Fail Early and Fail Fast

Andrew Stanton: 'Spielberg and I compared notes on ET and Wall-E'.

The advice “Fail early and fail fast” may seem a little odd, coming from a country where the best of us still value winning, innovation, and success.

But this piece of advice actually stems from one of this country’s greatest and most innovate minds, storyteller, director, and animator Andrew Stanton. You’re familiar with his work on Finding Nemo and Wall-E.

I learned this advise first-hand recently. I’m currently immersed in a book project that’s literally taking all I’ve got. While I’m excited about it, a lot hangs on the line (more details to come). While I started off making good headway, the last week or so has really brought me down.

The stamina and determination were still there – it’s not a matter of completion. It’s a matter of content. I was struggling through the material, unable to make it convey to readers and myself (first a reader, then an author). With my brain stuck in the proverbial mud of anti-creativity, and with the clock running against me, I had to think back to my heroes of the craft of storytelling and I was directed to a book I recently read by Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc. 

In it, he describes one of Stanton’s mottos while coaching his team on a film. “Fail early and fail fast.” The philosophy behind it is that we’re not perfect; we’re going to make mistakes. So seeing that failure is inevitable, fail early and fail fast. You basically have to ask yourself the tough questions early on: “Will people benefit from my work?”

“Will people really read this?”

“Is this really the best I can do?”

For me, the question was, “Am I having fun with this still?”

I had turned fun and entertainment into all work and all business. No one wants to read a book from an author who did not have fun and employ a liberal sense of creativity flowing through his/her book.

So today, I’m choosing to fail early and fail fast. I’m tearing out the last few pages I labored over. It’s better to do it now rather than later (trashing five pages instead of ten).

To put it into a picture, it’s like a maze on one of those children’s menus. You trace your Crayon through the labyrinth and, if you’re directionally challenged like myself, you’re going to hit a lot of dead-ends. Same with creativity.

So I ask you: Do you have the courage to fail early and fail fast? Back out, tear up, turn around, and start over in the right direction.

For more inspiration, join my Facebook Author Page.

Why I Wake Up at 4:00 A.M.

 

earlybird1I get up at 4 in the morning to work.

Not to go to work, which starts at 6.

I get up at 4 in the morning to work on what I don’t have time to work on the rest of the day.

People are always saying, “I don’t have time to accomplish my dreams, or do what I want to do.” They’re saying this as they’re flopped in front of the TV mindlessly tuned in to The Bachelor or Game of Thrones.

“I hate my job,” people say as they sleep in as late as they can without being late to their day job.

I say, Get up at 4 (and earlier if the alarm hasn’t gone off yet and I’m awake). Freedom didn’t come freely or easily, so why should your independence, or your dream job, or your money?

I get up at 4 because I believe, with all my heart, that if I work hard enough and sacrifice enough sleep, that my dream job will come true. So I get up at 4 in the morning and write, and write, and write.

At least, at the end of the day, I can say, “I got to do what I wanted today.”

For my inspiration, join my Facebook Author Page.

On Writing: Curing the Creative Rut

giphyYou writers and creative-types – you’ve been there. It’s a hellish place, for sure. A chasm of fear, doubt, agony, frustration…

While everyone else around you seems to be excelling in their craft, accolades are given to everyone but you, your neighbors hit the jackpot…

Come on, I’m not the only one. You’ve surely been there, right?

Idea-less.

A hellish place for sure. It’s worse than that moment you’re about to start the first sentence on a blank page.

It’s worse than having to wait 119 days until Jurassic World finally opens.

You know how I find my ideas when I at this point? It’s embarrassing, and no one has ever seen me do it, except Sarabeth when I thought I was alone, or my little girl who just thinks it’s hilarious. 1tumblr_lgp6q5NhE21qcjtu8o1_500

I dance.

I talk out loud.

I sing.

I act.

And I’ve yelled.

It’s humbling, but true. I imagine myself standing before the heads of Universal Studios or Disney and I’ve got five minutes (I’m generous) to pitch them my idea.

So I yell, I act, I pitch like a storyboard artist convincing the director that my idea is the only thing that will work. I talk aloud about something that I believe in.

I might not yet have an idea to believe in, but I believe that I will find one.

I encourage you to give this a try. Crank up some Fun. or Owl City, or Delta Rae on the ipad and dance.

ac-slater-dance-o

Yes. Just start dancing. Let your body go. Just release the stress of everyday life. The last thing you want weighing you down when you’re trying to be creative is the rock-hard facts of  life that your readers are looking to escape from.

numa-numa-kid-oSo… escape.

Dance.

And talk.

And then ask yourself later, What did I talk about? Anything interesting? Jot it down.

Bless your Facebook feed by joining my new author page. 

The American Dream Revised

Beach-beaches-4843817-1280-800-001

It used to be that people in America achieved the Great Dream by running and sustaining a business or trade, owning property, and passing down an inheritance to your offspring, be that monetary or a learned skill. But that Dream has morphed into something different over the years.

This is what the new American Dream sounds like: Pay off any debts and live on a private beach, emphasis on private. 

Nowhere in today’s revised Dream is there a place for work. To be more specific, people want to earn as much as possible doing the least as possible – and for most of us, that will always remain just that: a dream.

Me, I like to work – the issue is, the type of work I’m doing. My Dream is the freedom (or time) to do my work to earn money for me, not for a company. I want the freedom to travel so I can write about different locations and research history for compelling books.

Stop dreaming about doing no work and start thinking about doing your work.

Think about what energizes you. Maybe it’s teaching kids in Sunday school, or gardening, or critiquing restaurants, or sewing pillow cases.

Dive into your hobbies and personal projects as though you were making millions of dollars off of them. Become an expert in your field. And then find a way to make money off of it.

Make that your new Dream.

On Writing: Stretch Yourself

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The awesome thing about writing is that it probes us authors to explore in more ways than one. Not only does writing encourage us to seek out and discover uncharted territories in our imaginations and throughout the world, but we are beckoned to explore the vastly wide expanse of the available genres themselves.

I told Sarabeth just last night while doing research for a book I’ve been too afraid to write for years, “I’ve discovered a new love.”

She glared at me for a moment then said, “You shouldn’t say things like that to your wife.” (I didn’t realize that Jennifer Lopez was presenting a Golden Globe on the TV wearing a dress with a V-cut as wide as the Grand Canyon.)

I said, “No, not that. Biography-ing. I know it’s not a ward, but I feel like I’ve found a new niche.”

I thought I’ve already been stretching myself out of my comfort zone of writing mainstream fiction, by working on not just a teen book, but a young readers historical novel. But due to a long-festering force of inspiration, I began a third project recently – a biography about a man you admire but don’t yet know by name (I’ll be dropping hints on my brand new author’s page on Facebook).

Crazy? Sure. But people don’t achieve their dreams by not being crazy. What’s so crazy about flopping down in front of the TV to watch another episode of Family Guy and then sleeping in until 9:00 the next day? That sort of doldrum behavior is to be expected. Do the unexpected.

You’re not going to discover new loves without being crazy enough to get out of your element and explore what the world has to offer.

They say to write what you know, but I disagree with that. I say write enough about what you don’t know, and the research will make you an expert.

“Duet” by Renowned Disney Animator Glen Keane

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This video, running at three minutes and forty-two seconds has become an internet sensation and has struck the heart of thousands – possibly millions – of people around the world.

It’s a coming-of-age animated short that brings us back, briefly, to our cherished pasts of hand-drawn animation – but with a twist.

I’ve pasted the video below, which opens up with the creator and Tangled_glen_keane_image_01animator giving a little speech about the project. You may recognize him from years past, being featured on the Disney Channel or in interviews about upcoming movies during the previews that showed on your old Disney VHS tapes.

Glen Keane is the creator and animator of beloved favorites such as Ariel, the Beast, Tarzan, Aladdin, and many others. He’s recently retired from Disney animation and is proving his talent can stand on its own two feet.

In the speech he gives in the video below he says that in embracing this new technology (merging hand-drawn animation and CGI) he has “rediscovered his love of animation.” By watching the video, you can almost see the love pour forth onto the screen.

Watch the video and share your thoughts below. Share it with your friends…spread the love!

Post Your New Year’s Resolutions Here!

2015 new years illustration with christmas balls

Happy New Year!

Even though we can start fresh any day of the year, this is the day to declare a new life path starting on 2015.

If you read my previous post about setting impossibly high expectations for yourself, and read my ridiculously ambitious goal, you’ll hopefully be inspired to tap into your inner child (or dreamer) and start laying out a path for yourself toward that goal today.

So now’s your chance to put it in writing. Share with the world, not your New Year’s resolution, but your life goal that you are going to actively start pursuing today!

Just click the title of this post and leave a comment below. Have you already written your own blog post about your new goals? Then feel free to paste the link below!

Share your impossibly high goals and inspire us all to expect better of ourselves!

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