What do you do when you mess up badly?

Yes, all right, I did it. I messed up badly. Sometimes stage managers get it wrong.

I don’t feel bad, though. Maybe a little embarrassed and afraid to meet the leading lady’s forgiving gaze. She is a trouper and she likes me and I like her and we have mutual respect for each other. But I messed up and she could very well have gone under the bus. But she didn’t. She recovered nicely.

So did I. I made it as right as I could for the rest of the performance, after I blew a major light cue and left the audience sitting in semi-darkness, wondering if this was intermission and someone forgot to turn on the house lights.

There are a number of reasons this cue got blown: new light board person foisted on me without having any rehearsal; me having to sit in a different place with bad lighting so that I had trouble seeing my prompt book and a different angle of the stage (again, no rehearsal in this new arrangement); me forgetting to turn off my com when I gave technical cues so that the assistant stage manager backstage wouldn’t take my “Go” to mean sending the leading lady out on stage. No rehearsal because the director doesn’t get that the tech people need a chance to learn the cues, very much as actors need to learn blocking.

You directors out there: if you change major light and sound cues during the run, know that there are trickling down repercussions that may need rehearsing. Bringing in a light person after the show is running has repercussions. Everything in the booth changes. And no way to rehearse any of it.

And what kind of message does it send to the stage manager? That you can’t handle simple light cues. This message, even though it has all gone seamlessly up until he brought in the light person. What was he thinking?

And why didn’t I object? I did, but not in that forceful way stage managers have of saying, in a pleasant way of course, “Back off!” and mean it.

So yeah. It was all on me and throwing anyone under the bus except me, has no purpose. It would only destroy people’s trust in me.

So I took the hit. I will move on. Tonight’s show will go well and seamless, once again.

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Odus the Diva

I have an Odus on my crew for the Community Theater’s production that I am stage managing.

If you play Candy Crush, you’ll find a second level of games that challenge you to clear out all the jelly candies or the candy ingredients. Only this version adds one more thing: an owl, Odus, perched on a branch. You have to keep him from falling off the branch while having a certain number of moves to clear what needs clearing to win the level so you can go on to the next level. Keeping cute little Odus safe on his branch means you have to waste moves that would otherwise go toward the goal: to clear those jellies and ingredients.

I have an Odus in my props crew. A cute teenage boy, full of himself, to be sure, who is under the wing of one of the more influential board members. Does that give him immunity? Possibly.

I have to waste valuable time, energy, and resources to a) appease him when he feels put upon, i.e. when I ask him to set the props for Act I, which is his job, and b) to watch what he does so that he doesn’t get himself into compromising situations, like waiting in the semi-dark parking lot after the rehearsal for a ride.

What else? This Odus spends a lot of energy texting. I know when I see him text, that I can expect a phone call soon from the important board member. I will have to explain how Odus misunderstood, misread, missed out, on what was really going on, being said, etc.

What can I do? Like Odus, this boy is permanently there and I have to deal with him. But I need to minimize his disruptions.

I have a goal for each rehearsal. This week, we are adding some sound, real food and drink, and all of the costumes. The set is being painted. I need to work toward those goals and hope that Odus’ thumb gets tired.

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The artistic stage manager

SM1I have recently gotten involved with a local community theatre and find myself doing theatre from many angles: I am acting in a readers theatre production of The Importance of Being Ernest, adapting, writing, directing, and acting in a two-person a reminiscence of Maya Angelou. I am also stage managing a main stage production.

Stage managing, I always say, is my favorite thing to do in a production company and I am delighted to be a stage manager once again, but oh, man! Is it consuming!

I should have my head examined. I’m that Keyboard Nerd, that person who likes nothing better that be sitting in front of my computer all day working on interesting things like this blog. Like writing articles on theatre history. Playwriting. Not dashing off to rehearsal and staving off crisis after crisis. Or more to what a stage manager does mostly: planning how to avoid the next crisis.

But here I am the stage manager and we’re in the audition process. I’m all set with my two cents as to who I think should be cast. After all, I claim in my online performing arts course, The Business of Show Business, that there are two sides to the key jobs in the performing arts:  an artistic and a managerial side. The stage manager, whose work it is to make the production run smoothly, also has an artistic side. A person who wants to be a director often apprentice as a stage manager where you can see a director in action. To me, a stage manager is in a perfect position to have artistic opinions. And so here’s me, itching to lob a few opinions the director’s way.

But not so fast. First, no one at these auditions was a bit interested in my opinion as to who to cast. I realized very quickly that for me to volunteer my opinion would have been inappropriate. Had I been a long-time member of this theatre community and someone who had earned the right to have an opinion, then maybe someone would have brought me into the process. But I am new to this theater group. They don’t know me, so why would they ask my opinion? I have learned patience and so it is patience that I must practice here. If I keep on doing the things that need doing and do them well and stick to it, eventually I will become a trusted member of this community.

Still, that artistic vibe was humming within me. I got to hear and see how the director and the producer went about selecting a cast and it was instructional. I would have cast differently, but patience reigned me in again. I began to see that here, as in so many theatre companies with plays to be cast, that there are many factors that come into it, only one of which is “Who is the more talented, skillful, actor.”

Two people give two very different readings for the major female lead. Both seem right for the part, both seemed to have talent. Who do you cast?

In this instance, the girl who was cast was the person who: 1) looked good with the fellow who was a shoe-in as the leading man, and 2) had done other roles for this theatre company. The girl who wasn’t cast was an unknown entity, even though I found her resume impressive and her reading fresh.

If the girl who wasn’t cast asked my opinion (and she didn’t), I would have told her what I’m telling you. Casting has little to do with you or your talent or you confidence level or whatever. It all has to do with what the director and producer are looking for you. Understand that, learn from each audition you go to, and move on! I don’t want to hear any mention of “down” or “depression.”  Casting is not personal and unless you deliberately sabotaged yourself (you didn’t prepare, you partied the night before, etc.), it has nothing to do with you personally.

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Hit record

For a while now, I have been working on a pet project: online coursework for high school performing arts classrooms. It would reverse the classroom model: Students would take the core part of the class on their own time and online, but would use scheduled class time to work with the teacher and each other on projects that would reinforce what they were learning.

Coming up with projects has forced me to face the reality that in spite of the timeliness of online coursework, I have been relying on outdated models for the assignments.

But. I have been preaching to my niece that it is her generation who will innovate, who will see the possibilities between old theatre and what will be. She is the future, I tell her. My role, I tell her, is to help her see the possibilities.

So. I read about a new television network in The New Yorker in an article by Emily Nussbaum, the television critic who I like a lot. Pivot the network is called. It’s supposed to be for the younger generation and even though the likes of me watches it, I guess it is. I’m hoping it will get me to see things differently. Explore the possibilities.

I now have an idea to include in assignments where students make performance works of art using the internet and all the production tools available to almost everyone. And to do it through collaboration with each other in one theatre class, or several in one school, or – what-the-heck- students in other schools all around the country. Each class would contribute part of the whole project. It would be managed and directed by the teachers – or even me – who would help students put the project together into a unified and exciting whole.

Guess what? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is already doing it, though on a professional level. On Pivot. He has a production studio called HitRECord that draws from contributors all over the world. His studio puts it together and the results are new, fresh, innovative, and fascinating.

So there you have it. The future is already here and why couldn’t this online class of ours do something innovative? Or maybe something that brings together live performance mixed with technology?

One of the modules I’m developing introduces the designers who work in the theatre to the students and one of these designers is a Media or Digital Media designer. Who knew? In my day there was no media to design and theatre people made the sets by putting pieces of lumber together, covering them with heavy canvas, and painting these pieces to look like what they were supposed to be. Back in the day (don’t you love that expression?) the only time I saw media on stage was in a new play by Grace McKeaney at a theatre near Chicago. She had video playing on screens behind the live actors and it was exciting. But it didn’t become a trend.

But now, whole sets are digital or have digital accompaniments. Happens all the time. Can we do this? Is it something anyone out there would like to work on? Can it be something that we would need a Digital Media designer for? Or do you know a student or two who would know exactly what to do?

Any thoughts or observations?

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The Big Transition: summer and beyond

There comes a time when school ends and you are faced with Your Life: a new reality series starring you. It was fun while it lasted but now you are faced with being tossed into college or out into the world where you are expected to support yourself, make good choices, and kick-start your career as an actor, dancer, musician, scene designer, stage manager, etc. etc.

Do you have a plan?

If you have a plan for your career, you have already decided where you belong in the performing arts and you have begun following up with classes and what you do for the local productions you are involved in. You have people who can advise you and you listen to them, acting on some of the advice, rejecting some of it (for now.) If you have followed a strategy and were able to put your goals together at some point and thought about “what if…” you have already gotten a start managing your career.

You know, for instance, what that next big step is and you are not among those “OMG-ers” who are wailing that the college they got accepted to doesn’t have the classes they need, or they are in the Big Transition and are howling about having to get a job and support themselves while auditioning.

You have already confronted this Big Transition and have some plans for it. While you are not quite sure how it will go, you have a good idea about what you need to do and that you must stay positive and focused.

Put together a strategy

If you have put together a plan for your career, you are already managing it.

For instance, you are managing if you already:

  • Have saved some money to tide you over for a few months after college or a conservatory.
  • Have a workable physical fitness regime.
  • Are already living within a budget and are ready for the inevitable adjustments to this budget (food, shelter, and transportation at least will change.)
  • Decide what city you will live in and what opportunities are there.
  • Know what kind of housing you need.
  • Have an idea of what it’s going to cost (housing, food, transportation etc.) to live in that city.
  • Have put together a few audition pieces or a design portfolio.
  • Have professional and current headshots.
  • Have an updated resume.
  • Have a way to organize and store auditions information:
    • What, when, where.
    • Dates.
    • What materials did you use? Was it a cold reading?
    • Casting director’s name and contact info.
    • When are callbacks?
    • When should you hear back?
    • Any follow-up on your part?
    • What was the outcome?
  • Are familiar enough with unions to know how and when you should join.
  • Understand about personal representation and when and how to get an agent.
  • Have a professional email address that you check often.
  • Have a reliable mobile phone that you keep charged and usable, and that you check regularly for calls and messages.
  • Know that it is performing that keeps you alive, so performing becomes your focus:
    • Work on audition material.
    • Take classes; develop technique and skills.
    • Work for free if it means adding something meaningful to your resume and adding to your experience (workshops, student film, stuff like that).
    • Put yourself in with other positive people in your situation who have something useful to add to your plan and who keep you in touch with your performing arts community.
    • Stay away from the negatives – people, places, behaviors, and substances – whatever is a major distraction from your focus. You must stay in shape – physically and emotionally for your art.

If this is all new to you, maybe before that next Big Transition, you’ll give it some thought and formulate your own strategy. Do it right now and stick to it, change it when circumstances call for it, and add to it when you can. Find people who can help – like, oh, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, life coaches, mentors, and financial advisors (my Uncle Andy was my financial advisor) who can help with a budget and a plan for your financial future.

Just know that others have done it before you, had your breaks and hardships or others just like them. Just know that with realistic planning and knowing where you are going, you can get there just like those before you.

See also: Are you in “Woe is Me” mode?

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Awards season: more about the movies

In last year’s awards season, I went on and on about how Jessica Chastain gave the Best performance and Zero Dark Thirty was absolutely the Best movie, neither of which one the Academy Award. This year, I am not so sure. While I haven’t seen all the “significant” movies, it seems that whatever was the last movie I saw, that was the movie that became the front-runner for the Best.

Her

To me, the movie Her it isn’t a cautionary tale of what’s going to happen to the technical device generation. You know, all those people with phones stuck in their ears. I get it that a lonely guy could fall in love with an operating system that is programmed to become more what the he needs and wants with each encounter. Artificial intelligence learns by trial and error and by constant updates to behavior, etc. I get it that falling in love with someone who is always present for only you is alluring and seductive in ways that transcend the physical.

Further, I see Theodore’s attachment to Her as a condition of all relationships: falling in love is irrational. We see and hear and feel what we want to, what we’ve programmed ourselves to want. It usually has nothing to do with what’s “good for us.” Only what we want. And as with artificial intelligence, we learn to tweak our behavior and the stories we tell ourselves about the Other ever so slightly until we want more, or something different, something we begin to realize we no longer want. 

This movie won’t win but it is the best movie I’ve seen this year and I base because it touched and affected me most. But is it the best movie of the year? Just because I liked it best doesn’t mean: a) it absolutely has to win Best, or b) I have no taste at all.  It won’t win much even though Joaquin Phoenix was superb (as was Amy Adams) and Scarlett Johansson was devastating as only a voice, but a voice with ever-evolving personality traits that we associate with human thoughts and emotions.

Nebraska

But then I saw Nebraska and thought it was a beautiful, sweet/sad movie with great structure and filmed beautifully and had genuine performances from not only Bruce Dern but everyone, was funny and sad and real.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Ben Affleck’s Argo, I didn’t like it for Best Movie of the Year (Oscar), which it won. I thought it had mixed the tone of it too much from almost slapstick comedy to tragic situations with people who could have lost their lives in a hostile country. It did have thoroughly entertaining comedy turns by the best comedy actors but other scenes seemed to have almost nothing to do with the comedy.

In Nebraska, there are some sharp, funny one-liners but in the context of the movie, they were also sad and even sweet. It was a beautifully conceived and made film and Bruce Dern’s performance was memorable. But was it better than the other men up for the same award? How can you say any were better than the others. They were all terrific in their own way and had quality material to work with.

August: Osage County

Then I saw August: Osage County and yes, Meryl Streeped her way through, was absolutely amazing (better than when she won the Oscar for The Iron Lady, I thought) but she is on an acting plain that eludes most actors. Will you be the next Meryl Streep? No, you will not. You can’t be. No one can. But will you be brilliant? Maybe, maybe not, but it is only peripheral to what you will most likely do: you will move people, make them think, even help them work through epic issues in their lives, or just give them a reason to say that acting is the best profession in the world. But compete? It isn’t a tennis match when if you hit the ball in bounds were your opponent can’t hit it back enough times you win. There is no competition art. It just is.

For instance, there is Meryl Streep. And then there is you. You are both acting, is the best you can say. Will she wring more emotion out of reading, say, the phone book than you? Probably. But what if you were funny reading this same book? And what about Julia Roberts? Was she Better than the great Amy Morton who did the part on Broadway? Yes and no. The performances were just different and done in different media, which calls for different efforts. Film, after all, is not the theatre and different skills come to bear in both. (Don’t worry: you’ll fit in just fine.)

American Hustle

Then I saw American Hustle and thought that was the Best and that Amy Adams has always been a remarkable actor but never this remarkable. Another Best! The ensemble was amazing to watch work together, all four were like an acting symphony.

The lesson: grow as an artist

Tomorrow I’m off to see Dallas Buyer’s Club, not because I think Matthew McConaughey will be the Best actor, but because I want to see how far he has taken his art and how he is maturing and developing as an actor. He used to play, tentatively, parts that were light-weight and that relied so much on his easygoing personality. But what interests me, since what I think of as his breakout performance in Bernie, is his growth and what a person is capable of if they stick with it and work hard and follow what Martha Beck (life coach) calls your North Star. That, not the award, I find inspiring. That, not awards, is what you ought to work toward.

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Awards season: Ya can’t win ‘em all

Here we go again. I don’t know about you, but I get caught up in the awards mania by trying to see every movie that counts. I go to afternoon shows (cheaper and I work at home, so I can take off) grumbling about awards in general for the arts – how is one performance in one movie better than another equally impressive performance in another movie and how come I like a movie that got zero nominations better than any of the movies nominated?

As a teacher/coach, though, my main beef with awards for the arts is that they give you up-and-comers a completely false sense of what you are working toward. Art moves, instructs, and holds up a mirror of what it is to be human. Many artists work toward expressing truth, your vision of what we humans are facing in our lives and some ways to understand those things better. It is not to take home the Super Bowl of awards for your efforts. As was Carrie Underwood’s brave and ambitious portrayal of Maria in The Sound of Music, most of what you do will be hard work. You will make mistakes and missteps that you will learn to turn into triumphs, and honing your skills and instincts along your way even as the critics throw zingers at you.

As the Zen sages might say, it is the journey that counts, not the Tony award.

I bet most of you didn’t win Best anything this year. Does that mean you should quit acting (dancing, writing, directing, etc.) and get a “useful” job working in an office toward someone else’s dream? No. It means you did just fine. Just showing up for rehearsals and doing all the work and learning along the way is a huge win. If you learned and grew through triumphs and mistakes, it means you hit the ball out of the park. My favorite analogy here is that not only was Babe Ruth (an old-timey baseball player for those of you just not into sports) the home run king, he was also the strike-out king of his time. It means he took lots of swings and misses just to get a hold of that one ball he knew he could hit out of the park. He got booed a lot, cheered a little. So keep at it. Be there, in the game, to meet your next opportunity to do what you love.

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Wanting a career in the performing arts

Just wanting it isn’t enough. There is wishful thinking and there is intention. You may see yourself getting curtain call after curtain call, getting your due for the talent you possess.

And what happens when you don’t get cast in the Fall musical? Some people think this is a wake-up call to give up these silly dreams and go do something practical. Like study quantum mechanics.

I got news for you. It is a wakeup call but it has nothing to do with talent or sex appeal or even wishful thinking. If you want a career in the arts, you must be willing to turn that dreaming into practical intention.

There is a big difference between thinking about doing something and your intent to do it. Just look at the law. You can go to jail for planning to harm someone. They call it “intent.” You won’t go to jail for having a random thought about how life would be without that annoying someone around you. The “intent” is only wishful thinking.

This brings up that pesky word “planning.” This is a word right out of a business model where if a company wants to make better and cheaper widgets and corner a market on them, they have to do some “planning” that takes it out of the wishful stage and puts it squarely on a course to succeed. What happens between the wishful – gee, I “wish” I could be in the movies – to taking an acting class? You have thought about the steps it takes to be an actor and turned dreaming into practical intent.

I had a discussion with my hairdresser – a talented person if ever there was one – about why she was not cutting hair in Hollywood for the movies, something she has wanted to do forever. It all boiled down to not wanting to take seriously the business end of creativity. She didn’t like having to “marketing” herself. She is a creative person and “marketing” is something she thinks she couldn’t possibly be good at. It was all about business. Like working in a salon isn’t business? And she said this after handing me her business card, something she had designed herself.

Here’s the thing about performance art and marketing. I have a friend who acts in Chicago. She relentlessly sends out postcards to producers and casting directors that has a head shot on the front and what role she is doing or has done recently. She asks them to come and see her in whatever the current thing is. I got more news for you. That is marketing and my friend has worked almost non-stop in professional theatre – with awards and everything – for almost 30 years.

I think the reason my hairdresser doesn’t like the business end is because she was told or tells herself that business is directly opposite to what is artistic. What we aren’t taught – in high school, anyway – is that business and art go hand in hand.  Just watch Nashville if you want to get up close and personal with the business end of show business, in this case the country music industry.

So I guess the question for you is, “What are you doing today that is on your plan for a career in the performing arts?”

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Are you in “Woe is Me” mode?

You feel helpless, wondering where the old confidence has gone, the old I-can-do-anything! You feel deserted.

A situation I recently heard of brought it all back to me. I have felt like that and I bet you have, too. Or might some day.

You get your degree. All through college, family, friends, professors praised your work and the guts it took to succeed in the performing arts. You have big plans for the future. They will love you in (pick your destination) New York, Hollywood, Broadway, television, movies, Cirque du Solei. Based on past glowing reviews, you have it made.

But then IT, the Woe is Me, thing appears in the form of Stark Terror!  You just graduated begins to weigh you down. What do you do now?

Maybe you’ll delay the Big Career a little, get seasoned, whatever. You look at graduate school. You look at an acting studio. You pick one, and of course, with your undergraduate credentials and strong resume, you get in. You are safe. Again. For a while.

Again you graduate. And now you face….Square One (read more about this free fall in Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star.) Nothing. You are nowhere and there is no direction, no safety net. Dad, who always thought you should be a nurse or teacher, something you can always fall back on, is out of money and just can’t support you anymore. It was that graduate school that broke his bank.

And here you are, trying to live on your own, and are faced with the dilemma of having to find a means of support. An acting job? You look at the want ads. Fat chance, they say, finding anything in the arts. You do, though, see an ad for job sweeping hair and cleaning hairbrushes in a hair salon.

But there is a problem. A mighty big one. Your confidence is gone. You aren’t sure you know how to sweep hair. Your resolve has dissolved. If you sweep hair today, you will never have the time, the energy, or even the will to go to auditions, much less prepare for them. And with your current luck and past successes, it is inevitable that you will soon be made manager of the salon and working 24/7 to keep the place afloat. Acting? When will you ever do that? Maybe, your diminished self tells you, you were never meant to act.

You don’t get out of bed. You get this storyline embedded in your head that you will never again see the inside of a theatre. You have no identity anymore. You have no roadmap, no direction.  Your life as you knew it is over.

Woe is you!

What do you do? What do you do?

Guess what? You are not alone. This is what happens to almost everyone when there are big life changes. You feel like someone set you adrift in a row boat in a huge hurricane and not only is your dream port nowhere on the horizon, you just realized that you never learned to swim, even though your sainted mother tried her best to get you to take lessons. “Who needs to know how to swim on Broadway!” you said, wishing now that you could take it back.

How did you get from confidently knowing you belonged on Broadway to worrying about how you’re going to convince someone that you’d make a swell hair sweeper and still have time to get to auditions?

What auditions? How will you find them? What should you do to prepare for them? None of these things seem to matter much now that just getting out of bed is something you: 1) Don’t want to do, 2) Forgot how to do, or 3) Just not an option today.

You are in a place that has never been on your horizon. And yet this is what happens when big life changes happen. You are set adrift.

So what do you do? I would advise spending a little more time in bed muttering to yourself, “Oh, Woe is Me!” and trying to feel just as bad as you think you do. Then let things settle. Then  put one foot on the floor and soon after, put the other one down. Head for the bathroom or kitchen taking baby steps. When you no longer have to think about how to walk and can do it on your own, I would begin to make plans for getting out of this situation.

  1. First, Butch up! Yes, you do have to take a job to support yourself. Get over it.
  2. Next, find others who were in the same boat and get their story or even their advice. (Yes, read Martha Beck’s books. They will give you heart, courage, and a plan.) (So will this blog.)
  3. Make a list of all the things you need to do to go on that very next audition. You probably know what those things are – the same stuff you did in college. Guess what? You also need to do them in the real world.

In case you need reminding, here is what I would do in your shoes.

  1. Whether there are auditions for you right now or not, prepare for them by having four two-minute scenes ready:
    1. Classic drama
    2. Classic comedy
    3. Contemporary drama
    4. Contemporary comedy

    Get someone who knows (a former prof, a working actor, etc) to coach you with the scenes.

  2. Get online to everywhere auditions are being held in your area. Remember that Broadway isn’t the only venue. There is probably a regional and other professional theatres near you. Be well-suited to. Leave out the parts you know you can’t play with your limited background. (For example, you would have a hard time convincing a casting director that you could play Hamlet in a classic version of the play if you are a girl.)
  3. Find out (contact the director/theatre) what the auditions require and plan for that.
  4. Heck, contact the theatre to see if there are other, part-time jobs you could take (working in the box office comes to mind or working in the costume/scene shop) while you go to auditions. The big advantage is that you are right in the middle of where you want to be; theatre people now know you. You fill in some more reasons yourself.

No matter what you think you know about success and the making of a career, it doesn’t just happen overnight. You do what you need to do to make sure you are at least in the running. You get out of bed RIGHT NOW and do it, even if you are terrified. Remember Babe Ruth? The Home Run King? He was also the Strike-Out King. You gotta be hitting at speeding balls all the time to finally hit one out of the park.

Courage, after all, isn’t possible without fear.

It’s time to get out of bed.

 

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How to write the Great American …

… fantasy/sci-fi, novel, blog, screenplay, stage play….

 (for my friend Jon)

The big secret to actually writing something you must get out of your comfortable daily existence and form a new habit. And do it without a lot of fanfare. There will be no posting of images of you writing on Facebook, like it is some big accomplishment. No one wants to see you sitting at a computer. Believe me.

Day One

  1. You find a place that is quiet or at least is conducive for sitting at a time of day when you are at your best (the gym or party can wait.)
  2. You stare at a blank screen or piece of paper. You pick up a pencil. You draw something. Put down a few random words, anything to erase that blankness. You look at it. You jot down a few things, a few ideas that have been rattling around in your head and that you always meant to get down on paper (or virtual paper.)
  3. You keep your head blank (no making lists of things you want to do later or bucket lists or a grocery list.) You keep blank as long as you can until a thought, idea, notion, word, image, something comes into it. Put whatever down on paper. Or the virtual paper.
  4. You do this for ten to twenty minutes.
  5. You save the paper you just wrote on, somewhere you can get to it again tomorrow. You force yourself to get up and do something else.

Until tomorrow. At the same time. With the same paper, virtual or otherwise, you made yesterday.

Day Two

  1. You look at the page and notice a difference from yesterday. It is no longer blank. There are words, images, scribbles, something. You look them over and let more things just come.
  2. You do this for ten to twenty minutes, only now, before you leave for more fun and games, you rearrange some of these ideas, words, into some kind of order. Something to note here: there is no right or wrong way to do this. You just have to do it.

Days Three and Four

For the next two days, you repeat this pattern. This is what life-coach Martha Beck (check out her blog on procrastination) calls a four-day win.

Why four days? You can do anything once, maybe twice. You can feel victorious if you do it three times. But four times? You have gone past the euphoria of “I can do it! See?” into the realm of “I do this. It is part of my life.” If you do it four times, you already feel like it is a habit.

Forever after

So you do this, access what you wrote or scribbled yesterday, at the same time each day and soon you don’t have to even thing about it, you are writing. The ideas you thought were random are beginning to form a real thing and all it needs are some more ideas, a form, more words, edits, and finally someone else to read it. Then rewrites ensue (still at the same time every day but the amount of time all depends on what you need to do.)

Even when you are finished, something is urging you on to the next project. It is that damned time of day again where you sit in front of your blank computer screen or blank page and…. You get the idea.

Tips

  1. Keep organizing ideas.
  2. Use an outline or whatever works for you.
  3. Make files and folders with meaningful names to store like things.

If you don’t have a good way to do this kind of organizing, find someone who is good at this and ask how they do it.

The important thing is to stay at your computer/page for at least ten or twenty minutes a day (at least) with only this work of art to occupy your thoughts. Get those thoughts down until this process is something you do every day.

Keep at it. Work toward a first draft. Work towards a final draft. Find out how others do it.

Start right now. This minute. Write something down. Do it.

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