writing

Ogre Stone Strikes Again.

Was thrilled to see that “Ogre Stone,” one of my spec sitcom pilots that got a staged reading last summer, sponsored by the WGAw, did well in yet another contest. This time we finished in the Top 25 for spec sitcom pilots and in the Top 5% Overall, for ALL entries in the highly competitive Launch Pad contest sponsored by The Tracking Board.

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Did you do any writing today? Your competition did.

I have been typing a lot lately. Luckily it is something that I enjoy doing. Even when “the writing” itself isn’t going well, I get a certain, specific pleasure from sitting down, staring at the screen and typing; my fingers can pretty much keep up with the speed of my thoughts, which is pretty handy because, believe me when I tell you, even on my best day, my left-handed pen scratchings are slow, uncomfortable to do, and painful to try to read. What I’m saying is: If you want to be a writer, take a few weeks/months and really learn how to type. No matter what kind of writer you are, it’ll help to speed up and streamline your “process.” I learned how to type back in High School, in a three month class designed for college-bound Seniors. It is the one thing I learned in High School that I still use every day. Sometimes I think my 65+wpm typing ability is my most marketable skill.

Why am I telling you all this? Because today I finished yet another first draft. This time it was a low-budget “thriller”  feature that no one asked me to write, except for the nagging voice in my head that demanded I do it. Where does this urge come from? I’m not always sure. I just know I start feeling a special kind of miserable when I’m not actively writing on something. Let me put that another way, not just writing on “something,” but actively plowing through confusion, self-doubt, dead ends and ennui to actually complete drafts of these projects. Finishing things is important. I know because I have digital folders full of started projects that couldn’t hold my interest, or lost their luster when a shiny “new idea” floated into my head. New ideas are easy to come by. Finishing your work is what separates writers from people who think they would be good writers. That idea that is still “in your head” might be better than Chinatown, or even The Great Gatsby, maybe, but as long as it exists only in your head then it isn’t nearly as good as my completed first draft of ANYthing. You don’t need a new computer. You don’t need $300 worth of “writer’s software.” You don’t need an office. You just have to start stringing words together. Prove me wrong Silent Bob.

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2016 awaits

By any measure, 2015 was a challenging year for me, you and pretty much everyone we know, but here we all are – still standing and looking forward to the new challenges and excitements of the new year. Before I completely plunge into ’16 though, I’ll take a quick and final look backwards at just a few particular measurements from the last 365 days, because I’ve been keeping track (sometimes my minor OCD-ish tendencies come in handy.)

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WORDS

I wrote a lot of words this year. The writing, both paid and un-paid, took many forms: short stories, screenplay drafts, monologues, ghost-writing, re-writing, long-form novel-writing, my weekly cartoon, some attempts at poetry (stop laughing) and other multi-media art/word projects. Some entire days were spent hammering away at the keyboard while other days I managed to make only my minimum self-imposed word count. In the end I averaged 525 words per day… which might not sound like a lot, but it comes to 191,625 words for the year (for reference, that is about one-quarter of The Bible.) If it still doesn’t sound like a lot of writing, all I can say is: Try it.   …oh, and that total doesn’t include my 100’s of personal journal entries which, believe me, are even more long-winded than my blog posts. It also doesn’t include the extensive ‘notes’ I wrote for 23 friends who asked me to read & evaluate their scripts, monologues and short stories.

PERFORMANCE

I performed in 18 shows this year. These were nearly all storytelling/monologue shows at various venues all over Los Angeles, but there were also a few attempts at straight “stand-up.” Some shows went great, a few times I tanked. That is to be expected. ALL shows were enjoyable on some level, and I was always happy to meet other writers & friends and hear their stories too. I am working on new stories for the new year.

IMPROV

I did a little of everything improv-related this year: I was hired to do some private coaching for a few very funny groups. I took a class at UCB to see what their system is all about and I did a few informal improv jams with old friends. All of it was fun, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I’m determined to do a lot more of all three things in the coming year because, for me, it always comes back to improv. I’ve actually been missing it terribly.

PERSONAL

I had a good year. I did a lot of hiking, I ate more plants, a little less meat and a lot less sugar. I lost 15 pounds. In spite of a jacked-up knee, I managed to run a 5k in 35:45. I also meditated semi-regularly – just enough to make me realize I need to do it more regularly. I tried some new things this year too, such as banjo lessons, which were harder than I expected, in spite of my years of guitar playing. I even learned a little more html & CSS coding with the help of Codecademy.  Career-wise, well, some years are slower than others, but I’m entering the new year with a lot of new, polished material and some interesting ideas.

2016

I’m ready for whatever might be coming my way next. I’m determined to make sure this year includes more writing, more improv, more shows, more learning (maybe even some JavaScript) and a few new projects/ideas like a website or two and, depending on finances, maybe even a podcast… It will be a good year.

…and hey. I hope YOU have a great year too. GOOD LUCK!

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The Next Thing.

I recently finished a first draft on yet another comedy feature… it is a ‘spec’ of course – relax everybody. So now, while that 1st draft is cooling off and resting, there always has to be a “next thing” to start working on immediately… to preserve the momentum, the habit, the ritual of work (sorry, went a little bit Thomas Wolfe there for a second, an instant, a brief packet of time.) So, I am finally starting to work on the new version of my Punk Rock stories show. The last time I did the full, 50ish minute, show, I only had that much material – a lot less than an hour that I then stretched mercilessly. Now, as I revisit that older stuff, I’ve also got an additional hour (at least) of more punk rock stories. So now the challenge will be re-writing and cutting, cutting, cutting, to turn 2+ hours of material into a 48 minute show that is still funny, makes sense and that, hopefully, has some kind of point to it. So here is a “live” clip of one of my stories – told at the Comedy Central stage. You can find more on my funnyordie page too.

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DC Comics update.

I am holding in my hot little hands a copy of the Hard Cover “Special Edition” of the entire (and somewhat legendary) DC Comics “Solo” comic books.

This is a volume of amazing art and writing by some top-notch people, and the good folks at DC have done a great job of presenting it all in a beautiful package.

I was thrilled when artist Brendan McCarthy first asked me to contribute a story (“Johnny Sorrow“)  to “his” issue of this series and I am now doubly-thrilled to see it again, this time between hard covers. Get yours today.

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Deep in the Weird of Texas.

… just back from eight days and nights in lovely Austin TX. Every (good) thing you’ve ever heard about the town or about the Austin Film Festival is absolutely true. The first half of the trip was an exhausting marathon of trying to cram in every panel, roundtable, screening and party I could into every day & evening. Once the “conference” part of the festival was over (on Monday) the last four days were spent just going to screenings and taking long walks all around Austin (ok, there were a few parties to attend as well.)

The change of scenery was probably good for my head and so much of what I saw and heard during the festival was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries and get re-inspired. I can’t wait ’til next year.

December Lull ??

Here in Los Angeles “The Holidays” is an unavoidably slow time of year. From approximately Nov 15th to Jan 4th, when it comes to trying to do (creative) business,  the first sentence on everyone’s lips is: “Let’s talk about this after The Holidays.”

It is easy to find this mindset annoying, especially when you’re trying to get things done, but that sort of angst is futile… better to just give in to the holiday vibe. Know in your heart that everyone is too distracted to focus on any old business and of course it being the “end of the year” no one has any budget left for new business.

So what do you do?

You use the time to work on your own projects and ideas free of the worry of looming deadlines or fast-approaching pitch meetings. It is a time to quietly GET STUFF DONE.

With that in mind I can tell you that I have been keeping myself plenty busy. I’m preparing an essay piece I’ve performed live a few times for possible inclusion in a book (sweet!) I’m hammering out a 2nd draft on the latest feature comedy spec,  and submitting scripts & short film stuff to some 2011 festivals. On the ‘Blunt Farce’ side of things, work is progressing on episode 3 of Bud Fallbrook, but since it is animation, it is painfully slow going.

…but there is little to complain about. We’ve all more-or-less survived another (rocky) year. This weekend I’ve got some holiday parties to attend that I know will be sweet affairs, populated by some of my favorite people in the world. We’ll talk about the year that was and our plans/hopes for the future and remind ourselves how blessed we are regardless of any obstacles or frustrations currently blocking the path to our dreams.

Happy & Safe Holidays to Everyone.

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