How To Win Awards

 

 

So if you listen to enough award speeches, you will begin to recognize a pattern. These people usually win an award for a craft, yes — in a specific discipline — but they never speak about the craft in the speech. They speak about the mission, the purpose, the destination they wanted to reach. The craft, whether it be film, books, or music, is the vessel, but what is the message?

Take a watch of the video above, those are the last 10 Academy Award winners for Best Original Screenplay. Listen to what the winners have to say about their victory. They are not bragging about how they sat there and wrote a specific scene. They are talking about their purpose: the reason why they wrote the story in the first place.

You will never win an award for great art if you never find your message. If you never have something meaningful to say. If you’re writing, painting, filmmaking simply to be the best you can be, without a greater purpose, you will never impact the world.

Find your message. Find that and use your craft to communicate it. Communicating for the sake of being a better communicator accomplishes nothing. But with a mission, you have a reason to improve.

This has been something I’ve been trying to figure out ever since I stood on stage and performed stand up comedy. Now that you have an audience, what can you tell them? What can you share with them? How can you change them?

Buy me a beer, it helps to keep me inspired.

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30 Lessons I’ve Learned Before 30

These are lessons that stem from my own personal experience and I am certainly not telling you how you should live your life. We all have different values and philosophy, and I know I don’t know how to be a human being any better than you. I chose to take on this little exercise as I approach 30 because I thought that would be a suitable point… 30 is a dramatic age after all.

Nevertheless, however old you are, I encourage you to think of little lessons you have learned and maybe compile a list. It has been a very interesting experience… like spending a day hanging out with the younger version of yourself. It’s like your brain is playing old home videos. I think you might just surprise yourself with what you remember. My 20s have been a thrilling adventure, as I’m sure yours will be, are, or have been… Still, I’m looking forward to my 30s, I think this is the decade where I’ll really come into my own.

1. What I’ve learned from being a background performer: Hurry Up and Wait

For 3 years, I made a bit of spending money working as a background performer or commonly known as an extra. What was it like? Well, there was a lot of sitting around. I was reading Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series at the time and was always hoping that I can finish all of it before the end of my shift. However, I was never that fast of a reader. I digress, being a background performer taught me many things including I don’t like trading my time to be a little blur in the background for 3 frames or meeting Zach Effron. There was a lot of waiting involved with the job, but they rush you. They tell you to hurry up and get on set so you can wait for the next order. As much as I disliked the job itself, the monotony of it, I like that lesson a lot… probably as much as I dislike the job. Hurry up and wait, means always being ready. When an opportunity comes, it’s going to look around and pick someone to take it… it will not wait for you to show up. Be ready. Hurry up and wait.

 

2. What I’ve learned from social situations: don’t raise your hands

In school, I would always see kids who raise their hands waiting for their teacher to address them so they can speak. Me, I would shout out. If I had something to say, I shout it out. I got in trouble for sure, that was when I interrupted someone, but everybody heard me. This lesson is not about being rude, but it’s about being assertive. I have spoken up without raising my hand a lot as an adult. In fact, it would look weird if I’m around a group of friends and I raised my hand to speak each time. In school, we are bred to follow the rules and wait for permission for anything. As an adult, waiting for permission for everything you do will hold you back. You don’t need permission, go for it!

3. What I’ve learned about love: Love is growing with someone

Love is not accepting someone for the way they are, it’s wanting them to be better. Your regular friends want you to be the way you are. Your wife, your mother, they want you to be better. The thing they want you to be the best at is loving. So do that, it’s the easiest way to please the people you love. There is nothing more beautiful than every day waking up and seeing the progress you have made with someone that you and the person you love are making strides towards your goal. That’s the beauty of love, in my opinion, it’s not to keep someone in a static state, but to watch someone evolve.

 

4. What I’ve learned from losing: Don’t try to get sympathy from your enemies

In a hockey game or after a heated argument, you won’t get sympathy from those that beat you. One time I was fighting with my cousin, I pretended to be dead for a few minutes, yes I’m admitting it now, I pretended. No sympathy for my faux injury. In hockey and in life, you have to honor the game you are playing. If your opponent beats you in hockey, they should celebrate knowing that they had to work hard for that win. It wasn’t easy for them, they worked really hard to beat you… but they did beat you. If someone gets a promotion at work over you, honor that. They played the game better. You need to up it in order to survive. Let’s not try to get sympathy from people who have succeeded, but rather let that feeling of loss fuel you, so next time, you will win.

 

5. What I’ve learned as an only child: Make your own entertainment

I’ve read great book’s, I’ve watched amazing movies, and I’ve listened to moving music, but nothing passes the time like those moments where I’m able to create my own entertainment. I grew up an only child in a family with one television, so often I had to make my own entertainment. It was the most valuable thing that I can learn for myself. I can honestly say that I am rarely bored. I am exhausted, sure. I am ready to move on to another project, sure, but I am never bored. Being able to entertain yourself is simply being aware of what makes you laugh and what motivates you. Once you’ve had that figured out, it’s like having a best friend with you wherever you go… someone who fully understands you. You can look at someone crossing the street and crack a joke to yourself in your head and chuckle… nobody has to know that you just made a rude joke in your brain. Make your own entertainment is all about being comfortable with yourself and trusting that your imagination is as good as any filmmaker, author or musician.

 

6. What I’ve learned as a beer league hockey goal: be early

As a goalie, I make an effort to be early. It’s one thing my team won’t have to worry about if I’m already there getting dressed. It makes everyone feel better if you are early. I know how important it is to be early because there have been countless times where I am late. Being late isn’t only stressful for me, but it’s stressful for my whole team. They have to start readjusting their plans and chaos ensues. I personally hate being late… even fashionably late. So often I show up to a party early only to circle around the block a few times or wait in the car. But that beats being late where you are all frantic or apologetic to the person waiting. Be early. Take a moment to get ready. It’s so much better than the alternative.

 

7. What I’ve learned from doing stand up comedy: Enjoy the spotlight

There is no greater honour than having peoples attention. People’s attention is the gold of the future. Whenever I have someones or a groups attention I need to do at least one of three things: inspire, educate or entertain. Sounds hefty, but that’s the responsibility of having the spotlight. When I was doing standup comedy, I relished being on stage. Waiting for 3 hours at a bar during a Monday night open mic was worth it if I got that 5 minutes of stage time. Now with social media, we have to fight for attention ever more. If you are called upon to be on stage or make a speech, enjoy it, it is something so many people are fighting for.

 

8. What I’ve learned while having odd jobs: Make one friend everywhere you go.

I’m lucky, every job or school I’ve had, I was able to make a lifelong friend. Film School, Starbucks, the Olympics, etc., I was able to find a friend within that community, activity or experience. It made life so much better… and if you are lucky… or if they are lucky, they will join you in the next phase of your life. Be loyal. Stand behind that friend. Work, school, sports those little things don’t matter in the long run. What matters is how loyal you are to someone. Don’t backstab someone and have trust they won’t do the same. These experiences won’t last forever, but the legacy you leave be will. So if you make one loyal friend everywhere you go, you will always have a fond memory of that place or experience.

 

9. What I’ve learned when auditioning: Don’t apologize

I used to be an actor, I still am, but I used to as well. A little lesson I picked up as an actor — don’t know if it’s proven or not — is that during an audition, if you apologize, you admit that you’ve made a mistake, and the result is that you won’t get the part. As Canadians, we feel we need to apologize. We don’t have to. We did nothing wrong. Saying the wrong line in an audition is not grounds to apologize. Instead of saying sorry, roll with it or start again. Don’t immediately admit fault. Nobody got hurt. I know that apologizing is “polite” but not saying sorry doesn’t make you “rude.” Some of the best things in the world come from mistakes and sometimes we don’t realize it at first. Instead of saying sorry, say thank you. Thank you for letting me try something different.

 

10. What I’ve learned while working 7 days a week: nobody cares how hard you work

Deep down, I always knew that nobody cared how hard I worked. This year I discovered it the most, after working 63 hour weeks. Nobody cares. Nobody will congratulate you. Nobody will celebrate it. They’ll even make you feel like you are harming yourself. If you are working, you need to do it for yourself. I have become more comfortable with how I choose to spend my time, and most often I feel like working, except, I don’t really think of it as “working.” Writing this description right now may seem like work, and in a way it is, but I’m choosing to do this on my lunch break instead of hanging out in the kitchen, chatting with my co-workers. Does anyone care that I’m spending my free time writing this description? No! Nobody! Not even you who are reading this right now. There is no reason to care. What’s important is the results. I get to decide how hard I press down on the pedal and when I want to let up. These are all my own choices, so why should anyone else care?

 

11. How I’ve learned to be more open-minded: Sample everything

This is the lesson I’m perhaps the most passionate about and want to encourage the most. Sample everything. The more things you try, the more open-minded you are and the more interesting you become. Listen to different music, read different books, try different food. I’m not a master at anything, but I’ve tried a lot. And I feel I’m far more interesting than any specialist. It’s so easy to get set in our ways and develop confirmation bias — hanging out with people that do what you like and agree with all your preferences and don’t do and dislike the same. These people are not helping you grow and they are certainly not out to challenge you. I will. Sample 10 different things this week. Try a new restaurant, listen to a new album, or play a new sport. Out of the 10, what did you like and dislike? For what you dislike, explain why you dislike it. Do this regularly and you open your mind.

 

12. How I’ve learned to find opportunities: Fill up your plate

Fill up your plate, means always having something productive to do. Your schedule is always full and you are feeding yourself and allowing yourself to grow. After graduating from high school or college, it’s natural to sit back and wait for Hollywood to call. Except it won’t. Nobody is going to call. Saying yes to opportunities is so important. However, these opportunities might not be your dream jobs. They may be stepping stones or projects that are adjacent to the ones you want to pursue. Regardless of what you want to end up having on your plate, it was going out and looking for the opportunity that made the difference. Yes, I want to have a steak on my plate, but first I got to eat some vegetables. I got a salary job because I said yes. But I had to go to college first, I had to hustle as a freelancer for a few years first, and I had to put myself out there and get what I can get. I had to fill my plate.

 

13. What I’ve learned when changing career paths: Everything comes around

When I look back on the first 25 years of my life, I see a quitter. I see someone who had all these aspirations, went out an got an education, and then when the going got tough, gave up. Then when I take off my negative lens and actually see it from an objective point of view, I realized that I’m still doing all the things I thought I gave up on. One of my major life pivots was when I decided to quit pursuing filmmaking. But I haven’t. I’m a content marketer now and turns out marketing requires filmmaking skills. Huh… everything comes around. You don’t know what skill will come in handy. You don’t know when good relationships can spawn into big opportunities. You don’t know when a charitable act will return the favor. Life is full of mysteries, but life is also cyclical. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens and most certainly it will happen to you.

 

14. What I’ve learned about self-care: Not every day needs to be productive

I used to beat up on myself for having days where I don’t create something… I would fall into a slight depression where I feel useless and become unmotivated. I would end up getting frustrated and take my frustration out on the people around me as if to say, “why did you allow me to be so lazy!” I still go through these little dips in my day-to-day life, but I always remember this lesson: Not every day needs to be productive. My wife, Sharon said this to me once, and it was the most liberating thing anyone has ever said to me because if she said otherwise, I would always feel bad. She could have crippled me at that moment, but instead, she calmed me and assured me that one day spent in leisure would not mean that I can’t be successful. In fact, leisure is the result of my successes. Because I have worked so hard, I am allowed rest days. I take advantage of these days when I can and cherish them because I know, there will be other days that will be absolute grinds.

 

15. What I’ve learned as a professional writer: Don’t be precious

As a professional writer, you cannot be precious with your work. When you hand a project whether it is a blog post or a whole book, you are going to receive feedback. A few words can be changed or a whole section of your book can be completely removed, and you won’t be able to do anything about it. Don’t be precious with your work means detaching your personal self from the project. It doesn’t mean not caring about the finished product, but rather understand that what you made might not be as great as you think it is. As an artist or a craftsperson, you are going to encounter feedback and criticism. You are going to face unrealistic deadlines and have unclear directions. You cannot be a perfectionist. To do and finish is to learn. I take this lesson with me whenever I create anything. It’s freeing when you are not precious. It’s freeing to know that I’ll get to do more work soon. I wrote so many short stories, made so many videos, and done so many things… most of them not successful, but I finished and I learned something. You can do it as well, but only if you lose your ego.

 

16. What I’ve learned while working at a restaurant: No surprises

No surprises is a lesson about communication and being a good teammate. I remember one time when I was dishwashing for a restaurant in Stanley Park, I decided not to show up one day. I was “not feeling well” and I figured it is best that I stayed home. When I showed up for work the next day, I was called out for it. They told me that if I didn’t want to or couldn’t show up for work, that is fine, but next time just let us know. it’s cool. No surprises. I realized that it’s not a big deal if I couldn’t make it, but I shouldn’t leave people in the lurch. Someone wants my job, but if you leave it to last minute then nobody can help. Life is better for everyone else when there are no surprises.

 

17. What I’ve learned while working in the film industry: Find your ladder to climb

After film school, I sent my resume out to as many production companies as I could. I ended up getting a gig as a location PA. The call time for the production was at 7pm, that meant it’ll be a 10 hour+ shoot through a rainy night. The location was in a big park around a lake and my primary job was to stand guard at the edge of the park and make sure that nobody wanders into the shooting location in the middle of the night. Not dressed for it, standing in the rain, I realized that I never want to do this again, let alone pursue it. I wanted to be a filmmaker, but this was not the ladder I was going to climb. I love doing a lot of stuff, but the key is to find things I hate. I never want to stand in the rain during production again. I hated that. I knew I didn’t want to work as a PA ever again. I had to choose another path. Now I can remember I hate that and do something else. There are many paths to get to your destination, just like how there are many ways to get to the number 10. 2×5, 1×10, 3+7, etc. That’s a little math metaphor for all you math junkies out there. There are many ways to get to a destination and you shouldn’t simply limit yourself. Take the road less travelled and find your ladder to climb.

 

18. What I’ve learned while traveling: get lost

I live a pretty normal life. I have a set routine that I follow pretty much every day. Wake up, walk the dog, go to work, come home, eat dinner, chill with the wife, sleep, and repeat. It’s important for me to break from that routine once in a while. Or as I like to call it getting lost. For me, the opposite of routine is creativity. Getting lost allow me to feel creative. And there is one method that I can always use to ensure I accomplish that: Travel. The whole point of travelling for me is to get lost. We get so used to our daily routines. We need to get lost in order to find ourselves and grow. Nothing takes us out of our routine like living in another city, hearing another language, and waking up in a different bed. I don’t always love travelling, just like how I don’t always like exercising, but like working out, it is a healthy thing that I need to do regularly.

 

19. How I learned to lead: be an instigator

Be an instigator means having the courage to take the lead. This doesn’t necessary mean being the leader, but it’s about being ready to go first. When you think of something you want to do — do it, even if nobody else is following. I learned this lesson over the course of my life, mostly from waiting for other people to invite me or to plan an event. Waiting is fine, but only if I know there is progress. If I’m instigating, something is happening. I’ve started some fights and I’ve started the planning of a few awesome camping trips. It’s so important to have the courage to start things, preferably good things, at least something you believe will be good. But it takes time to build up that confidence that you can cause change. So instigate something. Start something. Don’t wait for others to go first. Say “Good morning first” or smile at a stranger first. Whatever it is, go first.

 

20. What I’ve learned while directing a high school play: work with limitations

In 11th grade, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to direct a full-length high school play. The kind of play where the whole school can be involved and people will actually pay to attend and watch. This was a lot of responsibility to give to a 16-year-old, but I relished in it. However, it was during this experience that I learned that collaborative art is all about compromises. You are working with limitations such as the pool of actors you can cast, the budget you have to get props and set dec, and the marketing capabilities to attract a crowd. Directing a school play taught me a lot about limitations. Your imagination is running wild, but all you get is the black box theatre and your peers. This is only a bad thing if you allow it to be. You can embrace the limitations and allow it to spark your creativity.

 

21. How I learned to follow through with plans: Go at it alone

Go at it alone means appreciating the pleasure of alone time and not allow other people to a) make you feel bad for spending time with yourself and b) hijacking your plans. So often in my life, I feel a spontaneous impulse to do something whether it’s to go out for dinner or watch a movie or go travelling. When I used to invite people to attend these events with me, there would be a lengthy back and forth of us trying to find a time that works for each other. My plan ended up not being my plan anymore. I end up needing to wait for someone else’s schedule to free up before I can do something I want. I don’t do that anymore. Sure, I still invite people, but if they can’t do it, too bad. They don’t get to reschedule your plan. I’m happy to go at it alone — in fact, it’s often more enjoyable. I learned to highly value alone time.

 

22. How I’ve learned to stay focused: Play your own game

Play your own game is my way of saying stay focused on your own goal. It’s so easy in life to get caught up chasing someone else’s pursuits. When playing hockey at 8 rinks you can hear the team on the other rinks celebrating. You’ll look over and be like, oh man, that’s great, I wish I was winning. But then, you have to focus on your own game. You need to play your own game. Nobody else’s. It doesn’t matter who is winning or losing elsewhere. They are playing another game. Other’s successes don’t mean your failure. This is a fact of hockey and a fact of life. In this social media infested world, it’s easy to be influenced by other people. But what other people are doing doesn’t affect you. What other people think or say doesn’t affect you. You have to play your own game and concentrate on reaching your goal because other people are doing the same. Ask yourself, are you playing your own game or are you playing someone else’s?

 

23. How I learned to be grateful: Look up and look down

Look up and look down means finding the balance between gratitude and persistence. I often bury my head in my work, trying to find progress and create more. I stress myself out and beat myself up to do more and feel accomplished. I rarely do, because once I reach a new level, I’m already thinking about the next. When I’m looking up towards the next stage, I have to remind myself to look down and see how far I have come, see how far I have climbed. I have come a long way. What once seems so hard and unachievable has now become my routine. I must remember that. The best way for me to remind myself is to speak with someone from high school or college. It reminds me that there are people who are aspiring to be in my position. Which is both flattering and gratifying. It makes me appreciate what I have. This is something that needs to happen daily: look up and look down.

 

24. What I’ve learned from disobeying my parents: Be defiant

Be defiant. If something goes against your DNA or your philosophy, you need to be defiant and resist it. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor. Classic. They wanted me to play pianos. They set the trap for me to be the son they imagined. I made myself my own person. I chose my own path. The person I am today is with my choice, I can never be resentful to my parents. They let me choose. Being defiant is all about knowing what you want to be. It’s about being defiant and decisive. You cannot have one without the other. If you don’t have a direction for yourself, other people will create them for you. People will be happy to create plans for you because they have no stake in it… it’s not their lives, they don’t have to work for it, it won’t make them any happier or sadder, but it will affect you. It’s so important that you take control of your own life.

 

25. How I learned to learn: Don’t be taught, do!

I love learning, but I hate being taught. I’ve been to school. I’ve sat in classes. But I can’t be taught. I have to learn. It has to be my decision to learn. I have sat in class with the teacher talking about stuff. I need to actually do something to learn. I can be coached. But I can’t be taught. When I was young, my mother wanted me to play piano, we went to every class on my Saturdays and it was torturous. I never did learn how to play piano, because I never had any interest in it. You cannot be taught, you must practice and do. Teachers can only inspire you to improve, but you need to do. If there is something you want to learn, start by doing. The first part of any activity, task, skill, etc. can be attempted by yourself. There are enough sources out in the world for you to start doing. Read a book, watch a video, and get the supplies to start — you can do it. Don’t wait for a teacher to arrive. A mentor will show up when you are ready.

 

26. What I’ve learned from being single and unemployed: you cannot force it

You cannot force it. You cannot force people to like you, to hire you, to date you, to sleep with you, to be your friend — you cannot force people to do anything. I remember being in a relationship once and we had an argument, so she turned off the phone. I kept calling and calling. The phone was off the whole time. Don’t force it. I remember once, someone asked me if I wanted to write for their blog. Loose prospects like this is quite common. Few of them materialize. I thought I was being persistent. I emailed them over and over again saying yes. I called them a few times as well to only get the answering machine. They never responded. You can’t force it, you simply need to keep doing you and put yourself out there. When people want you, it’s seamless. The force is not with you.

 

27. How I learned to avoid being pretentious: enjoy what’s popular

Enjoy what’s popular. It’s easy to be a hipster and hate things that are trendy. But it’s so much easier to like things that are popular. Pop music. listen to it. there is an art to it. Major sports leagues, watch it enjoy it. The Kardashians. Enjoy them for who they are. Your life will improve so much in this society if you just give in and learn to appreciate the things they everyone else likes. Not telling you to be a mindless sheep, but to be open minded. You can still like what you like which might be the most obscure shit. I love obscure stuff, like the band Sunset Rubdown,

but I don’t cringe when I listen to the top 40. I appreciate how hard it is to get to the level where you can have a massive audience. It’s not easy to be riding the highest wave. It takes a lot of work to get there and I respect that.

 

28. How I learned to not be materialistic: borrow equals give

Borrow equals give is a combination lesson about lowering your expectation, being generous, releasing the grip of materialistic goods and banishing any feelings of resentment for the people you have helped. Have you ever felt a slight tension when you lend an item, like a book or a piece of clothing to someone? This tension tugs at you and you want your belongings back. You feel antsy. But if you think of everything you lend as a gift, you can be freed from this terrible sensation. Expect that anything you let people borrow will never return to you. If you cannot deal with that, don’t lend it. It is that simple. I never hold a grudge on someone who has lost something I let them borrow. I’m not a library. I don’t have to lend it out. It is mine. Now it’s yours, it’s a gift and you chose to lose it. But I’m above that…

 

29. How I learned to handle stress: pressure is a privilege

Pressure is a privilege is a title to a song by the musical artist JJ. It’s also a quote from a tennis player, Billie Jean King. For me, it’s such a fantastic philosophy. It moves the needle from stress to grateful whenever a situation arises where I feel pressure to perform. At any moment you feel anxious, nervous that you are going to let someone down, remember that that is the greatest honor. To have the weight of the world on your shoulder, means you are strong enough to carry it. I love it. I know I’m out of my comfort zone and doing something that someone cares about when I feel that pressure. This is common when writing for a publication or at work or playing in a playoff game. I’m representing not only me but my friends, my family, my team. When I feel the most pressure, that’s when I know I’m doing something that matters.

 

30. What I’ve learned from acting school: nobody is a nobody

Nobody is a nobody is a fairly simple lesson, but it’s probably the one I fail to practice most often. An impactful moment for me in acting school was when another classmate and I were looking at headshot photos that were hung in the lobby of the school. My classmate pointed at one and said, “Who is that?” I didn’t recognize the person, so I naively said, that’s nobody. My instructor came up behind us and, in a stern voice, said, “Nobody is a nobody.” I felt so small after that. I realize what she meant now. We are all working so hard, we are all pursuing our passion, we are all giving ourselves a chance when we take a headshot and say we want to be an actor or whatever. We are all someone trying to make waves a vast ocean. We are all somebody. I love this lesson because if we start treating people like somebody, we become somebody ourselves.

 

Thank you so much for reading. I hope these lessons have helped you. It was nice for me to get them down. Maybe in 30 years, I’ll look back, read them, and shake my head — but today, it’s been a good reflective exercise.

Buy me a beer, it helps to keep me inspired. 

 

 

No More Technology: What Can Bring Us Back to the Stone Ages? | World Building Questions

No more technology — and when I say technology, I’m referring specifically to electronics.

What can bring us back to the stone ages or a time before computers and smartphones?

In this episode of The Other Epic Story Vlog, I discuss a key factor that drives my story, which is set in a tech-free future, a time when people lived confined to their local communities and is limited by the resources and information they have.

While I discussed the consequence in the story, I don’t ever address the cause, and as a writer and world builder, I myself — at a minimum — must understand it. So what can cause the world to black out and loses hold on the riches that is modern technology?

I jot down three possible causes:

1) Solar flares: Known as coronal mass ejections, plasma and magnetic fields caused by the disruption of the sun can fry all of Earth’s power grids.

2) Limited resources: Many of the elements used to develop electronics are in limited supply, such as ruthenium (used for hard drives) and hafnium (used for processors).

3) Human error: As we start to automate more and more of our process, human error can cause a chain reaction, where unanticipated issues to override fail-safes.

… and a bonus factor… oooohhhh….

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!   

 

Can a Society Exist Without Crime?

It’s pretty wonderful to think of a place without crime, but is such a concept possible?

Hypothetically, yes and no… See, crime is a social construct. What is deemed illegal in one society can be perfectly normal in another. Take legalization of cannabis, for example, one day it was illegal to smoke weed, the next day, it’s perfectly fine.

When I was building my fictional world, a fictional city to be exact, I wrote that that city had no crime. I now know that simply stating that is lazy writing. What do I mean by there having no crime? Is nothing illegal? Is everybody so enlightened that they don’t participate in any criminal activity?

Lazy writing isn’t a crime, but in this episode, I dig into that topic and unpack what I really meant when I wrote that my city had no crime.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

10 Lessons I Learned From NaNoWriMo and Daily Vlogging

I’m not sure when I first heard of NaNoWriMo, but when I did, I knew at some point I would be participating in it. Additionally, when I started my YouTube channel, I knew that eventually, I would end up daily vlogging, if just for a short time. In classic Elliot Chan fashion, I decided to kill two birds and attack both marathon projects at the same time.

This is what happened:

 

Now that it’s over, I am both relieved and exhausted, but with what little energy I have at the moment, let’s reflect on the experience. Here are the 10 things I learned from doing NaNoWriMo and Daily Vlogging at the same time:

1. YouTube Gave My Videos A Chance… But Didn’t Change My Life

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 12.52.35 PM

My YouTube impressions

The first few days of my daily vlog, I thought I was going to go viral. I literally did! I thought my channel was going to explode. I got excited. After all, I got more subscribers in the first week of NaNoWriMo/daily vlog, than I got the past 5 months of producing my ultra niche experimental writing content. This was huge — except it wasn’t.

YouTube’s impression plummeted during the second week, then rose again during the weekend and then dropped again. More research is needed, but it was interesting seeing my content get a solid chance at the start… perhaps when the NaNoWriMo interest was at the highest.

2. Viewers Have Been SO Supportive

I was genuinely surprised by all the support I got from my viewers. As someone who is new to YouTube and the NaNoWriMo community, I thought I was going to get a lot of people correcting me or telling me how to write or that I’m not focusing on the right things by vlogging, and on and on. I got none of that.

Just a Movember request from my buddy Sean *sigh* you can’t please everyone:

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If you’re worried about trolls, I say don’t, in general most people are kind — or at least they mean no malice.

3. Outlining Was Helpful at the Beginning and End But Not in the Middle

I couldn’t imagine doing this tandem project without an outline. I tried to at first… but with limited time in my day, I couldn’t allow myself to sit there for even 5 minutes and get inspired.

I needed to attack the page and an outline helped me do that. However, once I got going, I veered away from my outline. Not too far, but enough that I dilly-dallied on a few scenes or on a plot point that I wasn’t anticipating.

As I rounded the corner on the last week, I realized the importance of finishing (at least knowing where I would finish). I created another outline, this time from the ¾ point of the novel. This gave me the direction and momentum to wrap up my novel (which to my chagrin, is still unfinished).

 

 

4. Something’s Gotta Give — Not Everything, Just Something

At first, I was like, “I’m going to drop everything to do NaNoWriMo and daily vlog.” Then I realized that that would be a) unrealistic b) make for a really boring vlog.

I strategically drop stuff that took away my time from writing and were not interesting to film. So watching sports and tv shows were the first to be dropped from my schedule. Nothing eats up more time in my life than simply sitting and watching tv.

The other thing I had to drop, unfortunately, was cooking food for myself. I had a lot of precooked Costco meals in November because cooking is time-consuming and I’m not great at it. It would be an uninteresting repetitive chore that I didn’t need in my life at this time.

What I didn’t drop was seeing my friends. As much as I wanted to hit my word count goal, I realized that my vlog is an opportunity to capture my time with the people in my life. I tried to say “Yes” to invites, knowing that this project was more than simply writing and video creation. It’s something nice for me to look back on.

5. People Will Make It Seem Harder Than It Is

Every time I bring up my tandem project, people will ask me why I’m doing it. There’s a tinge of “Do you really want attention that bad?” in their tone.

Why do people run marathons? It is a challenge. People who run marathons aren’t trying to impress everyone else. They are doing it for themselves. Many will constantly say things like, “I can NEVER do that!” As if what other people are doing is that hard. It isn’t. It’s committing to something for a month. I understand, what I’m doing is not for everyone, but I’m confident that anyone who wants to do it, CAN.

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6. It Feels So Good to Get It Done Each Day

Every morning this November I woke up with a goal: to write and to upload. If I do those two things, it was a great day!

I had 30 great days in November.

Sure, there were many shitty moments during the month, but the end goal was always achieved. If you want a reason to pat yourself on the back, be consistent with something every day. It doesn’t have to be a hard thing, it can be super easy.

Write a paragraph every day. That’s SOOO achievable. Not every day did I write 5,000 words. Few days I wrote less than 500 and was done. But there were days where I wrote over 5,000. It doesn’t matter how much I did, it evens out eventually, but what matters is that I keep doing it.

 

7. Waking Up Early Didn’t Work

This project was not all successes. Over the 30 days, I was hoping to develop the habit of waking up 1 hour earlier than usual. In theory, that hour would be spent writing or some other productive pursuit. This would be incredibly useful during the week, as I have 9.5 hour days at the office. 1 hour would make a huge difference. I had a few wins here and there, but consistent I was not. This was not the way I will get an extra hour to write so I will have to find that extra hour somewhere else… 

 

8. Developed A Daily Plan

Every day, I knew exactly where I was going to be, who I was going to meet up with, and when I was going to write and edit my video. In another word, my day was structured. This was not what daily vlogging was meant for, but it was the only way I could get through it. I used my daily vlog as a breakdown for my day. Then I went through my day and got b-roll footage. The b-rolls became the little snapshots of my life.

At the very beginning of the project, I said that this will not be a writing project or a video creation project, but rather a time management project. This is how I approached it. If I wanted to have a video uploaded at the end of the day, I need to know where I will be having dinner that night. If at a restaurant, I’ll need to edit beforehand. If at home, I’ll edit while my Costco food heated up in the oven. Thrilling behind the scenes details here.

 

9. Don’t Overthink It, But Don’t Ramble

My least favourite part of this whole project was pointing the camera on myself and speaking. I hate it because, I feel that I’m bad at it, so I get in my head and psych myself out. This happens every day. I continuously psych myself out until I do it… then I feel relieved for about 24 hours.

I also wanted to challenge myself and do at least one episode a week in public. I did 8 out of 30 in public with strange normal people around. This increased my nervousness by another 30-40%.

The more I practiced the less I psyched myself out. It became routine. I didn’t overthink it the same way I don’t overthink speaking up at a meeting at work when I had something to say. I’m am just myself talking.

However, I learned that it’s better to pause and say nothing and to think at times, even when the camera is rolling. A common annoying habit I noticed was that I kept repeating myself just so I can keep talking, keeping the action going. I rambled when I can just take a moment to breathe, refocus and continue with a new thought.

 

 

10. Vancouver’s Weather Is Weird (I knew this all along)

I always knew Vancouver is a city where it can be raining in the morning, sunny in the afternoon and storming at night.

I didn’t know that in addition to documenting my writing and day-to-day life, I was also documenting the city I live in. I love that. I didn’t want to display the city I lived in, because I was initially wary about privacy, but over time I realized that the city was as much a part of my life as the people and the story I was writing. Seeing my mood coincided with the weather was either a juxtaposition or representation of what was happening. It brought an element to my life I wasn’t expecting to capture.

 

Now, I’m certain I learned more than 10 things from this project, and over time, I’m sure the lessons will materialize. While many things can be taught, commitment cannot. You cannot learn to commit to something from reading a book or watching someone else. Commitment is something you need to practice. That is what this project allowed me to do — practice.

 

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo, now what do you do with your draft? Click here to find out. 

My favourite album of 2018: Kyle Craft “Full Circle Nightmare”

How a poignant album made me smile

Giving music recommendations is tricky. You’re selling someone on an experience, but it’s a challenge expressing how a song or an album resonates with you personally. So often when sharing music, all we can do is offer names of songs or artists, but fail to share what matters most: the place the listening experience took you emotionally. This is my attempt at taking you there.

Here’s an unverified stat: 80% of the music I listen to is from the same library I listened to 10 years ago. It’s harder to make it onto my rotation than it is to get airplay on the radio. Music used to be a bigger part of my life, but now, it’s simply the backdrop to my working hours. However, every now and then a song will come on and I would have to stop what I’m doing to listen — actually, listen — to it. Those little moments in a person’s life are special, and I’m glad, even in the hurly-burly, I can still have those.

 

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Listen to the album. 

In the same year that Eminem, Kanye West, and Arctic Monkeys dropped new albums, it’s, in fact, a newcomer into my musical lexicon that shook me. And that’s Kyle Craft’s Full Circle Nightmare, which came out in February 2018.

Said to be inspired by Bob Dylan, Craft’s lyrics unfold a complex story of pleasure and desperation: two apt descriptors for myself lol

Before we go further, I’d like to thanks my unpaid Spotify subscription for this discovery. This alone makes me want to subscribe for $10/month, but as a marketer, I feel I need to support the platform’s advertising business model.

Okay, what is it that I like about Full Circle Nightmare?

On The Consequences of Saving Time

The song that introduced me to Kyle Craft was actually from his debut album: Dolls of Highland. The song: Lady of the Ark.

Note: I recommend listening to the music embedded below before reading on 🙂

Craft’s abrasive sound woke me. The lyrics telling a tragic tale of a relationship and the aftermath. The heavy guitar strumming in the background, making me shake my head to all the repulsive things I’ve done to get what I want… to only have the luster fade soon after.

Lady of the ark I think you were the start

I think you were the key with which his heart was closed

Not his only secret, not his only weakness

I found him at the party feeling through her clothes

And he cried, cried, “I’m wasted”

And he could look you straight in the mouth

But all that time he’d take it

Even though he didn’t watch the words come out   

Oh why, why did you leave me

Craft singing in an almost scream “We’ll try… TRY…” makes me ache. We all try so valiantly to get and then to keep. All the while, we ponder how to apply sin to the effort, and debate whether the time we saved in the short term will end up being spent in the long-term, questioning what we’ve done.

This song got me hooked and I quickly went through Craft’s whole discography without looking back.

 

On Making a Living

Full Circle Nightmare and Kyle Craft found me at a particular time in my life. I felt as though I have finally reached adulthood. An adulthood that 15 years ago, I thought I’d never find: I’m heading home to my wife for a night in and planning on rising early to head to work tomorrow. The days where I could give up on things simply because they were hard is over. I’m responsible now.

Heartbreak Junky, to me, is a song about self-destruction. Thinking you’re undeserving. Feeling like an imposter. In that state, it’s easy to implode upon yourself. Throw up your arms and come clean. I AM not good enough. This can happen in a career, a relationship, and most certainly a dream. You say, “I’m not good enough,” and then you wake up.

 

You were a charmer, I was a heartbreak junky

You were a diamond, I was the heap of fool’s gold

You were the jet plane, I was a parachute failing

I was the cheap ad, when you were the centerfold

 

I’ve worked more per hour per week this year than any other in my entire life. I say this with pride and dismay. At times I felt like giving up. All of it. Everything.

All that work and this is all I have to show for it?

Some people have jobs, but I have callings. How I make a living is so much a part of me, it becomes my identity. It is my life. Over the years, I accepted that there are two types of people in the world, those who work to live (the weekend warriors) and those who live to work (where what they do goes beyond a paycheck). I categorize myself in the latter.

This year would have been hard — much harder — if I didn’t have Sharon, my wife beside me. I owe all my achievements (the tiny upward trend) over the past 4 years to her. She had become the foundation. Even if the sky was falling, I knew I had something solid to stand on while I carry the world on my shoulder.

I’m a worker. I can wind myself up and go, but Sharon is the one that sets me in the right direction. Divorced from my old job was traumatic and frustrating. The comfortable sheet was pulled from me. Exposed, it would have been natural for me to fall in despair. I tended to. I didn’t for one reason: having someone reminding me that I’m not the imposter, I often convinced myself of being.

For that, I feel lucky, so I trudge onwards.

On Our Past Self

Then there is a song that gave a strange tingly sensation. I smile, like remembering an old joke from a friend.

While this is the year that I worked the most hours, it’s also the year where I was invited to the most weddings. In addition, it was the year where the number of children in my friend circle increased significantly. Like… what just happened to us?

Each time I see them, I realized that we were all battling a unique war. I wasn’t the only one facing responsibilities, nor was I the only one squeezing the lemons that life was flinging in my direction. We were all being challenged every day. We are all on the verge of giving up… but to do what though? What’s the alternative?

We can’t go back in time now. We can’t undo what is done. Not unless we all agree to do it together.

This leads me to my favourite song on the album, The Rager:

 

And your head never hurt so bad

Thinking ’bout the fun you had

What on earth did we do last night?

Why’s there blood on the shower wall?

Who’s that sleeping on the hardwood floor

And what’s the number written on my palm?

Yeah, my keys are somewhere in my pants

But I ain’t trying to get back home

Then she wakes up, and she quietly laughs

“There’s a party tonight if you wanna go”

The lyrics encapsulate the slippery slope that I remembered walking on so well. I missed those days as dark as they may have been. In my mind, they were always illuminated, as if the memories were drenched in glow stick liquid.

Craft, in his somewhat autobiographical album, summed up the youthful naivete and how in our current lives we’re going to be charmed and misdirected by lives that could have been ours. We gotta remember the times as good and have confidence that we’re heading in the right way. We must abandon the feelings that we’ve let our younger, wilder self down. But know, that this — right here, where you are — is where your younger self had wanted to be. And if the young me could travel to the future and see what I get to return home to, he’d trade his spot with mine.  

In Gold Calf Moan, the last song of the album, in the last verse, Craft sums it all up.

 

But when the party’s over honey and your key to the kingdom

Don’t fit the new lock

And everybody’s shoving camels through the eye of a needle

And you’re punching the clock

Yeah when your new squeeze talks both your ears off baby

You’ve got that open-road feeling

You send your regards when your heart is ripe for the stealing

 

This, like everything else, is just a phase and in 10 years, I’ll be looking back and hope I still have that little tingle, like remembering a joke from an old friend. I’ll see how far I’ve gone and how far I have left to go. The funny thing about having success in your 20s and 30s is that you have another 40 to 50 years to mess it up. Hopefully, I’m still building upwards and not tempted to break it all down.

Full Circle Nightmare is a tragedy, but it reminds me that my life is not. And in moments of stress and frustration, I’m thankful for that clarity. That’s why it’s my favourite album this crazy year.

 

Buy me a beer, it helps to keep me inspired.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari: Read it if you’re world building

Earlier this year, I downloaded an audiobook: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind — thinking it’ll be an educational listen and nothing more. Yet, as I started to get through it, I realized that there was a connection between what I was hearing and what I was creating.

While working on my novel, I’m creating culture, religion, laws, languages, etc. just like humanity at the dawn of time. Sitting there on the couch one night, I had an epiphany.

When world building there is no better template than the place we are already residing in. The number one take away I got from the book by Yuval Noah Harari is that so much of human society is through imagined constructs and stories.

From religion, culture, currency, government, social hierarchy, gender equality, and so on, all these are examples of life we consider to be tangible, but it isn’t… it’s a set of beliefs and it can be modified. And while you can certainly set off to change these aspects in real life, I first encourage you to take those elements and use them as a springboard to invent your own world.

If you are interested in reading Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, here is an affiliate link to Audible: https://amzn.to/2yJxUBo

Too Many Main Characters: 3 Tips to Fix Your Story

In the first draft of your story, it’s not uncommon to introduce too many characters, especially too many main characters. That is exactly what I did in mine.

I wanted to write an epic story after all, and you can’t do that (you can) without having multiple combating characters your readers can root for.

While you can have different independent plot lines and protagonists, what you need to do is make sure that the way you organize your story, where you choose to transition from one character’s point of view to the next, is clear and purposeful in moving the entire story along and driving the characters’ arches. Without clear organization and thoughtful transitions, the story can end up being fragmented and convoluted.

Although it may still be a great story, it wouldn’t achieve its full potential.

In this video, I offer a few tips to help you manage the different protagonists so your story can be read and enjoyed smoothly.

  1. Have one POV character per scene or chapter
  2. Make sure readers know which character they are following ASAP
  3. When all characters are together, pick an ultimate main character, the one with most scenes

Word of the video: “Dinkus” (noun): three consecutive asterisks or ***

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

How to Invent Your Own Measurement When World Building

Weight, volume, speed, and time: there are many aspects of daily life that we have to measure in order to function and communicate with those around us.

An agreed-upon unit of measurement is essential in society, and the way we measure things says a lot about our culture. It’s only natural that when we start writing and world building, we feel encouraged to invent our own type of measurements to create a more unique society. It’s much like creating a new language.

The thing is, in order to have an immersive world, we need to understand how different units of measurements are invented. We can do this by learning about the history of some units of measurements.

In this video, I take a quick leap back in time to get some inspirations… and then I take a crack at explaining the ones I created in my epic novel. I hope this video can show you what works and what doesn’t work when inventing units of measurements.

Have fun!

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

This Is My First Time In Space

I didn’t know what I expected to do once I’m up here. I guess I’ll enjoy the view?

Look outside and see the great expanse of the universe?

Good stuff. This trip has gone exactly as planned so far, and I always worry when a trip goes EXACTLY as planned… you don’t remember it.

There is a beauty when things go wrong because then there is a “crisis.”

We, people, recollect crisis better than moments of tranquility. Think about it, last time you spent the whole weekend chilling at home, and someone from the office, probably Frank, asks you what you were up to and all you said was, “Nothing…” Nothing. You were doing something… and it was awesome — and nothing went wrong.

You aim low and you achieve your goal and then there is nothing interesting to talk about.

See that’s the thing about stories, a good story needs to have a conflict. Man against man. Nature against man. Or my favourite, man against his inner self, like in that Woody Allen movie, you know, the one with the nervous guy. There needs to be a conflict in this trip, otherwise, I’m not going to remember it once I return to Earth.

Oh? I guess you’re right. I’m totally having a man vs self-conflict right now, aren’t I?

It’s not the celestial expanse that is against me nor my spaceship-mate, Astro. Yes, my partner on this trip is named Astro. Funny, huh?

Me? What’s my name? Oh equally or if not more space-related, my name is Flying Saucer. First name Flying, last name Saucer. It’s French, it’s pronounced Saucey-ée. Flying Saucer and my partner Astro. Anyways, back on topic, I’m most certainly having a conflict.

I’m unable to enjoy this trip because once I get back I’m not going to have anything to talk about. When my wife asks me how was it, I’ll say, “Oh it was wonderful, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about coming home and having nothing to talk about, so I stressed about it the whole time.”

Yeah, she’ll love that story, at least she’ll pretend to. I mean, our whole love is a sham anyway. She’s not fooling anyone. She’s a trooper though. She doesn’t complain or demand a divorce like some women. She hates me, but you know what she hates more? The mysterious abyss that is the dating scene. Ha! I’m so much more courageous than her. Here I am in space, and there she is living in my home, resenting me for my bravery. Either way, she couldn’t do this, the same way she couldn’t divorce me. To divorce me is like going into space, you just simply can’t be certain that you’ll get back — get me back. The dating scene is merciless. She never online dated a day in her life, she is not ready for this new world. This brave new world.

What was it like to be in space?

Oh, it’s cool, I spent a lot of time up there thinking about how my wife won’t divorce me, it was pretty awesome!

space

Yeah. That’s what I’ll tell the guys. They’ll love that nugget. Except for Johnson, who is still jealous that I’m more successful than him. He’ll never openly say it. Nobody ever admits they are jealous, you simply have to read it in their face. I can read it on Johnson’s face all right. I can read it all day. Flipping the pages back and forth. Highlighting the best passage, his dumb lips. Circling a good quote, his furrowed eyebrow. I will scribble little notes in the margin, his left dimple. Fuck him! Jealousy…. know what it is? Jealousy is like taking poison and hoping someone else will die. Yes. I like that. It’s so true about Johnson. He’s killing himself. I don’t need to worry about him at all. I can continue being me. Loveable ol’ me.

Who knows when I’ll get to hang out with those guys any more. Everybody is so busy these days. Even Johnson, to be honest. Me and Johnson used to be tight. I would wake up around noon, give him a shout, and we would meet up for coffee and then hang out in his parent’s basement. Can’t believe that used to be what I did. Chilling. Now look at me, I’m an astronaut in space. I’m literally in space. Still chilling, though. Different setting same shit.

All that hard work and I simply found a cooler place to chill. Not that much cooler, Johnson’s parent’s basement did have an infinite amount of snacks. Mrs. Johnson is unreal. I don’t get that woman, she was pretty much that wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel. I mean, she herself was not wicked. I mean, she was wicked cool, but not wicked as in wanting to fatten me up and eat me. Maybe she did want to eat me and I didn’t get fat enough, fast enough… My crazy metabolism. That is something to ponder about later. Not now.

I mean, I was pretty polite, I didn’t go over there and eat the snacks. I hung out with her son as well. Johnson. Good guy that Johnson. It’s just that we had a falling out. He became an accountant or something, and I became a man of space and wonder and imagination and hope for the future. He makes sure that the government of one of those little countries on that little planet gets 30% of some hard working freelancer’s money. I get it. I get it. No, you’re right, I shouldn’t diss accountants. Taxes are unavoidable. I’m not angry at accountants. I’m cool with them. They’re an awesome occupation, and totally a job I couldn’t do.

See, I’m good with numbers, of course, I’m an astronaut. You think I used the calculator app on my iPhone to get me up here? Ha! Good one. No. I did some math and calculated the exact fuel and trajectory to get me into this orbit without blowing Astro and myself up. Blowing Astro (say that out loud, if you are reading in your head). Ha! Didn’t mean for those two words to come so close together. That can be dangerous if you know what I mean.

Anyways, I’m technically skilled enough to be an accountant, I just can’t stand the business culture. Wearing a suit and having small talk with your colleagues. Oh, small talk is a nightmare. I hate having small talk, I never have anything to say. “What did you get up to last weekend?”

“Oh, I was in space?”

“Really? How was that?”

“Oh you know, just spent a lot of time up there thinking about how my wife won’t divorce me, it was pretty awesome!”  

 

What you’ve just read is the seventh post in a series entitled “A Fan Fiction of My Life by My Number One Fan, Me.” Please check out the first five posts from the series:
Me, A Doctor
I Am A Controversial Artist, AMA
A Well-Respected Elderly Man, It’s Me
Bringer of Bad News, I’m the One
Yes, I Am Blind with a Broken Heart 
I Drive a $160 Million Ride