Tag Archives: Motivation

Successful Self-Publishing Case Studies

Given the sheer numbers of self-published books, it statistically unlikely that someone will make a living via self-publishing… except that given the sheer number of self-published books there’s a non-trivial number of writers who make a living via self-publishing.

So with that caveat in mind, take a look at Sam Haysom’s article on Mashable about three self-published authors who have succeeded.

Barry Lyga on Writing What You Know (kinda)

I’ve been musing on the old –and to my mind, inaccurate– advice to “write what you know” and I’ve been meaning to write a post about it.

Barry Lyga, as per his website (which you should check out).

But in the meantime –and perhaps for the better– how about I just link to a piece by novelist (and occasional Tohubohu screenwriter) Barry Lyga?

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.

As it happens, he has over 50 articles of writing advice on his website, so if you like what he has to say, read on! (And I’m sure he’d suggest picking up some of his books. Writers gotta eat, y’know).

But first things first, check out why you should write what you know (kinda).

Murakami on Magic and Writing

Haruki Murakami

Magic and writing? Redundant, I know.

But anyway, this is from last year, but Japanese writer Haruki Murakami‘s birthday was yesterday, so it popped up in some of my feeds.

Emily Temple over at LitHub collected several of his observations on writing and –what can I say?– they’re a good way to start off the week.

Maybe Don’t Do a New Year’s Resolution

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.

If you’re looking to shake things up for yourself this year, you might want to consider picking a resolution “Marie Kondo style” in the moment or perhaps you don’t want to choose any resolutions whatsoever.

Given the recent scientific questioning of self-control and “willpower” in any case, you might want to consider what will most help you look back on 2020 and feel it was a good year.

McQuarrie on Making Things and Playing the Lottery

Moving on from trying to make hobbies conspicuously unproductive, there’s the notion on not waiting on one’s creative aspirations and making things.

I wrote a longer post a couple years ago about this need to do and complete creative works, in part referencing the column above. Time is finite for us mere mortals, so you need to figure out where to feed your creative side while life happens. Maybe it’s on the job, maybe it’s outside it. For many of us indie filmmakers who –surprise, surprise– don’t do filmmaking full-time (see life happening above), that’s quite a task.

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.

Christopher McQuarrie

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.”

~Christopher McQuarrie

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.

So make the movie. Do the thing. Don’t wait.

Toilings of Comfort and Joy

I began this year advocating creating art as a hobby and I tried to practice what I preached shortly thereafter.

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.

Woodcarving Santa
Beyond my skillset, for now…
(via Woodcarving Illustrated, where you might beat me to learning how to carve this thing).

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.

As I mentioned in my “Get Creative… Off the Clock” post, Molly Conway has a great article about how turning hobbies into hustles is a trap. Heed the warnings. Don’t do it. At the beginning of 2018, I was also in this reflective frame of mind, especially with the notion of “Ikigai.” That might be worth a second look as well. There’s a lot there about “dayjobs” and purpose and percentages (plus one sweet, sweet Venn diagram — and who doesn’t like Venn diagrams?).

“Every winner begins as a loser”

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.

I’m pretty sure this was a movement class we took. My memory is hazy.

But that’s all artsy stuff, what about science? This is where David Noonan writing in Scientific American comes in. Apparently, some folks did some “big data” crunching and have a theory that an integral part of success is failure.

And if that isn’t something to motivate you on a Monday, um, I guess focus on being shiny and chrome?

Building a Creative Business by Nuts and Bolts

Trying to make a living –or just some nontrivial income– from your creative endeavors seems like a monumental task. At least it feels so for me.

Luckily, for me, I enjoy some of the minutiae of process and procedures and figuring out devilish details I can repeat so all that small stuff is not stuff I sweat over.

Then I constantly get reminded about how much I don’t know. Also I don’t have enough time. Also, there’s something else I don’t know.

That’s where I appreciate all the writers and other creatives who share their experience including the lumps . There’s Holly Lisle for a lot of advice on writing, John August for a lot of writing and screenwriting, Seth Godin for a lot of marketing among others.

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.

So he’s been posting his monthly income and musing on it for the whole year and he recently did a breakdown of what he’s doing with that aforementioned mailing list.

It’s so hard finding an audience –and many people won’t care for your stories anyway– that demystifying the boring yet vital stuff is very much appreciated.

(And I should mention if you really dig the sort of stuff Russell does, he’s got a crowdfunder going that’ll end in just about a day).

More About Work as Religion

Continuing this week’s series of video posts, I came across this video from The Atlantic that touches back to an earlier article I linked to about work becoming people’s faith.

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.

Recommended Reading: For Love or Money (or both!)

The other week, I mused about giving your young’uns a steady diet of scares, inspired in part by reading an article by artist Greg Ruth.

Well, as probably comes as no surprise, Ruth also has some thoughts about the eternal struggle to make a living from one’s creative work and yes, it’s naturally pertinent to illustrators, but I think his points should resonate with writers as well.

By the way, if you want to check out more of his work, his website is here.