In sights

Searching

Sad hooded eyes

Look me over,

Stare into me,

Searching my soul

For empathy,

A kindred spark,

Recognition

That we are one.

Lives held sacred,

Spirits unchained

Despite coiled wire.

Acknowledgement,

We’re each encaged,

Trapped by limits,

Captive of views

Held by others;

Defining us,

Confining us,

Refining us

To imagery;

A dull shadow

Of former selves,

Bleeding vibrance

To worlds of grey.

But hope remains,

The spark still burns;

Words unspoken

Continue tales

Yet unwritten.

Share my story

Of wilds now gone

That glow in eyes

Hooded and sad.

Cages

Our story so far…

Bradbury

It’s been roughly two years since I stepped off the ledge of the normal world and into the free fall of who I am…and perhaps it is not surprising that I am still discovering who that is.

 

For the uninitiated, a brief recap:

After spending the better part of my adult life as a scientist, magazine writer, communications manager and ad copywriter/creative director, I realized I wasn’t happy. Adding fuel to that fire was the death of my beloved grandmother and of my marriage (thankfully not an acrimonious separation). But where I might have let these events take me to darker depths, I realized that I had never been freer in my life…and the freedom felt good.

Thus, with nothing to hold onto and therefore nothing to lose, I stepped into the abyss of uncertainty and am pursuing my life as a storyteller. And nicely, two years in, I am starting to see dividends.

 

After taking screenwriting classes for a while, I now feel confident that I know what I am doing and have no problem trusting my instincts when it comes to storytelling. I’m good at this.

My latest and possibly most commercial screenplay to date, The Naughty List, awaits external validation in 4 different screenplay competitions. (I may be good at this, but my name is hardly renown at this point.)

My first screenplay Tank’s has slowly climbed its way up the “charts” of screenplay competitions over the past year, and after being a Second Rounder at the Austin Film Festival, it took top prize in the Nashville Film Festival as Best Animated Feature Screenplay.

SomeTV!, the sketch comedy show that I co-wrote, is in front of cameras, and I am told by our Producer/God-head that the initial cuts look amazing. You’ll see the footage as soon as I can send you to it.

Eye of the Beholder, the novel I am co-writing with Agah Bahari—based on the real events of his life in Iran—is starting to write itself (a wonderful moment for a writer) and already has anticipatory buzz in New York entertainment circles.

Eye of the Beholder

I wrote a short children’s book, Butch Goes To Work, that teaches children about working dogs and the abilities of people with disabilities. It is currently seeking a publisher.

Really, really slowly (sorry Kevin Scott), I am co-writing a comedy album in the understanding that what doesn’t lend itself to YouTube is perfect fodder for iTunes!

I almost signed an agreement to develop a screenplay treatment of a mystery novel, and even though this project didn’t come to fruition, I will continue to work with the novelist on future projects.

And I am in the process of taking my new life to the next level by moving to Los Angeles. When the move will take place is still a question.

I am grateful to the folks involved in the magazine and advertising work that continues to pay my bills. And I am over-the-top grateful to all of my friends, family and other supporters who applaud my journey at every turn.

I am a storyteller. I tell stories. And I have never been happier.

PS I don’t know if Bradbury actually said the quote at the front of this piece, but he or whomever was right.

Risking it all

Risk

A friend of mine recently posted the above sign on her Facebook page, and I had no choice but to share it with my Facebook community (and now you). Although I find the sentiment a little negatively toned as worded, I completely agree with it.

As many of you know, I jumped off a cliff about 18 months ago, completely turning my life upside down in pursuit of the dream of being a screenwriter. To do that, I have made a large number of sacrifices to the way my life was, but in the interim, I have discovered some wonderful things—about me and my friends—that I might never have learned if I hadn’t.

Last week, I had drinks with another friend, someone who had made a similar jump to mine. Like me, he has had some wonderful times during this phase of his life, but he is also struggling with doubt and the sense that the years of effort haven’t paid off as he would have liked. Doubt is a thing I understand.

At this moment, I have no doubt or at least not about my dream. It seems as real and viable as ever. Its realization is simply a matter of time in and work on my part. I revel in these moments and wish my friend could feel the same way right now.

When doubt does creep in, however, I do my best to give it context.

The doubt: Can I afford this conference? Is this screenplay any good? Have I made a mistake? Am I a fraud?

The context: What is the alternative?

I look back at my life before I made the jump and I realize that I can’t go back to that. This is not to say that it was all miserable…I had love and support; I enjoyed aspects of my jobs; I met wonderful people. But in many ways, all of those positives were for naught back then because I was miserable.

I was living my life for other people. I based my identity on my job and what I did for other people. I was only as good, as valuable, as loved as other people told me I was, and deep inside, I truly suspected they were lying. Through no fault of theirs, I couldn’t have faith in them because I didn’t have faith in me.

So, when I finally jumped off the cliff, I realized that what I was risking was a life of well masked misery and distrust. Hardly much of a risk from my perspective.

I understand that others cannot always jump as wholeheartedly as I did. They have responsibilities that I did not have.

I have no children. My wife and I were separating for other reasons (nice to say she remains my strongest and most loving advocate and supporter). My family responsibilities had all but disappeared. My jumping would leave no one in the lurch.

So, maybe you can’t jump like I did. I’m not suggesting that it is right for everyone. But to not jump at all in pursuit of a passion is folly.

Every day you maintain the lie, whatever your personal lie is, is another day you risk it all.

It will be scary. You will have doubts. But you’re not doing anyone any favours, least of all yourself, by continuing to pursue activities, attitudes or a life that is crushing you.

I hope my friend relocates the wonder in what he is doing and continues to explore his adventure. If he will let me, I am happy to help him in any way I can.

He is a very lucky man because he is surrounded by love and support from a community of people who adore him and want him to be happy. I hope he can take energy from that. I know I do.

(Ab)Use your imagination

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Four more reps! C’mon, you can do it. Three more reps! Don’t quit now. Two more reps! You’re a champion. One more rep! Almost there. Annnnnd, you are done. Way to go!

Phew!

As you may be able to tell, I recently started a fitness routine, a boot camp if you will. The nice thing about it is that I can still eat and drink whatever I want and the only reason I break into a sweat is because Toronto’s experiencing a nasty heat/humidity wave.

Just over a week ago, I started a screenwriting boot camp of sorts called Screenwriting U, which is designed to teach you how to create the most stunning and saleable scripts that Hollywood will eat up. (My apologies if this sounds like an infomercial.)

All I know right now is the program—the ProSeries—is kicking my ass.

For the next six months, I will have an assignment practically every day (including weekends) that is designed to push me to excel at EVERY aspect of screenwriting; e.g., concept, plotting, character, conflict, narrative, marketing.

I won’t go into any detail as to what we are doing—that would be improper and unethical as the fine folks at Screenwriting U have to make a living—but I can tell you about the outcomes.

At the moment, we’re working on concepts.

Once most of us come up with a concept that really interests us, we typically start writing right away, whether actual dialogue or mapping out plot points. We’re excited. We want to see our amazing idea come to life. Tomorrow is too far away.

No such luxury here.

In the true Full Metal Jacket sense, the instructors are making us break our ideas down to build them back up. And once we’ve done that, we do it again. And again. And again. Each time with a slightly altered method and/or goal.

In nine days, what was six interesting ideas (to me, at least), has become 30 new ideas, some of which are completely lame whereas others are pretty damned good, and more importantly, a hell of a lot more solid that the originals.

It’s a brainstormers wet dream and nightmare all rolled into one.

No matter how thoroughly I think I have developed an idea, just a little more time (or time away) shows me that I can go a little further with the idea or take it in new directions. As with the writing process itself, it is the permission to fail spectacularly with an eye toward finding something truly amazing.

And like physical exercise…what, I did that once…it is painful as hell in the early going, but it does get easier. And when it gets easier, I’ve got to make it hurt like hell again. I’m building imagination muscle memory. I’m making these thought processes second nature.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go change…oh, wait, that would be telling.

PS Hal Croasmun, our drill sergeant, is nothing like the guy in Full Metal Jacket, unless you wanted to imagine verbal enthusiasm replacing verbal abuse.

(First image is used without permission because I like to push the envelope, or any other piece of stationery, for that matter. Clip art below clipped without permission.)

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Courage

Reaching up to the stars or down to a child

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Standing at the peak or sitting in protest

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Achieving your glory or starting from scratch

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Leading your team or following your dream

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Crossing the finish line or starting over

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There are all kinds of courage

 

(Images used without permission but with plenty of gratitude.)