nope nah nyet

I pride myself on having a strong work ethic. One of those oh my god he’s so boring all he does is work work work-type of work ethics. I write every day, often balancing several projects – all in various stages of development (active fiction WIP, outline, first draft edit, new script, script polish, etc) – at once while brainstorming not only new projects but also new ways to expand the ones I’m already working on (adaptations, comic books, graphic novels, novelizations, amusement parks).

So it should come as no surprise to say that when I sat down the other morning, coffee in hand, and brought up the Word Doc of the Day, my brain said

Nope

Nah

Nyet.

Yeah. Just drew a huge blank. No words. Nothin’. It was like I was looking at some foreign language I could kinda maybe sorta understand but, in the end, made absolutely no sense.

I switched to a different WIP. That sometimes work to get the gears a’going’.

Same thing. Nothing. Not even a glimmer of where I was supposed to go next on the page or what direction the story was supposed to travel now.

Of course, keenly aware of my self-imposed calendar, I started to very quietly have a full-blown – but quiet – panic attack. Started rescheduling, moving projects around, buying myself a day here, a week – maybe – there. Started feeling guilty for letting people down if something didn’t show up on time or, I don’t know, when they expected it to.

And then I did something I rarely do: I shut my laptop. Just closed it. Left the WIP alone, stood up and took a walk. A long one, actually. Enjoyed the, what’s it called again? the sun?, on my face. The breeze.

In short, I played hooky.

But my creativity demanded it. To run yourself ragged on a self-imposed – I use that word a lot because everything I do is dictated by me; I am my own worst boss – treadmill without touching base with your humanity not only stifles your creative voice, it silences it.

So, in truth, my stories, my characters, their narratives, all stood up and stepped forward to shut me up, steal my voice and get me out of the house.

And what happened when I came back?

Nothing. I took the day off. Shocking, isn’t it? 😁

But, hey, sometimes we gotta be daring and break the rules in order to get those words on the page.

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myriad pieces of haphazard puzzles

I’m a relentless optimist. I’m also a no-bones-about-it realist. It’s a nice blend. Keeps me relatively stable and sane in what can be a career of dizzying highs (or so I’ve heard) and abysmal lows (first name basis frequent flier here).

And one of the things I’ve come to understand is you need both to effectively move through what can sometimes be the mystifying, frustrating process of being adapted from fiction to film (or TV).

And, believe me, I’m not slamming the process.

What most don’t realize is that moving a project forward in Hollywood, getting from A to B, is often dependent on a haphazard puzzle of myriad pieces somehow finding a way to snap together. It could take weeks. It could take months. It could take years. It could never happen. Some projects click quickly. Others less so. But the pieces need to come together, they need to fit and, as much as possible, they need to be perfect. And the one constant truth linking those two together, and everything in-between, is that you, as the writer, have zero say in how things inch forward. You just don’t.

Nor should you.

But this is the beauty of being a writer and one of the reasons I love what I do: when the no-bones-about-it realist starts to nag the relentless optimist, chipping away at his sunny disposition with perfectly reasonable doubts, the Writer gets to work.

Because not only am I a relentless optimist, a no-bones-about-it realist and a Writer (with that capital W), I’m also blessed with a creative mind that just…doesn’t…stop. The list of projects I have on my calendar currently stretch into 2020. And that’s not taking into account whatever projects land on my plate driven by other people, production companies, my publisher, anthologies, etc.

The Martuk Series. Eidolon Two. Eidolon Three. Eidolon Four. Eidolon Five. The third Martuk novel. A new project about magic and secret realms and dangerous monsters that lurk in plain sight, spanning different timeframes all at the same time. A potential three-book series centered around Mot from the Martuk books. Continued script adaptations for film, for TV.

So when I start to feel a bit grrrrrrrrrrrrr…I just flip it into work. And as I write, as words land on the page, hopefully stretching into paragraphs and then pages, chapter after chapter finally becoming a book or a short story or a screenplay or whatever, all those haphazard puzzles with their myriad pieces, something I can do nothing about, are putting themselves together. Bit by bit. Piece by piece. Phone call by phone call. Rescheduled meeting by rescheduled meeting. Email by email.

But, and this is important, when I get that email or that text or that phone call or whatever by whoever saying “Hey, let’s talk” it makes all the waiting – and furious writing – worth it. It really does.

Because another constant thread with this business is the courage to take a chance. Yes, get those pieces together and make ’em fit. Do what you can to guarantee as much as possible the largest audience possible. (Talk with me ’cause Lord knows I got ideas) But at the end of the day, you’re still rolling the dice and taking a risk.

It’s just what we do.

What’s my point with this? Maybe nothing. I’m not sure.

All I know is, as a writer, I’m lucky I drive the bus and can turn whatever impatience, curiosity or whatever I feel into work. Work that might, at some point, end up being part of yet another puzzle with pieces needing to be put together.

Which will lead me into writing more.

It really is a gloriously vicious cycle, ain’t it? 😊

the weight of the impossible

A bit of a personal post today. A chance to vent, perhaps. Or just a chance to clarify what I’m feeling right now. And what is that?

The weight of the impossible.

Yeah. Sounds big, doesn’t it? The weight of the impossible? But that’s what it is because, silly me, that’s what I feel driven to achieve.

My choice, my doing, no one to blame but me. I know how high and difficult the climb is and yet I choose to continue. Choose to sacrifice and struggle for the smallest of steps forward. And we’re talking painfully small steps here. Like, laughably small.

And, no, this isn’t one of those “woe is me”-type of deals. Not at all. It is, like I said, a chance to vent and/or clarify what’s making my mood so heavy these days.

The weight of the impossible. I like that phrase. I don’t like how that phrase feels as I live it, but I like the heft of it as I write it. The solidity of the sentence. The cadence and rhythm. It’s a memorable phrase that perfectly captures my present journey.

And, honestly, it’s not like I’m the first doing what I’m trying to do. Thank god! This road is teeming with those who’ve walked before me. Who’ve struggled, fought, failed, fallen, stood up and eventually succeeded. Everywhere I look I see shining examples of the impossible having been done.

Right now, though, I’m surrounded by silence with no clue as to whether or not my efforts are known or seen or appreciated. I think “Yes” but I don’t know. Obviously, and I’m calling a spade a spade here, today is one of those days where the candle flickers and the dark grows darker and the doubt grows deeper.

But I still march on. Like a man in a long tunnel surrounded by deepest, darkest black who keeps putting one foot in front of the other because he knows without a doubt, with a faith that goes beyond reason or present reality, that there is an end, a fantastic end, and if he keeps walking he’ll find it.

That’s me.

So I keep writing, breaking down my long-term goals into shorter term bite-size achievable chunks — I’m somewhat famous for my email bullet lists, by the way — and doing what I can to move forward. Or even just stay where I am because the worst is to slide back. And today, for whatever reason, feels like a day where I slid back. At least in my head.

So, I dig in my heels, narrow my focus and just keep going. Keep pushing. Even if the push is imperceptible and the reward is negligible. Even if what I do now won’t show a result weeks, months, even years down the road, if at all, I just do what I can from where I am. Because that’s all I can do.

But you know what would help?

A sign.

A Yes. An “I hear you.” Or “you’re on my radar.” A “I like your work.” A nod — not even an answer, but a simple nod — that lets me know I’m on the right path. That I’m moving in the right direction. An acknowledgement that would help me find the spark to click Send on yet another email or to dial the phone for yet another unanswered call or make another bullet point list that might never be seen or discussed.

That, any of those really, would be the light shining far, far at the end of the tunnel telling me to keep walking.

See, this, right here, this is what the weight of the impossible does. It tests your faith. Dips you low so you can climb back out. Strengthens your resolve. Allows you to flirt with the possibility of failure knowing that your desire for a different result is stronger. That, even unheard or unseen or unacknowledged, you will fight on, keep pressing, keep asking, introducing, discussing. You’ll keep making those lists and getting the words on the page and brainstorming ways to carve out a space to help make the impossible possible.

But here’s something else I’ve learned: we’re not designed to carry the weight of the impossible by ourselves. This burden is designed to be shared.

And, now that I think about it, that’s what I’m feeling. The need to share what I’m creating with others. Build my dreams with people. I feel like it’s time to stop traveling this road by myself. To stop walking this alone.

Yeah, now that I think about it, that’s exactly what I need.

See? Clarity. I knew there was a reason to write this post. 🙂

 

talk to me

When’s the last time you talked with someone? Really talked, I mean. Exchanged thoughts, shared ideas. Discovered common ground. Danced around areas of disagreement.

When’s the last time you listened? Really listened, I mean. Not formulated a response while their lips made words, waiting for your turn to jump in and make your own words because that’s what you felt like you should do. And that if you didn’t say something, anything, you wouldn’t be “interesting.”

In other words, when’s the last time you had a real conversation?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. When you’re a writer whose days are spent at a keyboard — peppered occasional with brief forays into the Wonderful World of Spoken Words because of business meetings or conference calls or whatnot — these are the kinds of thoughts that ramble through your head. And I’ve come to the realization that to stumble into a real, honest to goodness conversation is worth its weight in gold.

Because there’s something inherently human about that connection. Something deeply necessary for our spirit and our soul. Sharing yourself, putting your ideas, thoughts, beliefs into words and finding common ground with someone else can be the soothing balm that eases the choppy waters of a rough day.

A simple conversation is priceless.

Conversation is where friends are made, loves are discovered, inspiration is found and balance is restored. Conversation is where you reconnect to those lost parts of yourself. Conversation is one of the rare times in life where you need not walk alone.

To have a discussion — which is different than talking — is opening the door to learning. Listening — which is different than hearing — is where you walk through that door and settle into a room of new possibility.

And that’s one thing I suspect people still don’t get.

You learn more by listening than you do by talking. You learn more by paying attention to not only what’s said and how it’s said — body language, inflection, pauses and hesitation — but also in what isn’t being said.

And that’s where the real truth lies. In the words not used. In the words not spoken. In the words they don’t yet have the courage or self-awareness to say.

But you lose these discoveries if you’re too busy talking. And, generally, we all tend to talk too much. So stop. Just stop it. Really. It’s unnecessary.

Because while your mouth’s a’movin’, you’re missing the important stuff. The courage being found and the truths being shared. The brave breakthroughs and the baring of the wounded soul. While your mouth’s a’movin’, you’re missing the chance to stop and listen and, with your quiet kindness and patient grace, maybe change a life.

Think about it.

Sometimes all that’s needed is your silence and your sincerity. And sometimes, just sometimes, when you’re quiet and listening, you truly hear what’s being said — and not being said.

And that’s where the real conversation lies. That’s where the connection needs to be made.

So, the next time you find yourself striking gold with a real, honest to goodness conversation, stop, listen, watch, hear with your heart and your soul and have the courage, with your silence, to say “Talk to me.”

You’ll be a better person because of it.

the power of Maybe

I’m not a fan of closed doors. Which is kind of odd coming from someone who’s as sincerely private and socially insular as I am. (Would rather cook something amazing and talk the night away than go out to a club or something, but that’s just me)

So let me restate that: I’m not a fan of doors being closed. Especially when they don’t need to be.

Which is where Maybe comes in.

Having neither the explicit promise of a Yes nor the full-stop end of story of a No, Maybe is the sweet spot where conversation is allowed to flow. Where things are still possible. Where minds are still somewhat open and curious. Where everyone is coming to the table with a desire to learn.

Maybe is still hopeful and excited and eager. But it might also be the turning of a corner. The first stage in the potential transition from Hope to Action. It’s a meeting of the minds to see if there’s work that can be done and if it can be done together.

More specifically, it’s that space where a writer has the rare opportunity to help someone see their characters and their stories as they see them. As they created them. It’s taking someone by the hand and, armed with that Maybe, letting them peek into the shadows to see the Why to the What you’ve written. To get a long look at how those people you created came to be. What’s driving them? What are their wounds and how are they struggling? And what makes them happy? What brings them joy? What are their hopes? Why do they do what they do?

It’s showing someone what can still be done and how amazing it can be if you can do it together.

You don’t learn any of this with No.

Maybe is questions asked and answers given. It’s discovery. Epiphany. It’s agreement and disagreement and compromise. It’s finding common ground and the realization that you are, despite the lingering threat of No, at least on the same page. More so than you first thought. Maybe is a continuing conversation where you learn about the story and you learn about each other.

At its core, Maybe is Information.

You see why it’s so powerful?

In some ways, at least at first, Maybe is preferable to Yes. Especially a Yes given quickly and without either thought or the support of shared understanding and common goals. Those are difficult. Because you got the Yes — YAY!!!! FINALLY!!!! — only to learn that where you see a unique, emotionally resonant story revolving around a fascinating immortal man, they see a 3-D roller-skating rock opera about juggling mimes working in a Milwaukie Hooters. And suddenly that initial ecstatic Oh Boy becomes the heartbreaking punch in the gut ohhhhhhh boy.

The back-and-forth of Maybe would have caught that potential pickle and, if compromise couldn’t be reached, it would have become a mutual No. And, let me tell you, that No is easy. Really easy. Because it rests on a foundation of shared conversation and clear information. That No is much, much better than an overeager — though well-intentioned — Yes.

Now, about that closed door. I said I’d circle back and I am.

Listen, No and I are best buds. Hell, we dang near grew up together. And, hand to god, I have nothing against No. Seriously. I know No like no one else. He is an annoyingly faithful and frustratingly constant companion. My disastrous wing man, if you will.

But I can accept No. And I have. Many times. Still do. If X and I aren’t seeing eye-to-eye or Y’s schedule is truly packed for the next five years or the story just isn’t resonating for A, yeah, I get that and I respect that. That No makes sense. It’s a No based on information and questions and answers and thought and discussion. And that’s cool. No harm, no foul, I sincerely wish you the best of luck and, really, let’s find something to do in the future because I still believe you are way too many kinds of awesome to count.

At the end of the day, some things aren’t meant to be.

But I always wonder, when my Hello was met with an abrupt No, what would have happened if they’d paused and listened? Just for a moment. And really listened, not sat there watching my lips move while wondering what to do for lunch (Chinese Chicken Salad? In’n’Out?…Pie?) all while planning on saying No at the end regardless.

What would have happened if they’d allowed themselves the freedom of Maybe? That free-for-all play space where people walk together without the specter of Yes or No hanging over them. Where it’s still Talk to Me. Tell Me Your Story. Where it’s help me see this the way you see this.

What would’ve happened if they’d asked questions? If they’d opened themselves enough to allow that unfamiliar light in? Let their imagination spark with unexpected possibility? Granted their creativity the permission to play What If?

Saying No as a first and only response precludes all of that. It halts conversation. Kills opportunity. It may even accidentally refuse you the thing you say you want and insist you need. No is coming to a dead stop on the on-ramp to the freeway that might — MIGHT — take you where you’ve been trying to go for a bazillion years.

Where Maybe is powerful, No can be downright deadly.

Point is never, ever underestimate Maybe. It’s not a Yes, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s an open door. An invitation to tell your story as you see it. To share the secrets behind what you do. Give them a glimpse of who you are and why what you do is so important to you.

So when someone says Ughhhhh, I just got a maybe and it suuuuux, I’m, like, Listen, accept that Maybe as the gift it is and take appropriate advantage. With gratitude and respect. They’re rare, those Maybes. Brief, brilliant moments of opportunity to shine and connect and share. Those Maybes have the potential to be amazing. They can change your life!

Don’t waste ’em.