Reflecting on AFF One Year Later

Austin Film Festival - FilmFreeway

Last year at this time I was preparing to head off to the Austin Film Festival Screenwriter’s Conference. My first (and only) time at any such event. I had finally chosen to invest in myself, and I was so excited at the prospect.

I had no real idea of what to expect.

It was more than I imagined. A year later and I’m still beyond delighted I chose to go. I was surrounded by like-minded individuals. I was listening to professionals offer sage advice and found the common thread that united us all. We were creatives. I was invigorated and inspired, and made the decision to quit my exhausting-body wrecking-causing-me-to-drink job on the second night. I did my best to get out of my comfort zone and walk up to strangers to start conversations knowing the purpose of my attendance was to meet other writers. And I did.

And one year later, many of them are doing amazing things.

And I…am envious.

I had big plans after the conference. I did indeed quit my job. Upon my return home, I gave notice and it was like a weight was immediately lifted. The Sis and I began talking about a move because Las Vegas was only meant to be temporary and it had been 5 years. I started to formulate a plan for, not only my writing goals, but also my life goals. Things were looking up.

We visited Washington state in March as a research trip for the move just as the first cases of the virus made their appearance. And it went downhill from there.

I was suddenly frozen. The uncertainty of it all…I was at a loss of how to proceed. In those early months, thinking about writing, of being creative was nearly impossible. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a blog post to commiserate.

I was in awe of those people who were going about their “business as usual”. That mentality escaped me, for a long time. I could barely find comfort or escape in a film, and have found myself way behind in my “One Movie a Week Challenge”. I never expected to be so affected by anxiety. Thankfully, in all this, I discovered yoga.

Then there’s the political stage.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see the news and feel a sense of relief instead of all this?!

So here I am. A year after one of the most inspiring, motivating weekends in my life, and am no better for it. One friend is waiting to hear back on a directing fellowship for her short. One is meeting with a producer for her unique script. One is winning competitions and shooting a script. One is currently directing her project, pitching other ideas while on set, and winning awards.

I am absolutely thrilled for them all! It is inspiring to know these women as they make their way in the industry. And these are also the people I am in awe of. While I found myself almost paralyzed by indecision and the external constraints, they endured.

When it became clear that there was no immediate relief in sight, and after reading a poorly written published novel, I got off my ass and started to write. It’s been slow, but the spark is there. I realized, finally, that no matter what was happening outside, I am miserable and without purpose when I’m not pursuing my dream. I have had too many gaps in my life of not writing and focusing on irrelevant things, and I always regret those times. Time wasted.

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

The older I get, the more I understand how precious time truly is. Should I fail to succeed in the pursuit of my dream of becoming a professional writer, I’m not sure how that will feel in the end. I don’t like the way it feels now.

So, it’s taken nearly a year to come back to the realization, but here I am. I’m grateful to those at AFF who gave me so many opportunities to meet the fearless women I now call my friends. I wish them every success, and hope to count my own among theirs soon.

Welcome to 2020

20202Happy New Year, friends!

Can you believe it?  Not only has another year ended, but we’re now in a new decade.  I’m still of the mindset that the 90s were the last decade because to think otherwise is just ridiculous.  How could it be, now, 20+ years ago?!

I tend to bring in the new year doing the one thing I hope to be doing the rest of it, writing, but I’ll come clean, I haven’t been able to write since quitting my job.  I, instead chose to spend it with one of my favorite people, Jane Austen.  I completed my “One New Movie-a-Week” Challenge last week with Rise of the Skywalker, but I thought it might be a nice motivator to watch a movie, a world I want to be a part of, instead.  I had not seen the film Love and Friendship, based on the novella, Lady Susan, and while I’ll have more to say on it in my next post about my movie challenge, it got me thinking about my own writing.  So at least there’s that.

I nearly finished my Goodreads reading challenge of 12 books, a despicably low number, I know.  I kept seeing these posts that if you want to be a writer and don’t make the time to read you can’t really be a writer.  I was a much better reader a few years ago when my schedule permitted me to do things in a particular order.  Now, I’m trying to implement that old schedule into my new daily routine.  When I realized the end of the year was nigh and I wasn’t going to make my goal, I had to reevaluate a few things.

In that reevaluation was the thought that maybe I had set myself up for failure by expecting too much of myself throughout the year.  I already knew the job was not allowing me to accomplish much, so achieving some of those goals was always going to be difficult, if not impossible.  While I did complete a few of the tasks I had set out to do, like attending my first screenwriter’s conference, others, like the reading challenge, fell by the wayside.  How could I possibly expect so much when days, weeks, and even months passed without a glance towards my passions?

I have to look at this year’s goal setting a bit differently.  Remember, I don’t like resolutions, and I don’t think January 1st is a magic reset button, but it is an unavoidable marker for moving forward and starting anew.  The outside world has dates and seasons for meeting goals, and a new year puts much of that into perspective.  But there are things that I continue to carry over each year that I want to do that, while time consuming, are still worthy goals to pursue.  It’s just going to take some patience and clever maneuvering, and not be at the forefront while more pressing matters are attended to.

What do you want to accomplish this year?  How will you set out to ensure you reach that goal?

set and reach goal concept

Here’s one of my favorite goal setting images for inspiration.  Now let’s go crush 2020!

Quote Monday

Everyone’s posting year end reviews and goal updates, and even as I, myself, am doing some reflection, if you’ve followed me for a while, you know I don’t like resolutions, one can’t help but look back on what’s been accomplished in the course of a year.  It’s also the end of a decade, so there’s even more to think on.

While the beginning of a new year is a great jumping off point, you can start something new or achieve a goal at any time.

Start where you are quote

I’m sure I’ve used this quote before, but as The Sis and I begin to prepare for a new journey, this quote seemed rather apropos.

Happy Monday!

Quote Monday

Quote Mondays are back!

My days of slack are over.  My two-week self-imposed vacation must come to an end and the reason for said vacation must begin – following my dream.  Mondays are a great day to start a new thing.

So let my future commence today!

Don't downgrade your dream

What do you want to accomplish today?

Happy Writing!

Writer’s Slump

I’ve been quiet…for a while. Initially it was because I was focused on my work. My real work. I’m still disconnected from the day job since the incident back in February, so at least there’s that. It still takes up a lot of time and energy, just the same. But then a series of mental hits soon followed and I lost my mojo. I’m second guessing myself. I don’t write, even when I want to. I don’t know how to fix some of my story issues, I’m feeling depressed, and I’m just not writing.

I leave for the Austin Film Festival in the wee hours of the morning and I had this huge laid out plan for how I was going to be prepared for it. I was excited and ready to take on the challenge, and then, in the blink of an eye, the passion disappeared. No matter how many quotes about being positive and goal oriented, fearless and creative I read or post, nothing is cracking this current mood.

Yes, yes, I know that failure is a part of the process, but I feel like I’ve been struggling for a long time, when I know, in reality, with all the spurts of inactivity, it’s only been a few years that I’ve been actively pursuing a career. This year’s screenwriting competition season offered me nothing. With only one more competition awaiting announcement, I sort of feel like… I wasted a lot of money. I love the story I submitted, and it’s not to say that someone else won’t feel the same way I do about it in the future, but the lack of upward mobility was less than encouraging.

I don’t know why I want to rant about this. I’m guessing that sometimes we all feel like this, and maybe it would be helpful for other struggling writers to realize they’re not alone. We all hit walls along this creative path, but if it’s truly what we want to do, then I guess, after some moping, we’ll get off our asses and get back to it.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Because I only have tonight to shift this mentality and take advantage of this huge step I’m taking. And even though it may not sound like I’m excited, I am, deep down, and I’m sure everything will change once I board that plane and the realization hits of what it is I’m going to do.

I’m going to my first screenwriter’s conference!

I plan to discuss the conference day by day and hopefully impart some of the wisdom and helpful tips I learn. I’m hoping to get my mojo back, be inspired, and feel empowered, as well as make some writer friends who understand this journey.

So before that happens, what do you do when you hit a writer’s slump?

Small Steps

pic-jointer-11I’ve found that I haven’t had much to say lately.  I’m not sure exactly why.  In part it could be because the last couple of months have been sort of strange.  Since that incident at work back in February, I’m happy to report that my shift in focus has remained.  It is weird there though.  I’m more focused on the job I actually want, even though the progress is slow sometimes, I am still moving forward.

I’ve been better about reading, which somehow eluded me last year, and I’ve maintained my one-movie-a-week routine (although I did see the Avengers twice, so I’m small-stepsone movie shy of my goal as I write this).  I’ve rewritten two acts of one of my screenplays, I entered my TV pilot into 7 contests, I’ve come up with a new screenplay idea that I’m excited about (let’s just add that to the backlog of ideas currently nestled in the recesses), and I bought my airline ticket and badge for the Austin Film Festival screenwriters conference.  So…yay!

Not that long ago, we had been broke, The Sis and I.  Not so broke that I was worried we might end up homeless, because we always made sure we paid rent, but poor enough that there were a few times we used a credit card to buy groceries and pay bills.  Not a great place to find one’s self.  Now, I’m in a position to attend a writers conference, one of my goals, and I’m nervous and delighted.

Having this external goal compels me to get my writer’s portfolio in order.  There is no way I’m going to squander this opportunity.  It’s one thing to submit to contests, it’s another to hopefully meet and mingle with people who could actually propel my career forward, and so I have to get my sh*t in order.  No more messing around.  No more excuses.  If I’m going to spend this big shiny penny, I have to make the most of it.

It also helps to keep striving when you receive feedback like this from a contest you entered:

“Vivid world building and unique characters set a great foundation for the series. The dialogue between the characters is distinctive and introduces creative dialects and words that the sci-fi audience will love.”

Thank you, Slamdance!

So I’m committing to this page my goals for the next 17 weeks:

  1. Have 3 full length features show ready
  2. Have my Pilot’s Bible ready
  3. Flesh out at least 3 like-genre scripts
  4. Flesh out 1 out of genre script (will save this to the end 😛 )

DreamsWrittenDownAreGoals

Whew.  I’m at some stage of progress on each goal, but there’s still plenty to do, so I better get cracking.

How are you moving towards your goals?  Please share your small steps and let’s celebrate them together!  Also, are you planning on attending AFF?  It would be great to meet a familiar “face”.  😉

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday on a Tuesday

Although yesterday passed before I had an opportunity to post, it’s still early enough in the week to share some inspiration.  In fact, today is my Saturday, so if you work odd shifts like I do, then it really doesn’t matter what day you choose to celebrate #MotivationMonday. 😉

BeliefInSanta

We are our biggest critics, so it’s good to be reminded that we can also choose to be our biggest supporters.  No matter what you’re passionate about, if you’re chasing your dream, then believe in yourself that you can and will make it happen.  In the end, should we succeed or fail, it is up to us.

There’s another quote I’ve shared before that I feel is a good bookend for the above, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail.”  Believe in yourself and find out!

Oh, February

Hiddles BdayEven though February is a slightly shorter month, it really did seem to fly by, and it had its moments.  From wanting to quit my job to celebrating my birthday, playing in the snow and buying a new computer, February was a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I was officially written up at work for a few small things that could have easily been solved with a conversation.  At my current employment, they only start paperwork when they want a paper trail on people they’re getting ready to fire.  I took the hit hard because their accusations implied they thought I was capable of lying and stealing, among a couple of other not so flattering personality traits.  And the source of it all, the one person I trusted.  The person I share a very small office with.

Needless to say, it’s been a difficult few weeks in the aftermath, but it was also an enlightening moment.  Previously I wrote about having taken stock of my life near the end of last year and realized I had become too invested in a job that I didn’t truly care about.  I wasn’t nearly focused enough on my writing and the career I actually want, so having it reiterated to me so effectively was enough of a boost to shift my attitude and focus.

The following week was my birthday.  Dinner with friends and a numerical reminder that I’m not where I wanted to be by this particular moment in time.

SnowDayThen it snowed.  Like a lot.  So much so that the city issued a snow day, well, technically, a black ice warning.  Now, for those of you who live in places where you have actual winters, you may mock us here in the desert, but the truth is, we don’t see snow very often and we are not at all equipped to deal with it.  It was awesome though.

It was during this confinement that I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a new computer, something I had been deliberating for months.  With the desire to move my writing career forward fueled by the past weeks’ infuriating nonsense, paying a pretty big penny for a new piece of equipment that’s meant to help me suddenly became the easiest decision.

Keeping up the momentum I entered two more screenwriting contests and started the whole “get my professional portfolio in order before the big screenwriting conference”.  Yes, I am going to attend my first conference this fall during the Austin Film Festival.

I’ve found that when we get comfortable, things slide.  I know I’ve had this conversation with myself a number of times in the past, getting my sh*t in order, but then my job gets in the way.  In some way or another.  It’s usually my major source of ire, and whether I  have a job that sucks and spend too much time looking for another, or invest too much and lose focus on what really matters, I get comfortable.

The now tenuous work situation has me looking at things differently.  Maybe my increased maturity 😉 is also helping to streamline my focus.  I don’t want to regret not taking this chance.  I don’t want to only ever say I’m a writer without anything to show for it.  And while I’ve said this a time or two before, something’s different now.

Sometimes we have to let things goAfter shedding a number of tears because the higher ups insulted my character, I said some words aloud on the drive home that were meant to give me perspective, and they did just that.  And that’s when I felt it.  The shift.  I literally felt a detachment occur.

As clichéd as it’s going to sound, life continues to put us into situations that we may not understand at the time, but are meant to help propel us in the right direction when we finally realize the pattern.  This is my moment of discovery.  It’s time to take advantage of it.

Quote Monday

Today’s quote is continuing in the theme of goal setting from my last post.

sacrifice

When I thought on this for just a few seconds, I didn’t care for the feeling, meaning I had already been sacrificing what it is I really want for myself.  I need to hang this on my wall.

What are you willing to give up to achieve your goals?