the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘writing resources’

Writer Down, Mayday Mayday!

In career, Uncategorized, writing on December 10, 2012 at 7:30 am

A good friend of the blog, Joe Ponepinto, blogger extraordinaire and creative force behind The Saturday Morning Post, recently wrote a heartbreaking post about getting rejected.  I often write about rejection, but Joe’s post, which you should read, made me think some very sad thoughts.

Thanks a lot, Joe.  I’m not really looking for help when it comes to pessimism.

Kidding aside, because he is a good writer, Joe brought up concerns for me that any creative person should think about: what do you do when you get your heart broken by your art?  It’s hard to know what to do.  It’s hard to know if you should keep going, give up, or change something?  And as you get older, and the success does not come, the doubts grow exponentially.  And yet.  And yet.  I know Joe will keep writing, and he should.

It’s easy to say that and mean it when you’re talking about another person, but it can sometimes be almost impossible if you are having doubts about yourself.  I don’t know about you, but I know I have and do exaggerate how much of a hack I am.

So what to do?

I’m reminded of a bit I once saw Dennis Leary do.  Basically, he’s screaming that life just sucks, and that we need to get used to it–rejections and disappointments included.  As he says it, “life is hard, get a helmet.”  Yes, true enough.  But as funny as the bit is, it’s not so simple.  Life’s just hard sometimes, and there’s no helmet that’s going to do the trick.


What Some German Movie About Running Taught Me About Running and Writing and Why I Should Stop Eating Sweets

In humor, life, observations, writing on December 14, 2011 at 1:21 am

So, if you’ve been reading my posts lately, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with a script that I should’ve had done last week. I’ve tried everything including writing on this blog about the problem, which should be good for something the way I figure it. I’m communicating fears, sharing my thoughts, etc. But it’s all been for naught. The truth is that I’ve been sucking it big time, and if I don’t stop, I’m going to become a butterball. Yes, I don’t know why, but somehow in my head I seem to think that if I fill my face with enough coffee and sweet things, I’ll get my mojo back and tackle this script.  Sugar and caffeine are great for a lot of things, but they don’t do fuck-all to make me write. They just jack me up, which makes my self-hate tick up a few mental decibels and no doubt, in the very near future, they’re going to make me gain weight, which, in turn, will make me angry at myself–angrier is more like it.

But then this morning, I decided to shake things up. I decided that telling myself I suck and then announcing it repeatedly on this blog was not the way to go. Instead, I said, screw it! I gave myself the morning off. I didn’t let myself look at the clock. I didn’t tell myself I had to go to Starbucks to write before starting the rest of my day. I pushed all of it out of my head. And what did I do? I watched a movie about running.

I love sports-movies—let me say it now! This, like my negative views on holiday parties, makes my wife sad, so most of the time, when I watch sports-movies, I do so by myself. I will also admit that sports-movies make me emo, as in weep-my-butt-off emotional.  Dramas don’t usually cut to my heart and comedies hardly ever make me laugh, but watching someone overcome some kind of adversity, which is the basic formula for the sports-movie, makes me weep and/or glow with excitement. At this moment, I’m trying not to think of the theme for that amazing and Oscar-overlooked movie, Rudy.  Just thinking of that film makes me…Oh no….man-tears…adams-apple flexing….

A moment…sorry, I’m just…Ok, one more sec… …..just one….

OK, OK. I’m better now. That movie was greatness. I can also recommend Hoosiers, Without Limits, American Flyers, Rocky up until the one when he goes to Russia—that one sucked. The Karate Kid (I think we can include martial arts as a sport, though I would not do the same for KK 2, 3, or 4 or Karate Girl—as with any good fighter, the Karate Kid franchise should’ve hung up the black belt before it became a dementia-laden mess.

As you can see, I like sports-movies, but of all sports movies, I like running-movies best. That reminds me, Running Brave was great. OH,  and there’s also Chariots of Fire, though I hate slow-mo scenes. AND there are some great running documentaries. (If you’d like, send me word, and I’ll make you a list.) So, it’s the running-movie that makes my heart beat fastest. Partly, it’s because I run. I’m not a runner, but I have gone out to run 3-4 times a week since high school. I love the way real runners look when they’re doing their thing. It’s so basic to who we are. It’s what people have been doing since the beginning of people.  And so this morning, without much thought, I put in a German movie called The Robber. It’s based on a real-life story about some Austrian marathon runner in the 80s who not only set national records, but also robbed banks on his free time. I don’t know if the movie is truthful to the real story, but if it is, then the reason that the runner robs is the same reason he runs: he wants to push himself beyond usual limits. As a bank robber, he wants to push his adrenaline-levels, and as a runner, he’s trying to do the same. In one scene, he pushes himself so hard in a race that he collapses at the finish line. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was 30 minutes left to the movie, I would’ve assumed that the German director was making an ironic point: a robber who dies not running from the police but  from himself. What’s the German word for DEEP? And yet, this movie is deep. It’s a F’n sports-movie, after all. So what do you expect?

I know a lot of people don’t get this—not the sports-movie thing, but the running-thing. And there are a lot of sports-lovers who don’t think long distance running is exciting. But I do. There is an adrenaline to long distance running—it’s not the adrenaline you get jumping out of a plane or kayaking down a river, but it’s a slow kind, a personal kind.  The question a runner doesn’t ask but always has to face is: can I do this, can I finish the race and do so before anyone, before the clock winds down on whatever record I’m trying to shatter? Basically, what is my limit? Runners don’t ask that of themselves but the question is always there in their minds, and that question raises the stakes. I’ve never been brave enough to go all out while running, to risk my physical health. Even as a high school runner, I’d start my races worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish if I went all out. Like any sport, you’re dealing with physical limits, and part of me was scared to face mine—I also am man enough to admit to my fear of physical pain.  The runner in the German movie faced the same question, but both as a robber and as a runner, he chose to push through and risk himself.

I know the old joke that the only good reason to run is if you’re being chased. Maybe that’s true. Maybe runners are chased by something in their make-up. I don’t know. I don’t think I care. What I can tell you is that there is something wonderful about being out somewhere moving through space, powered by your legs. There’s something lonely about it, and brave, and maybe, sadistic. The runner in the movie certainly had a sadistric streak in him.

For me, and how all of this relates to the script, I’d say that I’m stalling for the same reason I’m not a real runner: I am in fear of finding my limits and of the pain of effort required to even get to that place. In the end, that’s what I’m left with. So I either accept this fear and enjoy my life drinking coffee because I want to and not because I’m trying to avoid something, or I get off my butt and go for it. Balls out! No Limits!

Jesus, can you hear the Rocky theme playing in the background? I can. I can. I can.

Writing: A Good Dose of Slowness on a Sick Day

In life, media, observations, teaching & education, writers & books, writing on December 8, 2011 at 10:12 pm


It’s sad, but the only time I sit around and read for joy or watch a movie guilt-free are sick-days. The reason I don’t read so much or watch movies might not be guilt no that I think of it.  Or, if it is guilt, the guilt is a by-product of something else.  Maybe it’s better to say that sick-days are days when I’m not conscious of time. I’ve mentioned this before, but as I get older, I feel more and more like I’m accelerating. I am less patient. I want to do more and do everything as fast and efficiently as I can. I don’t know where I’m going to go once I finish, and it doesn’t matter. It’s all about speed. I’ve noticed the same thing in many of my students. They want to get done with their lessons; they want to get on with IT, even though they have no idea why or what IT is exactly. So, maybe it’s not an age thing. Is it technology? The Internet and the IPhones? The Cult of Multi-Tasking?

No idea. What I do know is that today, when I was watching a movie, I had to stop myself from fast-forwarding a section of the film that seemed predictable. Granted, it was a Samurai movie and there was an endless–what seemed endless–battle scene early on. Though I still like martial arts movies, there’s only so long I can watch the same five guys chopping through an army of other soldiers who politely wait their turn to be eviscerated. Still, even if the film wasn’t amazing and the choreography was not very distinct from one scene to another, the fact that even on a sick-day, I was compelled to skip forward is telling that something is happening here. I needed to be stimulated. I needed to move on, be done with IT.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I was sick, I probably would’ve multi-tasked: checked emails as the second 100 evil soldiers got their due.

I know, to a point, I am writing tonight because I need my fix of slowness. That’s what writing does for me. It slows me down, forces me to accept that things take as long as they will. You can’t multi-task while you write. You can’t fast-forward. You have to work your way across the page, one word at a time. It’s the only way.

Right now, after a day stuck in bed, I’m bouncing off the walls and at the same time, exhausted. I want to be done with this sickness and with this blog post. So I’ll stop writing and try to sleep some. It won’t be easy to get to sleep, but I know it will be possible because I took a few minutes out to write these words.


Why I’m Mentally Constipated

In life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm

OK, so I have a few ME’s inside me and I’m going to share them with you because it can be crowded up here, in here, up and in here–you get the picture.  Though the company can be good at times because of the way they lend other points of view, there are times when all those ME’s clog me up–not so much in the usual sense of the word, but rather, in a mental way.  Recently, I’ve gotten a little of both–perspective and constipation.Here’s how:

I was applying for a job–a good job teaching young people how to write fiction.  The job seemed like such a good fit that I didn’t check with the other ME’s because I thought WE were in agreement.  Good money, good benefits, what more could I ask for? So for a month, I worked on the application, got it in, got an interview, did pretty well at the interview, but while driving back from that interview, the Thoughtful ME or the Neurotic ME (they look so similar sometimes, I can’t always tell them apart) started in.  Basically, this ME asked a simple question that I hadn’t thought to ask: is this great job a great job for me, by which I mean ME-ME?  Good question, I thought, but before I could answer, Practical ME jumped in and things got nasty. “It’s good pay, good benefits, not an office job, and Gabe is poor, so shut the f-up!” That’s what Practical ME stated screaming. Practical ME can sometimes get a little aggro.

Well, Thoughtful/Neurotic ME is pretty stubborn.  IT persevered and pretty soon, my head became a battleground.  It was ugly and since I was operating a moving vehicle, I made a deal with both ME’s: if I get the job, I’d take it, but if I didn’t get it, then I’d take that as a sign that I should take on a new writing project–which made the Writer ME get excited.  Writer ME, it should be said, had been wanting to write a script for years now, but Practical ME had put that idea on ice for me, by which I mean, ME-ME.  (Confused? Try being me.)

At this point, Neurotic ME wants me to chime in that this idea is not random–just in case some of you were thinking that. The idea of writing for TV or film has been with US (by which I mean the ME’s) for a long time.  If you don’t happen to be in my head (and for all I know, you are), then you might not have known that. Admittedly, I have wanted to write scripts for about three years now–all of us agree on that.  We also agree that scriptwriting goes to my strengths as a writer.

When I write fiction, I tend to think less about language than about the images in my head and the plot points of the story, which makes for less than wonderful literary fiction.  I can adjust and I do when writing for the page. But naturally, I write story and dialogue. That’s what I love most. I also like working with others.  Yes, I have a loner-streak (even though the ME’s do keep me company) but sometimes I need more. The ME’s can only provide so much company.

So, back to the job: I didn’t get it, but I kept to my crazy pact with Writer ME. After doing some research, I found a TV writer who currently works for AMC’s The Killing, and after stalking her for a little while, I convinced her to do a private class with me.  She agreed. And we’ve had two sessions, already. Abso-fucking-lutely cool?  Right? I mean I found a Hollywood insider to show me the ropes, and I had two great sessions in which we talked about the makings of TV drama.  We mapped out my first script, and now, this week, I’m supposed to have a first pass at a script done. I’ve had two weeks to do it. Plenty of time. But my friends (and by that, I don’t mean the ME’s, I mean the YOU’s) I’m a screw-ball. No, that’s not right, that’s an easy way out. I’m a ball of fear all rolled up ball-like fashion with the other selves.  The only one who’s not stuck is the Asshole-ME.  He’s just standing around criticizing telling the rest of us to stop trying, to give up, to stay rolled up until we end up in the gutter of life. (Asshole-ME is not very original, metaphorically-speaking.)

One thing I’ve noticed about ME-ME is that I’m really good with goals when I’m the only one expecting anything from.  But as soon as someone else gets involved in the whole expectation thing, I become all wishy and washy and puttyish. I should be in a good place, writing a first spec-script. I have someone who’s helping. I’m even feeling like my intuition was right: that script writing is a good place for me, that it goes to my strengths. So I should be happy and working. That’d make sense.  Instead, I put the thing off, and I’m anxious about starting.

I have accomplished a lot these two weeks because Catholic ME guilts me into doing stuff even if it is not the stuff that I should be working on. I’ll say that for putting things off. I am a really an achiever when trying to put the thing I am most interested in putting off.  Then, I’m great! Amazing! I’ve cleaned my bathroom twice in the last week, ran all kinds of errands to the post office. I’ve seen my folks in LA and paid bills. I’ve written two fables, finished a script for a short film, which meant that I was able to break through the fear of learning a screenwriting program. Though in point of fact, I used the fear of that program to get me to finish the fables and all the chores, but that’s ok–right.  I’m checking and most of the ME’s are in agreement that that is ok.

OK, so maybe I don’t have to worry. I’ll get this spec-script done. We will, eventually. But like so many other things, I will do so only after I drink too much espresso and fidget and waste time worrying when I should just sit down and write. It’s just not that hard. And yet, Pessimistic ME needs to get the last word: it is. It is hard.

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