haven’t had a chance to enjoy. You’ll still eat that day, and that’s ok.

Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us.”
― Marcus Buckingham

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
― Sun Tzu

How to use a Stockpile of Bad Experiences

Break-ups, failures, amputations,
Deaths, societal frustrations,
Thefts, rejections and the rest I cannot name…
 
Do they penetrate your stories
So the mishaps turn to glories
And fictitious rivals shoulder all the blame?
 
Can you mold and frame and paint them
Or through martyrdom ensaint them
So a shining light irradiates the shame?
 
Maybe anger serves to motivate
A new hero to co-create
A sense of closure in a no-win game.
 
Still you chew on bitter flavor
‘Til there’s nothing left to savor
Does it strengthen you, or shear something away?

Patience, it’s not all that bad
There is humor to be had
Learn your lesson, yes; but then return to play.
 
 
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
– Carl Jung
 
From childhood’s hours I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from common spring
.”
– Edgar Alan Poe

The Zen of Nightmares – How to Use a Dream Diary

I see this and panic a little.

I just had the worst dream.

I was trying out a new gym. When I returned to the locker room I found that my katana had been destroyed. That’s right, the one in the banner above.

I looked around the locker room, and all these thin blond sorority girls applied deodorant, dressed or did their hair. The smiled at each other, but never at me. I knew in my bones that they had done this. I looked down at the remnants in my hands. The blade had been snapped off a few inches from the cross guard. One strip of wood dangled off the tang, two of the pins were gone, and the wood on both sides bristled with jagged splinters where the end cap would have been.

I ran around the locker room looking for the blade. Three or four shards of it were being carried away on the backs of brown mice and black rats. I chased them, but they scurried down a hole too small for me to follow.

I wandered the streets with my shattered hilt. I saw the mice carrying the shards into a hole in a warehouse wall. I found the door and went inside. There were two men seated in the front waiting room, wearing baseball caps and looking at the floor so I couldn’t see their faces. I asked for the pieces back. The two men said they didn’t know what I was talking about, and then three lamia appeared from a back room. They were disembodied floating women’s heads, each with a spine still attached. They wailed and screamed, trying to bite me. I ran outside and slammed the door.

I had to get the pieces back. I went back inside. The two men were still there in their baseball caps, drinking beer and staring at the floor. This time, the blade had been reassembled, but it was weak and flexible like a tai chi sword. I burst into tears. I couldn’t see how a flexing blade could ever re-attach to the shattered parts I held. The blade, of its own volition, wriggled away like a snake. I went back outside.

I took a breath and stopped crying. I went inside a third time. The whole room had re-arranged, and the two men were working at two tables. Their baseball caps were gone and I could see their faces. One was blond and wore glasses. I asked them if they could fix my sword, and held out the pieces for them to see. They looked up at me and apologized. They only made latex boffer weapons here. The blade was gone.

I woke up on the verge of tears. I rolled out of bed, scooted over to my weapons rack and had to touch it to realize that my katana was still there, and undamaged.

What This Has To Do With Writing:

Nightmares make better story-seeds than dreams, and not always because of the conflict and content. My sword broke. So what? I could have just gotten a new one, right? Wrong. The anguish was never about the sword, it was about what the sword was/meant/represented. Once you write out your dreams, look at why they triggered an emotional response.

The dream seemed to point out my attachment to material things. Or how I’m clinging to something that’s broken. Or a warning that physical strength is fleeting.

Meaning without a story is preachy. Stories without meaning are hollow.

Tension and choice are the story. Any problem you create with technology or magic can be solved by technology or magic — that’s not compelling. The deep human meaning of these things is what makes them relatable. It’s not what you lost, but the idea of loss itself.

Part of a warrior’s path is the capacity to confront things that scare you — whether you’ve planned or not. We do it so others don’t have to. Your path is toward your fear.

When you want the hero (and the audience) to suffer, think about the underlying meaning of the event. If it’s contrived, it’ll fall flat. If you find yourself crying as you write, you’re on the right track. Are you translating those feelings to your stories in an authentic way?

Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.
― Stephen King

People with intelligence will… try to push through whatever they want with their clever reasoning. This is injury from intelligence. Nothing you do will have effect if you do not use truth.
― Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Go Outside!

Image

This tree was only six feet tall when we planted it.

I think being part of a timed writing group gives its members a unique advantage. We come together on a regular basis, but rarely critique. We don’t talk about technique. When we’re together, we talk about ourselves. We have this gorgeous opportunity to learn from and connect with each other. Everyone who joins us each week makes us stronger, wiser, and closer to truth on a very personal level.
 
And it happens completely by accident!
 
Writing is solitary, and it matters. Coming together in a group — taking action — matters just as much. Writing groups are a great place to make friends, but each of us could do so much more. Make new friends! Gain new experiences! Spark and inspire people by giving them permission to chase their dreams too. Does your writing take a stand? Support those activists or become one yourself. Supplement your intellectual rigor with something physical — plant a garden. Bake a cake. Build a house. Have amazing sex.
 
Remember when you first started, and were just peeping out of your shell? Do you realize that you’ve exploded into multicolored brilliance? You’ve been honing yourself all this time by questioning and pursuing answers. Every conflict and character has brought you a piece of truth, and YOU have the chance to share that with others. Well-developed intellect demands well-applied action. YOU have something to offer. Your writing is a marvel. Go out and be marvelous.
 
 
Change is the order of heaven and earth; the sword and the pen are as inseparable as two wheels of a cart.  Thus, a man must encompass both fields if he is to be considered a man of accomplishment.”
– Gichin Funakoshi
 
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci