Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evel

“Bones heal, pain is temporary, and chicks dig scars.” –Robert Craig ‘Evel’ Knievel

“Healing is expensive, pain is painful, and chicks dig sensible, steadily-employed guys with a killer cubicle.” –Evel Knievel’s insurance agent, Herbert Nudds

When I was a kid, my hero was Evel Knievel. That swagger. That red, white, and blue jumpsuit. That cape. He was an American superhero: iconoclastic and rebellious.  I even had his action figure and toy stunt bike, dreaming gossamer dreams of flying across the Snake River Canyon on a rocket cycle, cigarette dangling from my lip nonchalantly, as the world’s collective sphincter puckered. Seventies cool.

“All my life, people have been waiting around to watch me die.” –Evel Knievel

“Call me an incurable optimist, I’ve got a really good feeling about this jump.” Evel Knievel doing his thing. Photo source: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/autopia/images/2007/11/30/evelk_4.jpg

As a so-called responsible adult, beavering away in the safety of my cubicle, I came to see Mr. Knievel’s accomplishments in a more cynical light. I mean, who chooses “human projectile” as a career? And he wasn’t even very good at motorcycle jumping. More often than not, he crashed! In spectacular, humiliating, bone-crushing fashion. How are we supposed to feel sympathy for him when he sets up some asinine, terribly dangerous stunt and then, predictably, gets hoisted by his own petard? Tenderizing his already suspect brain matter with the concrete. Breaking every bone in his body until you could spread his insides on a cracker. Instead of standing before an adoring throng, peeling away on his Harley in triumph, he is instead peeled up off the pavement like chewing gum, and unceremoniously hauled away in an ambulance, while his insurance agent’s sphincter puckered. Not nearly as cool as I remembered.

“Where there is little risk, there is little reward”. –Evel Knievel

“Bet you double or nothing I stick the landing.” Knievel jumping the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Photo source: https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTDg6mQbbISXeIWlsBy0pocGG0WwBHMup_wfawa1XDGpEg5Z65JYA

But, something happened. My inner Knievel started to rev his engine, imperceptibly at first. Over time, it became deafening. I realized that I avoided risk with the zealotry of an insurance agent, and therefore was not living life to the fullest.

Fear of failure paralyzes many people into abandoning their Dreams. Worse, it makes them circle like vultures, waiting to watch others dare to try. Secretly hoping they will fail. Waiting around to watch them die. And when they do, they pounce. Ridiculing. Trolling. TMZ’ing. Having a Hell of a lot of fun at their expense.

But the vultures, the ones who never put themselves out there, will never know the reward of pursuing audaciously. Of failing nobly. And of fighting through doubt and pain time and again to try again, and keep trying until you succeed. That’s the real lesson of Evel Knievel. His choice of career notwithstanding. As a young man, he was going nowhere, in and out of jail, heading towards a wasted life.


Fun fact: Ironically, Evel Knievel worked in insurance sales before embarking in a career in daredevilry.


 

“At least I’ve got good insurance. Oh, right. Dang.” Knievel tasting the agony of defeat. And the contents of his pancreas. Photosource: http://www.sptimes.com/2007/12/01/images/tb_Knievel_300-2.jpg

Finally, he embraced what he loved, and he went at it with everything he had. Designing his own stunts. Building his own ramps. Doing his own promotion. And he, for a brief time, was the biggest star in the world, and hero to millions. Never mind that nobody would sell him an insurance policy. This was pre-Obamacare, after all.

Because he knew, even with his tenderized brain matter, that Reward takes Risk. That failure is temporary. That Daring Greatly usually looks stupid to the unimaginative vultures among us. And that chicks dig scars.

Be a DAREDEVIL! Dare. Fail. Repeat. Reap your reward.

 

 

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Once More Into the Fray!

Once more into the Fray…

Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Live and Die on this day…

Live and die on this day…

–Jon Treloar

Hail Heroes, near and far.

Have you ever poured your Heart and Soul into something, given your ever-loving all for a Goal or Dream, only to fail? Or be rejected?

It has been ages since I’ve transmitted from my remote outpost. Much has happened, and much has not happened. I fully expected to send this post from a yacht or somesuch, so sure was I about the wattage of my future as a professional confabulator.

When I last sent my signal into the ether, I was on the verge of Victory. The Culmination of a Quest. I had completed my maiden screenplay and had queried some Hollywood heavyweights. Impossibly, many even expressed a strong interest in the material. Several copies of my script sat in the hands of producers and agents, each with the profound power to explode my life. And so, after many months of frantic efforting and Questing, I waited.

And waited. And so on.

Finally, I received some responses. “The writing was strong, but not quite what I was looking for”. “Isn’t Dreamworks developing a similar project?”. “Fascinating, but not for me”. Right.

“Tense, your shoulders are. Deep tissue massage, you require.” Luke and Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back (1980). Photo source: http://www.mtv.com/news/1717975/catching-fire-empire-strikes-back-similarites/

 

Frustrating? Yes. Demoralizing? Hell yes.

Failure and/or rejection is a kind of metaphorical death. It takes everything a Hero has got to get back up and try again. And many people never get back up. That is an actual tragedy. Because in the striving and failing and regrouping, we become powerful. It’s our Training Montage, our Proving Ground. It’s Rocky chasing a creepy older guy’s chicken. Daniel-San waxing a creepy older guy’s car.  Luke Skywalker running around a jungle giving a tiny, creepy older guy a piggyback ride in a Baby Bjorn. If you can just endure the pain and repetition and disappointment (and creepiness), soon you will be a Heavyweight Contender/Karate Kid/Jedi Knight.

So am I going to throw in the towel? Not by a damn sight. I’m a glutton for punishment. It’s time to bear down and go twice as hard. So, after some time off, I’m regrouping.

  • First, I’ve negotiated some time off from work to dedicate to my writing. A writer has to write. Every day. Period. Amen.
  • B, I’m returning to the blogosphere. Can’t be shy about getting my wares out there, can I?
  • Nextly, I’m going to set up a website for my screenwriting work. See B above.
  • Also, I’m going to go back and rewrite my script again. Based on reader feedback, the plot is not as taut as it could be. When I’m done with it, you’ll be able to bounce a Spanish dubloon off of it.
  • Finally, I am beginning work on a new script.

It’s like I finally caught a glimpse of my Dream, and it looked me in the eye and whispered, “Come and get me if you can”. I can’t shake it now. It disturbs my sleep. It’s mine for the taking. And if it takes me months or years, I will not stop until I’ve reached my goal.

If you finally take a shot at your Dream, and you fail, are you going to hang your head and trudge home?

Or, are you going to embrace your Purpose, shout your Goal to the heavens, and retrieve your Helmet and Lance and charge once more into the Fray?

 

 

 

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Breaking News from the Dali Bugle!

“Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option.” –Peter Parker

Greetings faithful readership. It has been a few weeks since my last Manifesto. I have been busy tilting at the Windmill-shaped Giants with my trusty pen, and have finally scored a decisive Victory on the Road of Trials.

After finishing my script, I have started putting it out into the universe. Firstly, I joined Virtual Pitchfest’s website. This is a service that allows you to search Hollywood producers, managers and agents, and send them query letters directly. The best part is that these “industry professionals” are required to respond within five days with either a script request or a gentle ‘no thanks’. The other best part is that you can pitch these bigwigs from the comfort of your own breakfast nook, in your Spider-Man jammies. The gatekeepers in the movie business are traditionally difficult to gain access to, particularly for those of us outside of California. This service is great for rookies like me.

"I don't do drugs. I am drugs" - Salvador Dali

“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” – Salvador Dali. Photo credit: http://www.wikipaintings.org

And here’s the surreal part. I mean Salvador Dalí , clock-meltingly surreal. I’ve gotten a bunch of positive replies. From major production companies, leading agents, who want to read the script, based on my logline and query letter. An Oscar-winning producer with decades in the business told me that my query letter was one of the best he’s seen.

After a year and a half of hard work, preseverance, and failure, things are starting to happen. I’ve been contacted by seven (so far) of these industry pros and have been on the VPF website “hot list” of most requested scripts for the better part of a month.

Um, holy @#$&!

This was the purpose of the whole Heroic Quest business, the blog, all of this. Before I embarked on my Quest last year, I had dabbled in screenwriting, but never finished a script. I was working a job that I could barely tolerate. So, I used Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as a Treasure Map to help me find my way. To get in the Game. To find my Motivation. To fight for my Dream. And now I’m off the sidelines. I consider myself a screenwriter now. It’s a remarkable turnaround.

I still have my job. For now.

This is your brain on Sal. Any questions -- Photo credit:

“This is your brain on Sal. Any questions?” — Tick Tock by Salvador Dali. Photo credit: http://www.inspirationmix.com

But these days, I’m leading a Double Life. So, in between conference calls about blahblah blah and various clock-meltingly boring tasks, I surreptitiously check my emails for messages from the producer of <>.  I always used to wonder how Peter Parker used to focus during staff meetings at the Daily Bugle. I mean, he was Spider-Man! He battled the likes of the Green Goblin, while, and at the same time, hurling pithy one-liners at him. You’d suppose he’d think just about anything work-related would be hopelessly trite. I can hardly concentrate on parking meters. Alter egos apparently require considerable acting skill.

Peter had to play it cool, protect his double life. Now I make it a game. Because even though I haven’t sold my script yet, I know it’s just a matter of time. So, I play my role like an Oscar winner and watch the clock melt, one minute at a time.

 

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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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