Tag Archives: motivation

My Nightmare Before Christmas (Writing Something That Scares Me)

In 2015, I can count on practically one hand how many blog posts I’ve written here:

Six. Only six.

Well, five actually, since one of them, “A Ferris Bueller Kind of Day Off,” a piece I wrote after I sprained my ankle pretty severely during a Top Gun high velocity volleyball match with my Indiegogo coworkers, which kept me off the sand for half the season, I reposted on my Medium page as “A Ferris Bueller Kind of Day Off (Or, Lessons Learned From a Sprained Ankle)” to see if I’d get more hits there than on this WordPress (old school, I know) blog.

Although now that I think of it, it may only be four blog posts, because “Calling All Trigonauts! (‘Cause ‘Trigonaut’ Sounds Cooler Than ‘Intern’)” isn’t really a blog post, but a call to action for me to seek out a Trigonaut (like an astronaut, but more Trigonian or something like that…) to help me take the crowdfunding sage side of me to the next level. This yielded a few prospects, but no one I could necessarily let run with a ball that encompasses a rather large portion of my current identity.

For me, this year has been a year of experimentation. Too often writers, filmmakers, and artists of all sorts start to rest on the laurels we have instead of trying to earn new ones by trying something new. By attempting to do something different or innovative, even if we fail it’s fine because we had the guts to attempt it, and hopefully we did so to the best of our present abilities. Because even if we did succeed, the next thing we do should is something else that shadows that most recent of triumphs. That’s how we grow. And this year, I’ve certainly grown.

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The bulletin board that reminds me that I am, and always will be, a writer.

I know I’ve grown despite the fact that I feel I’ve done significantly less with my time than perhaps any other year before this one, as evidenced by this fifth, sixth, or seventh blog post you’re reading right now. Why have I been away from the blogosphere since August, you ask? (Well, I hope you’re asking!) Well, ironically, I’ve been busy! Here are a few things that have kept me occupied over the year:

  • At the start of the year, I was spending much of my free time working on The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse, book one in the “Sebastian Holden, P.I.” mystery novel series I’ve been tapping into my iPhone’s Notes since 2013 during my morning and evening commutes. I stopped revising it mid-way partly because I showed my highly stylized proposal to my most excellent friend and former university colleague Jim Broderick, and he proceeded to hand my metaphorical arse to me with his no bullshit, very constructive but also very deconstructive critique.
  • It was also partly because my friend and illustrator Lauren Clemente informed me that our first ever comic book Siren’s Calling –– was finished after four long years of scripts and sketches and social media. This became my top priority, and after a successful Thunderclap to get our six-page preview into as many hands as possible and an equally successful Indiegogo to do a print run of issue #1, this first chapter of our horror noir story will make one hell of a splash in 2016.
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The scintillating cover of Siren’s Calling Issue #1, by Lauren Clemente.

  • I finally started meditating. That takes time. (Five minutes a day, but it is time, nonetheless.)
  • Then, I got an email from Ken Lee, editor at Michael Wiese Productions, the company that published my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign back in 2013, and they asked me if I’d be interested in writing a second edition, to which I replied “absolutely.” I gave myself a total of four months to completely revamp the book and add in their required 30% worth of new content. (It’s actually more like 45% new content.) I then delivered the manuscript on time on November 2nd, and I’m currently waiting for my scrupulous editor Gary Sunshine to finish red-penning my work so I can give it one more rewrite before it’s published and on shelves in summer of 2016.
  • I’ve been getting “lost” in Lost. Yes, the TV series that I admitted to my coworkers that I’d never seen an episode of, to which they replied “you need to watch Lost.” And so I am, and I’m hooked and currently caught up to Season Four.

Lost

  • And I’ve also been writing more crowdfunding blog posts for the Indiegogo Blog and my own Medium page, have taken on the role of Head of Marketing and Distribution for my fiancée’s large format quarterly EIGHTY, and I’ve been getting more involved in the local arts and culture scene in Jersey City, attending poetry readings, and for every eight hours I work for Indiegogo, I work at least three for me everyday.

So I guess I have done quite a bit this year, even though, to me, it doesn’t quite feel like I have.

Back in my college days, in all the creative writing classes I’d ever taken, there was always this one staple of a writing exercise, and it was called “Write Something that Scares You.” I can’t remember if I first read it in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones or Wild Mind. Or perhaps it was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I know it was an exercise in a book called The Practice of Poetry. Whenever I first encountered it, I remember scoffing at the idea. Until I did it. Until I really did it, and I felt the change that confronting one’s fears in a little piece of writing could cause. The catharsis. The release of all that society tells you never to put out into the world.

I’m remembering this because one thing I’ve always been scared of has been slowing down in my productivity. This year, at least in my mind, that fear was realized. And it bothered me for a while. Am I burnt out? I thought to myself. Washed up? Is time finally killing me because I took a little time to kill? Of course not. I’m merely following the Paths that was laid out before me –– the comic being finished; getting the gig to write the second edition of my book; becoming Lost to find new creativity I may have temporarily lost sight of within me.

In truth, the fear was not realized. It was met with eyes wide open. I faced it head on!

So while the fledgling blogger in me feels as though I’ve let you, my readers, down a bit this year by publishing only a child-sized handful of posts, rest assured that 2016 will not only be an important year for my professional writing, but also for yielding some entertaining and informative bits of content that I had wanted to share this year, but alas, Time, she got the better of me in 2015. (Although, I did have quite a hit on my hands with my prior post “Hitting the Writer’s Block (And Breaking Right On Through It),” so thank you to all of you who read, liked, and shared this one!)

We’re all our own worst critics, I know, and while I’m certain you’re all happy to have read a few decent pieces from me this year, next year I’m resolved to post one blog post a month (at least). Until then, I hope you enjoyed this one and some of the things I’ve linked out to, and remember –– before this year ends, do something that scares you.

And then, tell me all about it.

 

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TEDx 2014: Living Up to My Middle Name

“Storyteller. Nostalgist. TED talker, too.”

That’s what I changed all of my bios on social media to ever since I had the privilege of speaking at TEDxJerseyCity on Saturday, November 8th, 2014.

Now I think we all know that TED is a big deal, but I didn’t put that into my head until after I got off the stage at PS4 on Bright Street in Downtown Jersey City because I knew I would have panicked. I consider myself so fortunate to have spoken at most of the top film festivals all over the world –– household names like Sundance, SXSW, and TIFF –– but a TEDx talk is a TED talk, and it’s an honor granted to a few people all over the world.

And for the first time in a long time, I had to work for it.

Here's the original outline. Very bare bones.

Here’s the original outline. Very bare bones.

I wanted to dive into what the process of preparing for a TEDx talk was like for me because it was very different than anything else I’ve ever had to prepare for. First of all, I had to audition for the part, and that brought me back to when I used to perform Shakespeare in the parks. I haven’t auditioned for anything since then, and the organizers of TEDxJerseyCity took this part of the process very seriously.

In fact, I almost didn’t make the cut.

When I did my first audition, I was trying not to focus so much on crowdfunding and instead veer that subject I could talk about in my sleep more towards the power of the crowd. My four-minute audition piece was quite honestly a mess. But one of the organizers, Alicia, believed that I had something truly important to say, and so she met up with me at The Warehouse Café and helped me shift the focus of the talk back to what I’m really meant to talk about –– crowdfunding –– and through that, reveal the power of the crowd through personal stories, examples, and a quick lesson on how ordinary people like us have the power to create positive change in the world because money is no longer an obstacle now that we finally have the tools to overcome the problem of lack of funding.

Initial draft of my first audition piece.

Initial draft of my first audition piece.

Freshly armed with that as my focus, and a couple days of hardcore rehearsals, I ended up wowing the judges during the callbacks that I almost didn’t get invited to, and I made it onto the roster along with sixteen other proud Jersey City speakers who would take the stage and talk about a “Brave New World” of their choosing at TEDxJerseyCity 2014.

The other part that was most difficult for me personally was the actual writing of the talk. See, whenever I speak at an event, I never write down what I’m going to say. It’s all very beatnik (I am a poet, after all) –– “straight from the mind to the voice,” as ol’ Jack would say. The only other time I felt I had to write out my talk was during my SXSW Future15 talk about being a face in the crowd of crowdfunding, where I talked about crowdfunding through the lens of the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd, starring Andy Griffith.

The first slide from my SXSW Future15 talk, 2014.

The first slide from my SXSW Future15 talk, 2014.

But I basically did the same thing with the written out version of my TED talk that I did with that SXSW one. I tossed it in the trash and winged it.

The thing about “winging” something is simple: You have to be confident that there’s a wind beneath those wings to hold you up, and that wind is the intention behind what you want to say. How you say it, that’ll always be secondary.

Before we bust into a chorus of Bette Midler’s famous tune, let’s get back to TEDx. Aside from the rough outlines/four-minute audition pieces, I wrote a full outline and a first and second draft of the talk. What I noticed was each time I wrote it, I would add more to it. Always more. Never less. And ultimately when I had a week left and was about to start rehearsing my talk, I let my fiancée Marinell read it.

And she liked it.

Sort of.

“I can’t picture you saying it like this,” Marinell kept on saying, and no matter how many times I reassured her that “the talk that I give on stage will most likely sound nothing like what’s written,” she still wasn’t convinced until I took her to my apartment and performed it for her for the first time. No notes. No cheat sheet. Nothing.

And she loved it.

And this is the last draft, complete with the notes that helped create the final draft.

And this is the last draft, complete with the notes that helped create the final draft.

Did the writing out of the entire talk help me keep the intention behind those words in the forefront of my mind? Sure. But knowing myself the way I do, I should’ve simply sketched out a quick outline onto a couple of napkins and worked off of that. When you know your subject matter, it makes no sense to spend all that time writing it out; just know what you need to say and practice getting it out in the order you need it to be presented, and all will be well.

I spent the next entire week practicing every night after work –– again, something I’m not accustomed to doing. I recorded each rendition of my talk into my iPhone, all the while timing it more old school on an old Breitling stopwatch I permanently borrowed from a high school science class. From my first time of twenty-six minutes to just barely cutting it down to the eighteen-minute TED maximum, the more I practiced, the more I knew what I needed to get across to my audience.

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I was so happy when I snapped this photo for Instagram –– got that talk down to just under seventeen minutes.

On the day of the talk itself, I practiced one last time in the morning, and I was pleased to get it down to fifteen minutes. That meant, I now had precious time to infuse into the talk the spontaneity that makes all of my talks all the more memorable. The quick asides and off-the-cuff additions, but most importantly, working with the crowd in the moment to create with them the best talk possible. To give to them the speech they want to hear. And I think I accomplished that with my TED talk.

But man, it was a lot of work!

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It’s been a week since my TEDxJerseyCity talk, and I’ve been thinking of my Dad a bit more lately. It always happens during this time –– he passed away eight years ago on December 16th –– but this time feels a little different. I find myself wishing I could take a minute and tell him all about my talk, and to hear him in that silent whisper of a voice he left this world with say that he’s proud of the man I’ve become.

I know he is, of course. But sometimes you just need to hear it.

But it’s funny –– We all know that “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design,” but it’s also short for “Teddy,” a nickname for “Theodore” and what the “T.” in “John T. Trigonis” stands for.

And it was also my father’s name, too.

My TEDx talk marks a huge milestone for me, and I have no idea where it will take me next. Perhaps nowhere. Perhaps it will afford me further opportunities to talk about the power that crowdfunding gives to mild mannered men and women all around the world. Time will tell, and I want to thank you all ahead of time for helping me get here.

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