Still at it

September 27, 2011

I get ideas… crazy, nutty, time-consuming ideas. And one of them was to start yet another blog specifically related to my screenwriting process.

To follow that one, click here: it will come to me

I also created sites for my two short films:

Desiree and The Lesson

“The Lesson” is shortlisted for the IrisPrize, and I’m proud to know that we’ve come this far with it.

More news on that after I return from Europe next week.

Accomplishing

June 11, 2011

Getting ready to shoot "Desiree."

This blog is really only for me as I’m sure that millions of people have not been waiting with baited breath for my next entry… which is good, because they’d be dead by now.

I just want to say that a YEAR ago I embarked on an adventure: making two short films. The stars aligned in the universe and they had to be made back to back in order to utilize all the talent available to me. Although I had made two other short films, I was working with LOTS of unknowns. Let’s just say that now, one year later, I believe I have FINISHED products. It has all come out of my pocket, both projects were my idea and inspiration… and I have a small feeling of accomplishment now that I’m on this side of them.

Maybe one day I will be lucky enough to have a sponsor or production company invest in me. For now, it’s me against the world. But at least I can say I finished them and I hope I can get them into as many festivals as I can.

Now, back to work on my feature script.

Achieving

July 29, 2010

Japanese beach

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. But since I do not have armies of followers, I don’t think anyone has been biting their fingernails in nervous anticipation of what I have to say.

But maybe there will be one day.

I just want to say that since my last posting I produced two short films, one which I directed, both which I wrote. I also hosted a successful filmmaking workshop and managed to finally finish my feature script which I have struggled with for two years.

None of the above makes me rich or famous. From the above nothing may happen. But the most important point is: I did all these things. I did not think I could do them, and I did them.

I am sharing these things with you, because I have seen over and over again that if you believe you can do something (or if someone else believes you can, and encourages you), you can.

I have spent my whole life denying and running away from my “gifts.” I sensed that when I was young I had talent. But if you have talent, you have a responsibility to it. You have to nurture it. In the world in which I lived, it was easier to become a non-entity. If I faded into the background, there was no possibility of being onstage, front and center, no possibility of being judged, criticized, condemned… nor the possibility of being praised.

I was afraid of the path my talent might take me down. I was overwhelmed and did nothing… for the longest time.

But I’m tired of living in fear. I’m too old to live in fear. So, I’ve taken steps… and those steps have been so hard to take, but I took them.

I think the point I want to make is: Face the fear and do it anyway. I did; and I’m so glad.

View from my office window

View from my office window

It’s 8:05 a.m. A rainy May day in Tokyo. It’s time to get going, get with it, get on it. Is that where you’re at? Or are you crying…?

Yesterday I met with my writer friend. She’s walking out on a limb, going for it, declaring herself a “writer.” I applauded her. But getting to that conversation, we both shed some tears… about our unique lives here in Japan, about the decisions we made (or didn’t), about what the universe gives us (or doesn’t). The tears welled up in our eyes without notice; it was kind of shocking to me. But the reasons all boiled down to this: we have not believed in ourselves enough. We have not trusted ourselves enough. We have not allowed ourselves to think that for one moment maybe we really could be writers.

After I left our tête-à-tête, I said to myself, “That’s it! No more tears!” — Now, that’s easy to say and I don’t know that I can hold back the dam if indeed we hit an emotional geyser, but… I said to myself, “From TODAY, I am a WRITER.” If other people want to think differently, that’s THEIR opinion. I write, therefore, I am a writer. That gave me a feeling of strength, a protective coat, a veneer of toughness. I am going to keep saying it over and over and over. When I introduce myself to others, I am going to say, “I’m a writer.” And when they look at me admiringly I will drink in the admiration, because, as my darling writer friend from yesterday’s tear-fest said to me, “You deserve it.”

Yes, I deserve it. I have lived in denial of my talents my whole life… for what? I think somehow I thought that if I “went too far” I would somehow not fit into the image that others already had of me. And so, I stayed locked in that image for many years. I could have succumbed to alcohol or drugs or God-knows-what, but I didn’t… I just “maintained” the image.

Well, that image doesn’t work for me anymore. I am not a well-known writer, I only make a pittance for what I have written so far… but I DON’T CARE. I started on a path, a path I was afraid to walk down. And it doesn’t matter to me how many other talented, gifted, brilliant people have walked down it … there is still room for ME. I am going to make room.

And so… if I only sit and cry about it, that ain’t going to get me anywhere. It’s okay, I suppose, to share those tears with a dear friend who can understand and support you, but I think the trick is to acknowledge what was, what wasn’t, what is and what isn’t. Right now I am in the “what is” mode… and I am going to work it to the best of my abilities.

Years ago I met a woman in Hollywood. I think her name was Lynn, but it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that “Lynn” was who she thought she was. In other words, if there was an audition for a tap dancer, then Lynn went to it; it wasn’t important whether she actually was a tap dancer or not; she BELIEVED she was for the purpose of the audition. And one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is: “You are who you think you are.”

So, that is my “mantra” for today and I encourage anyone who has any doubts about their creative selves to “take ownership” of that and declare that you are a writer or actor or musician or singer. You will find your audience.

First things first

May 5, 2010

Flowing Ribbons

Flowing Ribbons

I posted this specific picture, snapped at the incredible Britex Fabrics shop on a recent trip to San Francisco, because this is what I think my mind looks like: bright, shiny, colorful, with endless ribbons of creative ideas. I have been unable to manage all those ideas well, which is why I often skip from project to project, although for the most part, I do come back and finish each project.

But on my recent trip to the states (now that I live in Tokyo, visiting the states is like going to a foreign country), one of my oldest and dearest friends criticized me, harshly, for “never finishing anything.” I thought her criticism was a bit misplaced as I have finished many things… but her complaint was: “That’s all you do with them… you finish them. Then what?”

I could not entirely disagree with this, as unpleasant as it sounded. I love the creative process and I love creating things. But after I finish them, I feel they are done. But unfortunately, they are not… not if I want to make a living off of them… and I do.

And so, without delving into years of backstory, I will just say that my friend’s overall critique definitely pulled back yet another layer of the veils I have protectively swathed myself in for years and this blog will detail my journey to get my specific projects “off the ground.”

So, this blog was created to encourage anyone who wants to write to do just that… and while I am encourage you (and myself), I will also be pushing myself to take my projects to the next level. “Talking” and “doing” are two different things. And I am continuing to learn that while “the pen might be mightier than the sword,” “action” still speaks louder than “words.”

This leads me to the title of today’s blog: First things first. That translates as: Focus on what’s important and stop wasting time on what isn’t.

I pray this is the start of the journey I have promised myself I would go on many years ago. More soon.

Commitment

March 30, 2010

Sunlight on a Japanese screen

Sunlight on a Japanese screen

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I feel guilty about it. Even if this post is only for myself, and only a way to help me put my words down in a form that is easily accessible, I feel guilty if I can’t get to the blog on a regular basis.

The reasons why are not important, but what my “absence” has made me realize is: All writing is about commitment. Words do not get on the page by themselves. Someone (preferably human) has to write them down or type them up. This requires commitment.

This last week when other things were distracting me (or, as others would be quick to point out, when I was allowing things to distract me), I did not put my efforts into my screenplay. I let other things take priority.

Sometimes, yes, there are other things that demand attention (and not only things, but people)… and I am still struggling to find that balance between “dealing” with things and making it clear to all around me (but most importantly to myself) that I am a writer. “Being a writer,” to me, means 1) getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the page before they drive me insane, and 2) getting my thoughts down in such a way that they make sense to me (and perhaps others).

The “reason” for my being distracted will be ending today… and I am ecstatic. But I think, more importantly, that during this period of time when I was “away,” that my mind kept saying, “Don’t forget about the script! Don’t forget about your stories! Don’t forget about your time–the precious time you need to write.”

So, today is an opportunity to remind myself that, yes, I write. And, yes, I make the commitment to write. And today is also an opportunity to observe that, once again, “wanting” and “doing” are different things and when I am “doing” I am not thinking about “wanting.” So, whatever your creative dreams are, I hope you are actively “doing” them, because, at least as far as I know, that’s the only way they’ll ever get done.

Focus

March 9, 2010

Teapot City

I started this blog for myself, but what has come out of it are comments and observations from fellow writers about the struggle to write. About the feeling of loneliness, despair, confusion… yes, I would say those feelings come up often. But I would also say that it’s very easy to fall prey to those feelings and not focus on the larger task at hand: the act of writing.

I met with a dear friend the other day who has decided to take the plunge and rewrite a short story she has kept under wraps for many years. But she was quickly hit by a barrage of mixed emotions: Am I doing the right thing? How will I know when it’s good enough? How do I know when to stop? What if I don’t make any money on this? Will I make any money on this? Am I wasting my time? Do I really need feedback… shouldn’t an artist express himself/herself as he/she sees fit?

Tough questions, yes. Answers? I would say “Focus on the writing.” Do not let your mind wander down other nooks and crannies because, in my experience, they lead nowhere. As I was told by Ellen Sandler, the author of The TV Writer’s Workbook, “Your job is to write.”

This simple sentence sums up very clearly what I am supposed to be focusing on. It quickly sweeps away all the other “noise” in my head. I cannot show anything to anybody, I cannot win any competitions, I cannot sign any “deals,” I cannot interest anyone in anything until I have something to offer them. In other words, I must write. That is the first step.

So, fellow scribes, if any of you out in there in cyberspace stumble across my humble blog, don’t fret about the big picture — write about it. Then, maybe there will actually be a big picture… in more ways than one.

Trust Your Voice

March 6, 2010

Fields of My Dreams

Fields of My Dreams

I was doing a little pre-spring cleaning today, getting rid of the old, making room for the new. In the process I found so many forgotten treasures. I discovered to my absolute delight that songs I had created 10 years ago on my old PC (tucked under my desk) are able to be played (and edited) on my MacBook Pro through the magic of Midi conversion. It just couldn’t have come at a better time, since I and my co-writer have been trying to breathe new life into these songs with the help of an interested producer. So, that started the day off right.

And then… just like a movie, I found some old diary entries on the floor. I was shuffling notebooks and things around and they just fell out. I picked them up and this is what I saw circled:

“Trust your voice–it’s the only voice you have.”

This simple reminder to myself, written almost 8 years ago, shook me to the core. It is so easy in this world to be dismissed, laughed at and drowned out by all the squeaky wheels, the screamers, the shouters… the list goes on. And yet, I have slowly but surely realizing, in my bones, that my voice counts. My voice deserves to be heard — and, for any of you who have felt yourself pushed to the back of the room because you weren’t sure whether your voice had any value, let me say right here and now that it has so much value that if you do not use it you are making a big mistake.

I am reminded (since I’m old enough) of the wonderful moment in Wizard of Oz of the following dialogue:

Oz: I am Oz — the Great and Powerful. Who are you? Who are you?!

Dorothy: If you please, I am Dorothy — the small and meek. We’ve come to ask —

Oz: Silence!

Well, she may have started off  “small and meek,” but when she realized she had been treated unfairly, despite completing all the tasks she was asked to — she spoke up. She let her voice be heard. She made a difference. She humbled that old “wizard,” and she became a more powerful person by trusting her voice.

I’m going to make this my mantra and I’m going to stop pushing my talents to the wayside. It’s time to start trusting my voice  and making myself heard.

You Can

March 4, 2010

Decorate your table

Like a lot of creative people, I have struggled with the belief that I actually have anything to offer. This is why I am great at investing my time and energy into other activities and other non-creative related jobs. It makes me feel like I am doing something, that I am contributing to society, that I am somehow participating. But at the end of the day there is still that feeling that I am not answering to myself.

I didn’t really connect with this feeling until my dear friend and co-writer turned me on to The Artist’s Way. For those of you who don’t know about this book and philosophy, let me just sum it up in two words: “Morning Pages.” One of the benefits from reading The Artist’s Way was learning how to do “Morning Pages,” as author Julia Cameron refers to them.

Without going into lengthy detail, “Morning Pages” unlocked many doors to my mind, heart, dreams, and imagination. It subtly and not so subtly made me see how I had been cheating myself out of opportunities by not believing in what I had to offer. For that, I am grateful. I believe it is after I read the book that I finally “got the message.” I have now written my own book, Freelancing in Tokyo, produced two short films, written numerous scripts, and won awards in the process.

And yet… I still struggle every morning with “Facing the Page.” Today I struggled mightily, but once I said, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, all right, already, I will sit down and write!”… once I said that, I could not stop. My short film script is essentially done and I finally feel my feature is actually going to be completed soon (at least the first draft). These are wonderful feelings and I guess what I want to say is:

There is a lot of internal “noise” that constantly tells us “no” — while I can think of some choice responses, the best thing to tell yourself (and the noise or the voices or whatever you want to call them) is: “I can.” Today, I didn’t think I could, but not only did I put in time on two scripts, I made a storyboard for a video I’m collaborating on and finished two assignments for a magazine I edit for. So, surprise, surprise, I can, I do, I could and I did!

Make the commitment

February 27, 2010

Washi on the Wall

Field of Dreams

It’s hard to write; it hurts to write; it’s troublesome to write; it’s bothersome to write. It’s such a commitment!

Yeah, so?

I’m finding that the more I’m willing to commit, the more I’m able to get down on the paper (or the screen); the more I’m willing to write deadlines down, the more I find myself getting something accomplished.

My goals this month were to finish a short script that has been gnawing away at my imagination for the last two years, as well as to get my dramatic feature into presentable shape to have it critiqued. Well, with one more day in the year, I think I’ve done that. But it did not come without a lot of procrastinating, nail-biting, running away, housecleaning, eating snacks, “forgetting,” denying, fighting, arguing… you know, the whole gamut of human emotions and excuses.

And yet, the thing is… once I actually “get into” the writing… I feel transported and thrilled and alive. I love writing. It frees my mind, it makes me better, stronger, smarter, more sophisticated… it taps into vast wells of dreams and colors and memories and fantasies… there is so much to say, and so little time to say it… maybe that’s what I’m afraid of. How can I get it all down when I know I’ll never be able to?

Make the commitment. That is a start.

Though my looking-glass is cloudy with the mist of a dying winter… I can just make out the words, “Make the commitment…”

This is what I see in my looking-glass today, tucked away in my quiet corner of Tokyo, far removed from everything and everyone I ever knew…