Saturday, September 29, 2007

five from ian

Thanks to the very wise, talented, and funny Ian Lidster of Or So I Thought, for initiating this week’s post. I don’t usually indulge in Q & As, but since Ian’s a great journalist, I knew he'd pose five good questions and be kind!

1. Your provenance is the UK, and now you live and work in the US, what motivated you to make the shift across the Atlantic?

I’ve known since I was nine-years-old that I would live overseas … just one of those knowing things. I’m glad I was raised and grounded in the UK and that my family base is still there, but I always wanted to travel and experience different cultures.

When I started looking around at 16, I thought it would be Australia; New Zealand; and then, following a topless (and sometimes bottomless) summer in the South of France with my sister, where we dined on local wines, cheeses, and handpicked cherries every day, I thought I’d move to France. But shortly after returning to England, she and I both fell madly in love with Capricorn boys and that put paid to dunking croissants and baring all in St. Tropez!

A couple of years later, Mr. Capricorn and I filed emigration papers to South Africa. And then I went on vacation to California. Big deal, nothing special … they all lived in ‘wooden’ houses! But when I arrived home to brick-built London, in two feet of snow, San Diego started looking pretty darn good, wooden houses and all … says she 22 years later.

2. What aspect of your work gives you the greatest satisfaction?

I know this sounds hokey and I don’t care, but I’ve always been a change-maker; always needed to learn and grow. Everyone wants to feel that what they do matters and what’s really important to me today, is making a difference. And having fun along the way. It doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant the difference, if someone tells you that something you’ve done, broadcast, written, or shared has helped them in any way, it makes everything worthwhile.

I’m in a position where I now do work that really excites me. In fact, my work is not work, it’s my passion … if I won the Lotto tomorrow, I would still do it but on a bigger, grander, more global scale. I also love that, thanks to global technology, I’m not restricted to one location and can, and do, work from anywhere in the world.

3. You've traveled considerably in your life. Rather than ask you what place you like best, I'm going to ask what place gives you the greatest peace in your soul?

Oh … great question. I love being in nature … the wilder,
the better. But my number one soul-spot has to be the ocean. Whether I’m on it, in it, or by it.

I’ll take it under any conditions: wind and rain, fog, or sun and heat. Give me craggy headlands, crashing surf, huge rocks, golden sand that stretches unspoiled for several miles and I totally lose myself … or more accurately, find myself!

My absolute favorite ‘soul’ places are in Cornwall, the south-western peninsula of the UK—especially the beaches at Perranporth and Watergate Bay. (Shown here.)

A piece of my heart also remains in the Isles of Scilly, 30-miles off the coast of Cornwall. They fly food and newspapers in every other day, there are no cars (everyone uses golf carts), and it’s a little slice of unspoiled, sub-tropical heaven.

Outside of England, Oregon’s Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, the Florence Dunes, and California’s Big Sur are amongst my favorites.

4. What is your idea of an absolutely perfect evening?

I could give you a glib ‘watching the sunset with Tom Selleck’ (which sounds pretty good to me). But if I’m honest this is a hard one!

Close friends say I’m a true renaissance woman, which caused me great insult at first because I thought it meant old-fashioned. But it apparently means someone who’s into many different things and has many different interests. And that’s true.

Some might say I seem conflicted because I enjoy seemingly opposite activities. I love the energy and facilities and haute couture of the leading big cities—yet love the solitude and isolation of virgin wilderness.

I love everything from dressing up for the opera, gourmet dining, fine art, and theatre; to sky-diving, off-roading, horseriding, and camping in the wilderness … and just hanging out with my family or friends.

So I guess the perfect evening boils down to who I’m with, rather than what we’re doing. And I’d like to be doing more of it!

5. If you could choose another era of history in which to live, when would it be and where would it be and what would your role be?

Well I know Marie Antoinette got a terrible rap, but when I was 11, I was lucky enough to stay in a French boarding school in the heart of Paris. And I instantly loved all-things French. Still do.

We traveled a lot and some of the history around Marie Antoinette’s time totally engrossed me. I saw her dresses and personal things, and thought she was so fine and glamorous, and had such a fun time that I was enthralled with her and wanted to be just like her. (Hey, I was 11 … I thought Isadora Duncan was a great role model too!)

Now of course, I know that no one wore deodorant, and that my big mouth would have seen me beheaded tout-de suite!

So if the opportunity of time-travel ever arises in my lifetime, I think I’ll go back just a little, and visit Old Hollywood, when big screen movies were just starting to be made … maybe I’d be Kate Hepburn for a day and raise holy hell.

Okay, enough I’s and me’s … thank you Ian, I did enjoy your questions! If you would like to play and have your own 5 questions, let me know and I'll send them on.

inquiring minds

There are many occasions when I’ve avoided panty-lines by skipping underwear underneath a sleek outfit. I’ve sometimes fed junk food to my God-children. And I’ve frequently walked naked around my own home.

I often talk to myself. Speak in funny voices. Chat to my sister in Irish

and Russian accents. Sing because I can. And dance because I can't.

I’ve accidentally driven north on a south-bound one-way street (in London, San Francisco, Madrid and Seattle). Thumbed my nose at the advice of people who know everything, yet have experienced nothing. And reciprocated in kind to those who treat me or mine with disrespect.

So does that make me insane? Would it make me a bad mom? An unfit parent?

I don’t know if Britney Spears is a good, bad, or indifferent mother. She doesn't appear to be making very wise choices of late. But I’m tired of every expert and their brother who once-took-a-psych-class analyzing her behavior from an elevation of 30,000-feet based on hearsay and supposition ‘reporting’.

Maybe inquiring minds should ask how many green dollars the brutish-bodyguard packed in his wallet for the story he sold of Britney allegedly using drugs in front of her kids.

And, more importantly, since Tony Barretto is so ‘deeply concerned’ about the welfare of Brit’s children, maybe we should ask why he’s only just stepped forward—weeks after these events supposedly happened … after he was fired … after he hooked up with TV-hog Gloria Allred. And the month before Kevin Federline’s $20,000 per month alimony expires.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s more that inquiring minds should know.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

perfect conditions

How many times has someone said to you “Some day I’m going to write a book …” Or, “When I quit work I’m going to dig out my easel and start painting.” Or maybe, “If I had the money to lock myself away in a mountain cabin, I’d get that screenplay finished.”

I’m guilty of saying similar things myself about a couple of my own pet projects yet to realize fruition. For me, it’s not always the number of paying projects I’m working on that stalls me, but the intensity and timeline of each project. For example, I’m currently working on 11 paid projects, which is down considerably from last month’s count, but the intensity is high and I’m working 7 days a week to maintain. Other months I have just one or two projects that require most of my time.

Last week, when I was interviewing bestselling true-crime author, Ann Rule, she inspired me to realize that—as much as I have to be organized—I often get in my own way.

For one, I like clean, clear and open space to work in, no clutter in sight. And most days I work in nothing less.

Yet, as I write this, at the end of a crazy week where I’ve juggled all day and everyday—as we all do—my desk is overflowing with books to review, publicity material to scan, a phone log with 13 calls to return, marketing collateral for my show, a network folder full of regional events I ‘should’ attend; guest material to research; and a folder full of resumes to sift through so that I have another pair of hands before I tear out what little hair I have left.

There’s a desktop LCD, two live-laptops ready to receive urgent client messages from different sources; a banker’s lamp on the far left corner and an artist’s magnifying light on the right. A bottle of coral nail polish, a vase of past-their-best roses, my old classic-sized DayTimer and my new full-size Covey planner. Then there’s a digital clock, salt rock to dispel negative electrons, three wireless mice, a wireless keyboard, and oops, another bottle of nail polish—this time pink. (Now you know what I do on global conference calls!)

There are two DVD roughs to sign-off on, as well as a list of production credits to proof and approve. Two staplers (don’t you hate when they run out and you’re in a hurry?) and a block of Post-it notes. A “No Whining” sign sits behind a framed plaque saying, “You can be pleased with nothing when you are not pleased with yourself”. (Must remind self of both sayings!) A cell phone, business phone, and an assortment of colored pens so I can color-code my new planner. (…anal?) And no less than two cups of cold coffee and a glass full of Perrier water.

This is ‘My Life’” … oh no, wait, that’s the Cover Girl commercial.

Back to Ann Rule.

She was a cop turned writer. A single mom who had to find a way to make money when she could no longer be a cop because of eyesight limitations. And she found that way by setting up a typewriter in her kitchen and writing fantasy stories for True Confessions magazine, in and amongst the chaos of raising five children.

We were so poor, for so long” she said, “but it teaches you, you can write through anything if you’re determined.”

She tells people who talk of seeking perfect conditions, like that cabin in the woods where everything is quiet (or the super clean desk), “It doesn’t work that way. If you want to write [act, paint, dance] you will find a way.”

And despite the huge disappointment of losing her career as a police officer, and her recollections of peeling fighting children off the top of her typewriter, Ann has now made the New York Times bestsellers’ list 26 times.

So, while I take a few minutes to clean and de-clutter my desk, tell me, what perfect conditions are you waiting for?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

feeding your muse

Alfred Brooks thought he’d found her for-hire in the very bossy and money hungry Sharon Stone*. Ernest Hemingway apparently found her somewhere between the rim of a martini glass and the bottom of his fourth, fifth, even sixth bottle of wine or quart of whiskey.

And, too many to mention here, claim mental illness lifts them from the dullest of personalities into the occasional creative genius.**

In fact Kurt Vonnegut once said he’d be willing to suffer like Van Gogh to paint like Van Gogh … but not to paint like Gaugin.

So who is this Muse everyone talks of? What is she and where does she come from? And sometimes, we ask pulling our hair, why is she so elusive?

The word Muse means the one who remembers. In Greek mythology, Zeus and Mnemosyne—the personification of remembrance—had nine daughters.

All virgins, they each had a specific science or art to protect.
  • Calliope protected elegies
  • Melpomene, the tragedies
  • Euterpe, flute playing
  • Erato, love poems
  • Tepsicore, choir lyrics
  • Thalia the comedies
  • Polyhymnia, dance and music
  • Cleo (image above) protects the stories of heroes and history
  • Urania, astronomy

Today, we less often rally a specific muse. We typically refer to 'The' Muse as an omniscient embodiment of all artistic creation and inspiration. And over the years, many have called upon her, hoping she’d bathe them in a sharp white floodlight of brilliance and creativity.

But as I padded up and down my studio in the dark hours one night, bare feet on bare boards, deadline looming, I realized, ‘nope’ … nine or one, there’s no Muse hiding here tonight!

I paused by a bookshelf, closed my eyes and softly trailed my fingers across the spines of the neatly arranged books on the second shelf. My pinkie snagged on a small paperback.

I tugged the book off the shelf and opened my eyes: Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing fell open to page 35: “What is The Subconscious to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, The Muse.”

That’s it! The Muse is our own subconscious.

Bradbury goes on to say that we must feed our Muse, to keep our Muse, and asks:
“How have you fed yourself over the years? Was it a banquet or a starvation diet?”

He’s not talking about food, but of senses and experiences; of looks, and sounds, and smells, and tastes, and touches.

What and who are we drinking in? How are we exploring and growing? Where do we spend our hours? And with whom? Who are our friends? Do they believe in us? Or do they stunt our growth with ridicule and negativity?

“These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows …” Bradbury writes.

To feed your Muse, you must have been hungry and thirsty about life since childhood. And if you weren’t, haven’t been, and still aren’t—it’s never too late to develop your appetite and start feeding the Muse!

* The Muse, 1999 co-written and directed by Alfred Brooks.
** While many claim mental illness boosts their creativity above that of ‘normal’ people, many valid studies show this claim to be untrue and without merit.

Picture: Dr. Vollmer's Wörterbuch der Mythologie aller Völker.Stuttgart: Hoffmann'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1874.
Book: Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You by Ray Bradbury.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

don't let this stop you

Bless him. Didn’t have the heart to tell my hunky-honey that the letter he was waving in my face probably wasn’t even read by the executive producer whose signature wished him a dynamic and prosperous future.

“Don’t let this stop you,” the letter ended “... we look forward to hearing more of your music in the future.”

Like many of us when faced with rejection, he’d skipped over the formulaic middle paragraph, and zoned in on the bits that gave him the slightest hint of hope that this wasn’t ‘just a standard rejection letter’. After all, that was a real ink signature … wasn’t it?

blogged on rejection before, but let’s face it, whether you’re a working creative, a singleton on the dating scene, or a new-job seeker, rejection is going to happen.

According to psychologists worldwide, it’s the number one fear of mankind. That and public speaking. And when you’re emotionally attached to a particular piece of work or specific outcome, a resounding ‘thanks but no thanks’ is that much harder to swallow.

So, after our initial whining session, how do we make rejection more palatable?

If I had the answer to that I’d no doubt make a quick million. But here are seven tools that work for myself and others who are, alas, well-experienced in handling rejection!

  1. Don’t automatically assume you did something wrong, or could have done something differently to influence the outcome. That may be true in some cases; but for the most part, rejection occurs due to a lack of confluence between you or what you’re presenting, and time-place-demand and/or desire. The stars were aligned—or they weren’t. Your work landed on the right desk on the right day—or it didn’t. You met the person who set your heart on fire when you were both willing and available—or you didn’t.

  2. When a loved or desired one rejects you with “It’s not you, it’s me” believe them. It-is-ALL-About-Them. Always has been. Always will be.

  3. When a potential employer rejects you, see it as positive. As a manager, I interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of potential employees, and it simply boils down to a person being a good fit for the job/team—or not. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or the employer. And you want a mutually beneficial match, right?

  4. When an editor, producer, or gallery rejects your work, resubmit the piece to another pre-selected market the same day. If you have a good relationship with the rejecter, you can ask them why it didn’t fit their needs *if* and only if you did your homework and didn’t present them with something they’d already featured a couple of months ago.

  5. Take inflammatory emotion out of the situation. The rejection is not meant to hurt or injure you as a person, or to crush your creative genius. It’s not personal—if you think it is, read number one again!

  6. Make the Law of Averages work for you by checking-off the rejection as another step closer to getting a yes.
  7. Don’t ever let the fear of rejection stop you from reaching out in any aspect of your life. Our wise elders always say, it's not the things they did that they regret. It's the things they did not do!

What do you have to add on rejection? How do you handle it? What type of rejection is hardest for you to deal with—emotional or work-related? And why?