Tag Archives: Motivation

Get to Writing, the Asimov Way

Lest Monday’s post seem insufficiently motivational, I figured I’d pass along this article by Charles Chu about how Isaac Asimov managed to be such a prolific writer.

In case you’re not aware, Isaac Asimov wrote hundreds of books… and not just in science fiction, for which he’s perhaps best remembered. In fact, his books cover most of the categories covered by Dewey Decimal Classification.

Not only that, he seemed to love to write. He wrote voraciously like some people read (and, of course, being a voracious reader enabled that).

So take a look. From ongoing learning to getting out of being stuck, there’s some good takeaways.

Motivation and the Midlife Crisis

This is for all the Gen Xers out there, irretrievably in their 40s and 50s, facing Monday with Garfield-level malaise.

Here’s an article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic which I missed when it first came out in 2014, but seems to have hit me at just the right moment… and it might be just the right moment for you all as well.

In feature story fashion, it goes into the anecdote of 40-somethings seemingly successful, yet nevertheless unsatisfied into some deep data about happiness and something known as the “U curve” which has been studied for some time now.

Basically, one’s happiness often dips right about now –it’s not just a Gen X thing– and goes back up later in the 50s into the 60s.

The really interesting thing I found from the article was that this phenomenon has been observed across cultures and even in other species of great apes (apparently, we all don’t feel so great at the same point in our lifecycle).

The motivation part of it comes deeper in the article where it’s speculated that the subsequent upswing in happiness (thus making the U curve) comes from a re-calibration of what one values of life — which is comforting, though I understand if that feels more like comfort in the Vulcan logic kind of way.

“Our desks were never meant to be our altars.” Work as faith in the 21st Century

Coming off my post on Monday about having hobbies as hobbies and nothing more, I stumbled across an article by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic about the reverence that work and “busyness” has in modern American culture.

America has long had a paradoxical status as a Calvinistic Babylon, to reference historian Michael Kammen. To follow along that allegorical thought, if all hobbies ought to be hustles, leisure time itself is suspect. Being unproductive is almost sinful (and I’ll bet a bunch of you just had “the devil makes work for idle hands” pop into your head just now).

Definitely read the article above if that’s the case (or even if not). Do you work to live or live to work… and what do you get out of it? There’s a bunch of great lines in the piece, but one stands out for me:

“Our jobs were never meant to shoulder the burdens of a faith, and they are buckling under the weight.”

Get Creative… Off the Clock

I had the opportunity over Presidents’ Day weekend (aka Washington’s Birthday weekend for OPM sticklers) to do something I can’t remember doing in a long time, if ever: painting miniatures.

The minis are from a game called Stuffed Fables, in case you’re wondering.

Many of my gamer friends have various Warhammer and related armies and I know my efforts are not remotely in their league. They paint minis regularly. In fact, for several, it’s a bona fide hobby. One preditor friend (that’s producer-editor for the uninitiated) has taken to painting miniatures quite expertly since directing a feature where D&D plays a central role. All but a handful of the denizens in her miniature army are used in D&D games: it’s mainly about the painting. In other words, the journey, the act of painting, is the joy. And that’s what I found here. I mean, I’m really hopeful we have plenty of fun with the game, but just the painting was a lot of fun and relaxing — even as I obsessed about details (though as you can see from the picture, not too much).

In part, it’s nice to be practicing what I’ve blog-preached in terms of being creative while not being expert at such things. It was very liberating to be working on something that doesn’t have to be yet another side hustle destined for some marketplace or part of “my brand” (as I mused about last January — I guess I get reflective about such things this time of year).

It’s good to have the opportunity to obsess about something that isn’t going to be a payday. Hey, this whole blog post comes after reading an article in the Harvard Business Review that mentions hobbies are good for jobs. Time off is good. Time off doesn’t mean you’re comatose or asleep. The brain gets to do things. As Richard Jeffries talks about regarding “care and feeding of a writer,” hobbies allows your brain time off from the monetarily-linked activities.

I’ve also long suspected that a significant percentage of many people’s urges to turn hobbies into hustles is to feed the “must-keep-busy” monster. Speaking as someone whose thoughts have turned to that frequently, that monster is forever insatiable. As Molly Conway writes in an article last month, it’s a trap. Go on hikes without being a guide. Learn to be a better baker without selling your wares at a local farmer’s market. Better yet, don’t feel the need to have any wares if you don’t need to. The enjoyment you get from things that don’t bring money can filter into the the things that do.

Or you might just have to enjoy the leisure time without quantifying it. That works too.

This Year, Resolve to Make Art

I thought I had already posted this article by Sean Kane from 2016, but evidently I hadn’t. So go ahead and read up on seven darn good scientifically-backed reasons why you should make art even if you’re not “any good” at it.

A perfect example of simply making art is Inktober, an annual event to do an ink drawing every day during October. I did this with my son –and moms and dads reading this, that’s reason enough to give it a go. Because while I tried things with shading and perspective that were hit or miss, he developed recurring story elements in the scenes he drew throughout the month that was a delight to witness (and on a parental note, it was a good transition to bedtime).

So go ahead, get your art on, whatever way you want to. You don’t need to share it with anyone. Science has your back.

Ann Dowd and Acting Success Later in Life

Ann Dowd, 2012 For whatever reason, back when I was in school busy with acting training, many instructors felt the need to let me know that I’m not a “leading man” type of actor. My guess is they dealt with many acting students who would feel that was beneath them or represented failure. Little did they know that, having grown up with my Dad giving us Turner Classic Movies before TCM existed, I already enjoyed the work of George MacreadyArthur Hunnicutt, and Victor McLaglen — to say nothing of the rest of John Ford’s “stock company.” And I also was noticing and following the careers of the current generation of character actors whose work I kept on seeing and enjoying like David Warner, Bob Balaban, and Charles Martin Smith.

One of the better instances of this truth being delivered to me was from a director who was an actor himself — and he said that one needed to put in the work and work hard, and then in one’s 50s, things bloomed. Without prompting, he said, “You work hard, you’ll wake up one day and be a David Warner.” I kept my poker face on, but inside I was “Hell, yeah, that’s a goal!” It was incredibly motivating.

I would like to think Ann Dowd’s essay recently in Glamour will be similarly motivating, because being an Ann Dowd-type of actor would be very good indeed.

 

The Many Years Needed for Overnight Success

Two of the podcasts I regularly listen to, Scriptnotes and Maltin on Movies, both note how a given actor or other creative artist regularly takes 10-20 years to become an “overnight success.” They note this, in part, because the whole idea of the precocious talent, the creative who does genius work just out of the womb, seems so engrained in our culture, you kind want to stop and say, “Wait? Is that really normal?”

Nope. And Malcolm Gladwell has an article, that while from 2008, seems just as relevant today about “late bloomers.”

For all of you looking to do new and exciting things when you’re not a Spring chicken (Jabberwocky Audio Theater, anyone?), it’s welcome to meditate on.

Self-Publishing in Five Steps

It’s been a little while since a “Motivation Monday” post, so let’s just dive right in with UK author Mark Dawson’s piece on how to approach self-publishing, amply referencing his own experience from traditional publishing to now.

It’s recent (from August of this year) and I appreciate how it’s not paint-by-numbers. The five steps aren’t particularly easy, in part because none of them can ever be fully completed (perhaps “five processes” might more sense to some). I especially like that the last part is to “never stop learning”– which for a writer who enjoys research should, on one level be fun (though your mileage may vary with such paint-drying excitement like editing DKIM values to help your mailing list).

In any case, I found it to be a good reminder of what I’m doing and what I’ve yet to do in the creative entrepreneur realm… and perhaps you’ll find it useful too.

And Now For Something Completely… Enjoyable

As much about writing as it is about acting, here’s a 20-minute video for GQ with Monty Python’s Eric Idle explaining many of his acting roles over the past 50-odd years.

Speaking for myself, this makes me want to go out and create something.

The Judicious Use of the Word that Rhymes with ‘Duck’

Many a creative doesn’t want to wear the business hat. I know, that’s me too a lot of days. But it helps to be confident in wearing the hat when it’s needed and when to bring in the hired gun (e.g., a lawyer) for the right situations.

A legal eagle I use, Seth Polansky, posted this in a thread related to a particularly ridiculous film festival. I’ve seen it before, but in a sense, this about-40-minute video is evergreen and worth re-watching even if you’ve seen it before.