Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Auditioning it

Three auditions last week, two today. It's like I'm a real actor.

I had a SAG audition on Friday that I thought for sure I'd be called back for. They were short on scene partners, so I did my bit with five different people. You'd think that would up my odds, having all those opportunities to show them something.

I'm thinking I didn't do enough different things. The direction, as always, was to go really small, really subtle, really real. So a bunch of variety within that is a little harder to find. How ironic would it be if I didn't get the part specifically because I got to do it so many times? The more they saw, the less they liked?

Anyway, with work so crazy -- another project just came up -- and auditions popping up again, I'm in that mode where I feel like I have to be ahead in order to be caught up. I can't schedule out my week and say, "I'll write that on Thursday morning" and "I'll tackle that Wednesday afternoon," because suddenly I lose big chunks of days to auditions.

So very early mornings and some night work, too. Work, work, work. Really productive. Hoping for no more auditions before the weekend. That will give me just enough time to get my work and life in order.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Not so fast

It's amazing what a little drop in the dew point can do for your motivation.

It's been really miserable for the past week or so. Downright tropical. Saturday yoga was painful. Like Bikram or something. At least 80 degrees in the room and suffocatingly humid.

Doing just about anything in that weather is tough slogging. Including writing. So we finally got a break in the weather and I went back to Argo this evening, took a look at two stalled chapters and wrestled them to the damned ground. I feel much better now. In fact, if I play my cards right, maybe I can get another two done this week before the holiday deadline that I sorta retracted on Saturday.

I feel good about these:

  • Be an Editor, Not a Jackass -- the best director I ever worked with asked lots of questions. He engaged us in conversation and helped us find our own answers instead of dictating them to us. That's what a good editor does. Helping writers develop by offering guidance and suggestions. Truly editing, instead of just re-writing. Most PR people don't have (or take) the time for this. As a result, a lot of decent writers never get to a place where they show their real promise.
  • Communication Drives Strategy -- imagine a play without a script. Actually, you don't have to imagine it. It's called "improv," and there's a reason it's almost always unwatchable. Now imagine a group of corporate executive groping for a strategy. Often a similar result -- lots of talk, little action, and very unfunny. As communicators, we can do more than document others' ideas and words. We can actually drive strategy, by partnering with executives to turn their thoughts into actionable communications. I know nothing about trucks, but I once helped turn a six-inch thick binder of charts and graphs into five bullet points that became a clearly articulated strategy.
Exhausted! Relieved! 22 chapters! No more work for the day!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Uncle!

I tried writing a couple of different chapters today. Got a third-to-halfway through each and kinda gave up. It's hot.

Writing outside in this heat/humidity may not be the most productive approach -- though most of the chapters have been written outside, usually in the evenings, at my local Argo.

Hell, 20's a good a number for now. I wanted to push on until the holiday, and maybe I'll squeeze another chapter or two out yet, but the fact that these few last chapters have been staring at me unwritten for almost this whole time tells me something. Either I don't really believe they have potential or I just haven't figured them out.

Or maybe I just have heatstroke.

Next week the competitive research begins. And if I also bang out a couple of chapters, great. If not, that's fine, too. Twenty chapters and 15,000 words in two months is good enough. Especially since most of those chapters are probably 90-95% final and won't require much editing, let alone re-writing.

By the end of July I'll have researched other books that are similar, maybe picked up a few new chapter ideas, maybe cut a few existing ones, finished up the stragglers, and put it all in some sort of order. And possibly also researched publishing options some more.

That's the plan, Stan.

Friday, June 25, 2010

From out of the woodwork

Seriously, I'm expecting clients that no longer exist -- like Andersen -- to come along with new projects for me. It's just not stopping.

A very small, small project that's been nipping at my heels and never quite getting off the ground. Then a company I've been talking with several years about working together has come up with two possible projects today. One of them a writing project that required an estimate TODAY.

Then a much bigger thing that would stretch toward Labor Day that I just don't know about. It would require a commitment to a regular schedule twice a week. And being expected to be somewhere else on a regular basis. Which poses a problem for auditions and bookings.

I barely had time to take care of my many, many personal chores and errands this week. That's how bad it is.

And I haven't gotten to my second chapter of the week of the book. Tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow. I feel like I should be enjoying that process more, doing it at a more leisurely pace (not that two or three chapters a week is exactly blistering, but with other priorities like work, etc.), really savoring it. I do enjoy the actual writing as I'm doing it. But I know if I stretched it out another month it would just keep stretching itself out.

Oh, well. Three more chapters then I'll take a little break from the writing and focus on the logistics -- publishing, competitive research, etc.

But now it's Miller time. Okay, it's actually laundry folding time. But THEN it's Miller time ...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Being the guy I hate

My neighborhood is flush with those earnest damned kids canvasing on behalf of one cause or another. They work in pairs, trying to make eye contact with you, waving at you from half a block a way, excuse-me-sirring you, and asking if you have just two minutes to save the environment or the whales (seriously, they're still with the whales) the country from high deficits or the Republic from Republicans or whatever.

And my answer is always no. There is never a time I am out on the streets when I've got an extra few minutes. I'm on the way to gym class or to an audition or to meet someone or to a meeting or an appointment or a conference call or a waiting deadline. I barely have the time to make it to my appointed destination, so I certainly don't sit there beforehand and think, "I ought to build in an extra five minutes in case someone wants me to sign a petition or join a cause or something."

Who stops for these people? I'm guessing the un- and under-employed, the lazy and the lonely. Are those really the people who are going to put that cause over the top?

Anyway, today I had to be the "Can you spare five minutes?" guy. More work on these videos. Seriously, how did I become producer? I'm really not crazy about it. I had a guy helping pull people aside but what we needed was a cute intern whose heart nobody could break. At least one out of three people were fine turning us down.

Once I got them in front of the camera, I was fine. It's the begging I object to. And the rejection. But even with the interview part, there are lots of people who are better at it than I am. People who can politely and charmingly badger someone to say something just right, and in five different ways, and then over and over again.

I hope we got good stuff. We were out at Water Tower park and the tourists were mostly eager and interested. Then we went to a grocery store and the percentage of people who are like me, eager to just go about their business without being bothered, went way up.

Glad to be done with that. We're doing other sites around the world but they'll be using locals for those shoots. Though we might get to go to the chocolate factory here. That wouldn't be so bad, I guess.

All in all, I prefer being in front of the camera instead of behind it. (Though you wouldn't know it from the audition I shanked today ...)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Avalanche

I'm getting buried.

I started on this one project for a client -- scripting a video. Then it became two videos. Then it became scripting and producing them. And on top of that now I'm doing the related 75-slide PowerPoint presentation. (I really, really didn't want to do that, but then we doubled the fee for it and I was in.)

Also working on a proposal for another client for a new positioning and website overhaul.

AND Friday morning I kick off another project for another client -- a property management firm. Very different from my usual corporate, B2B to stuff. I'm writing copy for 20 or so web pages for one of their properties. It's not much money, but it could turn into a 16-property project, which would then be pretty good money.

Then, of course, auditions decide to kick in again. Audition today, tomorrow and the next day. Plus I got a call direct from a local producer who wants to do a commercial overnight, 10 pm to 6 am, tomorrow night. I turned that one down because the money was pretty low compared to the sacrifice of a night's sleep when I've got all this work I need to get done.

The only reprieve is I didn't get any new chapters to edit this week for the branding book my client is writing. But I've still got mine to do. I guess that's what tomorrow night is for.

Tomorrow I get to go downtown and interview consumers on camera about product quality and safety. How did I get to be producer? I really haven't had much experience producing! But I've seen a hundred people do it, and I did it the other day at the factory so ... spread the wings and all.

I guess the recession is over!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Viente!

Twenty chapters! Now that's a milestone. Also crossed 15,000 words.
  • Stand Outside Yourself -- Actors have a variety of ways to get into character. As part of a process known as "outside-in," taking on the physical aspects of the character -- the wardrobe, makeup, hair, posture, gestures, etc. -- is the way to get there. One of my acting instructors was adamant about the role of shoes in this process. Literally putting yourself in their shoes. Lots of non-communicators (particularly technical types) but even some professional communicators (stricken with verbal Stockholm Syndrome) have trouble freeing themselves from industry jargon, acronyms and buzzwords. Our job is to find the meaning behind the BS. Or as Denzel Washington put it in Philadelphia: "Explain it to me like I'm a four-year-old."
It's funny that this is another new chapter idea I just thought of the other day. I keep doing that. Keep coming up with new ones while among the unwritten chapters are two or three that were always on the original list a couple of months ago. Maybe I don't think those will be good chapters. Or maybe I don't feel I have enough to say or enough new things to say about them. Or maybe it's a case of too much to say.

We'll see what happens when I look at them all together. Some, like the above, are a little slight -- barely 500 words. Barely more than that summary paragraph! It makes me think some of these may be better suited for verbal presentations/speeches as opposed to book chapters or bylined articles.

The demand for substance seems to be a little higher when it's in written form. In a speech, observations and anecdotes go a little further. Also, those can be supplemented by a group exercise -- like in this case, people could each list their three least-favorite buzzwords and the participants could then work together on finding ways to express the ideas in regular English.

Onward ...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Funhouse Carnival Ride

Glen Echo, Maryland

This trip home was overall less stressful than some past ones. Maybe because it was just 48 hours.

I'm not sure what was different. I feel like the difference must have been with me -- my expectations or perspective or something -- because externally not much was different.

The hardest thing was with the home health aide. He's a wonderful guy, very professional and a god-send to the family. But I don't know. I feel ... funny around him. I think it's guilt and self-consciousness. Guilt because he sees my Dad nearly every day and I wonder what he thinks of me, and the limited time that I'm there. And how I use that time.

I want to try to interact with Dad more, but it feels funny around him. Like, he knows my Dad now better than I do. Much better. I felt a little more at ease in the evenings.

And god, he sees everything with us. The good, the bad and the ugly. Not necessarily in that order and certainly not in that relative proportion.

So I'm exhausted as usual and ready to get into my bed, crank the AC down to the level I like for sleeping (around 65), and just get unconscious for a good 9 hours or so. Lots of work this week.

But a good trip. Very glad I went.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

June 19, 2010

I love the composition of this photo. A few years ago, when Dad still had most of his faculties, he'd make a point of putting up and taking down the flag on the deck every day. I don't go in myself for explicit displays of patriotism (or explicit displays of much of anything, for that matter), but it made him happy.

Now the flag just flies all the time. Since Christmas, Dad's slowed down considerably. I've been accustomed to the steady mental deterioration, but the physical breakdown was a little surprising this time out. He needs help walking, and stairs are near impossible. They're talking about building out a bedroom on the first floor.

And now he's got this new thing, I guess -- started just a few weeks ago -- of closing his eyes while he eats. Not sleeping, just eyes closed. It's like he's just going further and further inside himself.

Whatever's still in there. Who knows? There's still the glimmer of some kind of recognition of us -- again, if not of us specifically then at least the feeling of someone familiar.

Yesterday we celebrated his 75th birthday, which was last week. Nobody knows what the next one will bring, but it's sad to think it won't be as good as this.

Friday, June 18, 2010

19

Getting very close to a big fat round number here. This chapter idea just occurred to me as I came across an old blog post, which I adapted for Chapter 19:

  • Is This Thing On? -- Just as an actor is “always” auditioning – how you treat the intern signing you in can be as important as how you perform in the audition room – communicators are always “on.” And just as the guy in front of the microphone needs to assume it’s always on, we need to be careful about what we say – in elevators, on Facebook, while blogging – and we even have to watch what we do. It may not be fair, but as Hymen Roth said to Michael Corleone in Godfather II, “This is the business we've chosen.”
I'm feeling good about this chapter (and especially like that I found a place for a Godfather reference). In fact, I like almost all of the others. I don't think there are but one or two that I might end up dumping. And I've got a handful more to write.

In fact, there's some stuff at the top of that blog post that I might turn into another chapter. I've always talked about how young writers especially need to learn as they transition from collegiate writing style to business that words need to be chosen carefully, avoiding those that come loaded with other meanings. And assertions need to be qualified, even watered down.

It isn't pretty, but it's reality.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Opportunity lost

So I didn't talk to anyone (not even Bloggy) about this one in detail because I feel like I always jinx it by doing so. But that callback on Saturday was for a national SAG spot for a well-known brewer of beer. Right up my alley, right?

And they called Monday to put me on "right of first refusal," which is ... well, who knows? There are so many designations -- "check avail," "hold," "first refusal." It's never exactly clear where they rank relative to each other or if even they are indeed different things.

But it seemed pretty big. And I could really, really use a big, sweet, high-paying job like that. It would also help toward qualifying me for SAG healthcare next year. So I shut up about it and tried not to think about it. (Like I resisted mentally buying an iPad, the iPhone 4, and various other goodies.)

Unfortunately, none of that worked, as the wardrobe fitting date passed on Wednesday without word. I wonder how many people they had on hold? They called back about 10 of us from the original, I don't know, 15? I think "first refusal" or "on hold" sometimes just means you're one of five or six.

Then this afternoon I get a call from an intern at the agency asking if I was available this weekend for a shoot with this client. Um ... you mean as an extra or for the principal role I auditioned for? She didn't know and had to check (interns -- urgh!) and that's when my agent got on the line and told me, yes, I'd been released, but now they're seeing if I want to do extra work.

I said no. I actually had a trip out of town booked this weekend, during the originally proposed shoot dates, to go back to DC and see my Dad for Father's Day and his birthday. I didn't put that down as a conflict and I myself was sort of conflicted all week. I'd feel terrible canceling the trip if I got the job, but I don't think I'd have any choice. You can't dismiss an opportunity like this. (You can dismiss it for extra work, but not principal scale.)

In fact, I figured the fact that getting the job would cause a good deal of mental distress and guilt meant for sure I would get it. No such luck.

So at least I can still do my duty to family, and save myself the guilt of being derelict in that duty. Yay, me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Digging for gold

I took a brief pause in the writing this afternoon to go back and do something I've been meaning to do at some point in the process -- go through the three notebooks' worth of stuff from my various Second City classes to see if I'd missed anything.

It was good I did, for a couple of reasons. First, I didn't find that much, which means the approach I've taken so far seems to be working. (Not sure how to label that approach. Organic? Sort of opposite of methodical or research-based. More like, from my head.) So I didn't find any major gaps.

There are still some other "looking around" activities I want to do. Going through my books on screenwriting and auditioning for lessons and anecdotes and chapter ideas. And also, as I've said, looking at what else is out there, which I'm definitely saving for later.

I did get one decent new chapter idea. And a couple of fun nuggets I may be able to use here and there:
  • On structure: there are 13 notes in all of music -- it's how you arrange them. Structure should not be viewed as an obstacle.
  • Actors express themselves through action. That's why they're called actors, not talkers.
  • The human mind can process 800 words a minute, but we can speak only 300. So while you're talking, the audience is likely drifting.
Need to google that last one to verify it. But it would fit in well with the "Show, Don't Tell" discussion.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eighteen

Started early this week so I wouldn't get too behind. Took me several hours over a couple of days to get this one done, but I'm pretty pleased with it. The subject matter dovetails nicely with the book I'm editing:

  • Tell a Story -- Everyone from Steven Spielberg to the the guy painting on the cave walls 30,000 years ago understands the power of story to connect, communicate and persuade. But lots of business people still don't get it. I was at a gum factory recently doing a video on quality. I asked a line worker if her kids thought her job was cool. She showed me the numerical code on the back of a pack of bubble gum she'd just made. "It tells you where the product was made, down to the specific production line. My kids can even read it. In the store, they go straight for the candy aisle, check out the labels and say, 'This is mommy's gum!' " This woman works hard on quality because her customers are not just like family, they are family. Anecdotes and examples always go farther than facts. Testimonials from customers, employees and others stand out from statistics. Everyone has a story. We just need to help them tell it.
That's 13,729 words so far. Over 40. 5 hours. I think I've got three or four solid chapters to go. (And I haven't even started poaching ideas from other writers yet -- not methodically, at least.)

So by end of next week or early the next I should have a pretty decent first draft under my belt, then we'll see what else I might need to come up with after I've looked around a bit. Then some editing. So I'm pretty much on track with my original goal to have this (mostly) drafted by end of June.

Unless I add a lot of new chapters, I'll give myself July to edit, clean-up, order and make consistent.

I saw a reference today to an "airplane read," which is interesting. This might be that. Which is a considerable step above a bathroom read.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The weekend that was


Long, kinda crazy weekend. In spite of the off-and-on weather, with 30-degree temperature swings and occasional rainstorms, I made it out to three streetfests -- Ribfest, St. Mike's and Well Street. There was at least one more I wanted to hit -- Andersonville MidSommarfest -- but that was just a fest too far.

Then capping it all off was the Cubs-White Sox game at Wrigley last night, with special guests the Chicago Blackhawks and Lord Stanley's Cup. That was very exciting and fun to see the players and the trophy in real life after following the playoffs pretty closely. (And very pleased that they made it out to right field and the camera range of my little digital.) Especially since I missed the parade/rally for Friday's trip out to the candy factory.

Today I needed an extra day to recuperate, but I refused to slack. Did my workouts, client work, edited a chapter of the book for my client and did a rough draft of a new chapter for my book. Just stopped working a bit ago, in fact.

Oh, and squeezed into all that was a rare Saturday morning commercial audition. Very odd, but it was a callback, so worth it.

Tonight I sleep the sleep of kings. Except I have to get up at 5:30 or 6:00 for a breakfast meeting. Oof.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Finally. 17.

This one took a while. I think because I've just been tired this week. I believe in the topic and I think it's a good one, but for some reason getting the damn words out has been nothing but a slog. Writing and rewriting and rewriting some more.

But I was determined to get a second chapter done this week and I'm glad I did:
  • Screw Fear: Chicago improv instructor, director and genius Mick Napier once offered up some advice for actors that included, basically, "Screw fear." (He used a different verb, actually, but I think this is going to be at least a PG book.) He made the very important point that actors who need constant coddling give up their power. "I expect competence, not inability." It was a revelation for me. As an actor whose age would imply that I have a lot more experience than I do, I would often try to low-ball peoples' expectations of me. As a parallel, in the business world I had a boss who told me once when I was stuck on a tough project not to worry about it -- "You know more than the client does. Just start writing." If you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will. (You heard it here first.)



The Candyman can


Nice ensemble. The toe guards and beard net are my favorites.

I was at a factory yesterday where they make gum! It was fun. The whole place smelled like Juicy Fruit. Except for the hard candy area, which smelled like menthol.

I'm doing these videos (a business thing, on the other side of the camera) and I was able to put some of the principles I talk about in the book into practice. Not that I haven't before, but it's a good refresher.

I was interviewing employees and trying to get good quotes and messages out of them. How'd I do that? Figuring out what their stories were and appealing to emotions like pride and love of family. It was cool. This one woman's kids can go into the drug store, look at the numbered codes printed on the back of the packs and tell whether their mom made that gum or not. Not just the brand or the factory -- it tells you which specific line it came off of. Very cool.

I don't usually like being the one doing the actual interviewing. It takes a lot of focus and energy. You have to be upbeat and positive, coax their stories out of them, help them capture their thoughts, prod and cajole them, get them to repeat things and say them in different ways. All while making them feel comfortable and natural. It's exhausting.

Two complete days out of the office/home this week. I'm looking forward to being a shut-in next week.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Slogging

I did a little over-celebrating last night. So it's been a long, tired day.

I did some work and some Pilates and prepared for an even longer day tomorrow, traveling out to a client's factory a couple of hours outside of town.

The last thing I wanted to do was write. I looked over my list of unwritten topics and was thoroughly uninspired. I finally just started noodling with one of them and then I got a great idea to kick the whole thing off and link it to my whole Stage to Page theme.

And so I wrote, a tiny little chunk at at time. It seriously took me three-plus hours to get 500 words out. But they're pretty good words, and I'm pretty pleased with them. It's not finished, but it's well on the way and if I get a little more time in the next two days I can knock it out and meet my two-chapter goal for the week.

But I'm done for now, because I have to leave at 6 am ...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Cake, both had and eaten


I managed to make the SAG audition after all. Turns out it was the kind of meeting where I could slip out.

Nevertheless, even with the midday break/excursion, I'm not really big on 9-hour meetings. Luckily, I had my laptop, so I was able to work and interact with the world and stuff.

I must say, if you're going to do an all-day meeting, the venue above is a nice place to do it. It's the Wrigley Innovation Center, up on the tippy-top of Goose Island. Who knew such a pretty place could exist in the midst of all those warehouses and film studios?

We were in that round tower, with beautiful views of the river and the city and with giant, fancy automatic screens that went up and down at the push of a button. It felt like an upbeat version of Dr. Evil's lair. All we needed were sharks with lasers.

This is a new project I've been working on for Mars, which, unbeknownst to me, acquired Wrigley sometime last year. Good project, interesting people. Friday I travel to their chocolate factory out in the country. And I didn't even need a golden ticket!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Nonsense

No auditions for two weeks, then sure enough on the day I have a full-day client meeting, two come up.

The first was an easy call, since the intern who called had absolutely no information for me on what the opportunity was. A "webisode pilot" is all she could give me. And a full-day rate that's half a normal hourly rate. I tried to see if she could tell me anything, anything at all about the project.

Is the director some up-and-coming star? Am I unknowingly rejecting an opportunity to be seen by the next Josh Whedon? Or maybe the current Josh Whedon? Nothing. At that point I probably should have had her connect me with someone there who knew what was going on, but you know what? I shouldn't have to do that. And I was really busy.

Again, I really miss my old agent. Maybe it's time to get a new one. Which I would actually do, but right now everything is so up in the air.

Then I got a second call from the same person asking about another audition ... at the exact same time slot I couldn't do for the other audition. I asked if anything else was available and she didn't know. So I rejected that one, too, which is too bad since it's a national SAG audition. (It didn't help that she laughed nervously throughout both calls as she told me she knew nothing.)

They still sent me the info as if I was auditioning tomorrow, so maybe something will get straightened out in the morning, but I'm so annoyed by the whole thing I'm perfectly willing to cut off my nose to spite my face. My attention is just elsewhere right now. Like getting up at 5 am tomorrow for the second day in a row ...

Monday, June 07, 2010

Sweet sixteen

Rolling right along, with another topic I just recently thought of:
  • Be Funny -- the super-hidden secret of humor (tell the truth) and how to use it to humanize an executive, reinforce a point, shed light on a foible, break down your audience's defenses or simply provide comic relief. My biggest piece of advice? Hire a professional. (Like me or the countless companies and under-employed comics who do this for a living.) But for those who want to go it alone, I offer some tips. Mostly I just advocate for people and organizations to not take themselves -- as distinguished from their work -- too seriously.
Speaking of which, I've been thinking about finding the right voice and tone for this thing. Is it going to be funny? Irreverent? Barn-burning? I've got to figure that out. A few things are emerging. I mostly want it to be a light read, not too preachy or pretentious. Sort of in the style of Seth Godin. With a small splash of David Sedaris.

Mainly I want to write the kind of book that I would want to read. That's my most important guiding principle. It's not long and academic. I don't present comprehensive round-ups of research findings or survey data or extensive case studies. It's observations, anecdotes, advice and occasional soapbox appeals.

It won't give someone an A-to-Z guide on business writing, but it will hopefully engage the kind of people who like to read other writers' thoughts on writing, and maybe provide enough tips and suggestions for most people to get at least something out of it.

Of course, it's entirely possible I expect too little of the things I read.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

XV

Hit the magic 15 today, which is a nice milestone. One of two chapters that I hadn't really planned but just thought of from some perusal of what's out there:
  • Plainly Speaking -- Acting has come a long way from the old formal, presentational style. These days, especially in front of the camera or the microphone, you're told over and over again to say the lines like you're talking one-on-one with a friend or a neighbor. Which is also a good way to humanize a lot of the corporate copy we come up with. Talk like a human, as if you're talking to another human. Simplify.
I think I can still get this wrapped up by the end of June, but I'm also going to need some time to edit. Gotta think about that ...

Friday, June 04, 2010

Quick Shoot

Feeling totally discombobulated because a film shoot that was supposed to just take a couple of hours pretty much wiped out most of the working (and working out) day. First it was pushed back from 9 to 11, then even 11 was way too early, as the crew was just setting up.

So with commute time about 6.5 hours for maybe 90 minutes worth of actual work?

Still glad I did it. It was a fun little project that fell in my lap. A low-budget feature being shot by some nice people who seem to know what they're doing. And it seems funny -- at least the scene I did was funny.

My role is tiny, but I'm in the very first scene. And it fit me pretty well. They were looking for a snobby kind of sarcastic guy, so perfect.

Would have liked to have had a little more me-time today. And work-time. Oh, well. Time to get this makeup off and head out to see some Hawkey action.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Abre los ojos

Today as I was sifting through all the chaff of my various LinkedIn digests for the occasional grain of wheat, I came across a posting from someone else who's writing a book about business writing. Her angle is completely different, but her idea for a chapter totally sparked an idea for something I could do in my book.

It's funny that I've been mostly worried about exposing myself for now to others' work. I didn't want to be too influenced or end up copying them. But I see now how even at this stage it can have the completely opposite effect, inspiring new ideas.

That's generally the way I work anyway. Whatever I'm doing, I'm more likely to tackle it solo than collaborate with a bunch of people. Like for various client projects when I'm working with someone new they'll encourage me to give them a call to brainstorm or if I get stuck or if I want a second opinion or an early review of what I'm doing. And I never do that.

I collaborate at the beginning. Let's all talk about ideas and content and get on the same page. But at that point I really prefer to go off on my own and just get it done. There are pluses and minuses to both ways of doing things. But I do know that if you're over at the extreme end of anything, it's almost always a good idea to switch things up and indulge the opposite instinct once in a while.

So I think I'm ready on this to open my eyes a little bit to what else is around me.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Cartorce

Number 14 done:
  • Meetings Drive Productivity -- SNL's Lorne Michaels has famously said that they don't go on the air because they're ready, they go on because it's 11:30. It's always been my experience that big periodic public meetings are a great way to drive productivity and accountability in an organization. Every report, publication and initiative gets pegged to the meeting for unveiling. And nobody wants the shame of dropping the ball in front of everyone.
This is another chapter geared more to corporate communications than writing. I haven't had a ton of time lately. Work is heating back up -- I've had to write a couple of video scripts this week and edit a chapter of that other book for my client -- but I still managed to get this chapter out and a few others touched up.

On Saturday I woke up very, very early with a list of things I need to investigate for publishing/printing this thing. Like scoping out the existing competition, looking at publishers and agents, etc.

One of my concerns is the length. About 10,000 words at this (unfinished) point. But it's kind of how I envision it. A brisk, blog-like read. But who knows? Looking at what else is out there may give me ideas for additional topics and chapters.

And I've really done no "reporting" for this book. It's all my own thoughts, anecdotes and examples. Maybe it would benefit from some research or interviews or other perspectives.

Anyway, first things first. A couple of more chapters to get under the belt. Then once I feel I've got a solid hold on my core content I can start looking around, studying, evaluating, adjusting. And maybe run it by some people.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Salt


I am reading a 400-plus page book on salt. That's right. Salt.

I've been reading it for quite some time. I've been reading it as I was reading multiple other books, including Ian McEwan's Solar and a couple of other non-fiction works.

Part of the problem is I got it pre-Kindle. (Yup, I've been trying to read this book for six months.) The other problem is ... it's about SALT!

Yes, I should have known that, given the title of the book. It's called "Salt." I can't say I was deceived.

Of course, it's about a little more than salt. It's about history, and civilization and commerce and geology and biology and chemistry ... and cooking. It's got recipes for salted cod from Plato's time, the earliest known recipe for catsup and cole slaw and ... much, much ... else.

Okay, I'm glad I picked this book up. I have actually learned some fascinating things. I really had no idea how critical salt has been to the development of civilization. That it's been used as money, that it was a major issue in the Revolution and the Civil War and ... that there are so many, many ways of making salt.

So I'm glad I started reading it. I only wish it was a couple hundred pages shorter. Because then I'd be done with it. I think I've got the point.

I've only stopped reading one or two books in my life (hello, Corelli's Mandolin), but I am determined to get through this one. Just in case there's some blockbuster revelation awaiting me in its final pages.

I'm giving myself 'til the end of the month.