Lincoln to Sherman: Nothing Risked – Nothing Gained

After his tyrannical march to the sea, the capturing and burning of Savannah, Sherman sent a letter to Lincoln, giving him what he called a “Christmas gift”. This was the ultimate gift, as the Civil War would meet its finale some months later, when the Confederate Army would surrender to the Union forces in early April.

Lincoln was reluctant on Sherman’s burning march to the sea. But on his “thank you” letter back to Sherman, Lincoln wrote and noted that he remembered “Nothing Risked – Nothing Gained”.

This idea: If you don’t risk, you will gain nothing — goes a long way. It’s been said in various ways through out history in philosophy and beyond. And is the basis for any avid gambler.

We must take chances. We must put ourselves out there. We must risk our dignity and ego to gain something in return.

When Sherman marched through Georgia and burned everything in sight – perhaps he risked his reputation. He risked losing the war. Lee was pinned to the North. On the other side of the country, another confederate army was awaiting Sherman’s next move. Sherman was forced to make a decision to not engage either of these armies, but instead, he captured Atlanta and marched onto Savannah, where he evacuated civilians, burned crops, infrastructure and left behind complete wreckage; the south’s capacity of warfare was broken. It was nothing short of complete brutality.

We come across these obstacles in everyday life. Whether it has to do with our careers or our relationships. We must take risks if we want to gain — easier said than done. We face the uncertainly of failure and humiliation. We have to ask ourselves, is it worth it?

The risk of losing can weigh heavy on the mind. We often choose the path of certainty. The path that is easy.

Today, we see so many talented people choose a career path that will just get them by. One that offers confidence of money and a limited struggle. They wrap themselves in a blanket of this security. As humans, we often yearn for more. More satisfaction and greatness, yet we often do very little about it. We often dream and speak of this yearning of greatness and satisfaction. We talk to our peers about what are plans are. We speak in hindsight and in hypothetical situations. But yet we seldom take the actions to make these things come true.

This is where the risk factor seems to come into play. Is it worth it?

Now this is where the lines fade. Each person has a different definition of what makes him or her happy? What they want or wanted to do? So when I speak in terms of “settling” you can choose whether or not to agree or not agree that you have settled.

You want to make music? You want to go to the NFL? You really like art, but the employment outlook isn’t good for a sculptor?

Yet you don’t think you got it — you think you’ll be poor. I’ll struggle and risk everything… you could have.

But stand back and look at what you’re risking. When you settle for the easy route, one that doesn’t challenge you, one that doesn’t test your will and ability to strive, you risk your happiness.

This route may offer happiness in the eyes of others, but often you’ll find yourself dreaming bigger and imagining the hypothetical day of change. If that’s what you’re willing to risk, then make music. Put yourself out there. Exit that bubble of self-security and try too something that REALLY satisfies you.

What happened to being an astronaut? Or a firefighter? There was a point in our life, where suddenly those BIG dreams faded and “reality” kicked in. Maybe it was when we started to understand money and how much it matters. How much we need it. Or maybe it was when we discovered sex. It changed how we dressed and acted. If I want to have sex, I need a job, I need money. Therefore being a musician or a sculptor or an astronaut is a tough route — I’ll have to risk things; I’ll have to take this security blanket off; I’ll have to work and strive and suffer and struggle — is it worth it?

We need to go back to when we were eleven. We need to again look forward to future and leave the cynical attitudes at the door. Find what makes you happy. DO what you enjoy and fight for that. This is life and there is only one at bat. There is no second chance. There is no other “time around” when you’ll be able to try something different.

If you dream of fame, money, glory or you just do prefer living in a cabin somewhere in the woods, in peace and harmony — then why aren’t you doing that?

Why wouldn’t you risk it? If you don’t risk it, you will gain nothing and therefore you will living with regret and continue to dream BIG, without ever reaching those dreams.

Sherman risked everything he had. He set his goals and he literally burned everything in his pathway to reach those goals. He had to win the war. It was his mission. His obligation. His risk…

He followed through.

It can start now. It can start tomorrow. It can start next Monday. You owe it to yourself.


Leave it all on the page

I played football in high school and the coaches would always say “Leave it all on the field”.

They meant: put all your emotion and physical stamina into the game. When you walk off you should have nothing left. Leave it all out there.

I can compare this to writing. After an emotional day of writing, I tend to take the emotions with me — after I leave my desk.

This can hurt.  Sometimes I tend to dramatize life. As screenwriters we have to put our characters into the worst possible situations to create drama on the page. Our imaginations have to carry us into a situation where ANYTHING can happen.

This can really affect our “reality”.  I sometimes sit there and imagine every situation taking a sudden turn for the worst. My imagination runs away. I’m horribly neurotic. Sometimes this is when I come up with my best ideas…

I have to look back and take the lesson from my coaches.

When I leave my desk, those emotions, those characters should remain there. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ALWAYS BE WRITING — but be able to realize that you’re not living in one of your movies.

If you put all that emotion on the page, the writing will show. You’ll create a better screenplay and hopefully a future film.

Always be writing. Everyday.


Moments of Fate

I’m a huge believer in fate.

I’m very superstitious. I can’t watch a Michigan Football game without knocking on the coffee table at least six times.

Throughout my life, things have happened, that I refuse to believe are JUST coincidences. Today highlighted why I continue to believe in my own destiny.

I had just finished a first draft of my latest script. It was only 80 pages long!

First of all, that’s not good. Not good at all! Your first draft should be at least 120 pages…then you cut and trim to get to that magic 96.


I like to print my first draft to read and make notes. I love the hard copy. There is something very special about holding finished work in your hand… clipping those pages together and taking in all the satisfaction of accomplishment.

I saved it as a PDF. I plugged in my printer — It was out of paper. Shit…

I found the last remaining pile of printer paper near my desk. Immediately, I didn’t think I had enough paper to print the measly 80 pages. 81 if I print the title page. Which I always do!

I had no choice. I loaded the paper and hit PRINT.

I sat there as my freshly inked words rolled out of the printer. I crossed my fingers and hoped I had enough.

I ran through the last week, remembering all the printing I had done: horse racing programs, my English paper, work bullshit — each and every print was a random number of pages.

Page by page, my script shot out…

It was done. I grabbed the lean script out. Grabbed a clip and neatly pushed it together. There it was. Ready for rewrites. I was joyous that I had enough paper. But curious to know if I had any paper left…

I opened the printer: To my amazement, it was empty. Not one piece left. Bare bones. Nothing. I had the perfect amount of paper left to print my script. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad about that lean first draft.

It was like it was supposed to be.

For some reason, for the past two months, I had printed things off the internet, for work, for school, whatever…and after all that, what paper was left, turned out to be the exact amount of paper I needed.

It was all too real. Maybe you think I’m crazy. Maybe you think, who cares?

This isn’t the first time, when my numbers have fallen so perfectly. I believe things happen for a reason. Even if they’re small like this instance. If I was only one page short or had two pages left, I would have never thought anything of it. But I had the exact amount needed. Everything I had printed before this was exactly what I was supposed to print.

And then I knew…I’m doing exactly what I supposed to be doing.

Always be writing. Everyday


Think like a politician when planning your future.

Politicians plan for the future. They think long-term.

Right now we are seeing Hilary Clinton stepping down from Secretary of State. There’s word she’s going to run for president in 2016 — Whatever she does from here on, for the next 3 years, will decide her fate. It will decide her ultimate goal.

That’s insane to me. But this is why she is where she is. Most people don’t even plan for the following week. Let alone for the next four years.

Setting long-term goals gets you where you want — Set short-term goals to reach your long-term goals. Like an elected politician, you set yourself up to win. To be elected. To succeed.

We should all be thinking long-term: Writers. Directors. Producers. Mothers. Husbands. Businessmen. Whatever…

Set long-term goals now.

For instance: I have to move to California. I have to be in Hollywood to be a screenwriter. That’s my long-term goal.

Now how will I get there? What do I have to do until then to make it?

Save money. I set a savings goal.

Sell a script. I need credentials to make it.

Write. Write. Write. I don’t only need one script, but several, polished ready to sell scripts. Timing is everything. I have to judge it correctly. You have to be able to understand where you’re at, what you’ll be against and how you’ll get there. Too early may cost you. Too late and well…it’s too late.

I have daily goals: Write. I have monthly goals: To save money and build my platform. I have yearly goals: Sell a spec.

My point being…

We can’t just live for the weekends. We have to live for next year. And the year after. The possibilities of the future — just like a politician.

Where do you see yourself in two years? How will you get there?

Always be writing. Everyday.


A Lesson from a Fortune Cookie

I love Chinese food. It’s the best.

After a big order of General Tso’s Chicken, I immediately went for my fortune cookie. I’m not a superstitious kind of guy. I realize most of these fortunes are standard. But this one, I felt different about. I felt like this fortune was for me.

“You deserve to have a good time after a hard day’s work”

It wasn’t really a fortune, it didn’t tell me my “future”, but instead reminded me of something I had forgotten.

Sometimes I forget to have fun.  It’s easy to do when you’re working hard. I take life too seriously — I have to. What other options do I have? I have work to get done. Things to do. People to see and people to please. This is the only way I can succeed. I’m willing to put it all out there. I’m sure you can relate.

But we have to remember to reward ourselves. We have to remember to kick back, relax, do what we enjoy doing the most.

There are so many things I enjoy doing. But over the last two years, those things have taken a back seat to writing. Rightfully so.

I tried to make a day in which I did something recreational. That was last summer. It didn’t work. Some how I get leashed into other obligations. I make promises, I say things I shouldn’t say and before i know it, all that “free” time is out the window.

I’m young. I don’t have kids. In retrospect, I’m busy, but it could be worse. I could have more responsibility…a lot more. But right now, I’m calling the shots. I need to take advantage of that.

Just like writing — I need to make the time. It’s not that I don’t have time, it’s that I don’t make the time.

I should crash on the couch. Or catch up on homework. No, no. I should pop in a movie I’ve been telling myself to watch. Or grab fishing pole and catch the Steelhead run.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy writing. But writing is a job. I still write with passion and I’m more productive than ever. But it’s life that inspires writing and writers need to remember to live.

And that’s the lesson today. Work hard. Do what you got to do.

And then relax. Do something you enjoy.

Make a list of things you enjoy doing. Make them happen. You won’t regret it.

Let it be about you. Then help others.

Always be writing. Everyday.


Just 1 more page.

You’ve written for an hour. You’re tired. Your coffee is cold and your fingers are numb. But you haven’t reached your daily writing goal.

If you stopped now, you’d feel inadequate for the rest of the day. You want to just save your file and walk away until tomorrow. There’s nothing more you can push out.

But before you close that file, hit save and crash on the couch, stop and…

Write ONE MORE PAGE. It makes all the difference.

There’s this feeling you get during a writing session when your mind says ” Okay, that’s enough”.  Suddenly all that energy you had, seeps out like a leaking balloon. You’re deflated. In an instant, you just don’t feel like it.

There’s many causes of this occurrence:

Lack of sleep. Lack of love for your story. Hard work or cold coffee. Numb fingers. Bills to pay. Chores to be done.

But it happens.

Instead of stopping right then and there, check your page number. See where you’re at…

Now write one more full-page. Just do it.

You’ve set a goal. You may have already failed your daily goal, but it’s not too late. With one more page, you can achieve this small goal. This helps with the guilt, secures confidence in your work and thus helps you return the following day to continue to write. It’s a mind-set people.

I’m on page 54. I’m all out. I’m done.

No! I’m going to make it to page 55.

After that one more page, there might be a part of you that says “Maybe I can go one more”…A part of you wants to keep going to reach that daily goal. You might get lost in that one page and write on without even knowing it — This has happened to me.

But with the one page goal, it’s so easy, that it’ll just flow out. And you’ll feel good. That’s whats important.

Along with the big accomplishments, we need to learn to thrive onto the small ones too.

Negativity kills writers. It’s paralyzes them from the waist up. No mind, no hands.

So next time you feel like just STOPPING…Don’t.

Write just one more page.

Always be writing. Everyday.


Create your writing schedule.

When I decided to be a screenwriter, I realized in order to succeed, I would need to make writing my top priority.

From there on, I promised myself, no matter what, I would set aside time to write everyday.

And for the majority of the past 2 years, I have kept that promise.

It has taken major sacrifices. My social life has collapsed. My grades are below my average. Eating has become rare. My relationship is on the rocks. I haven’t seen my family as much as I’d like. And suddenly I enjoyed being alone.

Through it all, I have progressed my dreams further than ever before.

Is it worth it?  It is to me. It’s your time and you need to use it wisely. There is only one at bat in the game of life.

Putting writing first, is tough. Living is what inspires the work. I quickly learned how to juggle life’s priorities with writing. Many of us have day jobs, kids, homework, daily chores, all those things that take away time you could be working on your novel or screenplay. So time management becomes very important.

To utilize the time in each day, in order to write the most you can, without sacrificing too much, you will need to make a daily writing schedule.

My Schedule:

I write mine out every Sunday.  I write it out by the TASK, each day, Monday through Sunday. I break down what I plan to do, how long it will take and so on.  I do this in blue/black ink. And then use red ink to revise if needed.

It’s not only writing I plan out. It’s what comes before and after — Those life priorities.


” See Mom”

“Take Girlfriend to Fair”

Once I began to plan out writing and my daily life, I began to feel in control.

I have never felt like that way before. My stress was instantly reduced. My priorities were set and I knew exactly how I spent my time.

Of course there are stresses when dealing with a schedule. A few non-planned things arise and suddenly your whole schedule is fucked. That happens.

Over the months, I’ve learned to adapt. But not without stress. But it’s still much less stressful than sulking and procrastinating like before.

This will save you time; it will put you in the driver’s seat of your life. And most importantly, you will write more.

Always be writing. Every day.