Don’t Get Jobbed! Be an iConoclast

While I’m not an Apple fanboy specifically, or a technology geek in general, or a fan of sweatshop labor under any circumstances, Steve Jobs was a fascinating guy. Some people have elevated him onto a pedestal, like some kind of nerdist messiah. Not me. But, I can unironically say that he was a fascinating guy.

Rachel stumbled across Jobs’ commencement speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2006. In it, he offers lessons that he learned in his messianic rise to prominence from LSD trips and ashrams to tech mogulhood (sorry, my iconoclasm is showing, let me adjust my bathrobe). Anyways, it is pretty inspiring stuff:

There are a number of Heroic lessons to be learned, according to the Gospel of Steve:

  • Do what you love. Don’t settle. The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
  • Don’t be afraid to question orthodoxy.
  • The best laid plans often go awry. Be nimble.
  • Feeling secure often suppresses creativity.
  • Don’t waste time living someone else’s life.
  • Trust your intuition.
  • Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

I cannot disagree with any of the above. That’s what this humble blog is all about. His address is filled with very inspirational advice for anyone, from the tens of my loyal followers, to the CEO of a global corporation, to a twelve year old Chinese sweatshop worker putting in 16 hour days assembling iPads for 70 cents an hour.

Sorry for the bile. By all accounts, Jobs was a great guy. It’s just hard not to see the Irony.

But there are other lessons here:

  • Don’t idolize anyone too strenuously. Messiahs are notoriously hard to come by.
  • Be grateful for the freedoms and opportunities and time that you do have, stop making excuses, and realize that many of the barriers to your Happiness are trivial compared to those of millions of others.
  • As you accomplish Deeds of Heroic Excellence, do your best not to do so on the backs of the kind of people you should be helping.

This post was uploaded from my iPhone.

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Cry Havoc! And Let Slip Your Inner Chuck Norris!

war

One of my favorite books about the creative process is A Kick in the Seat of the Pants by Roger Von Oech. In it, he advocates a kind of multiple personality approach to creativity. Four personalities, to be precise:

The Explorer: This is the intellectually curious part of you. The part that seeks new Truths and asks big questions. Like, why can’t men be midwives? Is there something exclusively feminine about midwifery? Is there?

The Artist: The part of you that make associations, that synthesizes ideas in unexpected ways. Like when you came up with that idea for powdered donut-flavored potato chips one time at the bar. Genius!

simon c

“This blog post is absolute rubbish. I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup tonight and there would be a better post floating in my toilet in the morning.” (Photo credit: http://www.her.ie).

The Judge: Your inner critic. The part of you that challenges the quality of your work, and pushes you to improve. Like when you woke up with a hangover, really sat down and thought about how godawful and shitty  powdered donut-flavored potato chips would taste.

The Warrior: This is the bulldog inside of you. The part that won’t let you quit, that will fight for your Vision until the end. See also: how Ed Wood convinced otherwise reasonable people to finance, work on and star in any of his “films”.

It’ s important for Heroes to get in touch with all four of these personality types, but I feel that the most important is the Warrior. It’s been said, in a variety of cliches, that perserverance is the most important trait of successful people.

The Warrior is the part of you that keeps getting up after every knockout punch. It’s the part that never, ever quits. It makes you  work in the lonely hours of the night while everyone else slumbers. It makes you push yourself to go little farther, dig a little deeper.

This year, I have completed my first feature length screenplay. So, in essence, I have successfully channeled my inner Neil Armstrong, Pablo Picasso and Simon Cowell. And I used my inner Chuck Norris to fight through a phalanx of Inner Demons, like self-doubt, writer’s block and squirrel! However, the battle has just begun. It’s time for the External Conflict, a new theater in my metaphorical War.

“Chuck Norris’ beard beat Simon Cowell on Celebrity Jeopardy. Twice.” (Photo credit: http://www.fansshare.com)

I sent my screenplay to a script consultant for professional notes. The next step is to do one last rewrite and send it out to agents, production companies and various contests. And I’m prepared for whatever comes my way. As I blogged recently, I have strapped on my Armour to deflect the criticism and rejection that may be hurled in my direction.This is my inner Chuck Norris’ time to shine. Our Dreams are not going to come along without a fight. We need to be ready to roundhouse kick anything that stands in our way. I’m looking at you, script readers!

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Swimming Toward the Taj Majal

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” 
―    Nelson Mandela

If it seems like Heroic storytime has become a little more infrequent, like waiting two years between seasons of Sherlock, you are right. Keen deductive skills, Hero(ine)! My script is in the late stages, so all of my free time has been spent on it.

I am tantalyzingly close to a completed screenplay, but every day I fight negativity and the impulse to quit. Writing every night into the desolate morning hours has been taking its toll. I have been having hallucinations of a sweet, kickass hammock, rocking me into a delicious circadian rhythm. It’s so seductive, that sexy voice that beckons you to throw in the towel.

Coincidentally, and speaking of hallucinations, I just watched a TED talk by our old friend Diana Nyad, entitled Never, Ever Give Up! In case you aren’t aware, at age 64 Ms. Nyad swam from Cuba to Miami through shark-infested, volatile waters enduring jellyfish stings and hallucinations of the Taj Mahal. Turns out not long after, she saw the lights on the shore that represented the end of her Quest. No one would have blamed her if she would have said, “I have been swimming for 42 hours, I have puke in my jellyfish-resistant mask, and now I’m seeing 500 year old Mughal architecture. Yeah, I’m calling it.”

Lesson: Swim away from the sweet hammock, and swim towards the Taj Mahal.

If you want to see a Doer of Hard Things, a complete badass, check her out below. She’ll inspire you, by making you feel like a slacker crybaby loser weakling.

 

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” 
―    Thomas A. Edison

It used to be that the act of writing a feature-length screenplay seemed like an Impossible Dream to me. Historically, I have a hard time holding enough focus to compose five line emails about “next-gen/turn-key/plug-and-play solutions that optimize your ROI”. Cripes. Fortunately, I have developed a strong will to complete the Journey. In order to finish 120 pages of conflict and pathos, I’ve had to embrace Change and the Doing of Hard Things.

I’ve met Mentors (other writers, script consultants), obtained Supernatural Aids (ADHD medication, the Save the Cat screenwriting book), and defeated Dragons named Distractability, Hyperactivity, and Doubt. Now that my Finish Line is in sight, I have to admit that I have been Transformed by the Journey.

Joseph Campbell talks of a series of Thresholds in the Hero’s Journey. We are officially entering the Innermost Cave, where I am putting on my armor for the Final Ordeal. Or, In other words, Selling the Script. And even though it seems like a Goulet-esque Impossible Dream, it’s cool. For us aspiring Heroes, Impossible Dreams and the Doing of Hard Things are becoming our specialty.

In celebration of my first screenplay, soon I will post an excerpt of the script and outline some exciting next steps.

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Pardon Our Dust!

Noble Heroes,

I know it’s been a while for our several loyal readers. Thanks for your Patience, Support and Understanding as the staff here at WYOS perform some updates to the blog site.

By way of an update, I am beavering away as I put the finishing touches on my as yet untitled screenplay project. We will be sending it out for professional coverage by a Mentor, and after the final rewrites, the next step will be to enter contests and send query letters to agents and production companies.

Also, Wifey and I are in the preliminary stages of a very exciting project for later this year. I’ve said too much. I will share more in the near future, but let’s just say it is a Game-Changer of a Quest. Clearly, I’ve said too much. Let’s just say that it is everything that this humble periodical hopes to promote. Dream-Chasing! Heroic Questing! Cubicle-Busting! Random Capitalization! OK, this time I’ve said too much. Dammit!

Stay gold Ponyboys and Ponygirls!

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Writing an American Classic, One Rejection Letter at a Time, or, ‘We’re just Knopf that into you’

“…this is a badly misdirected talent and … this huge sprawling and inconclusive novel would probably have small sales and sardonic indignant reviews from every side.”  – Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. publishing house’s rejection letter of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, an American classic

As I talked about in a recent post, I have recently entered several writing contests and will be sending out query letters to agencies and production companies to promote my script, tentatively titled From Beyond. Or maybe it’s called Among the Spirits. Working titles, go figure.

I was disappointed to receive a couple of email rejection letters already, but I am (realistically) expecting many more.

I’m not stressing about it. Hell, I’m excited to get the cold shoulder. Because even the greats have been denied. Some of them in extremely insulting fashion.

“[1] Reject recommended

I’m not sure what Heinemann’s sees in this first novel unless it is a kind of youthful American female brashness. But there certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”

Jbj

–Knopf editor “Jbj” and his rejection of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, an American classic

“I shall bring forth upon all vampires an ass-handing like you wouldn’t believe. Even the sexy, brooding ones.”
Photocredit: http://www.peterubel.com

Rejection and failure are part of the deal for writers, certainly, but also anyone with a Dream. Notable examples of Heroes who have overcome rejection include:

Abraham Lincoln: Everybody’s heard this one. According to popular motivational lore, Honest Abe’s road to the White House was beset on all sides with failure and heartbreak. Honestly. Lincoln endured lost elections, vampires, failed business ventures, vampires, a dead sweetheart, vampires and a nervous breakdown before he achieved Heroisms of great historical resonance. He didn’t know when to quit. Honestly.

Colonel Sanders: The founder of KFC drove around the US, knocking on doors, sleeping in his car, trying to get someone to buy his fried chicken recipe. Legend has it that he was rejected 1,009 times before he succeeded. He must have gone through through ten plantation-owner white suits before he hit pay dirt.

The Beatles: Just before they blew up on a global scale, they went in to audition for an executive at Decca records. After recording a set that demonstrated their versatility, energy and charm, they received an abrupt Hello, Goodbye from the exec, who told their manager, Brian Epstein:

“Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, but we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars particularly are finished…The Beatles have no future in show business.”

Business executives, as we all know, are known for their vision and taste.

As I send my query letter, I will be eagerly anticipating the first real rejection letter, which is rite of passage for any writer.

“This office has taken a long time to say no to Nabokov’s Lolita which you and I both know was impossible at least for us… I wonder if any publisher will buy it.”

– Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.’s rejection letter of Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita, a (naturalized) American classic

Geez, these guys over at Knopf, Inc. really know their books… Knopf!!! I mean, not!!! They hate on the classics like some slouchy, indifferent teenagers in 3rd hour lit class.

Whatever your Dream is, don’t let the Greek Chorus of critics slow you down.

 

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Write Your Own Story!

Answer the Call to Adventure and join Our Hero in a Quest of self-discovery and transformation.

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Questrospective: The 2013 Year in Review

“Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Hail Heroes!

One year ago I undertook a Gallant and somewhat Delusional Quest to become a screenwriter. It’s an “Impossible Dream”, according to Robert Goulet. Accordingly, I chose the Knight-Errant Don Quixote of La Mancha as a sort of totem to represent my Journey, which is rich in Ideals and not particularly steeped in”reality”.  Reality likes to impose limitations on people. Heroes hate limitations.

And yet, all Heroes have them. Whether it be their circumstances or a physical/spiritual or other weakness, the Hero must overcome themselves before they can even think about Defeating Dragons and winning the Boon.

My Achilles Heel, my Kryptonite is a raging case of adult ADHD. It hinders everything I do, from work to parenting to my marriage. It makes writing a considerably frustrating challenge. Because of the Curse of Shiny Objects, I have started, but never really finished, dozens of stories, scripts and essays. This has made my Quest a daunting, uphill challenge. Add to that a crippling self-doubt and world-class procrastination on my part, and you have a lethal cocktail for Heroisms.

All Heroes need to face their own limitations, so I started by seeking treatment for my ADHD. This year I finally found a medication that has worked for me, and I have worked hard to take ownership of my habits and behaviors.

I also used this blog to share lessons and draw motivation from real life Heroes such as Diana Nyad, Wallace Stevens, Fauja Singh, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Orville Wright and Sylvester Stallone, all of whom persevered until their Dreams became fact.

Most of all, I have found inspiration in my Muse/wife and three Magic daughters. Rachel has helped release me from all manner of self-made tethers and encourages me everyday. She is a Heroine in her own right. She helps me see the world as it should be.

“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”

 
“Obviously,” replied Don Quixote, “you don’t know much about adventures.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote .

Yet despite much efforting, as the year came to a close, I felt defeated. It seemed as if I had failed in my Quest. No producers or agents came knocking. And I was mired in a slump as I slogged through rewrites of my script. It felt like I was just tilting at windmills instead of slaying Giants.

This is why we take the opportunity to reflect on a passing year; to see the big picture and see the world as it should be. And looking back, it was a life-changing year for me. In 2013, I was pretty prolific for a Knight with a day job. I’ve written several short scripts and stories. And, while I haven’t sold any scripts, or won any contests, or been contacted by an agent, I am a screenwriter. I have completed my first script, tentatively titled From Beyond, which I am rewriting to submit to production companies, talent agencies and writing contests. This would not have been possible before this year. In fact, it is truly miraculous, the stuff of Myth. A grand Adventure.

The graphic below (click image to enlarge) shows the progress I have made in just one year. Viewing the big picture, I am energized to plan for 2014.

Picture2

Click on image to enlarge

Thanks to all who have supported me in this Quest, which is only just beginning. I hope that others will join me in pursuing their Dreams, and overcoming their limitations in 2014.

Maybe you want to start your own business, or change careers, or run your first marathon. Whatever it is, there’s no time like today to start.

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