God knows it’s popular to snark about the very idea of New Year’s resolutions. And the snark is aaaaaall true. Those new sneakers aren’t going to exercise themselves.
But there’s still something magical about transitions. They put things in perspective, at least temporarily. 11:59 pm on New Year’s Eve can be like a graduation, or a little death; like the line where the ocean meets the land.
Or where the tip of the unicorn’s horn hits the air and sparkles.
(Phew. There it is. I thought I was going to suffocate, with all the Chariots of Fire, Serious Business-isssht up in here.)
So: Graduation. Death. Waves lapping the sand. Sparkles. These are the traditional harbingers of Time To Do Something New Cuz What You’re Doing Now Isn’t Getting You What You Want.
The sparkles and the tassels and the little bubbles are all asking you:
What are you waiting for?
No, really. What?
Everybody feels that urge. Everybody wants to answer that question.
But, most people don’t know how to do anything with it. Not really. Not something that’ll stick, that’ll last. There’s no shame in that....
If you want to change what you get by changing what you do in 2015 — especially if what you want to do is to start creating financial freedom — I’m here to help.
Don’t favorite this post
Use this post. Don’t save it, fave it, store it, read it later. Do it now. Devote the power of your attention to doing.
My advice to you would be: Take this week, and every day, really tackle one of the larger sections.
Is that asking a lot… Maybe it is, but you know what? That’s how you get a lot.
Here’s what you need to do to get what you want in the now and now wait for a new year (to be older, more tired, and more frustrated) New
_Find your “Fuck This” moment._
_Fix your mental model of success._
_Learn how to start — and keep going._
1. Find your “Fuck This” moment
First off, come to grips with reality:
The biggest ingredient of change is actually wanting to change — really being ready for it.
You can have all the skills & knowledge you need and yet live another 365 days that were a carbon copy of the 365 days before them.
No, thinking that you should lose weight, or should spend more time on your hobbies, or should start marketing, or should launch a product in 2015 is not enough. “Shoulds” are a type of forced incentive, and you’ll rebel against that vaporous “authority” when the going gets tough.
One of the most striking things from my 4 years’ experience helping my students create & launch products is this:
All of our best students had a “Fuck THIS” moment about their current reality before they really doubled down and made change happen. Every last one of them. That is the one thing they all have in common.
It’s that “Fuck THIS” moment (FTM!) that proves to yourself that you are ready. It’s striking a match to the kindling of your life.
If you haven’t had your FTM, it’s time to cultivate one. You can, you know. You don’t have to wait til life gets worse (although that’s a popular choice.)
As Yeats wrote, “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.”
You can cultivate your own FTM it by sitting down and thinking really hard about your life, as it is today, and what sucks about it… that you can change… and how that suckitude affects you every day.
Yeah, that’s the exact opposite of gratitude. Yeah, I’m actually encouraging you to have a bitchfest. This is really happening.
Most of us go along to get along, and we downplay the problems we experience and we move on — that’s how we cope. That’s how we manage to avoid feeling like whiny bitches. But, being dishonest about problems is being dishonest about reality. Dishonesty sucks.
Being honest about your life is the only way to trigger your “Fuck This” moment. It’s the only way to generate the raw fuel for change.
That’s why “Fuck This” moments usually come after a huge, horrible shitfest:
There’s not enough energy in the world to repress that shit, to deny what’s going on, so you finally face it, and blammo! Life-changing.
But you don’t have to wait til you have a huge crisis to change. You can cultivate an FTM on purpose.
Example: I want to be tidier. But “wanting to be tidier” is such a milquetoast feeling. So when I want to get fired up, I think about all the little moments when I look at a mess, and feel bad, and stuff that feeling down so I can get along, and holy crap how much time am I wasting feeling bad? How much energy does that repression take? Less than cleaning up, I can assure you.
And it’s not that I “want to be tidier” but that I want to feel the satisfaction & power of seeing a problem and fixing it… or avoiding it altogether.
So I’ve been cultivating that FTM repeatedly… and using it to fuel the motions of picking things up when I see them.
The real secret is… that iron of suckitude is already hot. You just can’t feel it through the layers of self-protective bullshit it’s swaddled in.
Better unwrap it now, or some day those blankets are going to catch on fire.
Need some guidance on where to start? Read this post, and see how much of yourself you recognize in it… and how badly those attitudes are serving you:
Important Note: If you struggle with depression, I would advise against doing this exercise right now. Instead, my very best advice is to get and use this Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart" — specifically the audiobook — because it’s the best thing I’ve ever found to help you build up a tolerance to bad feelings when you feel like they’re going to spiral out of control. It totally changed my life, and many of the folks I’ve given it to have said it did the same for them.
2: Fix your mental model of success.
So: You can’t have your motivating FTM without embracing reality — and the slings & arrows thereof.
You also can’t create success without understanding what success really looks like. Which means more layers of BS to unwrap & discard, cuz…
How can you hit a target you don’t even see?
Our industry does not have good models for success. Very few of us have had the opportunity to watch somebody start from nothing and end up with something.
That’s why we rely on trite success myths churned out by hacks: All hail the overnight social startup success! All hail the mighty passion! All hail the pitch deck!
If all you know about success is what you read on Hacker News and Business Insider, that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to model your very real life on a hack movie script.
Once you learn about this dark pattern — in your life, in your community, in the media — you’ll see it everywhere. Because it is everywhere. It has the two ingredients necessary to propagate itself: It’s sexy, and it doesn’t work. At all.
But this will:
In 2015, make this your mantra:
There is no such thing as an overnight success.
There is no such thing as an overnight success.
There is no such thing as an overnight success.
There is only stacking the bricks.
3: Learn how to start — and keep going.
I know I’m asking you to read and watch and think a lot before you do anything. I know that’s not the most exciting thing ever. And you know, and I know, that consuming is not the way skills are built.
But to tackle the next two steps which are all about doing, it’s important to be able to visualize what it is you’re trying to do.
How do you make success happen?
Tiny wins, made regularly.
One tiny win won’t do it. Neither will five. No, success is made up of the accumulation of hundreds of tiny wins — and to get that many, you need to work at it over & over & over again.
Tiny wins don’t look like much at first:
shipping a single blog post
…and another, and another
adding 5 subscribers to your newsletter
writing one page
fixing one bug
recording one short video
making your very first sale
receiving a single happy email from a reader or customer
These bullet points don’t look like much. But that’s the way that 37signals built their empire. That’s the way I built — and continue to build — mine.
It’s the power of compound interest on action.
These boring little bullet points tell the story of so many truly successful people — but it’s not a story that gets told often because the people doing it are usually too busy stacking the bricks to yak… and the people who would tell it for them, don’t, because it’s just so damn unsexy.
As Thomas Edison once wrote, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
So tug your overalls on and prepare to get dirty — in tiny patches.
There are four techniques that I teach my students that truly work:
**Create good habits… and build on them.**
**Motivate yourself with measurable progress, and nothing else.**
**Learn to love the action and not the results.**
I’ve written and spoken a bunch about this — and actually, it’s also the topic of my next product TheWritersRetreat.
It’s so unsexy, and it’s so important, and when we added this to the curriculum, our students dramatically increased their actionability rate.
But, here’s how you can get started right now:
The core is habits, habits, habits
Watch this videos that I made for the Retreat, and am now releasing to the wild, to you, gratis:
Watch the video below
"Finish Your Damn Script and Get it Produced"
BTW: As we talked about ages ago in the beginning of this guide… don’t “watch” passively. Passive won’t get you anywhere. I strongly, highly encourage you to actually do the exercises.
And if you want to learn more — and to get habits practice — and get detailed help on how to set up habits specifically to write and FINISH script.
One, sign up for Tiny Habits. It’s free, and it will help you get much-needed practice.
Two, sign up for my newsletter (all the way at the bottom… when you get there).
Motivate yourself properly.
Just about everything you’ve heard, read, and thought about motivation is wrong. Read this to find out why, and what to do about it:
How do you stay motivated when you’re not making any money?
And if our feelings say “Gee, I don’t feel successful… why am I doing this again?” — we tend to stop bothering, because the reward we were angling for wasn’t the joy of doing or even the objective outcome but our feelings about it. Like a junkie searching for his next high.
That’s just way the world shapes us, so there’s nothing to be ashamed about. But it is something to change… and this servile relationship with our feelings is as much as habit as anything else.
Time to go to rehab.
Learn to love action, not results.
Remember my example about “be tidier”?
Well, the joy of being tidier isn’t so much about the house looking pretty. It’s not even so much about eliminating the bad feelings.
No, it’s really, deep down, about the joy of being a person of action: of seeing a problem, taking the initiative to fix it, and making a change in the world. Even if it’s just from making the bed.
Research has shown repeatedly that
People who create a foundation habit, like making the bed, do better in all other areas of self-control. (REALLY.)
Leaving things undone is hell on your psyche.
The same is true about your lil baby business… or the intention to have one, left undone.
To put the emotional cart behind the action horse — and start loving reality — use the habit loop:
Spot the triggers for your emotional self-manipulation, and the rewards of that pattern, and use that to de-chunk and break it down. Replace it with something more effective.
The next time you have a good feeling — “YES, I’M GONNA DO THIS!!” — or a bad one — “I’ve been working on this for weeks and now somebody else did something just like it? This is hopeless!”…
Teach yourself to ask, “Hmm. Is there truth to this? Where’s the evidence? What should I do about it?”
Then you look at:
Where you are now.
Where you want to be.
How you can get there… and what you can do about it right now.
And that’s how you motivate yourself properly.
(Speaking of emotions — how about that whole “fear” thing? Same shit, different chemical compound.)
How do you build that map?
Where you are now — where you want to be — how you can get there, starting right this very second?
4: Start Small.
So, here we are at the end. Finally. Congrats on making it this far… if you did more than just skim and feel good about what you read. (If that’s how you got here, ask yourself: Is that going to help you achieve your goals?)
Let’s review. You’ve learned — or gotten the material you need to learn…
What an FTM is, why you need it, and how to have one.
That the way to success isn’t a dramatic 4-part act — it’s the daily stacking the bricks.
How you can use the habit loop to change, well, everything… in tiny increments.
How your motivational model is wrong, and how you can put your feelings in their proper place.
How to short-circuit script failure by planning backwards.
Get yourself a beer, my friend. You deserve it.
And that brings us to your final mandate: Start small.
I almost don’t have to put anything in here, do I? That lesson is scattered throughout every single part of this guide. From understanding success, to stacking the bricks, to tiny habits, to backwards planning… every single part focuses on small, achievable, actions.
But if you’d like some specific advice on what you can do right now… I’m prepared to give it to you.
Here’s how to start:
- Grab yourself a free weebly website with an actor page and a blog, if you don’t have a website already. Want the a page that casting folks will actually look at: follow the format here. Headshot/reel, resume and contact info all on the same page...no clicking away to other pages, no dark colors and graphics that make it hard to read. Think business letter because that's what your actor page is.
- Look at the audiences you belong to: Are you a screenwriter? an woman writer, web series creator? A filmmaker? An actor making your own work? A solo performer?
- Identify several questions people in your audience often have — these can be technical, philosophical, financial, specific, general, whatever.
- Write a blog post answering one of them.
- Tweet about it. Email it to your friends (but don’t spam them).
- Do it again next week.
- You'll then have a following which is super important when trying to raise money for your acting career
It’s really that simple. This is how empires are started: through empathy, and service. Give them a place to discover you.
Not just writing hoping for the best...(puh-leaz)
Want more detail?
Read, study & apply:
How do you move into film and TV?
Want practice & support?
Everything I’ve written about in this post — and all the videos — are the core concepts behind the an upcoming class which hasn't been announced yet. But essentially, I'll be teaching folks
How to move their careers into TV/Film
How to Raise Money to Finance Your Career
How to Quit Your Day Job in 12 months and work as a full-time artist
How to Make a Living as a Full-Time Actor in Film/TV
Oh, just come give me your money and hope for the best ...lol
This is art meets business strategy. Folk get "discovered" because they put a plan in place to get them noticed and ready to deliver the goods. These are artist/entreprenuers who take the steps outlined in this class...
Action is our philosophy.
Stay tuned for more info...
And in the meantime, please complete our survey and we'll give you the FREE webinar: How to Move into Film & TV
Click here now!
Let's Do This.
Love, Light & Power,
April & TheWritersRoom Team
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson