There’s a whole lot of nuggets in here, but I won’t spoil them for you. Suffice to say I agree with a lot of this and find that understanding how you’re like your characters and their experiences has rung true for me as both an actor and a writer.
We’re just about a week into 2020, so people are doubtless hitting the gym, watching what they eat, reading more, or other laudable goals.
I haven’t set any official resolutions this year, though I am trying to figure out some goals for the year (have a massive and varied to-do list/bucket list/bunch of other lists via Workflowy). Being a project manager, I’m trying to figure out what’s realistic and what’s a stretch.
One of the notions you’ll see in the links above is the idea to just go ahead and do it. Carpe that diem, even if it annoys Latin scholars that you just mangled that phrase. Mister Keating has your back. Alea iacta est and maybe this time it’s a natural 20.
So, on the one hand, it’s nice to see an industry professional mirror some of those sentiments, which is what Christopher McQuarrie did on Twitter back in October. Not being a Twitter power user, I only picked up on it when someone posted No Film School’s recap recently in a writer group.
The main thrust of his tweet thread is that those asking him for where to find an agent, read their script, etc., are asking the wrong questions, because on one level, it’s about submitting to the status quo of “the lottery,” the often random way one finds success and builds a career in Hollywood.
That he notes he realized that he was asking the wrong question and after winning an academy award no less (surely winning the lottery), made me sit up and take notice. In fact, hearing some of the same notions from someone who is absolutely “in the system” and has “won the lottery” that I hear from indie folks encouraging each other was striking.
The whole thread is worth reading, but I wanted to highlight some parts. One is the overall implication that he has played –and won– the lottery, but all that gets you is the ability to play the lottery again. This squares entirely with repeated anecdotes I get from people that Hollywood is a very binary environment, where you can be a one or zero at any time as far as various people believe.
And another implication is that if you’re not making something, you never get to be a ‘one’ in anyone’s eyes. And sometimes that something is not seen hardly at all, or it is seen and judged lacking, yet you focus on the “execution and not the result.”
That’s what I liked about him going beyond the oft-repeated idea of “doing what you love” You have to execute and keep on executing until you there’s more people that find you to be a “one”
On the Wordplay site (where the “Never Wait” column comes from), they mention writing a script is like writing your own lottery ticket. But McQuarrie makes the point several times how making a film, making more than just a screenplay, is actually giving you more chances.
“And it’s infinitely harder to sell a screenplay than it is to sell one’s proven abilities.”
I love that he closes with the notion that the business isn’t something to be broken into so much as you are the business to be acquired, that the creative folks we might look up to like-as-not made their own luck, and many –if not all– of them failed spectacularly along the way.
Most people who know me generally observe I’m pretty darn busy which is one of the reasons that I feel the need to carve out time that is entirely not productive.
It’s hard in today’s “make every job a gig and make every gig a hustle” economy — and heaven help you if you want to do something creative for money yet want to do something else creative as a hobby — but I’ve become convinced carving out time for non-productive hobbies is a must.
So I enjoyed reading this piece by Hope Reese in Vox about tips for picking a hobby. I especially liked how to avoid some philosophical traps in the choice of hobby. And, yes, I’m writing this while staring at a screen and you’re almost certainly reading it on a screen, but I really like the idea of taking these hobbies and pastimes analog and offline wherever possible.
One great example of going analog is Inktober, a month-long exercise in drawing every day based on prompts. I’ve done this with my kids for a couple of years and we really got into this year (one of my kids was very into drawing and then coloring, which added a whole new delightful aspect to the activity). In fact, I went so far as to post my drawings to friends on Facebook (analog back to digital).
I was inspired to share in part because a college friend was sharing their Inktober drawings (and they draw hands far better than I). This included all the days, including the drawings which were really bad. But that was, I hope, encouragement to others to try their own hand at Inktober or something similar. Per Reese’s article above, doing something where you’re not going to excel or have an expectation to monetize it is ideal.
This past weekend, I was talking about the National Theater Institute of which I am quite a happy alumnus. They practice a maxim of “Risk. Fail. Risk again” which is kind of like the positive spin of the War Boys’ outlook in Mad Max: Fury Road. Same flamethrower guitars (metaphorically), less desolation.
One energetic creator and entrepreneur whose resources I’ve shared before is Russell Nohelty. One of his recent posts goes into all the various ways you can try and build up the business side of your creative business, including the prime importance of having and cultivating a mailing list. But lest you want more, he does go into detail on all sorts of things.
Seriously, he goes into the weeds. He wants to go into the weeds. He’s like Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio’s site Wordplayer where they want to explain what muscles in your hand are used when picking up a pencil to begin writing. I’m talking about that level of detail.
I’ve long been interested in work-life balance and finding joy or at least satisfaction in work, perhaps because, as mentioned in the video below, conventional wisdom is no longer satisfied with jobs or, to a certain extent, no longer even satisfied with careers. No, it has to be a calling.
And when you read things about “ikigai” of just finding flow, it seems like a calling is not that far-fetched a goal. But it so clearly is, because we’re just not set up for a surplus of those types of jobs. In fact, perhaps we’re asking too much of our jobs. Take a look at the video and consider.
I was lucky enough to be able to go to the National Mall where they had a special presentation –including a projection onto the Washington Monument itself– celebrating the achievement.
I posted on social media then that no video or pictures could do it justice (and for people to try and make it to the later showings that night or the following night). However, for countless people not in the DC area, that just wasn’t a possibility, so I’m happy to share a video captured of the event:
After you’ve tackled that, there’s also some behind-the-scenes fun: