Distractions aren’t the Enemy. WE are!

Know all those distractions that seem to band together to clobber us when we sit down to write? Ever wonder what kind of monstrous villain would create such bullies to keep us from realizing our potential? Try this on for size: Our foe is us.

by Patrick Allan

Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker’s weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and how you can use its waters to reflect on and improve your life.

This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius’ and his Meditations. He has some thoughts on the things which distract us from our goals in our day to day lives:

The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgement of them calm and they too will stay still – then you will not be seen either to pursue or to avoid. – Meditations, 11.11

What It Means

One of the main ideas Aurelius focuses on in his stoic writings is the notion that the mind is immune to all external things. For example, you can’t control a situation’s circumstances, but since they do not affect your mind, you can control how you react to them. The same goes for all of the “external things” you pursue or try to avoid when you’re trying to get work done.

You do not pursue distractions because they command you to do so; you pursue them because your mind chooses to. You do not avoid distractions because of their nature; you avoid them because you believe you can’t control yourself around them. Basically, something is a distraction because you allow it to be, because you judge it so. All distractions require your input for them to exist—otherwise they are just a thing that exists in the world.

But if you adjust your input, if you choose to see those external things as just that, as things, they lose their draw. When you’re not pursuing or avoiding something, it’s simply there. Out of judgement, out of mind.

This concept can be hard to grasp at first, so perhaps a real-world example is the best way to explain its practicality. Say, you have a video game that’s eating up all of your free time. You know you have side projects to work on, errands to run, and relationships to maintain, but this game is keeping your from getting anything of value done…

Read it all at Lifehacker

Cartoon: ‘Iridescence’

Speaking of cartoons and insight (as we were just a couple of days ago), Grant Snider’s got it down:

 

Or, as some German dood name of Goethe once said: “There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.” Grant Snider doesn’t just know these things. He sees them, hears them, and most importantly feels them.

More of Grant Snider’s sensitive perception at Incidental Comics, HERE

Buy his wonderful new book HERE

Web Series: ‘The Vamps Next Door’

NOTE FROM LB: Want to see what a web series episode with a million and a half views looks like? Click “play” on the video below.

by Larry Brody

There I was, on the back deck of the Brody home that isn’t Cloud Creek Ranch, having a fine old end of summer convo with my wife, Gwen the Beautiful, and two old friends, and suddenly the Missus of the friends, Laura Conway, casually mentions, “I’ve been making a couple of web series. They’re a lot of fun.”

And without missing a beat, the Mistah of the couple, Gerry Conway (yes, this Gerry Conway), equally casually says, “Laura’s shows have over three million views.”

“Three million views?” was all I could say.

“Yep,” Gerry said.

“And you never told me before?”

“I haven’t told very many people at all about the shows,” Laura said.

“Why not?” I said.

“She’s shy,” Gerry said.

Laura nodded. “I am. I’m shy.”

So, because I’m not so shy, let me repeat the most cogent fact here, because, well, because how can I not?

Three million views.

Fucking three fucking million fucking views!

And not only had I never known that Laura was doing this, I’d neither heard about nor seen any of her shows anywhere before.

Those of you who know me know where this is going. I have now watched Laura Conway’s absolutely mind-blowingly professional top scoring in every aspect series, The Vamps Next Door, and I’m absolutely blown away.

The episode above, “Hurt So Good,” is the most popular in the series, but the others are all just as good. Scripts, direction, acting, production values, we’re talking stuff that puts the original Dark Shadows to shame. Oh, and in case you haven’t watched the embed yet, I gotta tell you: The Vamps Next Door is funny.

To me, one of the most interesting thing about The Vamps Next Door is that Laura was a total noob when she started it, seven years ago. If you watch the earlier episodes, they’re rough, unpolished, fraught with the errors all new filmmakers make.  But she learned, and is still learning, the way a true creator does.

You can find out more about the show HERE, and you definitely should.

Thank you, Laura, for finally coming out of the closet!

Oh hell, here’s an episode of Laura’s other show, Ageless. It left me speechless when I first saw it, but I’m sure we’ll talk more about this later:

John Ostrander: The Family of Sociopaths

This gallery contains 4 photos.

by John Ostrander Commercials are the point of commercial TV. I realize that, for those of you who do only streaming services, this concept may seem a bit foreign, but your monthly fees take the place of paid commercials, assuming the streaming service isn’t double-dipping. Advertisers buy time to pitch products and/or services and/or whatever […]

Carlton Cuse on What He’s Learned Since ‘Lost’

Step right up, ladies and gents, for a good, long look into a showrunner’s mind. And you thought you were obsessed?

THE STRAIN

by Ben Travers

Carlton Cuse knows how to end a TV show. Before co-writing the last episode of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s apocalyptic vampire story, “The Strain,” the showrunner and executive producer had already written four series finales. Four!

In 2000, Cuse penned “Final Conflict” Part 1 and Part 2 for the CBS action drama “Martial Law.” A year later, he wrote the ending to his breakthrough broadcast series, “Nash Bridges.” Then came the landmark finale of “Lost” in 2010 and, earlier this year, he dimmed the vacancy sign at the “Bates Motel” in a beautiful closing chapter.

Next up, as “The Strain” wraps up on Sunday, September 17, Cuse said he knew exactly how to end it.

“I think that to end a show, you have to really look at what your show is fundamentally about and then figure out your ending from that,” Cuse told IndieWire. “In the case of ‘The Strain,’ it’s a graphic novel epidemiological thriller. I think we view it as a wonderful popcorn movie experience: There is a clear force of antagonism, this Master — a vampiric parasitic creature — and there are a bunch of protagonists that are trying to do him in.

“I think that the fair and right ending to ‘The Strain’ is one that gives you a real sense of what the ultimate fate of these characters are and ultimately resolves the conflict between a clear force of antagonism and a clear force of protagonism.”

Not every show necessitates a showdown between good and evil. Some are more complicated, including one of the most hotly debated series finales ever.

“Certainly when Damon [Lindelof] and I wrote the ending for ‘Lost,’ we felt like there was no version where we could answer all of the mystery questions without feeling didactic and unsatisfying,” he said. “The attempt to answer those questions would ultimately just lead to more questions. What we felt was important was to provide a character resolution to explain what happened to them and to provide them with a sense of emotional closure.”

A lot has changed since “Lost” ended, including the very system that led to all those questions stacking up. Prestige drama projects have been snatched up by cable and streaming outlets, which allow for shorter seasons and less seasons overall. (Both length-related issues were regular sticking points for Cuse and Lindelof when negotiating with ABC.)

Such shifts in how television is made emphasize the importance of Cuse’s experience writing finales: He’s done it under the harshest conditions as well as the most idyllic.

Back when “Lost” was made, Cuse describes the network television mentality “like the pony express: you rode the horse until it dropped dead from underneath you… The idea that we made 24 hours in the first season, 23 the second, and 22 in the third, I mean it’s just… In an era of orders of eight [episodes per season], it’s kind of incomprehensible….”

Read it all at Indiewire

Facing My Fears

by Marc Alan Fishman

NOTE FROM LB: On one level, this is an article about writing and selling indie comics. But when I read this beautiful piece in ComicMix last weekend it communicated to me on a whole other level. I think that one of the lessons all creatives learn as they grow up is how much courage it takes just to be ourselves.

In this piece, Unshaven Comics’ Marc Alan Fishman not only faces his – and our – eternal dilemma, he also gives us a wonderful trick for overcoming. A great read for everyone:


Unshaven Comics’ trek to Hotlanta for the annual Dragon Con had me face down several fears all at once. As Unshaven Matt Wright was sidelined due to a babysitting emergency, the biggest fear for me was knowing that our terrific trio was reduced to a dingy duo. Beyond that, there was the continual fear that our little shtick will finally reach the point that it doesn’t garner the excitement we count on to close sales. Add that ennui to the more concrete fear that a ten-hour trip in the car while completing the Whole 30 diet – one that forced me to give up everything but lean protein, fruits and vegetables – would make what is normally a doabledrive become something more akin to the trek undertaken by a ragtag fellowship of adventurers trying to ditch a silly ring.

Backup just a wee bit further and I was dealing with the fear of finishing our comic. In what was our second year without a new book to bring out to shows, the creeping horror of attending a show yet again without anything new to our names had forced me to use vacation time from my day job – and then working 12 hours a day to ensure we limped across the finish line. But once production was done on the digital end? Well, then came all the tiny nightmares: getting gigs of data over to our printer intact, checking proofs, correcting errors, and then awaiting the full order for Atlanta to be printed, cut, and stapled.

For the last five years or so my comic series The Samurnauts has been a comfortable and fruitful universe to play in. The rules had been well defined by myself and my Unshaven cohorts. Our stories had been written and everything stayed right in my wheelhouse. That house, you ask? Taking those things I loved growing up, and putting a new twist on them to produce something that kids would enjoy, but adults could appreciate the layers built below the surface of the shiny comic action. But Mine! is a beast far outside the realm of immortal Kung-Fu monkeys and zombie-cyborg space pirates.

So there I sat with the blank screen blinding me. No collaborator to bounce ideas off of. A deadline perilously perched at the precipice of my palms. And no alliterative allegories alerting me to an able-bodied antiphon. If Sinestro were real? I could charge his ring from the sweat forming on my brow. Here, with this opportunity to be a part of a book alongside living legends (too many to mention), did I actually have a leg to stand on… or was I destined to tuck my tail between my legs and just scamper off to make some toys tussle with one-another.

In all of these situations, I am lucky now to be a father. To see in my two sons how fear (and the reaction to it) molds who we are. Be it my younger, Colton, timid and terrified of a two-foot tall Domo I was making wave, or my older, Bennett, scared to even open his mouth for a patient dental hygienist. In both of them, I see myself. Scared, and frozen as I try to check-down the possibilities. Would Unshaven Comics not sell well? Would Samurnautssimply remain forever incomplete? Would I have an original idea to sit in the same book with the likes of Mark Waid, Neil Gaiman, John Ostrander, or Brian Azzarello…?

Read it all at ComicMix

Larry Brody: TVWriter University Fall 2017 Update

by Larry Brody

It rained last night, the slow, easy, beautiful rain that’s a big part of what makes the Pacific Northwest so wonderful. This is the first real sign of Fall here at TVWriter™ Central and a sign that it’s time to plunge right into action with new classes.

So here’s what’s happening:

LARRY BRODY’S MASTER CLASS

The 33rd Master Class, AKA The Class for Pro Level Writers Who Firmly Believe They Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Classes begins next week, AKA Thursday, Sept. 28th.

The Master Class is held entirely online. It’s the one where we start off by reading the completed first draft of your current passion (or paid) project and then take it through 4 weeks of revisions to give you all the help we can to make this your career best.

The absolute max number of students for the Master Class is 3, and 2 places are still open. If you think you qualify and will have a finished first draft of your latest literary child for us to work with by Sept. 28th, let me know, ASAP, via email HERE.

For more info about the Master Class the place to visit is HERE

TVWRITER™ ONLINE TV & FILM WRITING WORKSHOP

Our 167th Online Workshop will start Wednesday, Sept. 27th.

Most students in this, our most popular offering, return time after time, but as of this writing 2 places remain in this class of 5.

The Online Workshop is the one tailored specifically for each member. If you’re new to TV or film writing we bring you through the basics via weekly assignments until you’re ready to run with a full teleplay or screenplay of your own. If you know your way around the format, then the class is all about uploading 10 pages a week for your classmates and me read and discuss and give you insight into what can make the delicious goodness of your work even tastier.

More info about the Advanced Workshop is HERE

It’s always a joy for me to work with fresh, eager new writers. I’m more than happy to answer any Online Workshop questions HERE

LYMI, LB