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FINISH WHAT YOU START

James Gunn is an American writer, director, producer, actor, and musician, currently he is most well known for writing the script for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. He is so talented, I am sure there will be many more projects that he will be known for in what will be a long and successful career.

A few days ago, he posted some great advice on his Facebook page. I am sharing it today and you can also see the original here.

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Pro Tip: FINISH WHAT YOU START

When people ask me for advice on writing or directing, or almost any project, “finish what you start” is the first thing I tell them. As a young man I’d start a novel or a script or a film and it would all be going amazingly well, and then I’d hit a snag… something that stopped me. Maybe I was judging the project, or I lost my passionate fuel, or I became distracted by a newer, shiner project. And so I just stopped and moved on. I didn’t think the problem was me; I thought it was the projects I was choosing. I thought I would eventually find the right project that would fix everything for me, that would be THE project that would propel me to success.

I was in my twenties and becoming discouraged. I was seeing people around me, who I thought were less talented than me, getting film deals and TV deals. It wasn’t because I was lazy – I was often writing for fifteen or sixteen hours a day. Why wasn’t I doing as well as others?

And one day it came to me in a burst of inspiration: Perhaps the missing ingredient was incredibly simple – I just needed to finish whatever I started. There was nothing wrong with the projects I had been choosing. The problem was me: I just hadn’t followed them through. Any of them could have been “the one.”

Fear was what most often kept me from completing something. What if it wasn’t good enough? What if I put my heart into something and put it out there and I looked stupid? I realized I had to act despite my fear if I wanted any of the benefits of artistic achievement (which include artistic achievement itself).

So I started finishing whatever I started. It became the primary goal of my writing. And it was only a matter of months before everything in my life changed dramatically, both in terms of how I felt about myself, and in terms of how the world treated me in regards to my career.

Finishing what you start – plowing ahead, no matter what – is what separates amateurs from professionals. It’s what transformed me from a wannabe, kinda writer into an actual writer.

Obviously, not everyone who finishes what they start in every endeavor will be successful – natural ability and experience and personality make up a huge part of success. But I do think it is the most important aspect of being successful. (And, contrary to popular belief, “having connections” is NOT an important aspect of being successful – of all my successful friends in the film industry, maybe two were born with connections.)

As writers and directors we have to be self-starters, because no one will hire us with nothing to show for it. And, if you’re a beginner, finishing what you start is the quickest way to improve. You learn a lot more about writing from completing a screenplay than you do from writing the first thirty pages of ten screenplays.

Finally, if you’re an open-minded and honest person, finishing what you start is a way to learn if you want to pursue a career in whatever field you’re considering. Maybe you aren’t that great at the job you’re considering – but you’ll never know that unless you try.

I don’t know what’s propelled me to write all this this morning – perhaps it’s a conversation I had this weekend. But enough of Facebook for me, as I have a project I need to get to finishing.

I wish you all luck and perseverance.

Have a lovely day, james

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Road trip: Flagstaff

My daughter’s bestest bud from Hawaii was in town visiting family, and they invited us along on an overnight trip to Flagstaff.

Walnut Canyon

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We hiked one of the trails at the Walnut Canyon National Monument. The Island Trail is a loop that takes you right past and even throughsome cliff dwelling rooms/ The loop is only a mile long but is a bit strenuous due to an altitude of 7,000 feet and the 185 foot vertical descent into the canyon, and the return ascent. It’s a great hike and even though I nearly died on the way back up the stairs I had a great time.

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Downtown Flagstaff

 

 

We had fun shopping at Heritage Square.Flag3
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Saying hi to the carriage horse.

 

 

 

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We saw this cute Airstream trailer at The Big Heap Vintage, Antique and Handmade Design Festival. There was a lot of groovy stuff at the festival like antique furniture, pretty ironwork, vintage trunks and suitcases. There was some beautiful handmade work too, there was a booth with Steampunk fashion, including some niftyhats and jackets. Another booth had some really intricate wire and resin butterfly jewelry.

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Incentive to clean

Cleaning meme My house is normally clean and tidy, well, fairly clean and tidy, I do have a teenager and many pets living here after all.  So, on a normal day my house is looking pretty good. The exception to this is when I am involved in a project, and since I’ve been involved in nonstop projects since last June my house has been in various states of crazy for a year now. My usual approach ends up being me concentrating all of my focus to the project while neglecting most of the house cleaning in favor of getting the project down in as little time as possible. On paper that sounds great but it really isn’t feasible. Projects are inherently unpredictable, little things that should take just a few minutes end up taking ten times as long, Murphy’s Law at its most devious. The delays add up and ultimately screw up any chance of making a schedule and sticking to it. Of course, this means that the project isn’t getting that much closer to being finished and the house still isn’t clean. It definitely starts getting a little overwhelming.

The current problem with this system is that my daughter’s BFF is visiting from Hawaii and I’ve got to get this house under control. Last June, we started transitioning her room from Disney Princess cute to Geek Girl Eclectic. We painted the room, I built a loft bed but there was sorting and a few other things to finish. I also needed to get the rest of the house back in order. Nothing like company coming to accelerate my cleaning schedule. Yikes!

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Workspace Woes

In the last few months I have suffered from a bit of indirect procrastination. I say indirect because for the most part, the reason that I haven”t been writing recently is simple … I’ve been busy. There are a gazillion and one things that need to be done around here, and after years of being “on call” for various family members* I’m bound and determined to get them done.

One thing that has been a more direct form of procrastination is a form of ‘advanced workspace rearrangement’. This idea is from the cartoon that I featured in my ‘Oh Hey’ post from June 3rd. My version of workspace rearrangement is more an issue of workplace annoyance and frustration. My desk is always cluttered and it drives me batty.  It’s doubly upsetting because I love my desk, I actually built it so that it would fit all of my personal specifications. I built the upper shelves to hold paperback books and some of the fun stuff I’ve collected over the years.

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My nifty desk

The real problem with my workspace is that my desk is not only used for writing. My desk is the main location for all household paperwork, bill paying and unfortunately, the unofficial lost and found location for an untold assortment of items. So, at any point during the day or week my desk can be completely neat or fairly cluttered. It’s like the furniture version of Schrodinger’s cat, at all times my desk can be thought of as both neat and cluttered.

I can be terribly frustrating when I’d like to sit down and write, instead I end up fighting the stack of mail or the two beach towels, not to mention the two cats that have decided that they really need to take a nap right now on my desk. Nothing like trying to use the mouse while a cat is laying across your arm. More often than not I end up using the scant amount of time that I have straightening up my desk instead of writing.

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Scotty getting some cuddles in while I work.

Sometimes I take my laptop to other places in the house to write but that has it’s own set of issues. I have asecond monitor on my desk as well as an area near my desk for my story boarding, I have clipboards, dry erase and cork boards that I use to collect extra notes like floorplans, family trees, jot quick notes and pin up inspiration pictures.

Writing area

This pic is a bit blurry but you get the general idea.

I’d love to have a nice place to write that was just for writing. Lately I’ve seen some rather nifty desk ideas for small spaces like closets and shelving units.

Closet desk - Remodelaholic

Closet desk – Remodelaholic

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Hanging wall desk – Bush Furniture

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Wall desk – Junior Living

These are all pretty cool, of course, I don’t have a spare closet or even an empty bit of wall to hang a groovy wall desk. I guess, I’ll just have to make do with what I have for now. At the same time, I will keep thinking of better ways to use the space that I have. My immediate solution is adding a basket at the end of my desk, anything that’s in the way will go into the basket and I can take care of it the next morning. Writing needs to be my priority and I need to stop worrying about trivial things that are just wasting my time.

*In the past ten years we’ve had way too many family members with serious medical issues. We are very close to both sides of our family and will always drop anything to do what we can to help. 

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How about now?

The comedian Kevin James has a bit in his stand up act about unlocking a car door for a passenger. You know how that goes, you hit unlock just as they lift up the handle and the stupid door doesn’t unlock. So you try again and it happens again until somebody changes the behavior. The Kevin James version is hilarious with the passenger uttering a never ending stream of “Now? No, now? How about now? Wait…oh, now?” until James finally screams in desperation and orders the passenger to go sit on the curb.

I think we’ve all been in that sort of situation whether it’s unlocking the car door, or waiting in line or egads, at the DMV. We have these moments that can be frustrating and a little confusing, and sometimes a bit ridiculous. At times it might be better to voluntarily step back in the moment, just to try another tack. Trying something new can be good it can stop the cycle and fast track everyone involved to the finish line. And, sometimes it’s just easier to go sit on the curb.

My problem is that we’ve had several years of crazy and ridiculous and I think I’ve defaulted to sitting on the curb. Somewhere along the way I got tired of asking, “Now?” At some point, I gave up and decided to avoid the back and forth, the frustration and parked my butt on the curb.

Recently though, I am finding that sitting on the curb is not that satisfying.  And I think I’ll bypass the crazy part too.  I am ready to stand up and yell over the top of the car.  “Unlock the damn door!  It’s time to move on! Right now!”

Open road

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Oh hey…

I haven’t posted since New Year’s Day and before that it had been months.  I’ve been knee deep in projects since last Fall and although I have been thinking about posting a lot I just didn’t have the energy to actually sit down and put something together.  I saw this cartoon posted on Facebook a week or so ago and thought it would be a fitting first post back.

Procrastination writers

Click here for more on Tom Gauld.

I still have a gazillion and one projects going on but I know that I need to do this too.  When I don’t write my brain starts feel sluggish, and I also start to have weird dreams.  It took me years to figure out that it was my subconscious venting some of my creative thoughts preventing what I can only imagine would be some sort of brain implosion. So, in consideration of a good night’s sleep and to avoid the impending imploding brain, I’ll be posting here a couple of times a week.

I’ll be spending most of my week on ‘Workspace Rearrangement’, it’s an intermediate class but I’m just auditing the course since I have taken it before…several times.

I hope everyone is having a good week!