Onward and Upward

This weekend we finished post-production on a short film, No Time for Romance. It’s a fourteen minute short about a pregnant wife who must decide to stay with her live-in boyfriend or prepare for the end of the world. It’s really about much more than that though: the rising nuclear tensions and the effects it has on a relationship with differing views.

My producing partner and I shot the film earlier this year. It’s been a long time coming. The production didn’t go as planned and the audio was a mess. There were disagreements on the script (that never fully felt complete by the time of filming). In short, we learned a lot.

Upon finalizing and exporting the film, my partner expressed how much he liked it. How good it felt to be done. I felt the same way, but differently.

I replied, “No one will watch it and we’ll make more. Onward and upward.”

He agreed. This might sound complacent but it’s the opposite.

The film won’t win Oscar. And it most likely won’t launch our careers into quitting our jobs and becoming full-time moviemakers. We had a story and we wanted to tell it. Did it come out EXACTLY the way we wanted? No. But that’s okay. Few things do.

I have boughten into this idea/advice from filmmakers like Mark Duplass (and others) whose motto of “just make movies.”

Every project is another lesson for the next one. We have other projects in the works, both together and separately, my producing partner and I. Writing is the same way. With every project you learn something, you get better, you home your voice, your practice.

And as much as we’d love the fame and attention for our projects, the likes and the shares and the views—we know it’s not about that. It can’t be. If it was, we would have quit a long time ago. It’s about the work, the process, the collaboration, the storytelling.

Just write. Just paint. Just workout. Just sew. Set your goals but know it can’t be about the outcome. It has to be about the work.

When facing that lurking feeling of creative self-doubt, born from resistance, waiting to devour all of your dreams and ambitions—Theo Roosevelt said it best:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Come join us in the arena.

This isn’t our first film and it won’t be our last. The next one will be better, and the next one better than that. Fail again. Fail better.

Check out the film here:  No Time For Romance

Thanks for reading. Always be writing.

 

-REH

The day I broke the chain.

2 years, 3 months, and 13 days.

It was a Monday. April 14th.

When I started this blog more than two years ago, I blogged about something called “Don’t Break the Chain”. It was a writing technique practiced by comedian Jerry Seinfeld. It was simply a promise to oneself to write every day. Using a calendar and a red marker, you cross days off that you wrote, creating a chain… Hence DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN.

And on April 14th 2014, I simply forgot to write. And now the chain is broken.

I woke up that morning I realized what I had done.

Before I get into what followed, I should put some context into why I think I broke the chain.

It had been two months since I had worked on a specific project. There were a lot of changes in life and for some reason I was hitting walls with creating anything new — thus I had very little inspiration when it came to writing. Early drafts of scripts sat on my desk, and I couldn’t find any ambition to do rewrites. Perhaps the two years of striving, had worn me down — that’s my excuse anyways.  Without the inspiration of a new fresh project at hand, I began to journal to continue my goal of writing everyday. But then one day, I forgot to. Writing seemly took a backseat — something that didn’t occur for over two years.

I woke up that morning feeling nothing by guilt. I began to over think the reason why…

Perhaps it was sign to give it all up. Stop all struggling and realize I’ll never make it. And that’s how I felt.

“What do I have now?”

There was a blank space on my calendar and I felt broken. The feeling didn’t last for long though. Because I knew, I had to be tough. It was just one day. I had still conquered quite a bit and achieved what I wanted for those two years.

I simply kept writing the following day. I started a new chain on April 15th.

I’m still struggling to get back in the groove of things — and quite honestly don’t know why that is. Some days I’ll work on the rewrites that I have put off for so long. Other days I’ll journal just to cross off the day.

Since breaking the chain that one time, I’ve done it three more times. It doesn’t hurt so much anymore…

And that hurts that it doesn’t hurt so much anymore. When did the writing become so stale and when did the dream of being a successful, working screenwriter become so distant?

It’s hard to say I suppose. But at this point, there is no turning back.

It’s like I’m waiting for that break and that inspiration again. I’m waiting for that moment of rejuvenation and reason to start working hard like before.

I don’t know when that will be, but I’m confident it will come sooner than later.

Or I could just not wait and make it happen myself…

We shall see.

But what I have is two years of major progress in my work. What I have now is another streak to continue, another goal to reach, and another reason to write more and better. I just have to sit down and do it.

Always be writing.

 

-REH

 

Go back to where it all started.

When a good idea comes, I write it down. Eventually the really good ones are turned into a screenplay.

But all these “good ideas” are placed into a folder on the computer.

Often when I begin my outline, I copy and past the very first notes into another word document where I can continue to build the idea, thus leaving the very first starter note as is.

So one long night….
I went back to the starter ideas that were turned into screenplays…

What I found:

Most of the time the notes don’t even apply to the screenplay anymore. But I did find that they are filled with meaning and substance.

On the good screenplays I’ve written, that meaning and substance stuck.

On the bad screenplays, the meaning and substance was clearly lost. Probably in the shuffle of structure, characters and the basic to-do list of a screenplay.

I was also inspired by a lot of the notes. They actually brought on new ideas, which I quickly wrote down. I realized that these starter notes were crucial. I wrote them down for a reason. It’s what inspired me in the first place. And when I write a new story, I need to remember where it all started — where it all came from.

Go back and review your free flowing thoughts. I think you’ll find something. I know I did.

Always be writing. Everyday.

Have a reason to wake up in the morning.

Sleeping is great.

I need at least 10 hours of solid sack time. And without my alarm I could go all day.

But work doesn’t get done while you’re sleeping. But as of late, the holidays and all, getting work done was awfully tough — goal achieving was slim.

I slept a lot.

In many ways, all that sleep felt great. But I knew I was quickly falling behind. All that drive to get up and strive was fading quickly. My routine was slipping and I felt inadequate. I was having a tough time deciphering why.

And then it hit me…

I had no reason to wake up. Besides writing, my day job hours were slim. My days were filled with nothing. I had nothing to do…and this how time gets wasted. And wasted it, I did.

What I needed was a new project.

I was in between projects. Waiting on coverage for a screenplay. I hadn’t outlined anything new in about two months. SO I had nothing on the slate. This was the issue. I know it was. I don’t remember the last time where I didn’t have something to dive into every morning… It had been at least two years.

Why? I don’t know.

But the point is, we all need something to wake up to. This is the very reason why staying busy is important. We set goals to meet them. We meet them by working everyday. Waking up is the first obstacle in achieving those dreams.

I’m currently still trying to get back into the old routine that I relied on so greatly.

Eventually, things will be back to normal.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

ULTIMATE GOAL: Getting paid to do what you love to do.

I landed a writing job last month, rewriting some script.

Although, it didn’t exactly pay a whole lot, I realized a huge lesson…

I was getting paid to do what I love to do. And as I polished the script, I was enjoying it to the full extent.  I’ve had various other small writing jobs — but until now, I’ve never full understood the lesson.

Sometimes you have to sacrifice your artistic integrity and just push through it. The script may not be exactly what you would write, or perhaps the topic isn’t exactly what you would agree with. But I was getting paid to write.

Writing is something I’ve done everyday for the past two years — very often for free.  SO when I saw that deposit in my checking account, all for sitting at my computer, with my tea, music in the background, typing away, expanding my mind, creating and imagining — I realized,  all that hard work, all that reading and practicing, has paid off. Not in full, but it was a start.

And that should be everyone’s goal. Not just for writers. But for anyone with a passion. Learn how to get paid for what you love to do. And suddenly your problems won’t be so immense. Life will have a purpose.

Let’s face it: we need money to make it. We need money to live. We need money to write. And that’s the issue with most striving artists today — they stop being artists, when they need to pay the bills. But what if your art can pay the bills?

Strive to reach this goal. Whatever it is, master it and get paid to do it for the rest of your life.

That’s my goal.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

Save the Egg Roll

Chinese leftovers is king.

I love ordering out, they always give you more than you can eat, thus leaving plenty for the following day’s lunch. In the take out order, you get your main dish, your rice and an egg roll.

(There’s nothing like doing rewrites with a big plate of Chinese and an egg roll in front of you)

I always save the egg roll for the following day. This is very important, and it goes to show you how I live my life and how you should start living your life as well.

It’s about waiting. The egg roll is great. Even though I want to eat it as soon as I see it, I don’t. I let it sit in the fridge, waiting for me to eat it tomorrow.

I know, it’s just an egg roll and how can this possibly reflect life…?

PATIENCE. We want what we want, right now. Not later. RIGHT NOW. This is why we spend money right away; this is why we get frustrated and why three years olds throw tantrums — they don’t understand the idea of waiting for good things to happen.

And this is why saving the egg roll is important for writing screenplays. It’s about patience. For the past two years I’ve spent my days working on my scripts — writing everyday. It’s a struggle. Sometimes I just want to scream. Everyday it’s another goal. And everyday, well most of the days, I receive no instant gratification. So it would be easy to put it all down and walk away. Forget about it!

But I know, I’m laying the bricks, building my platform, becoming a better writer, so one day I can eat that egg roll — and I will be successful.

It’s not going to happen tomorrow. Not next week. It’ll be years. I’m prepared for that. But this is why you need to keep going. You can’t stop or give up. Now if it were as easy as grabbing an egg roll out of the fridge to be successful, everyone would be doing it. The analogy is the egg roll is there. You just have to earn it, if you want to eat it…you need to put it away and wait. Go do your homework. Go strive. You’ll know when it’s time to eat.

I just realized this is my second posting that has to do with Chinese food. Strange.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

I (don’t) envy those who have “lazy days”.

Browsing social networks, I often come across posts like this:

“Day off work, putting in a good show and being lazy, all day!”

“Lazy day, with wine!”

“It’s raining outside, so I’m not going to do shit, but sit my lazy ass on this computer and share my recent gaming achievements” — okay, I exaggerated that one.

I don’t know why these people, work their asses off, go to school, pay rent, raise kids, strive for all these things, to sit around and do NOTHING — when they finally have free time, they want to be lazy?

Why would you ever want to do that?

Hey, I love taking 2 hours off and drinking a beer in front of a good movie. But, even when I’m drinking that beer, watching that movie, I’m still thinking about all the things that I need to get done. All the writing I could be doing. And how the movie I’m watching could influence that.

Take that free time and progress in life where you haven’t…

Hey, we all work hard. Every now and then we need to sit back and relax. But it appears too many people are doing it way too often.

I sound so preachy, I know. But when it comes down to it, everyone wants something out of life.  Let’s face it, they want A LOT out of life. We expect so much. But often we get very little. You want something, you have to work for it.

So you hate your day job, but always wanted to (insert your dreams here) and possibly make a living out of it. Well then why in the hell are you taking a day off to sit on your ass and watch Vampire Diaries? What you do on those days off can change your life.

Take advantage of your day off. Get some things done. You’ll feel better. You’ll make progress and thus you’ll take one step closer to your dreams — being happy.

I suppose if being lazy makes you happy, then do it. But don’t brag about it.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH