Building (and Burning) Bridges

Portland, Oregon, has a TON of bridges that span the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, unsurprisingly earning Portland the official nickname of “Bridgetown.” As the Willamette divides Portland down the middle, starting at the top, there’s the St. Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge, and the Sellwood Bridge way down at the bottom. So, with my car packed up full of my belongings (again), I departed Portland thinking about all bridges in my life…

The very first bridge in Portland was the original Morrison Bridge, built in 1887, also happened to be the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was an architectural marvel, finally allowing people and horse-drawn buggies alike to pass over the Willamette. It was originally a toll bridge, but the toll was dropped in 1895. The Morrison Bridge has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent redesign was in 1958.

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St. Johns Bridge, Portland, OR.

My favorite is the beautiful blue St. Johns Bridge, where you’re 205 feet off the water!

Bridges physically connect two locations that would otherwise be unconnected (or too cumbersome for success), bonding the “places” (not just the physical locations, but the inhabitants and spirit) together through building and exchange of a bridge. Goods, people, whatever. We all know this. Bridges are cool. But if you really dig down on the friendship-bridge metaphor, it is both inspiring and painfully honest.tumblr_nvrmk9sId81rt7qgbo1_500
It takes a lot of energy to build a bridge, and equal energy to maintain it. Both sides of the bridge benefit from the connection, some more than others at times.  If the tedious, general upkeep is not maintained (the check-ins and touch-ups), even a well-built, and well-traveled, bridge can break down over time. Here it comes… the same is true with our friendships.

I love Portland, and I had a great time living there. I made some amazing connections, friends I’ll keep for the rest of my life. But what about those people that didn’t become my best friends? What about the people that wronged me? And perhaps more introspectively, how do we address the relationships that have grown to become imbalanced? How do we build the right bridge?

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Tower Bridge, London. (Not in Portland)

There are so many quotes about burning bridges, I chose not to include one in this post, simply because we all get the metaphor by now. We like burning bridges because it’s an instant satisfaction, exciting, energy-filled exchange where you hope the end result will be complete and total destruction of your enemy and there’ll be exclamations in of worldwide vindication that in the end, they were wrong and you were right! And we all know, it rarely (if ever) ends like that. Instead, you’re emotionally drained, somewhat ashamed, slightly confused, and the ripples of your outburst will continue to echo outward, essentially ruining your reputation behind you (i.e. burning other bridges)… Not so cool now, huh?
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But old bridges aren’t actually burned. Not even old wood ones. Bridges, when they’re decommissioned, are for the most part disassembled. The bridges are stripped down to the bare bones before destruction. Many pieces will be salvaged, reused, repurposed, into other objects in our everyday lives. What if we applied that principle to “decommissioning” our bridges?

What if, rather than exploding at that friend that never returns your phone calls or text messages, you simply, gently, emotionally disassemble that bridge, piece by piece, and put that energy into other facets, other friendships, other bridges?tumblr_nnszn1e0ZY1rt7qgbo1_500
The need for connections is a symptom of the digital landscape we’re currently creating. The idea that things can be connected is being celebrated. The belief that everything should be connected is, in my opinion, sometimes needless and counterproductive. Some bridges just don’t need to exist, and that’s okay. We are not only defined by who we choose to associate with, but also who choose not to associate with.

Some bridges should not exist. You don’t need to be “friends” with that guy that never calls you back. You don’t need to be “friends” with the owner of the company that fired you. You don’t need to be “friends” with that roommate that you really didn’t like. The truth is, those were never large, sturdy bridges to begin with. They were footpaths. A dangling line across a chasm. It served it’s purpose when you needed it, but it isn’t intended to last the rest of your life. These bridges are okay to let go.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to burn bridges. SO BADLY. Ultimately, I just let them be. There’s was little fire. Maybe we’ll cross over them again sometime in the future, or maybe they will fall into the relentless river of time and life. I valued them, but I can’t look back at the bridge and wonder if it will make it, I’ve got to keep moving forward, over the bridge.IMG_1007The bridges that we should be spending most of our energy on are the bridges to the future. What are we doing today that will connect us, in a positive way, to where we want to be in the future? What kind of incremental bit of progress, which plank can I add today, to get me one step closer to the other side, where I ultimately want to be? And who can I connect with, work with, support, and partner with, where we can achieve our goals together?
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For me, that’s filmmaking, and that’s not going to happen in Portland, Oregon. And despite all the reasons to stay (Fall in Portland is the best, the solar eclipse, Crater Lake, etc.), I have to build on my 15 years of screenwriting and put it all into action, to finish building that bridge, with a complete move to Los Angeles.

So yesterday, I loaded up my car with every item I own (for the sixth time in just over two years), said goodbye to Portland, and I’m currently on my migration South.
(Bonus drive over the Bay Bridge!)tumblr_n25hg1eshy1rt7qgbo1_500

I’ll see you in Los Angeles!

CHE

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My Latest Screenplay: TAKEOFF

This past November I participated in NaNoWriMo, and I wrote the feature length action film, TAKEOFF.

I never what will give birth to an idea for a screenplay. Historically speaking, it was something I was watching on television, reading, joking about, or talked with a friend about during an inebriated debate. I wrote UNIT C19 when I binged watched every episode of Storage Wars.

TAKEOFF was the result of my semi-guilty obsession with the television show Airplane Repo. Using re-enactments and interviews, our team of “airplane liberators” and high end repossession artists share their most risky, dangerous, and entertaining jobs. Retrieving monster trucks from backwoods rednecks and multimillion-dollar jets from bankrupt playboys, you have no idea what to expect next. It’s “reality TV” at it’s finest.

TAKEOFF follows Justin Case, a former military pilot in Afghanistan turned high-end repossession artist. Think MISSION IMPOSSIBLE meets GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS. Haunted by the loss of his friend during the war, Justin and his team embark on their most dangerous mission yet: stealing an airplane from a group of terrorists in the middle East. They soon discover they are the targets of a much bigger mission, one that’s spanning decades, continents and will test their bonds of friendships. There’s love. There’s sex. There’s bullets and bombs. There’s drugs and even a little bit of politics. It’s not too deep, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to be an action movie, plain and simple. Michael Mann would LOVE directing this film!

This was a fun project because most of my screenwriting has been dramatic thrillers, while this was an unapologetic action film. It isn’t mean to grab hold of you, keeping you awake at night with questions about your own morality. TAKEOFF is intended to entertain as you quickly flip through the pages, watching the film in your mind, excitement building with each scene until you reach the climax, a dangerous, fiery-shootout in a foreign country! It’s 143 pages that just flies by!

I’m almost done editing it, and when I do, I’ll include a link of it here. In the meantime, you can see the rest my library of screenplays here.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign 
is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

 

Book Review: The Witch Death by… me?

I recently found a little story book I made as a kid, and I just read it again… it’s fucking great! So I’m gonna tell you the story, then let you read it yourself.

img_7839As I mentioned a few days ago, during my personal fire ecology, I rediscovered this cartoon book I (apparently) wrote as a child. It is called The Witch Death, and I have absolutely no idea when it was written. The front cover features a sticker of a scarecrow, but profiles a green-faced witch, her arm and finger extended at an unseen victim, with her cape dangling down a kitten at her feet…

That kitten, my friends, is the main character our story. Her name… is Cotton.

According to my story, Cotton was going for a walk, when she found a house just up the hill from her own house. More educated people would recognize this would be a neighbor’s house, but you need to remember that Cotton is a kitten and I was only a child.

Quite naturally, Cotton did something that we all do at our neighbor’s houses, she opened the door and walked right inside. Suddenly, the lights went out! There was a voice!

“Go away!” the voice said. (Totally legitimate request in my opinion.)

Then the lights turned back on, and that’s when Cotton saw a witch, standing in the middle of the house! The witch pointed (see cover art) and said, “You must die!”

So Cotton ran for her life! But you’ll never guess what happened next…

There was a werewolf. Yep. A motherfucking werewolf.

Cotton didn’t know what to do. There was a werewolf ahead of her, a witch behind her. What other option do you have? So Cotton grabbed some dynomite [sic] and put it in the werewolf’s pants! It went “Boom!” and off Cotton ran.

BAM! Are you kidding me?! I did not see that coming! Not only did the dynamite come out of nowhere, but who knew that werewolves wore pants? This is outside-of-the-box thinking here, people! I would say “you can’t make this shit up,” but I guess I did.

Sorry for the digression. So, to recap here: Cotton’s running away from a witch that wants to kill her and a werewolf she just exploded by putting “dynomite” in it’s pants. Okay… turning the page…

The werewolf came back together (naturally) and that’s when Cotton found a Jeep nearby. That’s right, a Jeep. I didn’t know how to drive when I wrote this, which is probably why Cotton, the kitten, apparently didn’t know how to drive either. Both Cotton and I were equally capable of driving one day, we just needed to study and practice.

“This is my driver’s test.” Cotton said. To whom? Who cares.

So Cotton got into the Jeep and “pushed go,” but it went backwards! (That’s probably because Cotton, as a kitten, didn’t know that “Drive” means “Go.”) The Jeep, flying in reverse, got the werewolf (again)!

Cotton – 2, Werewolf – 0.

Turning the page…

THE END!?!

Are you kidding me? I was a little M. Night Shyamalan in the second grade (or whenever I wrote this masterpiece)! Who ends a kitten/witch/werewolf story with the flare of the Sopranos finale? The drama is killing me!

Okay, first of all… The Witch Death? The witch didn’t actually die. Nobody died in fact, not even the werewolf with the dynamite in his pants! Cotton, the kitten, is telling us her story, but what happened after she hit the werewolf? If the werewolf could survive dynamite in it’s pants, I’m sure getting run over by a Jeep isn’t even a scratch. I guess I’m still impressed a kitten can drive a jeep, I had enough trouble as a 16 year-old human! All in all, I would say this story is slightly entertaining, but utter garbage.

It’s really interesting to see that I have been creating weird, dramatic stories for a really long time. It’s also really fun that I found this, to remind me about the times when storytelling was just storytelling. It’s not all about likes, retweets, and unique visitors. There’s something fun and pure about storytelling for the sake of storytelling. That’s the thing I’ve always loved most.

Here’s the complete story, as it was written…

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This was so much fun. Do you have anything like this? Take this opportunity to go dig up treasure from your childhood. It’ll make you feel great.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign 
is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Notebooks for Daily Notes

As someone who fancies himself a bit of a writer, inspiration can strike at anytime, anywhere, in any form. I was tired of having struggling with my phone to jot down my thoughts (it’s a little awkward), so this year I’m doing my best to take physical notes… on everything.

IMG_7825.JPGThanks to a little insight from Santa Claus, I was lucky enough to receive one of these sweet Moleskine 2017 Daily Planner Box Sets. They’re perfect for keeping in your back pocket to jot down your daily notes and appointments, but you don’t have to carry around an entire year’s worth of paper in your pocket to do so (like this video I did in 2013). Just one month at a time! For years I’ve been searching for the perfect notebook, and this box set is already quickly becoming my favorite so far.

I know that I can keep my notes in my iPhone, but putting ink to paper gives more of a permanency to my thoughts and notes. For instance, if I did write down something in my phone, where does it ultimately end up? Do I need to create a document for each thought I have? Or a new note for each category of thoughts? There’s almost more work involved in efficiently organizing your digital notes than just writing them down, in your notebook, on today’s date. Simple. It’s clean. It’s efficient. It doesn’t disappear into the metadata of your computer’s hard drive full of files, instead it’s right there in your pocket, ink on paper. When I’m ready to harvest my golden thoughts and experiences, I’ll go back through the notebooks!

IMG_7826.JPGThese notebooks carry with them all the quintessential Moleskine hallmarks. The first pages of each notebook are filled with 2017 monthly calendars, international holidays, time zones, travel agendas, flight times (yeah, really), time zones and measurements… and then it gets to the daily pages. I don’t need a lot of space to remember meetings, funny quips of dialogue, ideas, retrospections and gratitude. I just need a few lines and a pen.

Hypergraphia is a behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write (yes, that’s straight from Wikipedia). I’ve thought about this a lot, and while I don’t necessarily think I have hypergraphia to a point of debilitation, I do think there’s a strong physical desire in me to write and create everyday. (I have dozens of notes in my phone and even more notebooks, filled with notes, in boxes in my room.) The downside is, with the constant traffic of ideas flowing through my head all the time, I tend to miss or forget a lot of the tiny gems I would have loved to incorporate into my writing. This year, I’m committed to my hypergraphia, keeping notes and recording my gratitude as I go, and having these notebooks in my pocket is a great start.

IMG_7827.JPGAlong the way, I’ve picked up some amazing tips and tricks for efficient note taking, which could (and should) be it’s own blog post. Needless to say, these beautiful notebooks are filled with acronyms, highlights, diagrams, sketches, stickers, phone numbers, and thousands of quick scribbles which may only make sense to me when I’m squinting through drunken eyes, but that’s all that really matters, right?

At the end of the year, when I’ve worked my way through all twelve notebooks, having recorded and recollected on every single day of the year, these notebooks will contain an amazing snippet of my life in technicolor on my desktop, and I’ll be able to glean all the fun, entertaining, and otherwise trivial thoughts into something worth reading.

Since it’s only January 5, it’s not too late for you to pick up a set of these Moleskine Notebooks and get to writing!

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
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Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
Personal Fire Ecology is a quick look at the rationale behind my yearly purge by fire.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

Personal Fire Ecology

Fire ecology is the scientific discipline of fire’s role and effect in the environment and specific ecosystems. In habitats like prairies, chaparral, and coniferous areas, wildfires are essential to vitality and renewal. Maybe Mother Nature’s onto something…

tumblr_mjj9jwkzsh1rt7qgbo1_500I was first exposed to this concept as a child growing up in Southern California, where we frequently witnessed the mountains behind our house ablaze, casting thick black smoke into the sky. In college, I received a call during film studies from my mother asking, “The fire’s over the ridge so I’m standing in your room right now, what would you like to me save?” And just a few years ago, my father and I watched on the news as another fire in Santa Barbara tore through my childhood friend’s home, a house they’d built on an empty lot. They’d sold the house and moved away long ago, but my dad called them on the phone. They were watching the news, too. That beautiful house was going to return to an empty lot.

In high school, I went on trail rides through stretches of freshly scorn earth in the Sespe Wilderness. Absolutely everything had been reduced to carbon, or torched and covered in ashes and soot. It was crazy to see sections of land completely black. The amazing part is the fire, and the extensive damage resulting from it, is a major key in the rebirthing process for the land to return nutrients and minerals to the soil. The current yield wasn’t worth it, so burning it all down and starting over from scratch is natural part of the ecological lifecycle.

tumblr_oj5swzqvsa1rt7qgbo1_500Yesterday was my own semi-annual purge by fire, where I went through my all my boxes of bills, writings, and “random stuff” to organize, record, and get rid of whatever I’m not in an immediate need of. Some people are absolutely terrified at the idea of hours worth of cleaning up your disheveled history of thoughts, but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to figuratively “start with a clean slate” then by purging the useless tokens I’ve collected over the past year. The result was two bags of clothing I’m ready to donate, close to 15 pounds of paper in the recycling (completely making that weight up), and a few of the more special items made a more ceremonial departure in the fires of the furnace.

These types of revitalizing extirpation have become more common for me as I continue to pick up my life and move somewhere else in a smaller and smaller vehicles. Perhaps more importantly, these purges have become a valuable tool in allowing me to reconnect with the cold irons of my creative past. I took the time to read through the scribbled notes about plot lines and jokes. I organized the essays and research materials into their own labeled folders, and I once again thumbed through the photographs, drawings, and paintings in the portfolios I’ve managed to hold onto over the years. Combing through the pages of creative ideas, I couldn’t help but become excited again about all these projects I’d brainstormed up long ago. Short stories. Films. Multimedia artwork. Card Games. Photo series. I’m telling you, there’s some good shit in here!

There’s also some bad stuff in there. A lot of bad stuff, in fact. Starting fresh is harder than it sounds, especially when you’re going boxes you’ve packed and unpacked twice over the past year. The pictures. The love notes. The cards and ornaments. I tucked them all into a wooden box. I can’t get rid of these things yet. I don’t want to. But I know I can’t keep them around. It’s the same with this box of rejection letters I received from law schools. I tucked those, and the copious amounts of paper from the unemployment saga, away in a folder marked, Fuel for the Fire.

tumblr_mudljpeb4u1rt7qgbo1_500But for most of the items in these boxes, I struggle to figure out why I’ve held onto these things for so long? You obviously keep the portfolio of work, but there’s also a plethora of useless trinkets, receipts, ticket stubs, that fill in the cracks around my art. I’ve held onto these pieces of my history because, presumably, I hope someday in the distant future I’ll go through the box, see a placard with my name on it, and be immediately transported back to that place, reliving the best days of my life. And while that’s completely true about many personal totems I’ve collected, I have absolutely no idea what party this crinkled up purple, paper wristband came from. This bead necklace? It’s just garbage now. It’s gotta go.

It’s important for me to keep in mind that just because I’m throwing out that crinkly wristband, it doesn’t mean the party didn’t happen. Throwing away this birthday card doesn’t mean I didn’t have a birthday that year. In fact, the biggest and most valuable moments in our life don’t leave us with a series of collectible trinkets, they leave our entire perspectives changed forever. It’s about everything that happened around the item that’s worth remembering, not the receipt. So I thanked the notes for what they were, then like the others, tossed them into the fire.

tumblr_ni2mvwjbve1rt7qgbo1_500Truthfully, not all is lost either, we do live in a digital age after all. For the notes, I used the app CamScan on my iPhone and took .pdf images of everything before I recycled them (or burned them). Now I’ll be able to go back through the documents, rename them, organize them, and then start creating a list of actions to promote progress or implement them. These are the seeds for the next generation of projects and ideas, rising from the ashes.

Everybody has their own methods when it comes to resetting your system. Mine involves tons of organizing and a little fire. My personal fire ecology. Whatever your recalibration techniques are, it’s important to embrace them as a necessary part of the process. There’s nothing good or bad about how you choose to narrow down your footprint, it just is what it is. If you come out on the other side motivated, inspired, and just a little bit more organized, who can say your process doesn’t work?

Just don’t hurt anybody with actual fire, okay? Thanks.

—–
Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
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 “How you start off January 1 is how your whole year will go.”
The A-Z of My 2016 is my year in review mega post of 2016, complete with anecdotes, photographs, and some of my favorite songs and content from 2016.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.
Starting a Podcast (Network) for Under $200 on WordPress is the play-by-play I used in setting up the show MAD Potential (with Ben Mehl) on the Mystery Tin Podcast Network.

Hey Artist, Start a Newsletter!

I love creative people.

There’s something inherently fascinating to me about people that create art. Whether it’s painting, music, film, writing, racing, manufacturing, or some other creative outlet, I get a ton of joy out of speaking with people about the motivations and ambitions behind their art. If given the chance, I’ll give my “two cents” about how they can turn their art into their full time job. Regardless of the genre of art you create in, chances are my first bit of advice is to start a newsletter.

In the constantly moving digital landscape of today, the most important thing you can do is to deliver consistently. If you deliver quality work on a consistent basis, people will begin to incorporate your work into their lives. Just as we know what day of the week our favorite television show comes out, delivering your content on a consistent basis will create an expectation of delivery and people will work you into their routines to consume it. Dependability and reliability are essential for building trust. Again, consistency is the keyword here.

That’s where the newsletter comes in, and it’s actually way easier than you think. In the beginning, there’s no need to get bogged down by third-party websites and apps to help you deliver a high quality newsletter to thousands of subscribers. Google allows you to send up to 500 e-mails a day, so chances are that’s going to be more than enough to get started with.

img_6990Step 1: Ask your friends. Unless your artistic talent is a complete secret (why?!?!), your friends will know what kind of art you make and, if they’re actually friends worth having, they want to support you in your artistic pursuit (in the least financially taxing way possible). The easiest thing to do is shoot your friends a quick text message, asking them if you can add them to your new mailing list. Unless they’re a complete asshole, chances are they’re gonna say yes!

In the half dozen times I’ve done this, I’ve never once encountered somebody who didn’t want to be included in the newsletter. People I’ve added without their permission, however, never hesitate to let you know they’re not interested.

Step 2: Build a Spreadsheet. I’m sure the idea of a “spreadsheet” scares the most sensitive of artists, but when you’re starting out, having an organization system for your contacts is essential. The reason I recommend starting with a spreadsheet is because, later in the process when you’re ready to upgrade to those newsletter programs, you can easily upload your spreadsheet into your contacts list. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you do need to make sure that at a bare minimum, you have their First Name, Last Name, and E-mail Address.

PRO TIP: If you don’t want to manually input contact information, I recommend making a simple Google Form, asking for their contact information, which will dump their answers into a spreadsheet on your Google Drive. Post this Form on a landing page and share the web address on your social media accounts and include a link in the bottom of your e-mail.

Step 3: Pick a delivery day and stick with it. As we went on ad nauseam earlier, consistency is key. Think about what day you’re want to send out your newsletter, and be sure to consider the time you’ll need prior to create and deliver the content. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I’d also spend some time thinking about “where” your content fits into your subscriber’s lives. If you’re a motivational writer, you may want to consider sending out your e-mail early in the week (when people are motivated) and early in the day (when people need a jumpstart). If your speciality is nature photography, maybe think about sending out your newsletter in the middle of the week, while people are making plans for the weekend. (Bonus points if you can build the expectation into the title of your newsletter like, “MAD Potential Mondays” or “Don’t Die on Saturdays.”)

PRO TIP: With a little searching, you can easily find an extension or Google App that allows you to send e-mails at a later date. Find what works for you!

Step 4: Engage. You want to share your art, you asked your friends if you could share it with them, you found a day that works for you, and now you’ve sent out the first edition of your art newsletter. Congratulations… now get back to work! Now is the most important time to engage with your readers. Ask them what they thought of your art. Ask what they’d like to see in the newsletter. Ask if they’d consider sharing it with their friends. This first wave of support is the most important, you want your readers to share your content, letting the ripple extend beyond your reach. Feed the animals and they’ll feed you back!

Step 5: Monetize. Okay, this is way down the line (most likely months or years), but it’s worth keeping in mind early in the process. When it comes to cultivating an online presence, the most important thing you can have is a robust mailing list. Having a solid mailing list allows you direct access to your readers, which opens up longterm financial opportunities like brand cultivation, selling merchandise to your readers, or advertising space in your newsletter to sponsors. I promise you don’t need hundreds of thousands of fans, in fact, some people (like Kevin Kelly) believe all you need is 1000 true fans.

Sounds easy enough, right?

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Instagram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

Let’s say you’re an artist, like my friend AaronHe draws cartoons containing some odd, dark, creative characters. I really like his stuff and one day I can see it on shirts and skateboard decks (apparently he’s already done shirts, so he must be onto something).

I asked him if he’d considered starting a newsletter, and he (like many), simply thought it was too much work. I told him it didn’t have to be too crazy, just one comic and a little paragraph about it, with a call for sharing at the bottom. Again, the guy goes to school and he works nights, so the free time he does get he tries to spend with his girlfriend, his pitbull, or drawing. The thing he does not want to do is spend his hard-earned free time building spreadsheets. I totally get it.

I might have begged him to reach out to his friends and ask if they would be interested in receiving his newsletter, and he did. I laid out the four steps above for him and told him about another artist that I’d give the same advice to…

Week 1: First Newsletter. He sent out the newsletter to his closest 20 friends from his Gmail account. Just one comic on Friday. A few people responded, but it wasn’t a standing ovation his first time at bat. No biggie. Onward!

Week 2: Second Newsletter. The all-important follow up. Successful delivery of the first newsletter shows that you have the ability to craft and deliver an e-mail (good for you!), but when the second e-mail newsletter shows up in your readers’ inbox, their thinking shifts. They recognize you’re serious about this newsletter thing, so subconsciously, they’re gonna give it a tad more attention than they did the first time. Again, a few more people responded, complimenting him on the cartoon and newsletter. He even got a few shares on social media and picked up a few new readers. Progress!15302514_373258299674168_1234013622_o

Week 3: He missed it. Sometimes life gets in the way, or you aren’t inspired, or whatever, but he did not send out his newsletter on the third week. To many newsletters, this could be a death wish. He tried, he got off the ground, but crashed on week three. One could assume in the finicky world of e-mail newsletters that many would have crossed him off the list and moved on with their lives…

But that’s not exactly what happened. In fact, he received a few e-mails like, “Hey! It’s Friday. Where’s the newsletter?” In just two short weeks, he had already worked his way into the Friday routines of some of his readers. Circus clowns only need “that one person” to laugh in order for everything to be worth it. Your newsletter shouldn’t be much different, if it matters to one (other) person, it’s worth it!

He buckled down and got the newsletter out for Week 3. His tribe was content… for now.

Week 4: Back on it. Now that he knew his cartoon newsletter was not only being read, but also anticipated, he got back onto the newsletter game with more fervor than ever. He worked hard on his craft, working long hours into the night. He was being relied upon now and he promised himself (and them) he wasn’t going to let them down. He started promoting, and sharing, and encouraging others to sign up for the newsletter. The rest? You’re gonna have to join his newsletter to find out.

If you’re an artist, consider starting a newsletter. It’s simply another venue for you to display and disseminate your art, but unlike Facebook and Twitter and those message boards you thought would promote you, direct e-mail is the most likely to be opened and acted upon. If you’re knocking on their door, chances are they’re gonna open up for you. And when they do, I hope you’re standing there with your best art in your hands, ready to share.

CHE

P.S. If you want to join Aaron’s newsletter, leave your name and e-mail address below and I’ll pass it along to him!

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Instragram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces

The book, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, may have saved my life.

tumblr_ogp49tympF1rt7qgbo1_500.jpgTimes are tough for me right now. Truthfully, I’ve been in-between-jobs, aka “unemployed,” for nearly 10 weeks now. I’m in the throws of the uneventful unemployment appeals process, but Oregon has openly told me they have “no idea” when they’ll be able to hear my case. “If you don’t hear from us in six weeks, give us a call.” That breeds confidence in the system, doesn’t it?

Not having a job since September 13, I would be lying if I said this lack of forward momentum and structure has not taken an emotional toll on me. A sad byproduct of being truly poor is being forced to withdraw from the public sphere. No more “happy hours.” No more weekend activities. Sometimes even fast food is out of the question (except Jack in the Box tacos, I’ll always find the change for Jack in the Box tacos). Some days I’m invigorated to make progress on one of my 1000 projects, so I fly out of bed before sunrise, eager to write and create. And other days, often the rainy ones, I simply cannot find the motivation to pull myself out of bed in my tiny, converted attic space. Instead, I write in my notebooks/screenplays, watch movies, and eat ramen. A distilled existence for sure.

Recently, to add insult to injury, while visiting my ex-girlfriend at my previous apartment, my car got (almost) towed. Luckily for me, I chased the tow truck through the apartment complex and managed to open the door and jump into the driver’s seat of my car before they could drive off with it (Charlie Sheen’s character in Navy Seals would have been proud of my effort). Despite my Bolt-like sprinting in wool socks, the tow truck guys weren’t impressed or nearly as forgiving, so they “had no choice” but to charge me the drop fee of $197. This cleaned out my bank account… completely. We’re talking $0.23.

In these times, the lowest moments, we can turn to our friends and family for support and guidance. My family has been a constant support system for me for the last 31 years, I couldn’t stand to shoulder them with my latest economic mishap, so instead I called my best friend and melted into a puddle in my car in the parking lot of my local Fred Meyer. I cried about my lack of money and the lack of opportunities. I opined about my omni-potential and what I could accomplish if only given the chance. And lastly, this was truthfully the hardest part for me to verbalize to my best friend and even harder to write about here, I told him that I felt like a failure in comparison to the watermarks of my friends, seeing success in their own respective lives. I was truly at the bottom.

“I want you to read this book,” he said over the phone.

Two days later, I received an overnight package from my best friend. Inside was a card from him and his girlfriend, with a handful of gift cards tucked in. “We want to help!” he wrote in his chicken scratch cursive. I couldn’t help but break down in gratitude. Tucked in with the card was the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

If he had the audacity to send me this book via overnight mail with claims it would change my life, the least I could do is sit down and give it a little read it. The old college try. Since I wasn’t exactly doing anything else that day, I made myself some hot chocolate and cozied up on the couch with my new book. Sounds perfect, right? Considered by some to be a masterwork of “American comedy literature” and picaresque literature, I was excited to dig in. I needed a good laugh.

51zP2kOP+CL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSet in New Orleans in the late 1960s, the protagonist of the story is Ignatius J. Reilly, an overeducated 30-year-old living at home with his mother. Described as a”slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one.” Ignatius spends a majority of his time in his bedroom, writing verbose diatribes in his Big Chief notepads and scathing letters to his pen pal, Myrna. His family comes under financial stress (due in part to Ignatius), so Ignatius’ mother sends him out into the world to get a job. His adventures in joining the workforce are entertaining and the ripples reach the farthest corners of the novel. The cast of characters are familiar, funny, and whimsical renditions of New Orleans during that era. At times, it was impossible to deny the obvious echoes between the novel’s enigmatic main character and my own current predicament. I won’t give anything else away, but this is truly a book worth reading for anybody concerned they may be circling around an existential crisis.

Toole spent six years trying to get Dunces published, but ultimately, his efforts were fruitless. Despite being a beloved English professor, served in the military in Puerto Rico, and his continued pursuit of higher education, Toole became unhinged and depressed at age 30. He lost his teaching position and some would say, his grasp on reality. At age 31, he withdrew $1500 and embarked on a road trip, touring the country. Nobody’s exactly sure where he went, but he ultimately ended up in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he ran a garden hose from his exhaust pipe into his driver’s side window. When officers found his body, they said he showed “no signs of distress.”

Toole’s mother, Thelma Toole, believed her son’s writing was remarkable, and felt it was her duty to share it with the world. She continued his mission of getting the novel published, going so far as to reach out to Walker Percy, author and teacher at Loyola University. With Percy’s help, the book was eventually published in 1980, and in 1981, A Confederacy of Dunces won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Before you go calling my parents, I am nowhere near going for “one last road trip” hurrah before meeting my own garden hose fate, but I was feeling extremely downtrodden about my potential and my place in the gears of the world. Reading A Confederacy of Dunces brought some humor back into my life and inspired me to write, in a new, honest, way. Perhaps more than ever, I’m eager to re-find and craft my own, unique writing voice again.

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”  – Ignatius J. Reilly

CHE

#GivingTuesday: Lahaina Arts Association

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There’s nothing more important than cultivating creativity, especially in the form of art. I was more than thrilled to see my dear friend Erin Brothers had moved (back) to Hawaii and become Executive Director of the Maui-based Lahaina Arts Associationrecently voted “2016 Best Community Nonprofit” by the Maui Times. How cool! They offer FREE arts education to children in Lahaina and all over the island.

I’m honored to be helping the LAA with their annual campaign this year, so I wanted to share this blog post with my community a little bit and share with you about the Lahaina Arts Association in hopes you’ll consider donating on this #GivingTuesday.

LAA Annual Campaign Kicks Off on “Giving Tuesday”

Voted “2016 Best Community Nonprofit,” the Lahaina Arts Association’s Annual Campaign kicks off on Tuesday, November 26, a “holiday” known as “Giving Tuesday.” Giving Tuesday focuses on online giving to non-profit organizations amidst the post-Thanksgiving commercial rush of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” Online contributions will allow the LAA to continue to host weekly after-school art classes around Maui county, as well as supports in-school arts programs for Hana School and Kaunakakai School on Molokai.

“This program is fantastic!” One parent declares, “Our kids do not have art offered as part of their ‘regular’ school so this is the only way to expose them to the arts.” Art scholarships, no cost art education, art materials and supplies, and student exhibitions are handful of the benefits the Lahaina Arts association offers to the keiki of Maui.

The Lahaina Arts Association relies on grants and arts funding to provide FREE programs. Unfortunately, this funding may become unavailable in the future, so individual donations are needed more than ever. All donations to LAA, online or in-person, are tax-deductible.

“The Annual Campaign is the most important fundraiser of the year,” says Erin Brothers, Executive Director of the Lahaina Arts Association. “It allows the LAA to budget out spending for local art programs in the new year, as well as gauge the organization’s ability to further expand into new opportunities for local Maui artists.” It is through the generosity of our community that LAA can provide these crucial programs to children who otherwise may not have access to the arts.

Donate to the LAA’s Annual Campaign Today!

#NaNoWriMo2016: The Journal

November 30, 2016: Let’s Call it What It Is

Of the three screenplays that I wrote during the month of November, one is a “secret,” one is ongoing, and the other is finished and reposing until January. Since that’s the only one I can really talk about here, I figured it’s best to tell you what I wrote and see if there’s any interest from my friends out there in reading it.

Takeoff is the story of Justin Case, an Iraq War veteran who, after returning from a tumultuous tour in Afghanistan, got into the business of high end repossessions, specifically airplanes. Taking his assignments from Lloyd, an old man in diner by the airport, Justin and his team are sent on a mission to “retrieve” an airplane from the Middle East that is suspected of being in terrorist hands. The mission is a set-up, so Justin and his team do everything they can to find the dangerous man behind the assignment, and what they find, strikes at the very core of Justin’s existence.

I’d like to think of it as Mission Impossible meets Airplane Repo.

Let me know if you want to read it!

November 28, 2016: Winner!

NaNoWriMo_2016_WebBanner_Winner.pngIn light of recent world events (Fidel Castro), and my shortage of words for the NaNoWriMo competition, I have decided to revive one of my old projects. There’s a short window where this particular idea will hold cultural significance and value. In order to hit that window, I need to finish this particular idea, this particular screenplay, as soon as possible. I imagine it’s going to take me until the end of the year, but I’m starting it right now and including it in the NaNoWriMo word count. Whatever! I’m writing, isn’t that the most important part?

I’ll admit, this started project started with an outline and a handful of scenes written, so this isn’t completely from stone. The important part about this project is that this combines two of my favorite forms of storytelling: historical fiction and conspiracy theories. Historical fiction is as accurate to history as it can (while still remaining entertaining), and conspiracy theories are the intellectual pole vaults between the those moments. Merging these two together, depicting how conspiracy theories come into being, are some of the most interesting stories to me. This is one of those stories.

There’s significant research to be done. Books. Biographies. Documentaries. I could spend an entire year doing research into this character, but that’s all part of the journey. With screenplays in particular, the story will continue to evolve until it is projected in a theatre. If you can get the story down on the paper, you can continue to cultivate that character in updated versions, but the entertainment, the structure of the story, has bones ready for meat.

I spent the weekend at home, researching and writing. As I tend to do when it comes to these types of projects, I went through the outline, bullet by bullet, scene by scene, elaborating and making notes for later scenes. I really hit my “flow state” and let the pages just roll out of my fingertips. I’ll deal with the intricacies of dialogue later, right now, I’m looking for the knives in the back.

With a handful of #writingsprints over the weekend, I managed to break the 50,000 mark and become an official “Winner” of NaNoWriMo2016. I know there are actual prizes for people who wrote actual novels, so I don’t think I’ll really “compete” in whatever competitions exist, but maybe that’s something I’ll do next year?

I may be crossed 50,000 words, but I’m far from finished.

Word Count: 52,597/50,00

November 24, 2016: Thanksgiving Day!

I will openly admit that this blog post is being written at a later date. I was too busy writing to pull myself away to blog, so now I’m going back and filling in the gap with the comings-and-goings of my NaNoWriMo.

Yet another benefit of living in Portland as a creative human being is totality of the circumstances are incredibly conducive to getting work done. The overcast days are a constant reminder that “there’s nothing out there that’s worth enduring that rain.” (I know it’s not true, but when I have to write, I don’t mind the fact it’s raining outside.) The pounding of rain on the roof is even more relevant these days as I live in a converted attic space. (I think I’ve mentioned this before)

I acknowledged in the few earlier writings that I did do, is that I was not writing a novel, but rather, a pair of screenplays. By Thanksgiving day, the alleged date of this particular entry, I had finished the initial draft of both screenplays. I had proudly and confidently descended the stairs into my empty house, drove to a friend’s house, and consumed a delicious Dungeness Crab Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, “Crabsgiving.”

The first screenplay, the adaptation, was based on an e-book. It was partly motivational, partly autobiographical, part research paper. I chose to pursue the route of a psychological thriller, the “confined” thriller, as an opportunity for the main character to impart her wisdom and motivational prose. It didn’t come out as “long” as I wanted. It was only around 83 pages, or just under 15000 words. I’m waiting on a series of notes, but ideally I’ll be adding a good 15 to 20 pages to the film.

The second screenplay, the action film, was intended to be a mindless piece of fast-paced action with a new spin on the team dynamic. Something requiring very little thought to enjoy. I quickly wrote 90 pages, imaging the remaining scenes in the film to wrap up in the next 10 pages or so. I sat down on Monday morning and couldn’t stop writing until 10 PM that night, and I still wasn’t finished! I woke up the next day, and did the same all-day writing session, finally wrapping up on Tuesday night. 133 pages. 25,732 words.

Word Count: 40,593/50,000

November 4, 2016:

Today was a spit-shine printing day.

When I get to these points in the script, I will print out the entire script and read through it from the beginning, making the edits by hand. Because I don’t want to waste paper, I print them out two-to-a-page on a landscape page.

This is an incredibly important part of my process. It allows me to look at the story with fresher eyes, taking ink to white paper, rather than the sharp brightness of my laptop monitor. Writing my notes in the margins is a freeing experience, something I still haven’t found a good equivalent of in Final Draft. (Yeah, I know there are notes, etc) Because I’m superstitious, I normally make my edits in green ink. I don’t really know why this is, but I use a fine point pen with green ink and I edit every page by hand.

Once I’ve gotten through the entire screenplay, I will then scan the document and upload it to my computer. I know that this process could one day be streamlined with the use of Evernote, but for now, I scan and upload. Then I’ll start at the beginning, go back through the screenplay page-by-page, and make the changes from my edits. For the most part, I refer to the original hand-edited papers, but, in the event I am “on the go,” I can pull up the scanned document and apply my notes.

Without truly adding any “new material” to the screenplay, but rather, “elaborating on ideas I’d already started in the first draft,” I was able to put an additional an additional 2313 words on the script, pushing me over the 10,000 word mark.

I’m planning on taking it easy tomorrow, “doing research,” and then doing a late night push on the script, hoping to break page 60. Here’s to a job well done!

Word Count: 11,532/50,000

November 3, 2016:

Write, write, write.

Today I got to explore the characters a little more, let them settle into their scenes, and see how they would respond. It’s an interesting process to get to know characters you didn’t create and hardly know yet, especially when they’re evil. What does a particularly evil person, such as my character, do in this situation?

I also started to take the screenplay off the tracks a little bit. The source material is running thin, so I’m starting to get creative. I’m bringing back characters, giving them larger parts, and twisting their persona. The good people, might not be so good after all. And the bad people, just how bad are they?

I put another 2,273 words on paper today, which I will always consider a good day, whether it’s a screenplay, book, or blog post. But the even better feeling is that a majority of that content was fresh, grown from bullet-points watered with highlights. I love that part of the adaptation and research phase. One line, one snippet of information, a throwaway piece of dialogue, can turn into a massive part of the story. When I find those seeds, I pull them out and water them. After all, the entire screenplay is intended to be seeds for film, right?

The problem I see myself experiencing in the foreseeable future is that my source material, as a structure for creative narrative, is almost running out. More than half of the source material is “inspirational” and “motivational” in nature, which unfortunately provides me with nothing other than morsels of preachy dialogue. (“You can empower yourself to achieve your dreams,” etc.) My concern is that there won’t be enough story to reach the feature length zone, roughly 100+ pages.

Nevertheless, I’m just over 50 pages in.

Word Count: 9047/50,000

November 2, 2016:

Today was more preparation work than writing. I started the day with a solid structure of the events taking place throughout the course of the screenplay. When all was said and done on the first day, I had written roughly 29 pages. Looking at my document currently, I’m only on page 37.

What I did this morning was immensely valuable, however, as I went back through the original source material and highlighted opportunities for flashbacks and character discussions. I worked through all 120 pages and broke down the section into categories. Chances are these are going to be used as points of dialogue to extrapolate on.

Then I went back through my writing from yesterday, interjecting notes between scenes to remind myself to insert a new scene, what the scene is about, and where I can find the references in the source material. This isn’t as cut and dry as it could be, as more than a handful of the chapters in the source book are informational, rather than narrative, so they’re not that easy to work into a fictional screenplay.

Therefore, as a general tool during my writing process, I keep a separate list of plot strands, ideas, comments, anything that I can loop back to later. In this particular case, we’re talking the ex-husband, ebony magazine, quotes by Confucius, rhinoceroses, Houdini’s straight jacket, and that she said at the church in the beginning.

I was preoccupied today, but I did want to make sure that at the bare minimum, I wrote the average of 1667 words so that I could keep the momentum going into tomorrow, when I’m planning on another big day of writing. Maybe I’ll even do a couple of writing sprints! If you’re following along with me on Twitter (@themysterytin) keep an eye out in the early afternoon for an hour Writing Sprint! Let’s use the hashtag #WritingSprint!

Word Count: 6774/50,000

November 1, 2016:

Today was the first day of NaNoWriMo and I got to work with unparalleled fervor and delight. I’d read and highlighted all my notes, converted my outline into scenes in Final Draft, and I was ready to buckle down and get everything down onto paper. Today’s goal was to get as many of my highlights into the text of the screenplay.

This is part of the reason why I generally enjoy doing adaptations. I love being able to dig in deep, discovering the core ideas and concepts at play, then transferring those ideas and concepts across mediums, and breathing new life into them along the way. Every highlight is an opportunity for exploration.

The main dramatic sequence I worked on today was an armed robbery in our main character’s home. My main character was captured, tied up, and taken into the basement while her house was burglarized. During the traumatic event, she is watched over by a burglar and they begin to develop a friendship, or so she thinks.

I typically start with the skeleton, and as I go back through draft with each rewrite, I like to tie in little details along that way that support my original themes and concepts. This means the conversations between characters are typically rather shallow and the scene descriptions are scant. I do special revisions of the script just focusing on these two areas, but it’s all gotta start somewhere.

Because the entirety of my story takes place over one afternoon, there will be a number of flashbacks helping to build plot and character development. Tomorrow’s writing will be primarily focused around identifying those flashbacks and finding the right places for them in the story.

Word Count: 5086/50,000

I’m excited to be officially participating in NaNoWriMo this year. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, November is “National Novel Writing Month” encouraging writers of all ages and abilities to buckle down and write. As I am almost exclusively writing in a freelance capacity, but I decided to accept the additional challenge and to share my experiences here with my community.

You can see my official NanoWriMo Page here.

This isn’t necessarily the standard NaNoWriMo project, as I’m writing an adaptation of an e-book outline into a screenplay. There are no diehard rules about participating in the program (other than declaring I’m starting with an outline), so I still think I’m in the clear to participate and share. It doesn’t have an official title yet and I don’t think I want to share my screenplay publicly yet, as this project may one day be released under a pen name or most likely updated. Luckily, NaNoWriMo offers a “scrambling” service that allows you to scramble your text before you upload it for counting. That’ll be fun to play with, but if the going gets tough or too cumbersome, I may not update the official NaNoWriMo page as much and I’ll just focus on updating everybody here on the blog.

The word count goal is 50,000 words. Most screenplays, however, typically land in the 20-25,000 word range, and a majority of those are character names and locations that get repeated a ton, so chances are I’m not going to accomplish the word count goal, but I am confident that on November 30, 2016, I will be finished with an engaging, completed screenplay.

Current Word Count: 0/50,000

What Am I Selling?

No matter what your blog’s area of focus is, everything from creative fiction writing to business blogs, before you can sit down to write a good blog post, you need to nail down exactly what it is you’re selling. It could be a product. It could be a service. It could be your perspective. Whatever that thing is that you’re selling, that’s the starting point to creating.

So what am I selling? Depending on the venue, I’m selling something different. During the day, I’m selling Tung oil and beehives. For Mystery Tin Games, I’m selling Dinner’s Ready! But here, on the Mystery Tin blog, it may be a little bit unclear what it is I’m selling.

I’d like to think that I am a creator, and the product of my creativity is what I’m selling. Even as I’m writing it down, it feels too vague of a mission to gain traction and readership (at this point in my life). Are the products of my creative efforts in photography, art, podcasting, screenwriting and blogging solving real world problems? Dinner’s Ready! does. Tung oil does. But what about my blog? What problems am I fixing in the written musings on the Mystery Tin blog? Why have you read this far?

I think you’re here for entertainment. I think you’re here for inspiration. I think you’re here to laugh and most importantly, I hope you’re here on the off chance you might even learn a little bit. And I think you’ve read this far because you may feel the same way about some of your own endeavors. 

Okay. Let’s see, that sounds easy enough. My target audience is comprised of people seeking out a good story with a take-away moral cleverly tucked in between the laughs. That doesn’t sound like an easy egg to crack.

Perhaps my goal is to contribute to a growing community of creative storytellers across many intellectual genres; art, technology, politics, writing, science, comedy, all beautifully sharing with one another the delicacies of their crafts and supporting the successes of one another. A journey of creative discovery, taking place on the digital pages of the Mystery Tin blog. Learning! Now we’re getting somewhere.

So why would you come back to this blog rather than any others in the community? What could I possibly teach you that you couldn’t find better somewhere else? The easiest answer is that it starts with good, interesting content from my perspective on my own circumstances. My writing needs to be decisive and actionable. Recalling casual hikes and posting pictures of my lunch isn’t going to build a community. Empowering other artists through the life lessons gleaned from my personal experiences should be underlying theme of the best posts on my blog.

The other essential key to a successful blog is consistency. I set my watch according to the releases of my favorite blogs, television shows, and podcasts. Why can’t the Mystery Tin blog be that beacon on someone else’s list of important weekly events? Honestly, there’s no reason it can’t be.

Entertaining stories with a takeaway lesson… I can sell that.

What are you selling?