Pen & Paper vs. Keyboard & Monitor

As a writer, the argument for writing with pen and paper rather than at a computer is getting pretty tired. Listening to wannabe, excuse me aspiring, we’re aspiring writers, go on and on about their preferred method of the trade is easily pretentious. In reality, whatever gets the words down is a-ok, dude.

But let’s get pretentious.

I didn’t have a computer until I was eighteen years old so I used to write everything in notebooks. Back then and up until this day, I start a lot of projects that I don’t finish. I probably have over a hundred unfinished screenplays ranging in page count. Storing them all on a hard drive is much more organized than the knee high pile of old notebooks I have in the corner of my bedroom.

Safe to say, these days I prefer to write even my first drafts at a computer. But today I wrote my second poem in two weeks on paper. I didn’t choose pen and paper for any deep, spiritual reason. I was just at work and bored. I didn’t have access to a computer but there were a bunch of blank legal pads at my disposal. An idea for a poem hit me and I started scribbling it down.

I enjoyed the process. It was nice to cross out a bad line, visibly abolishing something that came out the wrong way. I could also make notes and changes on the side of the paper when proof reading. I’m not much of a poet, yet. I just started writing in this medium and its tough going. But I do think these last two were pretty decent. One was about perseverance and the other about girls.

Having just typed up one of them, I’m beginning to think all my poet friends are onto something by always writing their initial drafts with pen and paper. At least for poetry, I can see the aesthetic appeal of holding a pen and making the words appear on paper.

Perhaps it’s time to figure out a way to organize an ever growing stack of notebooks.

What do you think? Do you prefer to write with pen and paper or at a computer?


Reaching Out: Any Tips On Social Media Outreach?

English: Tweeting bird, derived from the initi...

I love social media. I think there’s a lot to be said about the phenomenon. I’m pretty active in all platforms; I log into Facebook multiple times a day, I’m always scanning my Twitter feed, and I try to blog when something comes to mind. Up until recently, I’ve really only used social media as a tool to market myself on a minor scale by posting or tweeting links to new YouTube videos or blog posts.

Things are a little different now. I’m not asking what I can do for social media, but what can social media do for me?

I’m looking to eliminate “aspiring” from my online bio and start production as writer/director/everything on my first feature film, entitled Die, Hipster! Die! There’s a staggering amount of talented Philadelphia-area actors and actresses who love the script and are enthusiastic about helping make it happen. So now we’re in the pre-production stages and trying to get a plan of attack to crowd fund and raise our budget.

Immediately, I made a new Twitter account and Facebook page for the film. The success is slight but growing every day. But I’d like some advice from the internet community and especially bloggers who have to be masters of their own social media empire. Give me some tips!

My universal rule for these platforms is to give people something they want. I don’t want to post countless links to campaigning pages. I don’t want to be that kid in kindergarten making friends by begging people to hang out with him. I want people to like my project.

I’ve been tweeting stereotype jokes (since it’s a slasher/comedy film about idiot hipsters) and people have been responding. I’m not getting such an overwhelming response that Twitter deemed us as needing a verifiable check symbol but we’re doing alright.

I want to know what else I can do. What have you tried? What works and doesn’t work? I think comedy is always a great approach because people love to laugh. That’s my advice. That might not work for certain businesses like maybe a bank who has to be respectable and trustworthy enough to hold our money. But it’s great for a wide range of companies. Taco Bell and McDonald’s both use Twitter humorously.

What are any tips or advice you can provide for using social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, WordPress, Tumblr, etc.) in order to gain a following for a business?


Disillusioned at 23

I spend my days hoping there was a good reason for getting dressed. Some days, when I’m feeling particularly put upon, I grant myself the privilege of doing nothing; just sitting in my pajamas, my hair greasy, confined only to my bedroom until I wake the next day and try again. Those days it’s like I don’t even exist. The world is without my participation.

Today I went to the library and read a magazine. Like Norman Bowker’s games of pickup basketball in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, I just need something to fill time.

I drive around aimlessly, taking the long route to Target or the grocery store, the window cracked so the air can whip at my face, singing with the radio, just driving and hoping I’ll find something to justify my time.

I’ve been feeling very anxious. I’m shaky and introverted. My thoughts churn about so much I can’t appreciate my surroundings, can’t live in the here and now. My mother tries to talk to me but I’m just not there. My body looks and responds but my mind is elsewhere.

I think about big things. I work out conclusions to the inconclusive like death, the soul, love, what it takes to look in the mirror and say “you’re doing alright.” I determine that these things are beyond logic and the most I can do is be aware of them and let my life do the rest. But still I continue thinking.

I think about the way things change; best friends that you don’t have anything in common with anymore, the way a family disjoints, how love gets old like a good song played out on the radio, or the way I feel like my soul is shivering inside me, chattering against my bones for days until eventually it just stops for no good reason. Maybe I saw a good movie, read a good book, or heard a new song I like. I had a drink and a nice laugh with some buddies? A pretty girl looked at me the right way? Or perhaps, one morning I just woke up and the world was a little kinder to me. As if someone decided I could use a break.

Sometimes I feel like I’m crazy and that being locked away has its perks. I won’t need to worry about finding a job that I hate, paying for groceries, finding a girl; I won’t have to look at a person and wonder about them and have them wonder about me. But again, I conclude that this is no escape and that you could lock me away but you can’t keep me out. I’m here. I might as well try to make something of it.


“How’ve You Been?” Wouldn’t You Like to Know?

“How have you been?” you’ve inevitably asked someone after getting through the usual greetings with someone you may or may not have seen in a while. Maybe your wording was different, “how are you? How are things? What have you been up to? What it is with it?” However you say it, you’re asking a question you’ll never get an honest answer to.

“I’ve been good,” is the response you might get. Or maybe simpler: “fine, you?”

I’m guilty of this over simple greeting as much as anybody but it’s only recently struck me as how silly it is after being on the receiving end of it. The other day I was having quite a hell of a time battling a surge of anxiety about an up and coming creative project that was looking more and more disorganized and overwhelming. As any person who battles anxiety can tell you, as much as I’d like the world to halt and leave me be until I settle down, things keep rolling and I’m still expected to interact in a somewhat healthy fashion.

I went out and met with friends, which was definitely a help. It’s good to get out of your house and away from your hectic thoughts when you’re feeling down and out. But surely, when asked “how’s it going?” I couldn’t be expected to just start blurting out, “Horrible! I’m freaking out! My head is a melting pot of fucked up thoughts and I want to throw up!”

“I’m doing alright,” was how I responded although I was sure to add odd emphasis to “alright” and to nod my head with an exaggerated look of panic in my eyes that was easy to pick up on. I sure as hell wasn’t going into detail about it but they got the idea.

I think we need to get rid of that dumbed down, half-assed phrase before someone loses their mind or has a heart attack or something trying to hold in their crippling emotions while forcing themselves to offer an unenthusiastic, polite “fine.”

There are rules about what is impolite to talk about in conversation: politics, religion, someone’s past drug problem. I think we should add asking someone how they’re doing to that list. If you really want to sincerely see how a human’s always churning, dramatic, worried life has been going than you better bring a hard hat and save that conversation for a place more private then a restaurant or bar or other public place so a major scene can be avoided.

People are too damned complicated to be expected to start filling you in on all of their follies at the behest of the simple, thoughtless uttering of “what’s been up?”

Or perhaps maybe we’d all be better off if we had more frequent arenas to express our deepest anguishes in. Maybe we’d be better off just spewing out our souls to anyone who pretends to be concerned. Stripping off the feeble armor of normalcy to roam around nude amongst phonies sounds as refreshing as singing in the rain. Certainly, something was achieved for me by speaking my mind in this blog post. And the internet didn’t even have to ask me how I was doing.

 


Write Selfishly, Readers Will Be In Ecstasy

My laptop is ready to blow. It overheats so much these days that my keyboard is burning away my finger tips until I’m forced to take a break from any writing. These are the notes from a computing inferno.

It has come to my attention that blogging has become some sort of mental health pill for me. These posts are all over the place in topic but all share the same purpose for me as a writer: a way to stop moping and start writing. This blog is a perverse confessional, a manic cry to the world from an isolated bedroom, a message in an electronic bottle thrown out into the cyber sea, amongst all of the obscurity of millions of other blogs, billions of other words, hoping to leave a few ripples and maybe some waves.

This is indulgent. This is selfish. This is ok.

A writer has very few hopes of leaving behind many original pieces. Life is full of monotony. Even the anguish, the wars, the deaths, the physical and mental tortures have all been experienced and reiterated countless times. So why try? The reason is because you’re the only person who experiences these things the way you do. Write things the way you know them. Let the reader see big, universally known experiences through your eyes.

Kurt Vonnegut says in his novel Timequake:

“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”

This is why readers need to hear your voice. Maybe you’re saying something they’ve felt and so desperately need to have affirmed. Feeling alone in your thoughts can be crushing. For me as a writer, feeling unoriginal in my emotions, whether it is heart ache, insecurity, or confusion, is devastating.

Writing is a beautiful art form. You don’t have to be a “writer” to gain the benefits of writing. It’s something I think everyone should do. But I am a writer. I may be an aspiring writer when it comes to my professional dreams but in my soul I am nothing else. Like any dream I have to pursue my goals with blinders on to deter the blurs around me.

In Factotum, Charles Bukowski said:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

So the message in this blog post’s bottle is the above: selfishly fight the good fight for yourself and your readers and throw anything that prevents you from doing so to the side and out of your mind. There is nothing but greatness waiting for those willing to shed comfort. Comfort is a tethering chain. Free yourself. Give your readers affirmation that they are not the only ones feeling this way. They will be as grateful as you are to the writers who have done this for you.


A Blog Suffers When You’re Trying to Make a Movie

I knew it has been a while since my last blog post, but I didn’t realize that today marks two months exactly since I last posted. Yikes. My apologies to anyone that has been anxiously waiting for my next post. (I’m aware that with that last sentence I’ve subjected myself to crickets chirping throughout the internet kingdom.)

I’m proud to say there’s a good reason why I haven’t been actively contributing to this beloved blog: I’ve been writing. Yes, I’ve been hard at work feverishly working on a new feature screenplay that was designed to be affordable enough to make myself on a shoestring budget. I’m ecstatic with the results and am proud to say it’s been my fastest turnaround on a feature yet. I wrote the first draft in two weeks and am already finished a solid rewrite. You wanna hear what it’s about? (I’m smiling and nodding at the computer like Natalie Portman in Garden State when she asks if Zach Braff wants to help her bury her dead hamster.)

Here’s a synopsis of my newest, coolest feature screenplay, a slasher/comedy entitled Die, Hipster! Die!:

When a group of pretentious college hipsters anger a gypsy fortune teller with their shallow youth culture, she summons James Mean, the Patron Saint of Cool from Hell to wipe out their hipster house party. It’s up to Luke and Brea, the only non-hipsters in attendance, to put a stop to this demon’s Crusade for Cool and to prove that there are still young people with character in this age of Wayfarers and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Screenplay and log line experts of the internet community please don’t rip my way-too-long synopsis to shreds! I like it. But anyway, it’s a super cool, really funny, pretty hip, and original script that I’m proud to be moving forward with. Some Philadelphia actors love it and I’ve even gotten it into the hands of a few local producer types.

Major problem is money of course. I hoped to just start filming it this month and crowd raise funds as I went but of course, my ambition might have overshadowed my means a little, but only slightly. I’m going to get my “ducks in a row” as one producer mentioned and try to do this right. Who knows, it could be my The Evil Dead!

I’ve had a pretty good, productive journey writing and rewriting this thing. I started Transcendental Meditation in January (something I wanted to start blogging about but didn’t get around to) and I have to say I’ve noticed an increase in my productivity and problem solving when it comes to my writing. I can’t chalk my success with this screenplay completely up to TM, I feel like this moment was coming for a while. But there has to be something said about Die, Hipster! Die! being the quickest feature I’ve written post-meditation.

I was so excited to get up every day with a solid plan of attack: shower, meditate, and write. And not just blindly writing; I knew exactly what I should do next. Now, I have pretty close to what my finished product will look like and I’m in a writing rut. I want to write something! This whole process has been like riding yet another high wave that drops me off on the shoreline, leaving me to watch it roll back into the sea. That’s a feeling I’m used to and an analogy I beat into the sand. But hopefully, with a little help from TM, I can limit my turnaround time of how long I stand on the shore before paddling back out into the water.

This blog post starts up the writing process again. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me making DH!D! a reality on the movie screen. It’s an exciting process that I’m looking forward to. But there’s no reason I can’t be writing the next script in the meantime. As Robert Rodriguez advises in his book Rebel Without a Crew, “be scary.” Constantly working, constantly be moving ahead on your next big idea, always being original; that is frightening. Be scary, my friends. Keep writing.

 


Breakfasts You Wait Up All Night For

Film poster for Diner - Copyright 1982, MGM

Film poster for Diner – Copyright 1982, MGM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there any place packed with more nostalgia, laced with greater laughs, or drenched with more classic memories than that of the town diner? Every American community has one of their very own; a little neon building with a menu ranging from eggs to lobster, ready to be cooked twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

How many movies and TV shows feature such an establishment in their storyline? Cheers is all about that particular hot spot. Barry Levinson’s film Diner centers on it as well. And while finishing the first season of the FX series Louie today on Netflix, I saw my own day’s events mirrored in the end of the season finale when, after returning home from a disastrous night on the town trying to pick up girls, Louis C.K. is greeted by his young daughters who are awake and alert and wanting to go get breakfast at 4:00 in the morning. The series ends on a beautiful note with the audience watching Louie and his daughters through a diner window as they eat together.

The scene captured a very simple, rich, bonding moment between a dad and his daughters that perhaps sunk a little bit deeper for me because I shared a similar moment with my mother early this morning.

I returned home after a genuine “night out on the town” complete with before and after parties in a hotel overlooking the Philadelphia art museum, topped off with just enough luck to find rides to and from the bar without paying for a cab, and a nice enough valet parker willing to let me forgo the $35 parking garage fee and store my car on the hotel’s entry ramp until his shift was over at 3:00 a.m.

Upon returning home late that night, around 5:00 in the morning, my mom was already awake. We’ve had strange sleeping schedules the last few weeks. I was far from tired and she knew it. So the idea came about to take each other up on an offer we’d been trying to fulfill all week: to grab some breakfast at the diner down the street. Until this point, we were unable to find time to do so since I’ve been sleeping late most days. But now, with the blue morning sun peering in our apartment windows, this seemed to be the perfect time.

In a little plastic booth fitted with its own individual electronic game machine, my mom and I both ordered Western omelets with eager anticipation. And although we didn’t talk much in this early hour; my eyes slightly singeing with sleepy acids, my thoughts still swimming in left over alcohol, I think we both enjoyed the moment as we quietly ate our eggs and soaked in the atmosphere of the diner we’d been coming to for years.

It was truly a magical moment. If my life was a syndicated program, one of the ones like The Wonder Years where an older, wiser me narrates the tales of my younger, goofier self, I’d have had some kind of eloquent closing line synced up with that breakfast that would lead right into the closing credits.


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