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.

Addressing My Own Stubbornness

Great conversation and comments on yesterday’s post! Thank you for all who contributed. I’ve read through most of your reasons for being stubborn by not walking away from the written word and indulging fully in the technology age, and I’ve got to say, many of you are much deeper and intellectually-minded than I am.

I thought through my own reasons for not being willing to put down my books, and here’s what I came up with:

  1. I am a control freak. My poor family has to deal with this on a regular basis. I know I’m not trying hard enough to break the habit, but I’m trying to try hard enough. Anyway, when I’m reading a book I get to control the pace of the story. Rent a movie and you’re slapped with the 142 min. run time. No more, no less, unless of course you skip the credits (GASP!). If I want a scene to unfold slowly, then I can choose to take my time processing the information before me. If a scene is boring, I can read fast. If a scene is suspenseful . . . (A huge shout-out to Sarah Angleton from The Practical Historian for nailing this one)
  2. THE SUSPENSE! I am absolutely obsessed with being in suspense. It’s like a weird non-sexual dominatrix thing I’ve got going on. Everyone loves a good cliffhanger, and that’s the exact reason I love books more than movies and TV shows:

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In movies, the suspense is revealed according to the director’s timing. You can’t hold out a little longer if he/she decides to reveal the outcome of a suspenseful situation.

TV shows are just too painful. They leave you with a cliffhanger and then you’re stuck scratching an irritating itch for a whole week or even several months. (This is why I love discovering shows really late because then I can Netflix them. Then the problem becomes not knowing when to stop. I’ve got to reach the next cliffhanger, I’ve got to know what happens, I’ve got to reach the next cliffhanger, what happens, cliffhanger, answers! It’s an endless cycle.)

So those are my two reasons why I refuse to let go of my books. I’m a suspense junkie. Speaking of suspense, you should check out the serial novel, “The Underneath” that my publishing company’s authors are writing.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation and may your weekend be filled with words, intimacy with your characters, and suspense!

Let’s Address Your Stubbornness

Leona, 7, poses inside a labyrinth installation made up of 250,000 books titled "aMAZEme" at the Royal Festival Hall in central London

Leona, 7, poses inside a labyrinth installation made up of 250,000 books titled “aMAZEme” by Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo at the Royal Festival Hall in central London July 31, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (BRITAIN – Tags: ENTERTAINMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) – RTR35PZS

If you follow my blog, it’s likely you love books as much as I do. Not more than I do. But at least as much.

But why?

In an age saturated with HBO, AMC, and MGM, why do we remain so stubborn as to cling to our paperbacks and hardcovers and tablets? When supervillains dominate the silver screen with special effects and bright colors and zombie hunters invade the big screens in our living rooms, what is it about the written word that keeps us captivated?

For me, I just love that I can leave the story and return at a whim. Toilet breaks, walks, red lights . . . Those characters are still going to be there. But the same can be said of visual entertainment, so that can’t be it. . .

Maybe it’s because narrators can take us deeper into a character’s psyche. But then, there are some pretty intense character studies in movies and films, so it can’t be that . . .

What about you? Do you have any ideas? What separates a book from movies and TV? What makes you choose to pick up a John Grisham book over watching the newest episode of “Game of Thrones”? I’m not saying we replace TV and movies with books, but we bibliophiles are stubborn, refusing to let go of one of the most primal entertainment mediums.

What makes you so stubborn?

 

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.

The Underneath Part 2

The second part of “The Underneath” is posted. Enjoy! Please be advised the the below portion is just a portion. To read the full segment, go to Endever’s blog.

“Attention, attention,” the principal starts. Not surprisingly it takes everyone at least six minutes to actually give their full attention. Teachers from all over the room scramble to demand their students’ due respect for Principal Newhouser. Finally the principal speaks over the commotion. “I know it is tempting, especially now, to engage with your mobile devices, but I ask for at least ten minutes of your attention.” Only a few students using their devises take this threat seriously and put their phones away, which Cameron finds amusing.

“As you may have heard, there is a countrywide threat that has presented itself through several known attacks on several major cities,” Newhouser states, as officially as he can. Hungry for the latest, the students now direct their attention to him. “For any of you who have loved ones in any of the affected cities, my sincere prayers for their safety is extended to you. Rest assured that-”

Suddenly the ground and the chair underneath Cameron gives and the entire student body screams in terror as the lights flicker then burn out. The auditorium stills as quickly as it moved. Screams echo from all around and the auditorium is dimly lit by the blue and white glow coming from everyone’s phones.

Principal Newhouser’s voice can barely be heard through the speakers ordering everyone to stay calm and to not panic. But now even the teachers are ignoring him and poring over their devices. Cameron hears determined protests from people all around him saying they’re going home, and before he knows it, everyone is on their feet making a rush toward the Exit signs. A blow horn sounds, probably from one of the faculty members trying to get the students to settle down, but it goes unheard.

Trying to stay on his feet amidst the mob, Cameron pulls out his phone to text his sister, but it says there’s no signal. He pockets it and begins yelling her name, but his efforts are futile. He can’t even hear his own voice above the commotion. He’s determined to get to her before her boyfriend and his gang talk her into running off with them. She resents it, but ever since their parents achieved their fame and success, he’s had to become a surrogate father to her. If anything happens to Lisa, it’s on him, and he’ll be damned if he lets that happen.

The parking lot is a total disaster as students rush to get out of the school. It’s worse than Black Friday at the mall. Cameron notices the sirens have stopped, but it’s eerily dark out even though the nearest clouds are a long way off. He also notices that there are no shadows on the ground. He glances up at the sun and it looks no different.

Read the rest here.

 

 

The Pixar Challenge

EdCatmull_lores“Good artists borrow, great artists steal,” is a motto Steve Jobs lived by.

As a business owner, I see myself as an artist because I’m creating something from nearly nothing.

But artists still need inspiration. Filmmakers need a camera. Animators need a pencil or a computer. Sculptors need clay. And painters need landscapes or models.

But all artists need inspiration. Without it, nothing could be created.

My inspiration as the founder of a publishing studio is an animation studio located 2,307 miles away. My inspiration comes from Pixar Animation Studios, namely the founder and owner Ed Catmull.

Millions of people watch Pixar movies every year and even study the studio from a business standpoint and ask, “How do they do it?”

It’s no secret. Mr. Catmull was gracious enough to provide many answers to both artists and businesspeople through his ingenious book, Creativity, Inc.

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In the book, Catmul is open and honest about his and Pixar’s mistakes along the way to success and even after. His thesis is that creativity is found in people, not just ideas—a revelation I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.

So how, as a fledgling company, can Endever Publishing Studios mimic a multi-million-Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 10.58.49 AMdollar animation studio?

By their principles, for one. Pixar Animation gives their employees the freedom to express themselves and their ideas. They’re not hammered down by corporate policies and suits and ties. There are channels set in place for them to go through, but the channels are designed within the studio to be an asset to success, not a barrier, as most companies have it.

Their work ethic for another. I don’t mean just following the rules, but I mean going abovePresto_poster and beyond to win the trust and approval of their audiences (or customers). One example of this is by their short films they release along with every feature film they produce. Prior to (and excluding) the DVR releases of Pixar’s short films, they make virtually no money on their short films. They’re also in production to help aspiring artists and directors spread their wings in preparation for full-length features.

And lastly, but not conclusively, Endever Publishing Studios attempts to mimic Pixar’s storytelling techniques. This is critical seeing that Endever is in the business of storytelling. We are a studio that refuses to release ordinary material. I’m sure we’ll make mistakes in this regard, but we have a system that we are building from within to make the storytelling process as airtight and flawless as possible.

Catmull, in his book, even takes the liberty to give the readers a sneak-peak inside one of Pixar’s “Braintrust” sessions where the storytellers argue and analyze and hash out idea after idea after idea to extract exactly the feelings and thoughts they’re trying to convey to the audience. The process is rigorous, and even draining. But it’s a worthy expedition as Pixar makes films that not only entertain but that enlighten, affect, and even change lives.

It’s a wonder to me that no other businesses that I know of is following Pixar’s model. The leader of one of the greatest companies in the world has literally given us the answer sheet on how to run a successful business, how to begin the process of creating paramount and original stories, yet Dreamworks isn’t pulling the brakes on their mediocre creative factory to regroup, managers aren’t saying, “How can I make my employees feel enabled and motivated?”

If that’s happening, I don’t know about it.

I take Ed Catmull’s book as a challenge to the rest of us. A challenge to step up our game in both the creative and the business worlds. I want to be like Ed. I want my company to be like Pixar. I vow to keep my employees happy and make them feel enabled and that they have much to contribute to the company. I vow to not release a book or any published material produced by Endever until it is something that we believe will not only satisfy immediate readers but will withstand the test of time.

Consider me the first to accept the Pixar Challenge. Will you, as an artist or a business owner or manager, join me?

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Title Reveal for Endever’s Serial Blog

A few days ago I announced the release of a serial blog that will be released this Monday, August 1st.

Beyond building a readership to draw attention to Endever before releasing our debut novels later this year, we’ve decided to give our authors a chance to shine prior to their book releases.

They will be contributing to an ever-growing story with an ever-growing cast of colorful characters. A divorced lawyer-turned-ranch handler, a mother and daughter struggling to make ends meet and stay out of trouble, high school siblings whose wealthy parents have all but abandoned them, and many more.

Though they are scattered throughout the world, they all share one common goal: end-is-near

The fragile desire to survive the end of civilization as we know it.

When the world jolts on August First, no one has any idea that ordinary life has come to an abrupt end.

At first the decline is subtle. Faltering phone connections, weak internet signals.

And then it seems to all happen at once. Random airplane explosions, collapsing mountains. No more sun. No more rain.

In this altered world, survival is essential, it is not instinct. 

On August First, on Endever’s blog, dare to explore “THE UNDERNEATH.” 

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