23 December 2007 - 14:13Book Review: The Dip - when to stick and when to quit

“Being best in the world is seriously underrated.” - Seth Godin

Seth Godin isn’t a writing guru, but rather a marketing, business and entrepreneurship guru. He has a lot of interesting things to say about the future, and especially about things that writers should be thinking about. What are distribution channels going to look like in the future, how to wisely market oneself, how to win out in a very competitive world. You can visit his blog by clicking here.

He’s published a lot of books — mostly collections of essays — but his most quietly important book is “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)” This is a critical book for most writers.

Most of us take a look at the odds and know that there is very little chance of making it in the business. And that leaves us with a temptation to look at this business as a gamble. But it isn’t. It’s just a really hard business to break into, and it has a really big dip you have to get through to get there. And it isn’t just persistance that will get you there. You’ve got to become Best In The World.

And to become best in the world, you have to quit the things that you _won’t_ be best in the world at. (Godin goes back and forth on this — certainly there are things that are “due paying” that get you to best in the world at something else, but you have to be careful to keep your eyes on the prize, and not let it sidetrack you. Here’s an interesting blog post on getting sidetracked in a Hollywood career at Genius Types — “Directors direct and Writers write.” )

Some of us do need to quit. There are certainly a lot of writers out there who won’t make it. This book can be discouraging, at least if your strategy has been to close your eyes and shake the dice. Forget that. The dice are loaded. This business has a huge “dip” — the hard part that makes most people quit. Is getting to the other side worth it for you? This book helps you figure that out, and it is ultimately encouraging.

See the dip is a measure of how worthy the goal is. The dip, he says, is the reason you’re here.

No Comments | Tags: productivity

15 December 2007 - 14:10Goals

It’s funny how a simple goal can be magic.

For a few months now I’ve been putting a lot of my life in order, juggling committments, ‘learning experiences’ and a number of different career strategies. I’ve been reading a lot, thinking a lot. And in my various readings, I came across an Internet Meme. You know what an Internet Meme is, don’t you? It’s where everybody names sixteen places you want to visit before you die, or five books that most influenced you as a child, or ten characters in fiction you’d most want to kill off.

I usually hate those.

However, this one struck a chord with my reorganization efforts: 101 Things in 1001 Days. You make a list of specific things you want to accomplish in the next 143 weeks. 101 is a big enough number to make you really think about what you want out of life, and 1001 days is long enough to actually get some of the more ambitious projects done.

And I was going to start working on the list over break, and start the 1001 days sometime around New Years. But then I got a salsa packet at Taco Bell that said “Make a Wish.” (Taco Bell salsa packets have little sayings on them, for those of you who avoid the place.)

And I made a wish.

And suddenly my entire freaking life snapped into focus.

My “101 Things” list is now full. It looks something like this:

  1. Win a Nicholl Fellowship.
  2. Win a Nicholl Fellowship.
  3. Win a Nicholl Fellowship.
  4. Win a Nicholl Fellowship.
  5. etc.

(Somewhere around 59 there might be a “Lose ten pounds” or “eat more apples”, but I don’t think so.)

Sometimes realistic goals are good — and that’s when you make a lot of them. But sometimes you need what one of the business gurus out there calls a Big Fat Hairy-Ass Goal. And sometimes all you need is the right BFHAG, and everything else falls into place.

Of course, the reason a Nicholl Fellowship is so perfect is because you can’t win one without new scripts, and you can’t win one without at least one freaking brilliant new script. So it encompasses all the most important other goals.

Eyes on the Prize.

No Comments | Tags: contests

11 December 2007 - 22:23American Gem Competition

I was thinking of entering the American Gem Synopsis competition, and maybe even the Logline competition. However, I read through the fine print on their rules, I think it’s time to RUN AWAY!

They don’t offer a cash prize, they charge a full sized entry fee — and yet they want seven percent of all proceeds from your script! YIKES!

I was going to practice pitching some ideas I haven’t written yet, but I do not need a non-agent taking agenting fees. (Especially when I’m paying THEM to read it, and the subsequent publicity is as much for their competition as for my work.)

Always read through the fine print.

No Comments | Tags: contests

10 December 2007 - 19:47Podcast: KCRW The Business

I’ve really gotten into podcasts lately. They’re downloadable (and free) audio and video shows for your iPod or other media player. Anything from Joke of the Day to a rebroadcast of the NBC Nightly News (often posted as soon as it hits the airwaves or sooner!). There are a lot of cool little shows, like “Feed Me Bubbe” - a kosher cooking show featuring the producer’s grandmother, who shows you how to make latkes and tsimis and chicken soup.

And there are a lot of great shows for screenwriters and others in Show Biz. Including a weekly half-hour news show from KCRW called “The Business“. Claude Roedesser-Ackner reports the news, makes wry commentary, and interviews various people in entertainment. If you don’t already listen to this on the radio, you really should subscribe to the podcast.

You can get this through the KCRW podcast site, which has links to directly download each individual show as an MP3, or to a subscription through iTunes. It’s a free resource. Make use of it!

ADDED NOTE: Right now, “The Business” has some great posts on the history and background of the strike. iTunes only keeps five of these episodes online at a time, and the first of a great two part episode is now at the bottom of the list: Interview with Mark Norman, author of “What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting” (You can get older episodes directly through the KCRW site above.)

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10 December 2007 - 19:03Talk about under construction!

The dust has not only not settled, it has barely risen. Expect radical changes through all of December. (And beyond.)

This blog will be about writing. I expect mainly to fill it with three things:

Commentary tracks: a close study, scene-by-scene, of various movies. I’m doing this for myself — as a method of getting to the next level. I’ll probably do them in seven parts, depending on each flick. I don’t know if I will continue this pattern, but for now, I am picking a mediocre movie, and a great movie that speaks to the same issues. Right now I’m analyzing “The Contract” a direct to video thriller with excellent talent, no particular mistakes, yet not a lot of oomph. I will then go on to Hitchcock’s first version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” which conquered similar problems with a lot of panache. However, since I am distractable, I will not begin posting a Commentary Track series until I’ve finished writing it.

Reviews and resources: I come across a lot of books, podcasts, websites, so I’ll be posting info about them — some short, some long. Some of these resources will be about screenwriting, but some of them will be about marketing and productivity and business. I’ve found a lot of such resources to be extremely useful to me as a writer. (Disclaimer: I will sometimes add purchase links for items that are sold at Amazon. I will recieve small kickbacks from Amazon if you buy anything after entering the store though one of my links.)

Learning Experiences and Opinion Pieces: I don’t know how often I will post these, I’m sure I will sometimes come across a learning experience I want to share, or have a pet-peeve I want to vent.

As for the Pitchlady synopsis service, you can find that Right Here.

No Comments | Tags: Blog Business