Ever Thought About Quitting This Way?

Pardon my absence lately.

I’ve been super sick for almost a week and until today, just the thought of opening my laptop made me even more nauseous. So I’ve been doing lots of Olympic-watching, sleeping, The Walking Dead, sleeping, a Lethal Weapon marathon, sleeping, and I just started Breaking Bad (I’m one episode in and it’s kind of weird, but I’m intrigued). 

My wife deserves the gold medal for taking care of me and the also-sick kids. Or whatever is better than gold (green and wrinkly maybe?).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking.

Writers often feel like they’re alone in the struggle to conceive and develop a good story. But being at home for practically the last 144 consecutive hours, I’ve stared a lot at our personal library. And I was thinking that behind each book is an author who probably felt they were alone in the struggle.

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Each one probably wanted to give up, to call it quits, to throw their hands in the air and yell, “What’s the point?”

Hell, just a quick glance through your Netflix library, and you can come to the same conclusion. Behind each movie or TV show there’s a writer or staff of writers facing the same struggle.

That’s a lot of movies. A lot of books. A lot of plays. A lot of writers.

So maybe quitting isn’t as common and “normal” as we think. Maybe quitting is actually the weird thing to do. Perhaps quitting actually makes us losers in a world of winners.

The Burden of Creativity

space-exploration-43327We creative types have a difficult job. Essentially, our job is to create something out of nothing. Our job is to be original. To stand out. And eventually, to not only find fulfillment in our creation but fulfill others with it.

For most creative-types, we strive to guide our audiences through an emotional journey. . .

I take that back.

We strive to control our audience’s emotions. Through our creations.

And the fact is, we cannot live without creativity. Creativity turns the wheels of the world.

The reason people go insane in jail cells or on deserted islands? Many will say it’s because of a lack of community and communication. That’s true to a point, but I’d like to add a third option to create a holy trinity of functionality: There is also a lack of creativity being given and received.

When we’re not creating, or thinking organically, or processing, we go stir-crazy. When we’re not being stimulated by other people’s creativity, we get bored, we lose interest in things, we lose focus of life in general.

After all, a single life is a creative force in process, is it not?

So back to us creative-types. We are more than just wayward wanderers, or left-filed players. We are shape-shifters, world-changers, earth-spinners.

 

We are the inventors of existence in that we create something out of nothing. We storytellers guide and influence people’s thoughts, actions, and decisions. We decide what is relevant and important.

But being born centuries late into a creative world, we are faced with a problem. We’re torn between exposing ourselves to creativity for inspiration and shielding ourselves for fear of the temptation to mimic.

As serious storytellers, we are charged with the task to explore uncharted territories. We don’t have the luxury of recreating a school for wizards, a son-hunting fish, clashing superheros with differing powers.

I see serious storytellers as space explorers, forced to venture further than anyone has gone before. The storytellers before us have claimed the nearest stars, those stories have been told and many have been well received. But now we must go further, push ourselves deeper into the darkness and uncertainty of space. It can be scary because what if we waste too much time on an idea, or a star, that’s going to burn out?

That’s the risk we take. But we’ll never know unless we test it. And if we let one story go untested, that just may be one less the story the world, or a life, can be influenced by.

Not What It Seems

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Since I was young I’ve had bad hearing. Thirty-percent hearing loss in one ear and forty-percent in the other. Something like that.

As a result I used to get words words wrong all the time.

For instance…

I thought there was an N in early: “Earnly.”

I used to say “supposebly” instead of “supposedly.” (Except I don’t know what sentences would require me to say that word, but if I said it, that’s how I would have pronounced it.)

I pronounced helicopter: helicockter. 

And if something was corny, I’d say it was horny.

A lot of times things aren’t what they seem. Your life could be heading in a direction completely different from what you expect.

I heard of a guy at work who got passed up for a promotion. Turns out the boss was holding out for a better promotion which he didn’t get because he let his performance slide.

I thought those spots on Michael Phelps were because he sucks at Nerf. Turns out it’s a form of therapy involving suction cups.

I once thought my highest aspiration was to be an author. Now I own my own company.

So take my advice with a great assault and remember that things are hardly ever what they seem.

And check out Endever’s serial novel, “The Underneath” if you’ve caught up with your Olympics viewing.

Writers: Don’t Forget the Sugar

My favorite drink of all time.

It can be ordered at a bar or you can make it yourself.

Drink too much of it and you can get too sick to move. Refrain from drinking it at all and you could suffer major health issues.

I require it every time I come home from work, or home from a walk in the hot sun, or after playing with the kids, or even waking up in a sweat in the middle of the night.

There are three ingredients: Water, ice, and a squirt of lemon.

I have nothing against alcohol – I just don’t like it. I’ve tried whiskey, bourbon, beer and we now have several half-full bottles in the kitchen. Just doesn’t measure up to my taste buds.

I do enjoy a cold V-8 or a glass of milk. I even love bloody Mary – virgin, of course.

But just give me a cold glass of water with lemon and I’m all set. alkaline-lemon-water

But forget the lemon and I just might throw the water in your face. That’s just nasty. It’s like nonfat ice cream, or sugarless gum. What’s the point?

Most writers can tell a basic story. Introduction, conflict, resolution, the end. Easy. But what about the lemon? What about the stuff that makes the banal taste of water sweet (or sour)? What about the flavor?

Are you taking your story one step higher to add that touch of emotion, or comedy, or deeper insight into your characters? Don’t give your readers sugarless candy. Deliver the goods.

Give us a reason to relate to your character by cleverly providing a backstory.

Give us reason to find your characters’ departure from each other heartbreaking.

If you have a comic relief, don’t recycle old jokes you’ve heard elsewhere before. Be original. Give us fresh, new material that we can enjoy.

A Love Letter to Disney

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A while back I wrote a love letter to Pixar Animation Studios. I’ll never forget watching my viewership skyrocket that week. What was that all about? A couple of weeks later I received an email from Pixar Headquarters thanking me for my post and saying that it’s been making the rounds in the studio. Imagine that! I forget how long I cried. (The picture to the left is during the hysterics.) But the thing that made me happiest was knowing that the hard workers at the studio caught a tiny glimpse of joy they bring to our lives on a regular basis.

Yesterday Disney released the international trailer for their highly anticipated and surefire record-breaker, Moana. Take a second and watch it. I’ve watched it about nine times now and I still get chills.

It’s safe to say that Disney is on par with Pixar. After Wreck-it Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and most likely Moana, we just need to stop denying it.

They bring a class and beauty to the world that we’ve all but forgotten. In our hurried and messy lives, Disney movies have a way of, I don’t know, restoring order. Even if it’s just the illusion of restoration – or better yet, the hope of restoration.

Their movies are not devoid of evil and chaos and bitterness and jealousies. And their resolutions aren’t as cookie-cutter as they used to be. Disney’s movies sell you on cute, sure, but they deliver on substance and depth.

I mean, how gut-wrenchingly hard is it to watch Hiro release Baymax into the Unknown? If that doesn’t tear you apart, I question your mortality. Not only is their attention to detail and vivid color out of this world, but almost every note strikes a cord with something deep inside us.

Why?

Because they take beauty to the extreme. They push the bounds of reality and expose us to a world of bliss and hope.

Like Pixar, they no longer make movies for kids. Their movies address us adults just as profoundly. Zootopia reminds me that even if I achieve my dreams, my story doesn’t stop and the struggles will keep coming.

Wreck-it Ralph delivers the hard message that I’ve been dealt my cards and I need to figure out how to make the best of it.

Frozen sings about letting go. Big Hero 6 shows us how to do it.

Thank you Disney, for the work and painstaking efforts you infuse in your movies. You have the challenge of not just catering to one specific audience, but to literally every single demographic. And you pull it off with class and style and unimaginable beauty.

I believe Disney movies do make the world a better place, even if it’s just a little. They bring families together. A reason for parents to take the kids out. They provide contexts for us to talk about serious things with our kids. They give us parents footing to address things such as good byes, racism, bullying, sibling rivalry, and my favorite: You don’t have to be a jerk just because you’re popular (Fix it Felix, Jr.).

I know there’s people out there who don’t watch Disney or Pixar movies just because they’re cartoons. I pity those people. They’re missing out on some of the greatest filmmaking in the history of film.

Thank you Disney, for all that you do. Keep at it, and we’ll see you in November!

For more on Disney check out

Baseball and Disney

and One of the Greatest Companies in the World.

 

Climbing Up the Corporate Christmas Tree

keep_calm_and_climb_a_tree_round_ceramic_decoration-rfb33ecaa15d7445c81cf0e26aeaa3fcf_x7s2y_8byvr_324You’ve likely worked for bosses or managers who just don’t understand. I’m not talking about the inability to sympathize. I’m talking about a literal inability to understand the job they hired you to do because they haven’t done it themselves.

Mostly that’s due to someone inheriting their position through a variety of different means.

There are very few situations where I find this acceptable. Let me explain why.

My wife and I have differing Christmas tree styles we prefer in our living room each year. She thinks the bigger and fuller the tree the better. I prefer the smaller ones because there’s less mess and less decorating. She likes it to be chuck-full and overflowing with white lights and ornaments that date back to 30+ years. With her style, you have to wonder if there’s a tree anywhere underneath the decorations. As far me, bring out a strand of those big, bulky colored lights recycled from the 90’s, wrap them around once, plug ’em in, and wash the sap off your hands before you pour yourself some egg nog.

Everyone has different Christmas tree styles.

So let’s say companies are like Christmas trees. Someone who starts at the bottom and works their way up to the top is going to have a pretty good idea about what kind of Christmas tree they’re on. They’ll figure out that the red globes go on every third branch, the faded framed family portraits are hidden toward the back of the tree, and the higher up they climb they’ll find the ornaments becoming a little more fragile to remain out of reach of kids and dogs.

But someone who’s just thrown in at the top is not going to have as clear of an idea as to what kind of tree he or she is working with, because we’re all fixated on the star at the top. People don’t look down from the branch they’re on. We all only look up.

Bosses and managers need experience and an intimate knowledge of the company they’re managing. If you’re the manager or director of a call center and you’ve never been put through the fire of call after call of angry customers, you have no business managing people that go through it day after day.

If you’ve never struggled as a middle-class working American, I wish you’d think twice before running for president. Because how can you have a clear understanding of the plight of the common American people?

You see, as you climb the tree, you’re collecting broken ornaments, finding burnt lightbulbs, and noting bare branches. You’re building up a knowledge base of issues within the company that need to be resolved in order for synergy to exist.

My father owns a framing company out in California. Even though he owns the company, I’ve always admired that he himself can pick up a hammer and put in a day’s worth of hard work under the blistering sun.

It’s for this exact reason that as I build my publishing company from the ground up, I am putting myself through the fire. I have two manuscripts written that I’ve submitted to my partner Lynn. Through the editing structure we’re building, I’ve had to revise one and put the other on the back burner to be completely redone.Endever Arch

That way, when I come to one of our authors and point out problems in their manuscript, I can sincerely say, “I understand how frustrating this is … but trust me, it’s going to be a better book in the end.”

There are a myriad of reasons why it’s important for owners and managers to climb up the Christmas tree from the ground up. And to be honest, if Endever succeeds, I’m not going to just hang out at the top becoming best buds with the angel and hibernate in the safety of my secluded office. I’ll keep writing and pushing myself.

That way, if the style of the tree changes from white lights to colored lights, I’ll be ready to get my hands dirty and pitch in. After all, it’s my company, right? A guy should take pride in his possessions.

Endever Updates – Six Months Later

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Wonderful news is happening over at Endever Publishing Studios! In case you’re unfamiliar with my publishing company, I founded it early this year because I was tired of the way traditional publishing companies operated.

  • They recycle the same famous authors in their rotation rarely giving new authors a chance.
  • Traditional publishers put more effort in promoting their own books than exploring the unknown future of the book industry itself.
  • It’s a corporate world where there is a thick black line separating the authors from the corporate bigwigs who are more concerned with the money in their pockets than the art driving the paychecks. There is no reason for the two to be separate.

This is the short version of why I began my own publishing company. I named it Endever Publishing Studios because we are more than a company, we are studio, and by definition a studio is a place where art is created and experimented with.

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Six months later my co-owner Lynn Galloway and I have just signed our fifth author, and have seven books in production. We have received help from all corners of the industry from lawyers to cover design artists to editors all offering support and help in any way they can.

I’m impressed with how far we’ve come in just a short amount of time. I’m also very excited to share what Endever has in store for you all in just a few short weeks. We’ve come far, but we have much further to go. And somehow, in our ridiculously busy lives of demanding jobs, kids, and spouses, we are making the dream come true and we cannot thank all of you enough who have pitched in and submitted. Even your words of support and encouragement go a long way to get us through the tough days where it would just be much easier to pretend Endever never existed.

So stay tuned, because we might call upon your area of expertise to contribute to our company. But you’ll also want to be involved so that you can know about our upcoming book releases. More details on that soon!

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