Consumption vs. Creation

All artists struggle with creation. It’s grueling, terrifying, discouraging, revealing, time-consuming, and can be very expensive. All media comes with a varying amount of not only monetary expense, but also expense of time.

Really, expense of time applies to everything we do. Do you watch a movie, or read a book? Do you stay up late to do homework, or go to bed early? Do you clean the garage, or do the dishes? Everything comes at the expense of something else. Want to multitask? Too bad it’s not really possible.

Unfortunately for artists, one of the ways we acquire knowledge, experience, and ideas is the consumption of other artists’ work. You find out what works and what you like in movies, books, art, music, design, etc., by sifting through the mountains of work that have already been produced. This becomes an easy excuse not to create. “I’m studying my craft.” And there’s nothing wrong with studying. By all means, do it. But don’t let it get in the way of creating your own work. Creating your own work is invaluable. It lets you work out the kinks on your own, and you learn so much more from doing something yourself than you will ever learn by watching someone else do it.

Even if you fail. Even if it’s terrible. Even if you feel the distinct need to spit on it, cut it in half and set it on fire.

You will learn. You will grow. You will become better and faster and more confident. You’ll find your own voice instead of clinging to someone else’s.

We are what we do.

Will you consume? Or will you create?

6 Things Nobody Gives A Shit About

It’s July. Harry Potter’s birthday is coming up.

HappeeBirthdaeHarry
“Afraid I might have sat on it at some point, but I imagine it’ll taste fine just the same.”

I turned 32 last month, and I’ve always felt my birthday acts in tandem with New Year’s as a semi-annual review and analysis of where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. This mid-2014 review has left me feeling down in the dumps. I made the dean’s list the past three semesters, which is a feat heretofore unheard of for me. I submitted a paper on metahorror to my university’s academic journal at the request of my professor. I won an award for best original score at the film festival, and was nominated in the screenplay and editing categories.

MattFoleyLahDeeFrickinDah

I was also laid off in February. That has dominated a fair amount of my mood over the past five months. I felt discounted. Expendable. Why was I so easy to let go? I’m smart. I’m nice. I’m friendly. I’m lots of adjectives.

The time I’ve had to spend with my wife and daughter has been amazing, but it’s been tainted by this looming threat of no work and no money, compounded by the inevitability of my unemployment running out. Being unemployed, mixed with my complacency and sense of righteous indignation over being (in my estimation) unfairly let go have added nothing but tension at home. Lots of late nights that only ended in frustration, fear, helplessness, indecision, and sometimes, tears.

After our most recent session, I focused on how I had gotten where I was. I remembered a Cracked article I read a couple of years ago entitled “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person“. It’s an excellent article that lives up to its title. It’s harsh. It’s true. And it helps you become a better person. For the TL;DR crowd, or those that don’t like clicking off to other pages in the middle of an article, I’ll boil down the article to its headings:

  • The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You
  • The Hippies Were Wrong
  • What You Produce Does Not Have To Make Money, But It Does Have To Benefit People
  • You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything
  • What You Are Inside Only Matters Because Of What It Makes You Do
  • Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement

You’re lucky I don’t just repost the entire article here, because it’s worth it. I’ll just link the scene from Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley, 1992) that the author references multiple times. ***Fair Warning*** NSFW language in this clip.

Remember how I said I was a lot of adjectives before? We’re all a bunch of adjectives. People can’t use adjectives. People need verbs.

"Dad... Is this the no follow-through speech?"
“Dad… Is this the no follow-through speech?”

After reading that article, I was struck particularly by the sections titled “The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You”, and “You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything.” I thought about what shortcomings I have as far as who I am versus what I do, and was inspired to compile the titular list of…

6 THINGS NOBODY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT

1. Your Past

I’m not saying a potential employer has no interest or right to perform a background check, or that your sexual history shouldn’t matter to your future spouse. Your past may be sparkling with meritorious efforts that defy human limitation. But that’s not going to matter if you can’t deliver on those expectations now.

Think of it as a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately situation. The Sixth Sense (Shyamalan, 1999) is a taut and subtle masterpiece of terror, isolation,  and uncertainty. The last Shyamalan film I saw was The Happening (2008). The fact that The Sixth Sense is great does not make me want to see the dude’s new films.

Pass.
Pass.

Just because you’ve done great things in the past does not entitle you to do nothing in the future. You must continue proving yourself, or people will discard you.

2. Your Potential

Just like your past, your potential is not a guarantee of the quality of your future. Unlike your past, your potential may be some immeasurable, amorphous, invisible thing to everybody but you. And let’s face it, you may be lying to yourself about your potential. A jet engine has the potential to fall right out of the sky and land on you as you read this. But it’s probably not going to happen.

"You're welcome."
“You’re welcome.”

Saying you have untapped potential is a nice way to feel better about yourself even though you’re not producing, creating, achieving, or trying anything. But nobody cares about all the amazing crap you’ve never made or done for the same reason you can’t buy anything with bars of gold-pressed latinum: they don’t exist. M. Night may not be putting butts in the seats like he used to, but he’s far more likely to get a directing job than someone who’s written and directed 17 different versions of alternate Star Wars prequels in their head.

comic-book-guy
Worst. Star Trek reference. Ever.

You want to have other people realize your potential? You have to at least partially realize it yourself first.

3. Your Insecurities

People are far too busy  to reassure you that you’re awesome, wonderful, pretty, and talented. You have to tell yourself that you’re awesome, wonderful, pretty, and talented.

"Time for our daily affirmation."
“Time for our daily affirmation.”

If you walk into an audition, an interview, a party, or a bathroom and have to ask yourself if you belong there, you don’t. Nobody is going to tell you that you belong there, they’ll just show you the door. Why should they waste time reassuring you when there are tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people that know they belong there and will gladly and quickly take your place?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about interviewing/auditioning/etc. is that everybody wants you to be the one. That director? She wants you to be the perfect person to fill this role. That supervisor? She wants you to be the ideal candidate for this job. Leave your insecurities at the door and let them form their own opinion.

4. Your Opinion 

So you didn’t like Transformers 4? Nobody cares.

"I'll say hi to your mother myself."
“I’ll say hi to your mother myself.”

Your opinion doesn’t hold a lot of weight even when people want it. It holds less when it’s unsolicited. I realize that saying that in what is essentially an advice piece like this might seem conflicting. No one said you had to read this. Stop now. Or don’t. I don’t care. I’m not really doing this for you. BECAUSE I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR OPINION.

ISeeWhatYouDidThere

Bottom line: If people want your opinion, they will ask you. And even then, they probably won’t care.

5. Your Hurt Feelings

Has someone made fun of you or something you made? Has someone rejected you, berated you, yelled at you? Has this list made you feel threatened, ridiculed, or hurt? Are you offended?

Offended

That should prepare you for how much someone out there will care that you’re offended. Or hurt. Or overlooked.

I was a senior in high school when a friend of mine ditched me and sold me out. Two years later, a mutual friend asked why it was still bothering me; the ditcher never mentioned it. I explained that if someone steps on your foot, they’re not really affected by it like you are. They keep walking while you deal with the pain.

And that sucks. But it’s the way it is. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can stop whining about it and direct that whining energy into something that counts.

6. Your Excuses

This is the big one. Excuses will wreck you. There’s that old adage: If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way; if not, you’ll find an excuse.

Nobody wants to hear:

  • Why you screwed up.
  • Why it’s not done.
  • Why you couldn’t get to it.
  • Why you’re late.
  • Why you’re sorry.
  • That you’re sorry.

That’s a short list of crap that people don’t want to hear. Believe me. I know. People don’t want to deal with the fact that whatever you said would happen didn’t. They don’t want to deal with an excuse on top of disappointment. They want results. Don’t make excuses, make it happen.

Cap'n optional.
Cap’n optional.

The most important person that doesn’t give a shit about your excuses should be you. We have this ability called rationalization that is both great and terrible. The great thing is it helps you feel better about yourself when there is literally nothing you could have done to affect an outcome. The terrible thing is it allows you to justify not doing absolutely everything within your power to affect an outcome.

Ten years from now, if you’ve made excuses not to do things, try things, challenge yourself, or exceed your own expectations, nobody is going to be more affected by that than you.

Ultimately, you should be your own harshest critic because your success is just one more thing nobody else is going to give a shit about.

This list was self-targeted to the point of being therapeutic. These are things I didn’t want to hear when I was younger. They’re things I didn’t want to hear when I was writing them. But they are things that I absolutely believe will benefit you if you let them.

Thanks for reading.

Semi-Annual Post!

Man, it’s been almost a year since I posted on here. What HAVE you all been doing without me? Other than living full, outdoors-y lives with lots of fun, traveling, sunshine, and meeting real people in locations outside your own home?

infrontofthecomputer

I may have overshot my estimations of what people who read this blog do with their free time.

The reason I haven’t posted here since you replaced your 12 Months of Gary Oldman calendar is due to the fact that I now have an 11-month old daughter. (Almost 12 months since I posted, 11-month daughter… hmm.)

Her name’s Joely, and she’s adorable, sweet, fun, she smells like heaven, and requires constant supervision. I remember a joke Dana Carvey made about how having kids was like being in a club, and if you’re ever curious about what being in that club felt like, just go out and adopt a hundred-year-old man who needs 24-hour nursing care. I laughed at that joke before I had a kid. Now it’s more like:

ichabod

But while she’s hilarious and a handful, she’s not the only reason I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve also been busy with school and work. School’s going really well, and I made the Dean’s List for two semesters. More on that later.

Work isn’t going so well. Well, work isn’t really going at all. I was laid off in February, and there are days (or nights, I guess) that I miss it. I still don’t feel like I don’t belong in that building. I keep catching myself saying things like “over by work” and thinking how I can print things off there before realizing I can’t. I miss the guys I worked with, and I miss the time it gave me for school or other projects. It feels weird to be so sentimental about a job, especially since I was never without a complaint about it, but I worked there for over five years. That’s the longest I’ve ever had a job. In some ways, it feels like one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had. And now it’s over.

breakup

One good thing is that I got a nice severance, and I’ll be getting unemployment while I’m in school. The other good thing is that I’ve got a lot more time that I can devote to things for school. Like film shoots. I’m part of a Production Workshop course (and probably will be until I graduate) in which every member has to pitch short film ideas at the beginning of the semester. Eight were chosen to be produced over the course of the semester, and one of them was mine! I was overjoyed that mine got picked, but in my excitement, I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I elected to be producer, director, screenwriter, and editor. I may have a control problem; we’re looking into it. I also ended up with the very first production slot, which was February 28-March 2, which gave us roughly three weeks to get everything together. I’ve done 48-hour film festivals before, so I thought it would be fine. And it was, mostly. I had never directed with any sort of crew before, so it was difficult for me to find my groove, and I’m still not sure I have. But I learned a lot, and I feel more than confident that I will do infinitely better my next time out.

The movie is about a young man that tries to catch the attention of a young woman by changing himself to match the cues he gets from her. She reads a book, he reads that book. She knits, he knits. And so on and so forth. It’s all set in a diner, and I lucked out by getting someone on my crew that had an in with the owner of a local place called Con Con’s.

concons

I cannot describe how awesome this was. She gave us free reign of the place during her only day off, and by doing so, essentially gave us our entire production. The place is great, and the food is excellent. If you’re ever in Bowling Green (or if you live here), head over to 1924 Russellville Road, pop down in a booth, and have some delicious homestyle cooking. And tell Connie that Colin sent you.

In addition to that film monopolizing most of my thoughts this semester, I’m also taking Producing, Scriptwriting, and Horror classes, which means I’m staying pretty busy. Spring Break hasn’t lived up to its name, since this is the one time I feel like I can catch up on everything I’ve been neglecting around the house and with school. It’s amazing how the time just disappears when your days involve taking care of an infant. We make a list of five things we want to do in a day, and maybe complete one of them. But this week has been productive. I got the treadmill set up, reorganized my office, hung pictures that have been on the floor for six months, and offloaded all of the pictures and videos on my phone. It’s crazy.

Speaking of houses, we moved since the last time I posted here. We’re actually in a rental house now, which is infinitely better than the apartment. Our crazy dogs have a big backyard to run around, and I have a nice, tall deck from which to throw frisbees and tennis balls.

I would love to tell you more, but I’m about to fall asleeeeeeeefrgtyhbnujmk

Photo on 2014-03-12 at 02.34

Act II

Spring Break is over, and now I feel like so many of us feel after vacations:

Vacation

My spring break wasn’t even that raucous. The wildest thing I did was shake my butt at a baby shower. It was part of a game, it’s not like I just up and started rump-shakin’ in the middle of the ladies’ social. Not that I would put that past myself.

I’ve been at work this weekend, which has been its own vacation in a way. Just being able to sit still and quietly read The Art of Drew Struzan, catch up on some Netflix viewing, and write a post while rocking out to my 90s playlist has been very restful. Working the nights/weekends shift at a call center has its advantages.

sleeping

By now you’re wondering why it says Act II at the top of the page. Maybe you’re Shakespearing your pantaloons at the mention of anything theatrical. What are we, British? No, we just like their TV shows better.

Go on. Say you don't like them.
Go on. Say you don’t like them.

Act II is a realization that Intermission is over with, and now it’s time to gear up for the second half where everything gets more intense leading up to the climax. Getting back to school is going to mean more assignments, tests, projects, meetings, and preparation for next semester. It’s nothing I can’t handle, I just have to get back in the headspace of using every second to do something productive.

Add to that the fact that my kid is making her debut sometime before school gets out, and you’ve got a recipe for an exciting second half. We still have to build the crib (which should arrive this week), make arrangements for a Baby Bunk, find a place for everything we got at the shower (which was a LOT. Thanks, everyone!), and take care of the regular housework like trash, dogs, laundry, etc. Aubrey’s been a champ about getting all the secondhand baby clothes we’ve gotten into the wash. I think it has to do with the smell of Dreft.

Dreft

With all these things to do, it’s easy to forget that due dates aren’t an exact science, no matter what the professionals in the medical community would have you believe. But to be fair, with too many of them, C-Sections (which are serious surgeries we’ve somehow been duped into thinking are on the same level as having a mole removed, except, apparently, really not optional) are a scheduled procedure. So what’s to guess about?

ChichaWashSomething

But I digress… Due dates are not set in stone. The kid could show up early, late, or right on time. Aubrey is 35 weeks today, and 37 weeks is full-term. Our OB said she’d let us go to 41 weeks “as long as everything’s okay” (see the above picture), so that leaves us with a window of a month. So instead of a test date, we have a pop quiz looming over us.

Don’t get me wrong. When my kid decides it’s time for her premiere, I’ll be there in a tux t-shirt, with school and work falling by the wayside. (Plus, I already told everyone this was bound to happen in April.) But until then, I’ve got to be as diligent as I can be.

On a side note, something else I’m pretty excited about:

MacbookBattery

I finally got a new battery for my laptop! It’ll officially be portable again! It hasn’t been portable since late last year!

So things are looking up! Laptop’s working, job’s going well, baby’s room is coming together, school’s starting back up, and my wife and I had a nice little week that we got to spend close to each other.

But for now, back to the grind.

SnoopyGrind

My Imaginary Life

When I walk around campus with my headphones in and my music blaring, I wonder if anyone notices that I’m walking in time to the music. I like to think that they don’t. But then I like to think that if they did, they would all know exactly what I was listening to and start flashmobbing all over campus so it looks like an expertly choreographed dance scene. Then I imagine a tracking shot that follows me listening to the music and singing along and seeing these crazy people dancing to my beat. Then I get to a main drag with lots of space and I stop walking, throw my backpack off to the side, and I lead everyone in a reenactment of the best dance moves from Michael Jackson.

Thriller
“HAAAAAAAAAAY!”

When I walk to and from the restroom at work, I pretend that I’m Tony Stark flying around in my Iron Man suit. Or maybe I pretend the floor mats in the break room are colossal edifices and I use my superhuman agility to jump the huge distances between them. I absolutely play air instruments and under-the-desk drums. Sometimes when I’m driving in the car, I’ll construct menacing conversations in which I am both the protagonist and antagonist. Or I’ll put on some bumpin’ tunes and imagine I’m in a high-octane chase. I think about what I would want to say to various famous people if ever we met. Then I think of what would actually come out of my mouth in that scenario. I almost constantly have in my mind’s eye an idea of where the cameras would be if my life were a movie. I still play with the GI Joes I keep in an old shoebox. I let my hand parkour off of desks, chairs, walls, handrails, and generally anything it comes in contact with (I try to keep it away from people, don’t worry).

Thing

I’m a weirdo.

I would describe myself as having an active imagination. Sometimes I think that makes me immature, but then I realize that being immature and being child-like are two different things. My last post was about how much I had changed and the success I’ve had this year, and it’s resulted in me feeling more adult. I worry about keeping my child-like qualities as this progresses. But then I think about how Joely’s going to be born soon, and how I’m going to a) have a sense of wonder about her, and b) I’ll get to see things with the same wonder she’ll have as she experiences them for the first time.

Childlike wonder

I really need to find a way to meld these two areas. Get some discipline into my imagination and some imagination into my discipline.

Delicious creative discipline.
Delicious creative discipline.

On a lighter note, I just have this week of school to get through, then we go to Indiana for our baby shower! (We’re registered at Babies R Us and Target, if anyone’s feeling generous.) That’s right! One week of school including one test, a couple of rehearsal days, a discussion paper, and an academic advising session, and then Spring Break! I don’t have to work this upcoming weekend, either. It’s going to be a lovely vacation.

Sleep

What crazy stuff do you do when you think nobody’s watching?

Tasty Success

Last year, my wife and I found out we were pregnant after struggling with infertility for roughly three years. In my experience, that kind of news tends to bring the best out in people.

One of my first accomplishments since learning I would be a father was to quit smoking. That had become such an ingrained part of my life, I wasn’t sure I would be able to quit. I never wanted to be a smoker. There are people in my life that may not know I ever was a smoker. I certainly never wanted to be a father who was a smoker. I’m happy to announce that I was able to quit cold turkey, and haven’t had a cigarette since Halloween.

surgeon_general_warning_b

Whether quitting smoking seems like a small thing or a big thing to you, I believe it’s meant all the difference to the direction my life has taken since then. It was, has been, and sometimes continues to be a practice of self-discipline. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. A sense that I can do things that are hard. A sense that I have control of myself.

I had intended to go back to school for the Fall 2012 semester. I didn’t get things taken care of in time to ensure financial aid, and once again, my academic career was put on hold. I decided that wouldn’t happen again. I got readmitted for the Spring 2013 semester, completed all the necessary paperwork for aid, met with an advisor, got a schedule put together, and am currently enjoying full-time student status. Since school started, the lowest grade I’ve received has been an 85. This is another goal I never would have believed I would achieve even two years ago.

This is all while continuing full-time employment at the same job I’ve had for almost five years. That’s cost me in the sleep department, but I look at it as practice for when the kid arrives.

cryingbaby

My health has improved since I’ve been taking medication for high blood pressure. I’ve been drinking primarily water (and lots of it), and since my university is situated with a giant hill in the middle of it, I’ve been getting lots of built-in exercise just by going to my first class at the top of the hill, my second class at the bottom of the hill and on the side of campus, and back up to my third class at the top of the hill (and on the third floor).

How I feel walking into class.
How I feel walking into class.

I haven’t missed a single class, though. And I’ve known when all my assignments were due, and when tests were coming up. I’m not ducking my teachers like a guy who owes his bookie. These may seems like no-brainers to you, but to me, this is like deciphering the hieroglyphs of How to Not Suck at College.

I’ve also kept up with my writing on here (except for last week, but we don’t talk about that). So far, I’ve done very well with my goals this year. I think part of that was actually making goals this year. I’m in school doing something I love, I’m providing for my family, and I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a decade.

This 2013 model Colin really is the must-own version.

Writers Reading Readers’ Writing

Writing is gonna come up a lot. After all, the reason I started this blog was to get myself writing regularly. This is the first stretch of time since <saves draft, checks posting history> May of last year that I’ve posted with any semblance of regularity, and I’m giving myself credit for that. Allowing yourself to be proud of your accomplishments is just as integral to personal growth as realizing what your weaknesses are.

Nailed it.
Nailed it.

Lately, I’ve felt like one of my opportunities for growth lies in reading more. I’m a writer, and I want people to read and like the things I’ve written. I’m a terrible reader. I know in our day and age, the reader has largely been replaced by the viewer, and if that’s the case, I’m an excellent modern-day reader.

If I haven't seen it, it's new to me.
If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me.

I’ve been frequenting our local library, and I find I’m too ambitious when picking out books. There are books I know I should read (or should have read by this point in my life), so I get about five or six of them, start reading two and finish none. If I wrote out a list of books I’ve never read, I’m sure some of you would shake your head at me. So I’m going to do just that. Because I hate myself. (Keep in mind these are books I haven’t read)

  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Call of the Wild
  • Brave New World
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • 1984
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • War and Peace
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Don Quixote
  • The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Animal Farm
  • Moby Dick
  • Watership Down
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Paradise Lost
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Red Badge of Courage

I’m surprised I made it through LOST.

That list is only 25 (more, considering the Tolkien) of the books I haven’t read. I’m sure there are literal volumes of books, stories, essays, and documents one might consider essential reading on which I have never laid eyes. I’m sure if I wrote out a list of must-see movies or must-hear albums I’ve never consumed, the reaction would be much the same. But as Mark Twain said, “A classic is something everybody wants to have read, but no one wants to read.”

MarkTwain
“Yes sir, I have read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

There’s a shelf at my workplace full of what management decided would be helpful reference/resource books. I work in IT, so they’re mostly to do with networking, programming, or software. They’re books that employees may have gotten from college courses, acquired for themselves, or have left over from software purchases. Among them is a Literature for Composition book. The first chapter is entitled “The Writer as Reader.” It begins with an excerpt of an interview with author Toni Morrison.

Interviewer: Did you know as a child you wanted to be a writer?

Toni Morrison: No. I wanted to be a reader.

The chapter continues by stating that “learning to write is in large measure learning to read.” The heading on the book’s back cover reads, “Inspiring great writing through studying great writers.”

There’s a whole book saying that to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.

FreewaySign
– The Universe

I used to watch movies with the attitude (probably more like the excuse) that I was studying for my future career. I should be reading like that now. I may not want to write novels or poetry, but just like it takes seeing many good movies to know the good from the bad, it takes reading many books to know the difference between good and bad writing. Subsequently, understanding what makes writing good will help you write well.

Fortunately, I’m taking a Literature course this semester as part of the prereqs for my film degree. That will help me read in an analytical way. It will help introduce me to new material, authors, and writing styles. I also have 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library and 100 Books to Read Before You Die (not counting overlapping entries, this list cuts off at 85) that will give me a list of books to read from to expand my literary horizons.

"Here you'll see the required reading for Wednesday."
“Here you’ll see the required reading for Wednesday.”

There are plenty of lists to tell me what to read. Knowing what to read is not the problem. Knowing I ought to read is not the problem. Just like I know I should exercise every day. Or I ought to take the garbage out when it’s full. The point is, there is a massive difference between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. Actually doing it requires effort. A failure won through fervent effort is easily vanquished; a failure won through laziness or apathy is neither forgotten nor overcome.

"Listen to us on this, Lydia. This is something we know a lot about."
“Listen to us on this, Lydia. This is something we know a lot about.”

It’s not enough to know. I have to do. Read. Write. Put in the work.

I think I’m ready to do that for the first time in my life.

Just look at me, posting a blog for <saves draft, checks posting history> three weeks in a row.