In with the good air…

deep breath
Step 1. Inhale through the nose.

You’d think working on a comedy would be a fun-filled, joke-laden romp.

Nope.

As you may have heard, comedy’s a tough row to hoe. Everybody has a different take on what they consider funny, so it takes a lot of work.

A lot.

One of my current endeavors is overhauling a low-budget comedy spec. It’s been a long, slow process – with a lot of moments of frustration and aggravation.

When I write, sometimes I just overthink things, which makes feeling stuck seem that much bigger and insurmountable. Not uncommon.

It probably also doesn’t help that writing comedy is a totally different world than writing a rollercoaster ride-type adventure. The latter has definitely gotten easier for me, while the former…

Let’s just say I’m still on a bit of a learning curve.

Despite all the obstacles, there’s still one powerful positive about this – I think it’s a fun concept with a new and unique approach and, if executed properly, would be a really good script.

So I do what I can to work my way through.

K could see the toll the stress was taking on me, and suggested I hit the metaphoric pause button and simply take a couple of deep breaths to help clear my head.

And wouldn’t you know? It did help.

After that last exhalation, the problems don’t seem as huge. Sure, they’re still there, but what originally seemed like “How in the world am I going to do that?” has now turned into “There is a solution here, and I shall find it.”

A little calm and rational thinking can do wonders to help you regain and maintain your footing after a little stumbling. I heartily recommend it.

Ride that positive wave

surfing batman

Let’s face it. This is a business of severe ups and downs, and given our druthers, we all prefer the ups.

But it doesn’t always work out that way, hence the downs. Which also significantly outnumber the ups. By a lot.

Who among us doesn’t have a story where something seemed like a sure thing, and you’re thinking “This is it! My big break is just around the corner!”, only to find out that that break is actually forty blocks away, there’s a transit strike and the Indian food you had for lunch is drop-kicking your lower digestive tract?

Yep, been there.

But I’ve also been fortunate to have had a pretty good share of ups.

Some moderate contest success. Management come and gone. The ultimate goal getting a little closer each time, always seemingly just out of reach with no sign of changing.

Used to be I would get all upset and distraught, and filled with self-doubt.

Not anymore.

I’ve become that dangerous combo of talented, patient and determined.

My writing’s improved, so I’m very confident about the quality of my scripts and the skills I’ve developed to get here. My scripts may not be the absolute best, but if anything, they’re damned entertaining.

There are going to be bad days. There are going to be shitty days. Accept it.

But there will also be good days. There may even be phenomenal days. Days where you feel invincible and unstoppable. These will be few and far between, so enjoy them. Hold onto that feeling and feed off it for as long as you can. It’s definitely not easy to maintain a positive attitude, especially when everything around you feels so negative.

This is just part of the neverending obstacle course we all have to work our way through. At first, it seems impossible, but the more you do it, you’ll find it gets a little easier each time after that.

Surf’s up, chums.

So this is what inner peace feels like

zen garden
Serenity, calm, and all that

Philosophy, metaphysics and existentialism aren’t really my thing, but I suppose you could say I’m feeling very “zen” these days.

Part of it is stems from completing the last-polish-before-contests of my western. It definitely reads better, and I’m extremely happy with the results.

Working on this rewrite also renewed my sense of “don’t hold back”. It was exhilarating to write material that felt so alive and vibrant. I am fully confident this will continue with each draft of each of my scripts from this point on.

For some reason, this may also tie directly into a majority of my anxiety and stress and self-imposed pressure simply disappearing, or at least being drastically reduced.  Seriously. Maybe it’s from just accepting that success will happen when it happens, and that beating myself up until it does is just counter-productive. I suspect there will be times when I’ll still get a little down, but expect it to occur on a less regular basis and definitely not as severe.

Big things of a positive nature are ahead, chums. I will do my best to maintain this blissful sensation while I keep working toward reaching that inevitable goal.

Which I do expect to happen. Preferably sooner than later, but either way I’ll get there.

**Editor’s note – this is my 700th post. While the ideal subject matter would have been “I sold a script!” or at least along those lines, I’m quite content with it covering the topic it does.

I hope you’ve enjoyed being part of this for the previous 699 posts over the past 7 years, and that you’ll keep coming back for more.

Thanks for reading!

Don’t open that door!

doors

Another busy week around Maximum Z HQ, with a significant part of it involving waiting to hear about the potential future of some of my projects.*

I hate the waiting. It opens the door to allow fear and anxiety to stroll on in.

A friend who’s a director put it very succinctly: It’s all about control. A lot of that stuff is out of your hands now, which makes you nervous about the outcome. You have to redirect your attention to anything and everything for which you can take charge, and do something with it. The sooner the better.

How absolutely true, and it was exactly the reminder I needed.

In my case, that comes down to the work and all things related. It’s easy to forget how many things with which I’m involved. My own stuff (which is a growing category unto itself), giving notes, networking, sending out queries, just to name a few.

Sure, it would be great for everybody to respond quickly, preferably with news of a positive nature, but it doesn’t work that way. These things are known to drag out for excruciatingly long periods of time, and me fretting over it is the last thing I need.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if I get an email in a few months about one of these that I’ll probably have totally forgotten. It’s happened before.

Keeping busy really does help you stay focused and keep the negatives at bay. It might not be easy, but do what you can to slam that door shut, lock it and throw away they key.

 

*heard back from a producer soon after posting this. They passed on my script, which sucks, but will now re-double my efforts with the other projects.

 

The sound I needed to hear

Oh so worth it
Oh so worth it

It’s been a very long time since I felt my heart beating that fast.

It was the weekly meeting of the writing group, where volunteers offered up ten pages of their material for a read-through and critiquing. The time was right to take the low-budget comedy out for its first road test.

Despite my confidence in my own writing ability, anxiety was coursing through me. What if they didn’t like it? What if my attempts at jokes fell flat? Worst of all – what if they thought it wasn’t funny? These meetings are held at a small cafe, so the strongest drink in the house was coffee, so I couldn’t rely on a stiff drink to steady my nerves.

To make things that much more nerve-wracking, the moderator (who knows and likes my writing) had me going last. This may have been deliberate on his part.

We worked our way through the other three sets of pages, and then finally it was my turn.

I took a deep breath, stood up, and began distributing pages (complete with assigned parts), explaining the concept behind the story. Upon reflection, the chuckles and comments of “Oh, that’s good” and “I like it” were harbingers of what was to come.

Even so, I had to force myself to take deep breaths and calm down as the read-through commenced.

Also working in my favor: the person portraying the main character was spot-on.

They got to the first joke.

And they laughed.

To say I felt a sense of relief is a severe understatement, but it was exactly the reaction I was hoping for.

The read-through continued, with laughs in the places they were supposed to be. As expected, some jokes hit better than others, but it wasn’t that much of an issue.

A few minutes later, it was over, and we transitioned to the feedback stage.

Overall, it was very positive. Comments were made about what worked, what needed work, and potential changes. Some of the suggestions had merit and worth considering, but for the most part (and keeping in mind that a few members of the group are not the greatest writers – based on reading their work), I smiled, nodded and thanked each person for their thoughts.

Once again proving it’s all subjective, one person said my character descriptions were “too much” and maybe “too flashy”, but the person sitting to my left interjected and heartily disagreed, saying “a lot of the writing in other scripts is just dry and kind of dull, but this really pops off the page and paints a great mental picture.” A few nods around the table supported the latter position. If your work sparks contrasting opinions, then it must have something going for it.

The evening came to a close, and I left, feeling just the slightest bit triumphant.

For now, I’m still working my way through the first draft, and a lot of the jokes probably need a ton of work, but at least I can say I got past this first hurdle.

Should be interesting to see how things go from here.

-Shameless self-promotion! The Great American Pitch Fest is only two weeks away, so there’s still time to register. Save yourself a nice chunk of change by using the code MaximumZ20 to get 20 percent off. I’ll be there, and hope to see you too.