Tag Archives: Motivation

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.

Write the Dang Thing

Look, writers are gonna write… except when they come up with voluminous excuses not to. So, periodic posts like this one to help motivate people are always handy.

In other words, enjoy this piece about how Laura Vanderkam gets her writing done while having 4 children, blogging, speaking, and presumably breathing and eating.

Increasing Writing Motivation by Increasing Joy

For this Labor Day, a day where many of us are sure not to labor, it somehow seems appropriate to share this piece by Mark Marino about how to have more joyous writing exercises.

Sounds like pretty good motivation to me.

Making Connections by Making Art and Making Art that Makes Connections

Most of the creatives I know instinctively want an audience. When they think about why, the immediate answers of “someone who likes my work” or “someone who buys my stuff” are natural. I mean, what’s not to like about emotional and financial validation? Bring forth the audience!

But building an audience is hard. In fact, it’s something of a slog — a seemingly Sisyphean slog (which I’m experiencing first-hand as I try and build an audience for my audio theater group). And the more one researches about how to best build an audience (and goes about the efforts to do so day in and day out), going to the gym every day seems easy by comparison (gym rats: ask your non-gym rat friends about what this means).

So, I took some solace in an article in Fast Company by Jeff Goins (whom some of you might know of from “Real Artists Don’t Starve”). The nominal title of the article is about why a creative needs an audience, but what I really got out of it was the importance of building connections, not only with an audience (e.g. readers, viewers, listeners, etc.), but with fellow creatives who might become potential collaborators (or just community support).

For me, this is crucial. Because as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not necessarily one who rushes to don the “marketing hat” — even though this website serves some of that purpose… and I’ll happily share articles about marketing. However, making connections with possible readers or viewers or listeners — that seems doable. Finding one more listener, getting a new enthusiastic reader, talking to another creative… all that sounds doable and manageable. It’s not as overwhelming as building “an audience” or “a peer community.” And yet, that’s what you’re doing, person by person. And, ideally, you can do it by trying to do what you should be doing anyway, making work that connects with people. That makes going to the metaphorical gym easier.

The Ever-Elusive Audience

We officially launched Jabberwocky Audio Theater on the broadcast airwaves yesterday. It was exciting. It took a lot of work to get to this point — and really, the main point of the work was to share these stories with people.

But, as with all creative endeavors –heck, with any endeavors that depend on public reaction to thrive– the enduring question is: will enough people be interested… enough?

And that multi-faceted question is important: because we all know how easy it is to click ‘like’ on social media. And being supportive in that way isn’t without value. Visibility counts. But what creatives really need isn’t simply awareness of their work. They need engagement with their work. They need an audience.

And sometimes, probably a lot of the time, even family and friends are not that audience. I know many an actor, musician, author, and filmmaker knows this, but it bears repeating. Because emotionally, it’s natural to expect good friends and peers to be into what you’ve been sweating and obsessing over… but that’s not always the case. And there’s any number of perfectly good reasons why that is the case — including the dreaded reason that they may be fine with you personally, but not into whatever creative work you produce.

Author Tom McAllister has a good piece over at The Millions that delves into the despair and neediness around seeking that audience (and not coincidentally, making money from your creative endeavors). It’s not the most pleasant read, but it’s an honest one — and a good reminder of your critical role in continuing to show up.



Aka, Keep on Swimming

My recent project, Jabberwocky Audio Theater, is not a recent development. I’ve been working on it in one form or another since 2007.

When you work on something that long that means there’s definitely breaks when you’re not working on it… and within those breaks and at those moments of starting or stopping, your doubts about continuing happily pay a visit.

In one of the blogs I perpetually read, Mark Evanier has a response to the age-old question from creatives wondering if they’re wasting their time. While this one is a bit more focused on freelancing, it rings true for questions to continue on any creative enterprise.


10 More Motivation Levers for Your Writing

Hey, it’s been awhile since I’ve done a “Motivation Monday,” so it seemed like Big Bill’s birthday was as good a day as any to get back to it.

I’d caught Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2009 TED talk on writing and motivation (the video is 20 minutes, and this link also has a transcript), so when I saw an Amazon article ad for her “10 Tips for Writers,” (as compiled by Cynthia Shannon), I figured it was worth checking out.

You may correctly conclude I found it useful, what with me linking to it here. And, as with many bits of writing, the value isn’t so much that I’d never, ever heard of the tip before, but that that the tips are presented in a nice, distilled manner for easy digestion and contemplation.

Full disclosure: I’ve recently released a whole host of my writing out into the world (in audio form) — and I find it’s always easier to contemplate motivation when you’ve actually finished writing.

At the same time, I find myself reading through these tips and thinking of how I did and didn’t use them in writing Rogue Tyger. So if you just want the tips, go ahead and go to that link. If you want my subjective reflections on them, read on.

Tip #1: Start Writing.
Boy howdy do I agree with this one. I’ve linked to Cory Doctorow’s “Writing in the Age of Distraction” about 147 times on this blog, but time again I come back to it and the central idea that writers write… and one ought to write daily.

Tip #2: Be Creative Every Day
Writing Rogue Tyger was my antidote to one of the worst day jobs I can recall. I happily poured hopes and fears and frustrations born of day-to-day ridiculousness into the characters and the plot. But even if I’m doing writing or, let’s be honest, I fall off the writing-every-day wagon for a couple days, still doing stuff that is creative is critical to being a happy camper. It can be as simple as doodling, noodling on the piano (when I’m near a piano), or helping one of my kids construct a paper airplane.

The point is that, not only do I benefit from doing something creative every day, I can distinctly tell when I haven’t for too many days: by then, I’m a less-than-happy camper.

Tip #3: Go Looking for Inspiration
One theater director I had revealed he investigated the museums of any city he visited. Another theater professor I had urged us to visit galleries and see how paintings staged scenes down through the ages. I’ve talked with other writers who simply make sure to go on a hike and take cues from nature. Others take classes in drawing and acting and all sorts of things they’ve wanted to learn. There’s plenty of inspiration to be found — and just like Tip #2, I’ve found a little work on this front can dislodge any notions of writer’s block.

Tip #4: Surround Yourself with Optimists
By ‘optimists,’ I very much think of people who see possibilities. Possibilities in themselves, you, and your work. People who may be very smart, quite experienced, and still look over this list and –even if every tip is familiar– use it to spark memories and remind themselves of some tactic to double-down on. In other words, I put into the ‘optimist’ camp those people who put asking questions and curiosity over and above being clever and knowing “all the answers.”

I really ought to do a poll amongst my fellow filmmakers and writers, but invariably, I find that those people who are obsessed about ideas being “entirely original” and find every creative work in creation “not being without problems” are not people to be around.

Yes, creative types need to maintain the cognitive dissonance that their current work is utter crap and amazing as they continue working, but the point is to risk, fail, and risk again. I want to be around people who can enjoy jokes about Sisyphus, but still get their shoulder against the boulder when the time comes.

I have been aided by many smart and optimistic people in bringing Rogue Tyger to life. The boulder moved.

Tip #5: Dare Yourself to Keep Working
Bribery, incentives, whatever it is, do what works to keep on writing.

My biggest motivation in this corner has been seeing friends and colleagues complete things. I should note that I find a lot of their work phenomenal, but even where it’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread or Betty White, an imperfect completed work is loads better than a “perfect” incomplete work-in-progress.

To reference Chariots of Fire, I’ve found it’s better to stop worrying about whether you’ll win when you run. Simply put: you can’t win if you don’t run. So get to running.

Tip #6: Trust Your Curiosity
Great things come from research and one that comes to me again and again is excitement. My recent work on a modern adaptation of War of the Worlds reminded me of how much I enjoy using bits of knowledge to build a story. The same thing happened with Rogue Tyger, which remains very much a space opera, but has some hard science elements amid the blasters and jump drives.

I’ve had friends and colleagues find curiosity and subsequent inspiration through pursuing interests in epidemiology, the armed forces, first contact protocols, recovery programs, and all sorts of oddities. Going down the rabbit hole of minutiae, so long as one eventually comes up to write, seems to be a blessing.

Tip #7: Create a Ritual
I recall Stephen King cautioning against being too precious with one’s writing space or required rituals, so this seems much more in line with tips 3 and 6: what warms you up and gets you ready to write?

Tip #8: Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block
I still remember an interview with Ray Bradbury from the 80s where he mentioned he simply didn’t accept writer’s block from himself. This didn’t mean he wouldn’t get stumped by a particular story. Instead, when that did happen, he would take a break, trust curiosity and follow inspiration into another piece of writing. The novel is at a standstill? Write a poem. Write that short story that’s been in his head for months. Then come back and the novel is moving forward again.

The key here seems to be completing things and using momentum to go back into the work that stalled. That’s easier said than done (or written). It was (and is) a valuable insight none-the-less.

Tip #9: Write for Yourself
For me, this is part and parcel with both curiosity and inspiration. What writing inspired you and why? And what if we went down such and such a path?

For Rogue Tyger, I looked a lot at the science fiction I liked, and a (perhaps disturbingly) large amount of it involved small groups of people on ships going off on adventures. Trying to tackle that myself was (and is) mighty fulfilling.

Tip #10: Imagine Your Reader
The key corollary to the previous point: what is your reader expecting and how can you pay off their expectations in a satisfying mixture of expected and unexpected ways? I obsess about payoff, but I guess we’ll see what happens.

So there it is. Now, I’m off to work on a bit more writing because, well, I’m rather motivated at the moment.

Get Your Exercise On, Big Data Style

The writers at FiveThirtyEight have never been afraid to get wonky.

So when they look into how to best pursue a regular course of exercise — surely something that people are grappling with now since we’re still in the glow of New Year’s resolutions — I found it worth reading.

Ikigai and What to Do Today (and Today and Today)

New years, like birthdays, are popular times to look at the year ahead and take stock at the year past, and I certainly join in as well.

One topic that’s come up with several friends and acquaintances both online and off for the past few weeks has been job satisfaction as well as what to do with one’s life.

My current main breadwinning gig, project and program management, has nothing to do with what I studied in school (technically). And while I have had iterations of this sort of job that have been fulfilling, I’ve had so many versions of it that aren’t fun that I have been honestly surprised at how fulfilling my current gig is.

Combine that with some miserable jobs working at what I’ve trained for and for which one is usually supposed to have unbridled passion (e.g. acting, writing, film, and assorted TV stuff) and I’ve often had some questions about that whole job satisfaction/life purpose thing.

So I was very excited when I came across the concept of “ikigai” in the past few years.

Ikigai, not dissimilar to “raison d’être” is most simply “a reason for being,” but you, like me, might have first seen ikigai explained via a Venn diagram like this:

Courtesy of a talented person at the Toronto Star

This, incidentally, is my favorite of many versions of the Venn diagram, because it manages to address some of the gaps I’ve found in jobs that are theoretically not my passion, but satisfying — as well as jobs that should totally be more in “dream job” territory that are none-the-less, unsatisfying.

I found this version of the diagram in this article by Laura Oliver. Her piece goes into greater detail about the origins of the term ikigai as well as some of the people studying ikigai and happiness in general. Spoiler alert: Kurosawa fans will find new resonance in the film Ikiru.

Speaking of studying happiness, job satisfaction, I would be remiss to not mention that reading up on ikigai has certainly complemented my reading of works such as Drive by Daniel Pink and Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (you can also go into Flow or his more academic explorations of the concept).

Okay, so digressions that may add to your reading aside, back to some of my connections to ikigai.

From reading more about it and analyzing Venn diagrams like the one above, I finally had some answers regarding my satisfaction and dissatisfaction with both day jobs and dream jobs. For example, when I’ve been in a job that pays me and that people need, I’ve felt some emptiness, even if I’m good at it. And certainly I enjoy esoteric movie and sci-fi trivia, but possessing or exercising this knowledge doesn’t make one feel useful (outside of Wade Watts in Ready Player One).

From this reflection, I’ve come to a few personal conclusions that I’ll share in case they help in your own exploration of “ikigai” and your life’s purpose.

Finding a job that fits “Ikigai” is extraordinarily difficult and probably isn’t worth pursuing to the exclusion of all else.
For where I am now in my life, this is a big one. I have responsibilities outside myself as so many of us do, so I can’t pop off on an adventure like I conceivably could when I was younger.

That doesn’t mean I need to throw up my hands, lamenting my inability to emulate Bilbo Baggins or the heroes of countless bildungsroman. No, I can take action. I don’t want to wait. Never wait.

Life, as they say, is what happens when you’re making other plans. I want to enjoy some of that life while I’m alive. I’m a program manager, so I’ll be making plans regardless. This leads to:

Getting to “ikigai” may require more than a single job
Look at that Venn diagram above again. Do you have anything you like to do outside of work? Do you actually like spending time with your family? (Okay, maybe not the best question to ask some people who spent a lot of time with them during the holidays, but it stands).

The fact is that there’s plenty of stuff we love that isn’t in a job and that could be addressed in a hobby or activity. The most interesting people I meet at work do a lot of different things in their off hours (always a humbling reminder not to judge people by the one facet they show you in one arena).

Heck, I know many actors and creatives that engage in hobbies and activities outside of the creative work they do.

To me, this realization is liberating. I don’t have to find the perfect job. If I can find enough other things to do in addition to “the dayjob” that scratch the passion, mission, vocation, and profession itches, I’m good.

Not everything has to be monetized or professionalized
In our amped-up, hyper-entrepreneurial world, where everything you do is folded into your personal “brand” which must, of course, be a source of revenue and a core part of your definition as a “thought leader” or some such thing.

Um, no. It could be that, in the land of the overabundant graduate degrees, it’s hard for people to define themselves as amateurs. It could be, in the age of the eternal side hustle, that people just puttering about various hobbies is deemed insufficient.

But I’m thinking it’s probably a good idea to have some things where you don’t try and be an expert — or even if you’re trying to gain expertise — you’re not depending on that expertise for a new revenue stream.

In other words, not only may ikigai require more than a single job, not all of those jobs need to be “jobs.” You are allowed to have fun sans monetary ROI.

I used a Dremel tool for the first time this weekend. Believe me, “Dremel tool craftsman” or “woodworking wizard” ain’t gonna be my job titles any time soon. Still, I’m sure glad I got the Dremel tool, look forward to learning to use it better, and am quite sure I’ll be budgeting some time to use it on many more weekends to come.

Percentages Matter
I suppose some people could deal with having a dayjob that is nothing more than a vocation or a profession. I find I need at least a little bit of passion to get through the day — though perhaps Daniel Pink would say I’ve simply found a profession or vocation where I can exercise enough autonomy and mastery to derive meaningful purpose. “The dayjob” remains important for me and, my guess is, a lot of us. It looms large both mentally and the amount of hours I spend on it each week.

Your job mileage may vary, but I’ve found I need to be very aware of how much I’m hitting my goals for passion, mission, profession, or vocation. If I’m feeling out of sorts, it’s usually because one of those itches isn’t being scratched or scratched enough. I guess this what people sometimes call “life-work” balance, but it’s more complex than just “life” and “work.” Home chores sure are work, on the one hand. Work can be full of joy and passion for another.

With that in mind, I doubt I’ll ever have “the answer.” I’ll forever be re-balancing things, both from external forces and my own needs. At least I feel like I have more of a framework to know how to adjust. How am I doing today? And tomorrow, that will be the same question… because it will then be today. And so on and so on. Oh, I’ll be mindful of my trajectory, but every day offers new opportunities for course corrections.

Have some thoughts you’d like to share about finding your life’s purpose or just tasting the strawberry on the journey? Comment below.