Sit Down. Shut Up. Do It.

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Every day, I come up against one of those MOMENTS.

You know, sending the email I’m totally freaked out to write. Writing the scene that has been giving me the most trouble. Walking into the meeting I’m so excited about, all while inwardly thinking Oh, please Lord. Let my jokes be funny.  Actually hitting send on a project. Standing in a room pitching a project. My heart is on my sleeve — and my brain is coming up with eight thousand scenarios of how I’m going to crash and burn in the most spectacularly embarrassing fashion.

And you know what?  I’m going to fail some of the time.  I’m human. I’m a writer. I’m never going to be everything to everyone. Some days I probably will crash and burn trying to do the thing I’m totally freaked out by.

But in the middle of all of this, the best thing is for me to SIT DOWN. SHUT UP. And DO IT anyway. 

I constantly have to remind myself to do all of this. Take the giant risk.  Share the story. Send the email. The outcome may not be exactly what I’d hoped — but if I don’t even try, then 100% of the time, the outcome will be exactly what I feared: nothing. This isn’t some magic formula of overriding fear and killing it entirely. Sometimes I am afraid. But the more times I jump off the cliff standing in front of me and discover mid-air that I’ve got a bungee cord around my ankle, the easier it becomes to jump later.  I have to say YES with no promise that it will be echoed back to me.

The only way I have a chance of YES is by being the first one to say it. 

So today, what are you afraid to do?  What is the paralyzing uncertainty that’s eating away at your heart? What is your question?

Give it a whirl. The world may not come to an end after all…

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Dramatics, Your Honor…

If you’re not watching The Good Wife, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning.

the good wife

I have my own personal Best of TV List.

West Wing’17 People.  Sherlock’s A Study in Pink. And His Last Vow. (I tried to pick just one. I really did.)  Homeland‘s Q & A.  Lost‘s The Constant.  The Heroes pilot.  Breaking Bad‘s 4 Days Out. Doctor Who’s The Doctor’s Wife.  Quantum Leap’s M.I.A..  Gilmore Girls’ I Can’t Get Started.  Star Trek: TNG’s The Inner Light.  Fringe‘s Making Angels (or Bloodline strictly for Seth Gabel’s amazing performance.)  The Alias pilot. And many more for a million different reasons. (I’ll be talking about more general tv awesomeness in future blog posts…)

They’re fresh. Inventive. They’re a pilot episode where you just know that the stories to come are going to be something spectacular. Stories where pieces of a character’s heart get revealed. Stories where The. Thing. You’ve. Been. Waiting. For. finally happens. They’re a twist in the backstory that now makes so much sense, and it’s all in the tiniest of details.  Or — the writers take risks and send the story off in some wildly new direction that we didn’t see coming…

Enter The Good Wife’s Dramatics, Your Honor.

It was an early, quiet morning. And I can now add ‘emotionally traumatizing’to my list of things that make an amazing episode of television.  (Seriously, how many showrunners actually release a letter to their fans?) Last night’s episode was far and away the gutsiest story move I’ve ever seen. (Yes, I’m keeping it as close to spoiler-free as I can while still making this coherent… or maybe I’m just trying to get you so intrigued that you have no choice but to join me in Sunday nights of The Good Wife.) Everything feels destroyed and up for review. It was ugly and shocking and unpretty. It was real. There was no dramatic and-now-we-have-a-speech scene.  No wrap-up. Just a missing shoe and no one else who really, truly, viscerally cared about this moment outside of Continue reading “Dramatics, Your Honor…”

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4 AM. Let’s Do This Again!

It was a late night last night — a long-planned fancy dinner with my love. (Unsolicited restaurant plug — seriously check out Scratch Bar in Beverly Hills. *Swoon*)

And yet at 3am, my eyes popped open. Good morning, Monday! 

After half an hour of realizing that there was no way I was falling back asleep, I curled up on my couch, staring out at the orangish Los Angeles sky above my apartment. The streetlights are alive and well in my neighborhood. And the silence feels physically tangible. I haven’t even made it to my coffee yet.

Everything in me wants to rush past this moment. 

Dear Lord, can’t I just go back to sleep?  Who should I start emailing?  What can I start writing? I could call Laurie — she’s already awake on the East Coast. Hell, there is a Good Wife episode sitting on my DVR that apparently I’m supposed to watch RIGHT NOW.  

Sometimes a voracious appetite for anything other than my own thoughts can expertly masquerade as ‘creative inspiration’.  

And yet, at least in my experience, learning to live in the quiet is just as essential — if not possibly even more essential — in the creative life.  Boredom is my friend. Silence is my friend. The vacuum left when there is no immediate input is also my friend.

It creates balance.  It’s permission to stop and thrive, rather than survive. It’s space for my soul.

Today, my quiet moments came early. Very early. And there was space to stay there for a while.  Sometimes, those moments come in just that — moments. Two or three minutes in between phone calls and meetings.  But they are equally important for my writing life. The quiet is allowed.

Where are you allowing the quiet in your own life?  

And now the sun is rising… and I think it’s going to be a beautiful day.

 

Early morning sunrise...

[EDIT: Shortly after posting this, I did end up watching that episode of The Good Wife… My thoughts are here if you dare.]


 

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LA, a modern day classic…

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taken from the East Pavillion walkways at the Getty Museum…


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Driving with Abby Singer

The second-to-last shot of the day on set is known as the Abby, named for a man who became famous for his “This shot and one more, and then we can all head home for the night!” reminder to everyone on his sets…

 

Legends_AbbySingerThis is Abby Singer…

But before we get there, a little background for you. When I was growing up, my go-to movies were mostly ones like Charade, His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby.  I grew up with a mad crush on Cary Grant, and I’ve seen Oklahoma and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers more times than I can count.  I would sit in my grandparents’ living room and listen to Frank Sinatra and Jack Benny and Glenn Miller with them for hours.

But it was always like I was peeking into this other world that was long-gone, this world that belonged with my grandparents.  I would never be a part of it — I was just lucky enough to catch the echoes of everything that went before me.

Never in a million years did I imagine I’d be moving to Los Angeles one day… 

I was on one of my first shows out here, and my boss asked if I’d be willing to drive a friend of hers around for the afternoon after he visited our set. Of course I said yes, and a few minutes later I was standing in a hallway shaking hands and saying hello to this delightful older gentleman.

That’s how I met Abby Singer. 

That afternoon, we drove from the Valley down to Santa Monica while he told me all about the Los Angeles that used to exist…   “Back when I first came out to LA, this was all orange groves…”  After a mile or two on the 405, he told me to get off the highway and drive through some of the neighborhoods so he could point out spots while he talked about them.  He started stories with “Back when I was working for Jack Benny…” or “That was around the time I was doing the Doris Day show…” He told me all about crossing paths with Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne and Cary Grant at events.

For just a moment, classic Hollywood was blazingly alive again, and it was gorgeous.

That drive remains, to this day, one of the best moments in my entire career.

Hollywood lost someone truly lovely yesterday.  He helped create the trails that so many of us walk on today.  And while it’s probably true that outside of Hollywood, there may not be a lot of people who know his name — I like to think that today on film and tv sets all around the world, people will take an extra second on the second-to-last shot of the day…

Hey! We’re on the Abby…

… and we’ll all smile.

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In Case of Natural Disaster…

Hi friends!  I’m BACK!  Let the blogging craziness begin…. 

I’ve been reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal for the second time this week.   If you haven’t read this book, seriously — go order it now.  Or, better than that — go find your local bookstore and buy it from a real person who can also point you towards their current favorite book of the week.  (That may be another post for another time.  And yes, I heart Amazon too, don’t worry.)

Where was I? An Everlasting Meal. 

an-everlasting-meal

Right. So, nestled among some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve come across, tucked in between recipes for roast chicken and vegetable stock and piquant relishes on crackers, there’s a recipe for A Salad For a Natural Disaster.  The idea being that — no matter the day, no matter what disaster is befalling you, you can always come up with something that’s not just going to keep you alive.  You can come up with something that is — dare I say? — tasty. Refreshing. Beautiful.

My favorite part is the final instruction:  Mix well and hope for the best. 

A creative life feels a lot like that.

It takes a lot of prep work to be creative.  I absolutely live for the days that I’m curled up in my little writing den (aka my dining room) with a french press of coffee and Trevor Morris or London Grammar or Gungor playing in the background, the days that I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen and actually writing a script.

But there is so much more that comes before those days.

What research do I need to do? What do I need to process? What bits of dialogue or character development can I stick up on my board? What should I name this character?  I should probably write an outline first. I need to buy more index cards and post-it notes. What’s the heart of this story? 

It feels messy and mostly unproductive.  I have fanatically organized “Idea Documents” in a folder on my desktop.  Names I like. Story ideas. Places that are beautiful. Actors I’d love to write for.  Inspiring articles. My 50-in-5 lists (another post coming soon…).

It’s a bit like stocking my writers pantry. 

When am I ever going to use this much arborio rice or coconut oil or ginger?   When am I ever going to use the rain in Trafalgar Square in a story?  Seriously, do you really need a glass jar of salt-packed capers? It’s not like we’d really ever shoot at that location, so why even bother saving the photo? Should I really buy a dozen eggs?  I’ve been trying to go vegan. But what if that boy-meets-girl story actually works? I just want to cook something easy for dinner.

I just want to write. 

But the best meals you just “throw together” happen because your pantry is actually stocked with things that taste good together — like jasmine rice with a can of coconut milk and fresh ginger and lemongrass, topped with whatever vegetables you have hidden away in your fridge and pantry. A pinch of salt and fresh-ground pepper. Some soy sauce and mirin.  And suddenly, on a night where I seriously don’t feel like cooking — ‘hoping for the best’ actually turns out to be pretty wonderful.

The best scripts for me happen when I’ve done all my pre-writing.  First, the basics like research and outlines.

But second, and very nearly more important are the inspirations that are much less tangible — the saving of songs that sound like the right emotions, the names that capture the heart of a character, the classic novel that reminds me what beautiful prose can be.  The coffee that tastes like heaven while I write.  Knowing that when this script is done, I’ll crack open a bottle of good merlot with friends and celebrate.

So, go… gather your inspiration.  Your ingredients.  Cook.  Write.

And hope for the best.
 

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