Tag Archives: productivity

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.
Sirens_Cover_Digital

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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“Where Do You Find the Time?” Six Steps to a More Productive Life

The other day, my very good friend Troy sent me a message on Facebook, and in it he asked me (and this isn’t the first time he’s asked this) how I manage to find time to do all the things I do.

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a Renaissance man when it comes to the arts. I’m a published poet who plays a decent hand at DIY filmmaker, with one solid feature-length screenplay written and ready to shoot, plus another in 1st draft mode, and who’s now trying to squeeze an original graphic story into the comic book arena. Oh, and I’m also the author of an upcoming book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and that ushers in a whole slew of new titles, from guest blogger to crowdfunding consultant. And I also try to maintain a solid standing as a loving boyfriend and responsible kitty daddy who occasionally enjoys some time at the café or bar with my closest friends, actors, writers, and acquaintances from Facebook, the real world, and beyond.

Sheesh! Now that I wrote all that, I actually do quite a bit, don’t I? So how do I manage to do it all? Well, here are six steps that I live by, which may ensure a rich journey onto a more productive path in life:

Land yourself a job that doesn’t get in the way I’ve been very fortunate (at least for the past ten years) to have an occupation that doesn’t interfere with my writing and filmmaking endeavors –– freelance professor. I teach at an average of three universities across as many counties in my home state of New Jersey, putting in a max of fifteen hours a week and raking in enough coin to cover rent, car insurance, student loans, and cell phone expenses, plus a little extra for food shopping and an occasional dinner with my girlfriend Marinell. The more responsibilities we have at the office, the more money we’ll receive, but it’ll be at the expense of our free time.

Don’t follow what’s on TV When I was a kid, I followed a lot of TV, as outlined in a prior blog post. That was enough to last a lifetime. Today, you won’t catch me waiting with uncurbed enthusiasm for the next season of Mad Men the way I’d once hurry through my homework to stake it up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These days, if I catch any shows at all, it’s usually a quick rerun of Big Bang Theory, an episode of Toy Hunter, or the occasional webisode of The Booth at the End on Hulu. Anything else, like The Walking Dead, I’ll catch up with on Netflix a few months later. How can I live without TV, you ask? Easy: I can’t afford it. And when we can’t afford TV, the only station we can tune to is the Productivity Network, Channel 247.

This was before the “Rabbit Ear” revolution, so my signal-less 23″ tube TV isn’t so outdated.

Use guilt to your advantage Like yin and yang, pleasure and guilt coexist in everyone’s lives. Whenever I have too much of a good time, guilt starts to creep up my spine, and I’m immediately pulled back into my realm of intense productivity. That’s really the secret of how I’m able to do so much in the course of a single day –– I’ll feel guilty if I don’t, and I don’t like the feeling guilt produces. If I sit around looking at LOLCats for longer than five minutes in the course of a week, I feel like I’ve wasted much more than that in the course of my life. We’ve only got so much time to do all the things we want to do in this life, so we should spend the bulk of our time doing them.

Plan your day everyday, and never deviate I plan out each day the night before on small sheets of paper or an occasional napkin from my neighborhood café. Once I get up the next morning, and after I stretch, work out, eat breakfast, and shower, I turn on my computer and start red penning each item on the day’s “To Do” list. If I get to the bottom and they’re not all Xed out, guilt sets in. But if I do (and I always do), I’m free to enjoy whatever else I want to do with the remainder of my day. Notes like this can keep us organized enough to get through the things we need to do so we can do some of the things we want to do. (More on needs and wants shortly.)

Red Xed and ready for the evening ahead.

Choose your significant other wisely Have I mentioned how fortunate I am? One of the most wonderful things that’s ever happened to me was meeting Marinell. She understands my writer’s needs and has been super-humanly supportive of me for the past seven years. That said, and since healthy relationships are a necessity to almost everyone, if you want to remain productive, you should choose your significant other wisely. And while it’s true that we can’t help who we fall in love with, if we love ourselves enough to see whether or not he or she is a help or a hindrance to our creative or productive lives, we can make the proper choice to stay in or opt out of a particular relationship if it gets in the way of that productivity.

Understand the difference between need and want I tend to do only what’s necessary in all things, from my eating habits to my writing regimen. I only travel when I need to. For me, writing and telling stories are as essential as food, shelter, and clothing. What I need is time to write, submit pitches, revise screenplays, and create new ideas. Everything else is want, and while it’s nice to get the things we want, it’s more important to focus on the things we need; and when we get what we need, we can more fully appreciate all those things we want when we finally get them and see them for what they are: gravy on our meat loaf instead of honey on already frosted cake.

There are lots more tips that I have, from avoiding Words with Friends to doing one’s laundry once every three months, but perhaps those can be divulged in a later post or in an ebook I’m tossing around in my head, tentatively titled The Martlet’s Guide to a More Productive Life. Let’s see if these tips prove helpful (and if I can find the time to write it!)

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What are some tips YOU can offer that might help keep people on the path to a more productive lifestyle? Share them in the Comments section.

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