Writing in My 20s vs Writing in My 30s

I used to write a lot when I was younger. I used to stay up all night and hammer out three to four chapters. When I had a week off from school, I would dedicate a few days to do nothing but write. I participated in the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest three times — and even self-published one of them, The Past In Between,  just for kicks. I knew the well of my imagination and inspiration was never going to run dry. However, something else did… 

It wasn’t my motivation that got depleted, it was my time. Regardless of how successful you get as a 20-year-old, eventually, as the number increases, you will find that the free time in your day to do what you want will decrease. By the time I reached my 30s, my free time to work on my own projects were sparse. 

Now, I don’t want to make a rant about how busy I am, because being busy is lacking priority. If you don’t have time to do something, it is simply because it isn’t a priority. Working on my short stories or my novel isn’t a priority anymore. I have a full-time job, I have friends that I wanted to see, I have a dog I want to take on walks when the weather is nice, and I have a wife that I’d like to spend the prime of my day with. 

Those days that I used to block off simply to write are few and far in between. There are zero days in the year where I can just write. Even when I don’t have any plans scheduled with, I will still need to walk the dog, cook food, and maybe do some chores in preparation for the upcoming week. 

Yet, I haven’t stopped writing. 

Writing is still a large part of my life. It is a critical part of my identity. I still try to fit it in whenever I can, but it is hard to do. You know the saying, “The hardest part is starting.” And it is absolutely true when you are writing. Sitting down and getting to work is the hardest part. I believe it only gets harder when you don’t have an empty schedule to commit to it. 

Expectation: How I Like To Write

In my ideal world, I would have a day fully committed to writing. I would wake up with a fresh cup of coffee and hunker down and immerse myself into my work — deep work, as author Cal Newport would refer to it. I yearn to get into the flow where my writing is essentially pouring out of me like hot water from a kettle. 

I enjoy having the little distractions and blocks in between. I enjoy allowing myself to mill around the apartment for a moment thinking of the direction to guide my characters in.

I would usually have a movie playing in the background, something I have seen a million times before, just to keep me company. Pulp Fiction is a good one. Honestly, anything by Tarantino will do because it’s long… and it works to track how long I’ve been writing. 

This was how I wrote in my 20s. It was something I looked forward to like a vacation. But now… when I do take a vacation, writing is not what I want to do. Writing is fun, but writing is also work. When I have to prepare for a week at the office, I don’t necessarily want to put myself through a fifteen-hour write-a-thon. 

Reality: How I Write Now

Today, I write the same way I do a lot of other things. I squeeze it into my schedule. There are a few days in a month where I can commit myself fully to creative writing, but they are often hijacked. I’m not sacred with those days — although I should be. 

I write whenever I can, fifteen minutes before I head off to work in the morning, thirty minutes during my lunch break, or ten minutes as my dinner finishes cooking in the oven. Any spare time I have, I add it to my projects. It’s my way of making the most out of the little time that I have.

I find these little sprints incredibly hard, but with everything going on, if I don’t have them, I might not be a writer at all. So I sprint. 

I used to be a writer who needs a few minutes to warm up. This can mean sitting at the desk and getting into the right mind frame or it can mean rereading some of my previous writing, which is necessary if I’m working on a longer project. When I only have fifteen minutes blocked off to write that doesn’t leave me a lot of time to get into the groove. I need to start writing. There is no time to hum and haw about where to begin. I simply need to begin. 

Arguably in four scattered fifteen-minute writing sessions, I will probably get more words down on a page than in a 1-hour session, simply because of the urgency, I placed on myself. This had led me to the hypothesis that perhaps writing a first draft should best be done in a series of spurts, rather than one long marathon. This is an experiment I am curious to perform. 

There May Never Be An Ideal Time to Write

What I’ve discovered through these past few years as my time has been segmented and divided between all the people love and responsibilities and obligations I have is that there will never be a perfect amount of time to write. Just like how there won’t be a perfect amount of time to work out or practice an instrument. If you want to do something, you will need to fit it into your schedule. It doesn’t mean you can’t do all the other things in your life, it simply means that when you notice an empty slot in your day — which believe me, if you look, you will find it — take advantage of it. Make the most out of it. Don’t sit there and think about doing it. 

Remember, starting is the hardest part. So whenever you think that there is time to write, start. It’s that simple. Open up your project file, scroll down to the spot where you left off, and continue. Do this every time you have a break in your day and eventually, you will chip away at a project that you were waiting for a perfect time to work on. 

There is no perfect time. There are no better or worst time. There is only time.

Need ideas for your next writing project, check out this article on how I deal with too many ideas

Go Back and Read Your Past Work — Here’s How to Do It

I’ll admit it, in my short time on this planet, I have created a lot of content — content that I have little interest going back and enjoying. While one reason can be that I have way too much to do now: creating new material and reading, watching, and listening to other (more talented) people’s work; another more restraining reason is that I’m not convinced that it’ll be enjoyable. 

I believe that anything I create creatively, I make for myself, I’m the first audience member. That is how I pick my creative projects. I want my investment in time to pay off down the line. I create it with the intention that one day in the future I can enjoy it again as an audience member who has lost all connection with the initial creation process. 

While that is my encouragement to put in the time and effort — blood, sweat, and tears — I don’t know when it is safe to return to that piece of work. I worry that I’ll cringe. I worry that I’ll get critical. I’ll worry that I will see all the mistakes that I’ve made before and become unable to let go. Yet, I want to look back and see how far I’ve come. I am pulled and tugged by how I want to approach my corpus of old work. 

I start to wonder what successful creators and artists approach this aspect of their work, the revisiting phase. 

The Producer: Don’t Treat It Like A Job 

Perhaps the most famous incident of an artist claiming to have not seen his own work is Johnny Depp in an interview with David Letterman. 

Johnny Depp: In a way, once my job is done on the film it is really none of my business. […] I stay as far away as I possibly can. If I can I try to stay in a profoundest state of ignorant as possible. […] I just don’t like watching myself. I prefer the experience — I mean, making the film is great. The process is all fine, but then… he’s up there. You know what I mean?  

To me, there is a sense of freedom to that: to be able to create without the need to critique his work. As a copywriter, I can personally relate to that. I have a workman’s mentality to a lot of stuff I create. I don’t write a blog post to necessary go back and enjoy while sipping mai tai on a beach. I write it. I got paid for it. My obligation is done. Obligations are not enjoyments, and if you see your work as such… you might lack the fulfillment in your craft that can propel you forward. 

Perhaps that’s why some may think that Depp’s work today is derivative of his best from the past. If you start treating your creations as simply work, then yes, there is never a personal reason to go back and watch it. Then again, you should think about the work you are picking. 

The Fan: Make it for Yourself First 

Then on the other side of the spectrum is Samuel L. Jackson. There is a reason that Jackson is in so many fantastic movies, it’s because he has a brilliant philosophy for his work. 

In an interview with GQ magazines, Samuel L. Jackson said, “I like watching myself in movies….if I am channel surfing and I pass a movie that I’m in, I’m watching it no matter what. I have a drawer of nothing but my DVDs, so if nothing else, I can just go in and pull one out and put it in.”

When asked why some actors don’t enjoy watching themselves, he responded, “That’s bullshit! Actors that say, “I can’t stand to watch myself”, well if you can’t stand to watch yourself then why the f*** do you expect someone to pay $13.50 to watch you?”

Like chefs who cook food for others, that they would not eat themselves, an artist who is unable to enjoy their work should be viewed with slight suspicion. As if to say, “Oh, your work isn’t even good enough for you?” 

The Critic: Identify Errors

Sometimes you look back at your work and all you can see is the mistakes you’ve made. And in some pieces, the errors stand out more clearly than others. However, it’s sometimes better to bite the bullet, watch what you’ve made, and analyze why you dislike it. 

In a 2011 interview with Time Out, Lady Gaga speaks about her current relationship with her hit Telephone: “I hate ‘Telephone.’ Is that terrible to say? It’s the song I have the most difficult time listening to. I can’t even watch the ‘Telephone’ video, I hate it so much. Beyonce and I are great together, but there are so many ideas in that video and all I see in that video is my brain throbbing with ideas and I wish I had edited myself a little bit more.”

Trust in your taste. If you don’t feel the way Samuel L. Jackson does when reading, watching, or listening to your own work, ask yourself what you dislike about it. If you are blatantly ignorant, you may never learn to improve. And if it is more than just a paycheque for you, like it clearly is for Lady Gaga, then you must analyze the errors and do better next time. 

The Exhausted: Take A Long Break From It 

If the idea of consuming your old work is causing you to cringe, it might simply be the fact that you haven’t had enough distance from it yet. 

Talking to Rolling Stone back in 1993, Kurt Cobain stated: “It’s almost an embarrassment to play [“Smells Like Teen Spirit”]. Everyone has focused on that song so much. The reason it gets a big reaction is people have seen it on MTV a million times. It’s been pounded into their brains… I can barely, especially on a bad night, get through ‘Teen Spirit.’ I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away.”

Like eating the same meal over and over again, creating content or performing can feel repetitive. As a filmmaker, after spending so many hours in the editing room watching the same scenes over and over again, getting it just right. Once it is completed, the last thing you would want to do is sit down with a bag of popcorn and watch the movie from beginning to end. The same goes with a writer writing and a singer singing. 

If you don’t take the time to put that piece aside, hide it in the dark, then you will feel fatigued from it. Your creation might be as delicious as chocolate, but if all you’ve been eating is chocolate for the past three months, maybe a piece of celery is what you need to cleanse the palate.   

The Historian: Treat Your Old Work As Snapshots of Your Life 

When you create something, you create in the present. You put your current emotional state into it. You choose words and form sentences in the way you currently know how. You tell stories and evoke emotions that relate to the person you are. When you look back on it, you are certain to see the changes, not only within the work but in yourself as an older writer. 

“It was interesting to come back to something I’d made and find how much it had changed,” writer, George Saunders tells New York Times about revisiting his collection of short stories CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. “Though we think we are making permanent monuments against which our egos can rest, we’re actually making something more akin to a fog cloud. We come back to what we’ve made and find out it’s been changing all along. We’ve changed, the artistic context around the story has changed, the world has changed. And this is kind of wonderful and useful. It made me remember that the real value of the artistic act is not product but process.” 

Like looking at an old photograph of yourself, for no other reason, revisiting your older work is a powerful way to understand the person you once were. The thing this exercise can achieve where simply looking at a picture of yourself can’t is that a picture can only show you what’s on the surface, but a piece of writing can show you want is underneath it all. 

At this time, I am debating with reading some of the work I have written, that I have worked so hard on: mainly those that I have published on Amazon. They haunt me in a way… but I think I might crack it open soon and see all the problems I made, my ability to entertain myself, and the younger man who was simply trying to express himself. 

If you found this article helpful, please consider signing up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, it’ll include only work that I’m most proud of.

Why You Are Feeling Embarrassed For Being A Writer

You are in a group — it can be your friends or it can be your family — and suddenly someone points to you and tells everyone that you are a writer. You’ll see a few eyebrows raise up, but mostly you’ll see a room full of unenthused stares. One member of the collective will turn to you and ask, “Oh yeah? What do you write?”

I rarely feel embarrassed, but it is in this very moment, the moment before I tell people about my work, where I feel the most ashamed in my choices. What do I write? A little of everything… I write stories and I write researched articles. I write press releases and I write scripts. I write emails and I write text messages. Where do I even begin?

What I tend to say is just that, “I write everything,” which is the most nothing answer one can give.

Imagine it this way. Someone asks you, “What kind of music do you like?” To which, you respond, “Oh, a little of everything.”

While that might be true, it doesn’t entice the other person to learn more about you. Instead, you are making them do all the work. Interest can fade very quickly, but here is how you can spark it rather than defuse it.

But first, let’s understand why we gave that answer in the first place.

A Writer’s Self-defense

Giving a really broad explanation like “I write everything” is a defensive response. You are afraid that the more information you give, the more it will reveal about you — opening you up — making you more vulnerable.

Let’s stick with music for a moment longer. For example, someone asked you what kind of music you liked, and you responded with, “Folk.” A potential return for that is that the other person hates folk, and they will be ready to lay down all the reasons why they hate it.

All through my life, I have encountered people that hate the stuff I like. I’m sure you have too unless you live in a really tight bubble. And I believe that if you like something, you will stand up and defend it. However, at a random social event where I’m suddenly put on the spot, I don’t feel much like standing up for my little creative projects.

“Oh what do you write?” someone will ask.

“I write short stories about travelling,” I could respond.

“Oh, I don’t like those,” people will say, “I don’t read. It’s boring… I’ll just rather go travel. I don’t care what other people think…”

Well… then… I guess I’m just an idiot. Sorry for not being able to amaze you.

Even before they have read any of your work — or even given it a chance — people can shut you down. That feeling is crushing. Suddenly you are in the middle of a group, with a stupid smile on your face, wondering where to move forward from that awkward exchange.

This, of course, happens with a lot of other creatives. When you find out that someone is an actor, you’ll ask, “Have I seen you anything you’ve done?” A wonderful guessing game that actors love. And since they aren’t Leonardo DiCaprio, they will feel awkward listing off their credits like this is some sort of audition for your approval.

Is there a way to remedy this awkward feeling, when you get put on the spot as a writer? Or after announcing your work in progress?

Yes, of course, there is.

Don’t Talk About Your Projects, Talk About Your Mission

What is the one job that gets criticized the most? The showrunner for a hit television show perhaps. Maybe… But in my mind, one of the toughest job in the world is being a politician. You are selfishly climbing ladders, but also selflessly defending causes. As a writer, you have to see yourself in much the same light. As much as you want to write the best work for yourself, it is really the influence, change, and reflection you want to cast upon the world.

It’s time to start thinking of your stories as more than just mere tales for entertainment. A good story is transcendent. It is designed to make the reader or listener think. It is designed to inspire. It is designed to make people feel empathy or find relatable. A story is here to change a life.

Think about the mission you want to accomplish by writing. Surely it is more than just selfishly being published, right?

Think of any good story and the theme, history, or moral behind it. There are only so many stories in the world after all, and most people have seen and heard them before. However, what matters and what last are those themes that remind people that beyond their own perspective there are many more — yours.

So when someone asks you what you write. Don’t be embarrassed that you are using a platform to express your thoughts. Don’t even talk about the writing itself or the story. Talk about the mission you want to accomplish with your writing. What in the world do you want to change with your words? Who are you wanting to inspire and influence?

Take a look at some of the most recent Academy Award winners for screenplay and see how most of them, when receiving their prize, don’t even talk about the craft, but rather, what they were trying to communicate.

You are not simply a writer, you are a voice for your readers, those who have chosen you and believe in your world view. The only thing is… they might not have chosen you yet. But there is still time. You are early. And that’s okay because what a pleasure it is for the people gathered around you that day at the random party to see you at such a humble state with such a bold mission.

Rehearse What to Say, The Next Time Someone Asks You What You Write

Let’s role play. Pretend that you are attending one of those many annual parties. Your friends happily introduce you to a guest you have not met before. You friend says, ”This is _____, she’s a writer.”

The guest asks, “Oh… what do you write?”

To which you respond not with details of your current work, but the objective you want your writing to have on the world. If you can’t think of what that may be… take a moment to really consider it. What do you really want your work to do?

There are many people writing about dragons, romance, and swords. There are many people writing about their last moments with their grandma or the dog from their childhood. There are many people writing about spies and seductive lovers. So don’t talk about that stuff… talk about something beyond that. What does your writing do besides attempt to entertain? Once you can find the answer to that, say it… and I’ll assure you, that you will feel less embarrassed as the guest will start to engage you in a deep conversation.

What other areas of being a writer makes you embarrassed? I’d love to hear it… if you don’t mind sharing.

If you like this article, you might consider buying me a beer, it helps to keep me writing.

Is It Better To Do Nothing and Get No Result Than to Do Something and Get No Result?

Before we talk about results, first let’s talk about goals. Are you currently pursuing your goals? Do you even know what they might be?

If you don’t, you can even take some time and write down your top 25 goals.

Once you have a good idea of what your goals are, you can ask yourself again, “am I doing anything to achieve it?” Yes? No? Maybe?

Now here is the ultimate kicker — does any of it matter? Does any effort you put towards your goals even matter? In a year, do you expect to see any progress at all? If not, then why not stop immediately? After all, it’s better to do nothing and get no results, than to do something and get no results, right?

I heard it on a business podcasts. A highly influential person said that whatever you’re doing, make sure you are getting some results from it, otherwise, it’s useless — or some sentiment as such.

I understood what he was saying, but it didn’t sound, right. It sounded so discouraging. What’s the definition of result? How is it measured?

The same way all our goals are different, so are our result. Wait! What’s the difference between goals and results?

A goal is what you want to happen. If I say, I want to win the Stanley Cup — then winning the Stanley Cup is the goal.

However, once I start pursuing the goal, I might find that the best I can do is play for the Vancouver Canucks. That is the result. It’s great, but it’s not the ultimate goal.

Alternatively, my goal may be to publish a novel and my result is that I only managed to write a few paragraphs. Damn! Still not there yet.

The reason people like to think that it’s better to do nothing and get no results, than to do something and get no result is because they are confusing results with goals. You might not always achieve your goals, but you will always get a result if you try.

What I see in a comment like this is something along the line of, “I’m never going to win the Stanley Cup, so why should I even bother playing…?” or “I’m never going to be able to publish a novel, so why should I even bother writing a draft?”

They have defeated themselves before they had a chance to try. Yes… there is that dumb Yoda line, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Many choose do not. It’s easier. It’s safer. You won’t have results that people can point at and use as caution or mock you with it. “See, told you it wouldn’t work!”

If you are feeling a little down after hearing this, it’s okay. We all go through a phase of asking, “What’s the point? I’m not getting any results.”

That’s not true, though.

If you are doing something, then you are getting results. You might not be hitting your goals, but you are getting results. You are making things happen.

Quick. Change your mindset.

The act of doing should be the goal. Doing is the goal. Doing will lead to results and results gradually lead to bigger goals. My goal is to publish an article every week. My result, I’ve published this article. Not all goals need to be grand.

Additionally, the doing — the consistent action — will give you a better perspective of the path you’re need to go down. You’ll start to recognize challenges, obstacles, and gatekeepers along the way. You begin to understand how the game is actually played.

My goal in my early 20s was to be a filmmaker. I did it. I tried. I worked on set and I schmoozed. I realized what was required and I stopped. The result: I realized that I didn’t enjoy the journey. I didn’t meet my goal (well, I made some short films here and there, but not to the scale I imagined), but I got a result.

Of course, it is nice to have lofty goals. We all want to be world class, but it is not the goals we should strive for, but rather the results. Results are experiences. Results can be analyzed. Results can be adjusted.

Goals don’t need to be far beyond the horizon. Goals can be the steps you take each day — and the footprints are the results.

It is not better to do nothing and get no results, because as long as you do something, you ARE getting results. You might not be hitting your ultimate goal… but you are getting results, because you have created achievable goals. And they deserve to be celebrated.

Results are evidence that you have selected the right goal. Nobody knows what area in life they will succeed in. The only way to find out is to experiment and gather results.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, it’ll include only work that I’m most proud of.

Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule and the Power of Pairing Your Goals

Warren Buffett, the investor — you know him — had given advice to his personal airplane pilot, Mike Flint, once. He told Flint to come up with a list of 25 things he wanted to accomplish in his career.

Flint went off to do that and came back with his list of 25 goals. Buffett told him to circle his top five and put those into Group A and then circle the bottom 20 and put them into Group B. In this, Flint thought, okay… well, Group A will be my primary focus and Group B will be pursuits I take on during my spare time.

No. Group B must be avoided at all cost, Buffett told him. Flint mustn’t touch any of those tasks until he was to finish all his goals from Group A. That was his advice and you can absolutely use it too.

It’s hard to argue against Buffett. He is, after all, one of the most successful investors in the world.

However, as a creative, you get to blend your goals together. Such as writing and video creation, like when I daily vlogged my NaNoWriMo experience.

Something that was number 18 on your list might be the spark or the muse to help you accomplish your number 2 task.

Let’s say my #2 goal is to be a published writer, I want to write a book and my #18 goal is to become a beer judge. Well, why don’t I use my skills as a writer to write about beer tasting? Why don’t I research about beer, review beer, and go on beer tours and write about all of it? These two goals overlap and end up propelling each other. I can, of course, write about something not on my top 25 list, but why not kill two birds, right?

If you can find ways to pair your goals, you will be constantly inspired and get a more varietal creative life. In order to be great at one thing, you’ll need to have skills and understanding in many other areas. Golfing is more than just putting, it’s driving, it’s wedging the ball out of the bunker or staying mentally focused as well as physically in shape.

If you can pair your goals together and find an interesting relation, then each goal is supported like walking, where one leg holds steady as the other lifts forward. The two goals, as you make progress, pushes each other in the direction of an ultimate goal — and that ultimate goal is your fulfillment.

Go ahead, write out your 25 top goals for your life, and then, see which ones from your top five can be linked with any of the other 20.

To me, the one that can be linked to most of the others are the ones you should pursue. It might not always be the fastest path to success, but this way, you get the most bang for your buck, this way, you might just get to indulge in the buffet of life.

If you like this article, you might like this one as well: Little Bets: How I Make Decisions Without Feeling Stressed

4 Funny Books You Should Read

It always amazes me when a book can make me laugh. But there is no doubt that a one-of-a-kind type of laugh in life is the kind that comes from reading something, processing it in your brain, and emoting it through your body.

A great writer like any great artist or musician can make you feel emotions simply from the mastery in their craft. The problem is, there aren’t that many writers that have made me laugh through their stories.

Nevertheless, I have highlighted four of the funniest books I have read, and I’m going to share it with you today.

My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black is best known for his role in Stella and Wet Hot American Summer, but few know him as a writer, even though he has written a few books now, including children’s books and some movies. Black also has a podcast where he interviews amazing people called How to Be Amazing, and if you look through the archives he did a revolutionary podcast series called Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.

When people talk about a book that changed their lives they usually talk about some self-help or emotionally impactful book, but this one really did.

This book is a collection of absurd essays. Some of them questions only a really famous celebrity like Michael Ian Black would know such as What I Would Be Thinking If I Were Billy Joel Driving to a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano and Hey David Sedaris — Why Don’t You Just Go Ahead and Suck It?

Michael Ian Black does such a great job playing with different genres in these essays such as erotic fiction, letters, and even a chapter from a novel that is sponsored by Barqs root beer. Each one of them is simply drenched in Black’s snarky humour and although I am certain it will go over the heads of some, it is all laced with intelligent observation of the modern world… or at least the world in 2008.

It’s hard for me to pick a favourite story from this book, because it’ll be trying to pick a favourite song from Green Day album American Idiot, but if I had to choose, I would say A Series of Letter to the First Girl I Ever Finger… where Black, as a middle age man, tries to reconnect through mail correspondence with the girl he had a temporary relationship with in summer camp as a child. It sounds uncomfortable, but that is the quintessential Black comedy that you can expect from this book. I’ll say no more.

A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk

Yes, that Bob Odenkirk — or better known as Saul from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Odenkirk has had a long history in comedy, and it is so refreshing to see, even when he has achieved the pinnacle of stardom with his dramatic television role, he still give his comedy fans something to sink their teeth into.

A Load of Hooey is a collection of short stories, poetry, comics, and unabridged quotes from famous individuals, including Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and Isaac Newton.

The beauty of this book is the commentary that Odenkirk has about the lives of those that have achieved and those that strive. What’s it like to be someone creating and what it is like to be someone aspiring… struggling… and critiquing. Believe it or not, I think we all fall into one of those categories, and that is what makes it such an approachable book.

By far the story that stands out the most in this book for me is the reimagining of what it must have been like that day the Beatles wrote the iconic song Blackbird. It amplified the drama within the room between an arrogant McCartney (who is said to have written the song solo) and the rest of the band (who leeches off his brilliance).

Please, if you are looking to kill a few hours in an airport or simply have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon, pick up this book, instead of rewatching The Office.

One More Thing by BJ Novak

Speaking of The Office, BJ Novak also writes books… and they’re pretty awesome. One More Thing is a collection of stories that touches on a many subjects including celebrity escapades, relationships, and the complicated yet mundane decisions we are dared to make in our daily lives.

Novak is a compelling storyteller who is supremely witty. He finds the nuances of everyday interaction and injects it into his story, reminding us of our idiosyncrasy. While unlike Black or Odenkirk, Novak’s writing style is a bit more refined — not necessary better or worse — but I can actually see some of these stories appearing in literary magazines or in the New Yorker.

My favourite piece from this book, or at least the one that has really stuck with me, is one called If I Had a Nickel, which goes through the narrator’s thought process as he tries to figure out how he can get rich if he gets a nickel for everytime he spills coffee on himself. As someone who is always thinking of a way to make more money, this one just hit the right note for me.

This along with many other stories proves that BJ Novak is more than simply a background character in a television show and Inglorious Basterds, he is a witty writer and genuinely relatable.

Sick In the Head by Judd Apatow

I don’t understand how so few people know about this book. Let me explain. You know Judd Apatow, the guy who produced Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, Forty Year Old Virgin, and Girls. Apatow is a comedic legend, no doubt about it — but he is also a fan of comedy.

Since an early age, he had a fascination with comedy royalties. A memorable story is that he was once driving with his grandmother and passed by Steve Martin’s house, with Steve Martin outside. Judd got out and asked him for his autograph, which Martin declined. He later wrote a letter to Martin pouring his heart out, saying he was a big fan and bought everything he had and the least he could have done was give him an autograph. In the end, Martin wrote him back saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was speaking with THE Judd Apatow.”  

As he got older, the task of sitting down and speaking with his peers and idols became easier.

Yes, this includes Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, John Stewart, Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey… and it goes on. If you have any interest in, what I feel is, the golden age of screen comedy then you need to pick up this book.

There you have it, those are 4 funny books you should read. Please let me know if you have a book that always makes you laugh. I’d love to read it.

Looking for some books to read? Follow me on my journey as I read a book in every subgenre of every genre. There might be one for you?

Is Reading a Creative Process?

debby-hudson-544369-unsplash

When you sit down and read a book — a novel specifically — are you being creative? This is a question worth debating. On one hand, you aren’t really creating anything. There is nothing visible to show for it when you close the book and put it aside. On the other hand, the ideas you are getting from the book, the visuals you are weaving and constructing in your mind, are all intangible materials that you can be applied to your creations.

With that being said, is watching a television show being creative? Is listening to an album being creative? Is watching a hockey game being creative? Where does one draw the line between entertainment and creative research?

For me, the creative process is an intent-driven process. You are present with all that is happening. You aren’t simply walking through an art gallery, but you are stopping to admire each painting and sculpture along the way. You are processing it.

If a novel, a television show, or an album is being consumed with the same frame of mind as one simply moving through it as quickly as possible, as a means to an end, then it is not a creative act. However, if one pauses occasionally and consider why the writer, cinematographer, or artist chose to use this word, this lighting, or that note, then what is being done is perhaps the most important aspect of being a creator.

Yes, I consider reading a creative process, but not everyone does. Some will simply read for pleasure. A filmmaker will watch a movie and consider it a part of the creative process while a mere civilian will watch a movie as a means to escape.

There is this hallway and you get to walk through it at your own speed. That is how I see a piece of work. What you get out of that experience is up to you.

 

If you enjoyed this article, please consider signing up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, it’ll include only work that I’m most proud of.

Why You Should Write More Than You Need

IMG_09091

I come from an acting background and the dogma that I had entering any audition was to give more the first time.

What do I mean when I say “give more”? I mean overdoing it a little, hamming it up, being more emotional, more passionate, more vocal than what the script calls for. I put it all on the plate — like at an all-you-can-eat buffet during the last call — and then letting some spill off. I do this because it is easier for the directors, producers, and fellow actors to tell me to dial it back as opposed to adding more after.

If I come into the scene with subtleties and that is not what the director wants, then it is more challenging for me to increase the levels or expand the emotions, especially on the spot. It’s always easier to cut or reduce than to fill or to add, especially on the spot. Always give more the first time.

Of course, this theory can be applied to many aspects of life and other professions. As a writer, I will give my editors more. If they ask for 500 words, I’ll give 600. From there, they can trim. You can’t style hair that isn’t there, and you can cut what is not written.

For more tips on editing your writing, check out this YouTube playlist: Editing Your Epic Novel

Why You Should Be a Polygamous Reader

There is no time to read.

Correction: there is no time to read literature, poetry, and other creative writing.

Work and school life don’t present a lot of opportunities to explore new literature. But in order to achieve imaginative growth and find new perspectives, we need to read more than instructional documents and textbooks. How though? How can we incorporate stories into our lives after an exhausting day of reading everything else?

A Book is a Relationship

Reading while commuting, in waiting rooms, or even during television commercials are fantastic ways to make use of potentially wasted time. And as Bruce Lee says:

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what makes up life.”

So, if you love life and you want more lives to live, you got to read!

Carry a book with you wherever you go. That’s an order. Sure it might take up space in your backpack or purse, but when the opportunity arises, you’ll be glad you have it.

When Kindle and other e-readers first appeared on the market I was a bit skeptical because I loved the feel of pages between my fingers. However, I’ve learned to appreciate having a library in the palm of my hands. The technology also allowed me to “cheat.”

I’m an advocate of reading more than one book at a time. Many people aren’t, but to them I say, life is too short, I’m going to be a polygamous reader.

If you can enjoy two or more television series, you can read two or more books. I don’t follow any rules; I read what I want for however long I want. The key is to always have at least one book you are passionate about. If not, keep searching.

Because No One Book Can Fulfill All Your Needs

Having different books on the go allows you to read different genres, formats, and authors through a period of time — days, weeks, months, years. Our attention span has shrunk because of mass media, but that doesn’t mean we can’t counter it. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet; don’t fill up on the salad.

Audiobooks have also found a place in my life. Sometimes music exhausts me and all I want is something to keep my mind off the monotony. While driving my car or going for a run, audiobooks are a fantastic companion. Hours fly by even if I’m cleaning the house or preparing food, having an audiobook playing in the background makes me feel twice as productive, which is an awesome feeling.

Make Every Page Count

Make a timeline for the books you read. Create goals and set milestones. Track the novels you’ve finished and even keep a record of the ones you’ve abandoned. Make a game out of it. Forty percent of Americans admitted to not having read a book last year. Perhaps they didn’t have the time or perhaps they didn’t feel like there was a reason. But it’s about personal growth. Like fitness, books train your brain and give you strength where dumbbells and squats don’t.

Looking for some books to read? Follow me on my journey as I read a book in every sub-genre of every genre

Why I Love Sad Movies

Sad movies, like horror movies, can ruin someone’s day or cause sleepless nights. I understand that. I have a theory for why that happens. In order to do that, I must tell you about why I enjoy sad movies. I even feel that sad movies are my favourite kind, yet like eating smelly delicious fish, I cannot always enjoy it with other people.

We watch movies to escape, to bring ourselves to a world we don’t currently occupy. A good movie can change our mood and give us a jolt of empathy — reminding us of the values of life.

I have a natural emotion. This emotion is where I am the most comfortable. It’s my resting emotion. And like a resting bitch face, it’s not the best emotion, not because it’s bad but because there is no such thing as the best emotion.

It’s the default — and that emotion is anger. I’m a naturally angry person. I cannot help it. It’s simply my natural state. It’s the emotion I turn to most naturally.  

When I choose a movie to watch, sometimes I want to fuel that anger with a hard-hitting documentary about social injustice or animal cruelty. However, more often, I want the movie to take me to another realm, an emotion I seldom feel.

I’m not a psychologist, but with a bit of self-evaluating, I feel that this is my emotional exposure. Please see here, the emotion triangle of my life.

Emotional triangle

The circle represents me and my natural state of anger. It’s just the way I am… kind of angry. However, the next most common emotion that I feel is happiness. It’s not too hard to get me to feel happy. I almost sway between anger and happiness most days. Head off to get a beer: happy. Wait in line longer than I want: anger. You can relate, I’m sure. These two emotions yin and yang with each other all day long, allowing me to acknowledge the state of the world and my gratitude within it.

Fear is not an uncommon feeling, but it’s not as prevalent, which I am thankful for. Being fearful all the time would be exhausting. However, if I want to feel sad… that is a bit of an uphill battle for me in day-to-day life. It’s most certainly an emotion I put on the top shelf, sometimes forgotten about.

A sad movie allows me to get to that place I am privileged enough to not have to visit on an hour-to-hour basis.

There is this idea that happiness is a good emotion, while all the other ones are bad emotions. But there is no such thing as good or bad emotions. People need to feel the whole spectrum to continue being healthy people.

That is why I watch sad movies. That is why I genuinely enjoy sad movies. That is why as a creator, I need to understand which emotion I want to trigger. What is the ideal audience feeling when they walk in and how the can satisfy their emotional needs? It’s an intimate proposition, but that is what good content can do. It can take you to a place you seldom go to.

Try this exercise. Plot your emotions into the circle/triangle diagram, and ask these questions:

  • Which emotion do you think is your natural state?
  • Which emotion do you think you can evoke easily?
  • Finally, which emotion have you put on your top shelf?

In order to prepare yourself for that feeling, so that it doesn’t feel unfamiliar and you get out of practice in how you should respond to it, watch a movie that will bring you there… enjoy it. Feel the feels.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out this one about 3 heartbreaking novels that you should read: Investing in Friends: Three Heartbreaking Books About Loyalty