In Case of Emergency

In Case of Emergency

In these days of being connected to work 24 hours a day with email and texts, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and behind. A while ago I accepted that I would always be behind. It was just a matter of how behind I was and what I was behind on that really mattered.

The zero inbox is a myth; as is the zero to do list. As soon as we answer one e-mail, another one comes in. As soon as we cross something off our to do list, another task occurs to us. Instead of trying to catch up, each day and each week I prioritize the projects I need to be working on.

Emergency!

Everyone and everything is fine now, but the last two weeks I was in the midst of a serious family emergency. It was my complete focus even though I had a full plate of client meetings, getting out two issues of this newsletter, and the two hour workshop last Thursday.

In the midst of the chaos I had to remind myself of my philosophy and really focus on what I had to get done and what I could do. I am sharing my coping strategy with you because unfortunately, we all have to deal with the unexpected. Whether tragedy with a loved one, being a little sick, or being really sick, real life intrudes on our work life.

Here’s how I handled it:

Decide Your Non-Negotiables

What are the things that absolutely have to get done? Are there ways you can make doing your non-negotiables easier temporarily? Any shortcuts you can take just this once? My non-negotiables were my newsletter and the workshop. I put off everything else.

Put Systems in Place

My Newsletter – Ironically, one of my projects next year is to become more systematic about how I produce content. Right now I do not write my newsletter ahead of time. I do have a long list of topics and ideas, some with rough outlines and reference materials. For the first newsletter I didn’t use any of them because I had gone to the ballet on Sunday and wanted to write about Peter Pan. I already had a rough outline. I researched the history of Peter Pan to distract myself while I was waiting for a phone call and wrote the article late at night when I couldn’t sleep. For the second newsletter, I used a list of movies about writing I had in my idea file.

Why didn’t I skip the newsletter once or twice? I made a commitment to myself that I would send out a newsletter once a week for 52 weeks. I’ve really been enjoying writing it and the conversations with all of you. I knew that skipping it would make me feel worse when I was already feeling badly. I also knew that an emergency may come up again and I wanted to know that I can still produce in hard circumstances.

The Workshop – Because September was such a busy month for me, luckily I had already outlined my workshop and finished 3/4 of my slide deck. What was left was the marketing side of things. Posting the link was an easy task. For each workshop I create handouts and a landing page where people go to download them. That took a little bit of time, but because I had done it so often before, I wasn’t having to learn any new skills so it wasn’t stressful.

I’m happy to report that the workshop was a big success. Thank you to those who came. I’ve gotten great feedback from the attendees and it went half an hour over because there were so many questions. I love teaching and I’m grateful I could have such a positive experience after a rough couple of weeks.

Communication

I rescheduled all of my clients letting them know then I had an emergency and I would be back with them in a week or so. I also told the workshop leader what was going on. She let me know that if something came up and I couldn’t make it, she had materials she could go over that night and I could speak the next month.

When you are upset and your life is in chaos, it is tempting just to disappear. As a professional, you must let your clients and coworkers know a little bit of what is happening so they can be understanding. You don’t have to explain in detail. Just tell everyone you will be back with them when you can. If I owe you an e-mail I apologize. I’m still getting caught up.

Recognition of Recovery

Once the emergency has passed and the adrenaline has dissipated, you’re going to be tired. It may take a while before you get your energy up and feel back on track. Be kind with yourself and recognize that you are in recovery. Again, communication is key. Let your coworkers know you still may not be operating at full speed. Include rest time in your schedule. For me I was already in the midst of a healing journey so this recovery is one more aspect of rebuilding. In fact, this situation has made me realize we may always be in some phase of recovery from something. And that is okay, as long as we still move forward in our life and creative goals.

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

While the advice to look for the good in the bad experience can be incredibly annoying when you are suffering, there is truth there. I have decided to write about what happened to me and my family. I’m actually feeling excited about writing the story. It will be a while before I can share it with you because there is an ongoing investigation and I want to be able to talk about it from beginning to end. I might be becoming a true crime writer! Life is very strange.

I hope you never need an emergency plan for your work life, but I suggest that you put systems in place. They will help your workflow either way. And never be afraid to reach out and ask for help when things get tough.


This week’s newsletter is brought to you by my newest cartoon coffee cup.


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My Favorite Movies About Writing

My Favorite Movies About Writing

Writing is, as all of you know, a solitary, cerebral occupation. Even when you’re actually pounding on your keyboard, you’re in your head. The process of writing, the blood, sweat, and tears of it, is difficult to dramatize. Lots of characters in movies are writers, but very few films are about writing itself. Here are my favorites that capture what a writer goes through as he tries to get the story in his head down on paper.

Bullets Over Broadway (1994) comedy written by Woody Allen – A wunderkind playwright (John Cusak) is interested in creating deep Art, but he doesn’t care about entertaining an audience. The backer of the play, a gangster, wants to give his mistress a part. John is having to compromise his art to get his project made. Meanwhile, the gangster’s henchman (Chazz Palmentari) has a flare for story and starts making suggestions. It turns out he’s the real talent, and he’s willing to kill a bad actress save his play. This movie points out two creative truths. 1) Writers can be pretentious and untalented. 2) Anyone can have good ideas.

Wonder Boys (2000) comedy written by Steve Kloves, based on the book by Michael Chabon – Once promising novelist Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) doesn’t do a lot of writing in this movie, but he captures perfectly the mania of trying to live up to the reputation of your own book, and the despair and fear at being eclipsed by a younger, more talented writer.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) comedy written by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard – Shakespeare falls in love with Viola, who is pretending to be a man so she can act. This relationship gives him inspiration to revise his latest play and turn it into Romeo & Juliet. It’s fun to see the fictional story of how he came up with one of his most famous plays.

Sweet Liberty (1986) comedy written by Alan Alda – Follows the experience of an author (Alan Alda) whose book is being made into a movie. Even though it’s non-fiction, the Hollywood folks are changing it left and right. Alan Alda struggles to keep the integrity of his book and make the screenplay good. This is an overlooked gem of a movie with great performances from Michael Cain and Michelle Pfeiffer as temperamental movie stars.

Adaption (2002) black comedy written by Charlie Kaufman – Writer Charlie Kaufman had such a difficult time figuring out how to turn the book The Orchid Thief into a movie that he wrote the screenplay about his struggle. This movie perfectly captures the turmoil when you just can’t crack the story and everyone else you know seems to be sailing along.

The Muse (1999) comedy written by Albert Brooks & Monica Johnson – Blocked screenwriter Albert Brooks hires kooky professional muse Sharon Stone to help him. She may be crazy, but there’s a method to her madness. She helps him come up with a new idea and gives his wife the confidence to start a business. If only we could all have a muse for hire on call.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) film noir written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, & D.M. Marshman Jr. – Desperate and destitute screenwriter meets desperate and unhinged movie star while a sweet assistant writes her first screenplay. Sometimes being a writer is deadly.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) comedy written by Zach Helm – IRS Agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) suddenly starts hearing narration and realizes he is a character in someone’s novel. What will happen if he tries to break out of the plot and falls in love?

Author’s Anonymous (2014) comedy written by David Congalton – When several dysfunctional and unpublished writers accept inexperienced Hannah (Kaley Cuoco) into their writers group, they don’t expect her overnight success. A comedy about competition and creativity.

Something’s Gotta Give (2003) romantic comedy written by Nancy Myers – Diane Keaton is a playwright who uses the heartbreak of falling in love with her daughter’s boyfriend (who is her age) to write her next hit play. The scenes of her crying her eyes out as she types are hysterical and relatable .

Paris When It Sizzles (1964) comedy written by George Axelrod – This is a mediocre movie. The fun is seeing secretary Audrey Hepburn act out all of screenwriter William Holden’s different scenarios as he tries to figure out what kind of movie to write.

Bonus: The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) romance written by Woody Allen – is not about writing, but the fantasy of living your favorite movie. Downtrodden Depression era waitress Mia Farrow’s life is turned upside down when the romantic lead from her favorite movie steps out of the screen.

What does it say about the writing life that most of these are comedies? Comment to let me know if I left one of your favorite writing movies off the list!


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I Don’t Want to Grow Up

I Don’t Want to Grow Up

This weekend I saw the Houston ballet production of Peter Pan. It was magical. The dancing was gorgeous and the flying sequences otherworldly. It was my first time seeing this ballet and there was a big chunk of the story that I didn’t remember. It was so odd that I had to read the synopsis during one of the intermissions to figure out exactly what was going on and reassure myself that I was not misremembering Peter Pan.

In the ballet, which was created in 2004, Captain Hook shows Wendy a movie of his childhood. He is beaten by a mean teacher which misshapes his hand into this weird skeleton hook. In this version there was no Tigerlily and Tinkerbelle made a brief appearance. Those two strong sassy girls were always my favorite characters and I missed them. These strange story choices lead me to a deep dive into Peter Pan.

Neverland

Peter Pan in Neverland: a Never-ending Story

Did you know that the story of Peter Pan is over a hundred years old? He really is the boy that never grew up. Peter Pan first appeared in 1902 the novel The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie. In 1904, Barrie’s play Peter Pan debuted and was a huge hit both in London and New York. Barrie expanded his play’s story into the book Peter and Wendy, published in 1911.

Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland has been told many ways in many mediums from live action and animated movies to plays, musicals and even an award-winning web series. Disney’s latest live action version of their animated classics, Peter Pan & Wendy is slated to come out next year with Jude Law as Captain Hook. There is the grown up Peter Pan movie (Hook). The true story behind Peter Pan, Finding Neverland, which begin as a play, then a movie, and finally a musical. There are scores of books that reimagine the story including Peter & the Starcatchers, which became a play.

Peter Pan List

Movies & TV Specials

  1. Peter Pan & Wendy (2023) live action version of Disney cartoon with Jude Law as Captain Hook
  2. Pan (2016) Warner Brothers
  3. Peter & Wendy (2015) British movie
  4. The New Adventures of Peter & Wendy (2014-16) web series set in the present with the characters in their 20s
  5. Peter Pan Live! NBC musical TV special (2014) Allison Williams as Peter
  6. Neverland SyFy mini-series (2011)
  7. Finding Neverland (2004)
  8. Peter Pan (2003) Universal
  9. Return to Neverland (2002) Disney animated
  10. Peter Pan musical TV special (2000) Cathy Rigby as Peter
  11. Hook (1991)
  12. Peter Pan musical TV special (1960) NBC Mary Martin as Peter
  13. Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) animated
  14. Peter Pan (1924) Paramount, silent

Peter Pan book list

Musicals

  1. Peter Pan (1954)
  2. Finding Neverland (2012)

Plays

  1. Wendy & Peter Pan by Ella Hickson 2013, 2015 Royal Shakespeare Company
  2. Peter & the Starcatcher by Rick Elice based on the book series by Dave Barry &  Ridley Pearson (2009)
  3. The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee (1998)
  4. Peter Pan (1904) original

Ballet

Peter Pan (2004)

The Magic of Peter Pan

Why has the story of Peter Pan not only endured, but been expanded and reimagined over and over again through out the years?  Why does this story continue to resonate with new generations of parents and children?  I believe it is that magical combination of concept, characters, setting and theme that every writer dreams of creating.   The bittersweet dream of never growing up and remaining a child forever.  A magical land full of fairies, mermaids, pirates, a native American princess, and a group of best friends.  And the lure of a lovely family waiting for you.  Just like Dorothy said in another timeless magical adventure – there is no place like home. 

What is your favorite Peter Pan version?  Maybe you have an idea for a new one.  Do you have a favorite childhood story? 


More Peter Pan Fun Facts

Peter Pan was played by a woman in the original play because child actors had limited working hours. This tradition continued through the many iterations of the stage musical which debuted in 1954.

The Dark Side of Peter Pan. Maybe one of the reasons for Peter Pan’s longevity is the story has a dark side, giving the reimaginings grit and angst. Neverland is a violent place with the boys fighting adult pirates. The Lost Boys are alone in this hostile place without a family.

Peter Pan is a pop psychology term. Coined in 1983 by psychologist Dan Kiley in his book The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up, calling a man a Peter Pan has come to mean a man who doesn’t want to live a grown up life including marriage and fatherhood.

Don’t forget The Lost Boys (1987) my favorite vampire movie. There is not Peter Pan, but the Lost Boys are a group of teenage vampires.


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I Hate Doing Laundry!

I Hate Doing Laundry!

I hate to do laundry. Mainly because it ends up taking all day and it’s not fun. Different people procrastinate for different reasons. I have two.

  1. It’s a terrible chore that I hate doing like laundry
  2. It’s a job that seems too big to start. I suffer from overwhelm big time.

The best way I have found to get through both types of procrastination is my Laundry Method. I break down the job into steps and I often don’t do all of them on the same day. I might sort the clothes one day. Wash and fold the clothes another day. And put up the clean laundry another day. How much of the task I do at a time depends on how my day is going and what else I have to do. Once I started doing laundry this way, it became less of a chore.

Now I apply the Laundry Method to almost everything on my to do list – both life things and creative projects. In his wonderful book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield calls this method chunking it down. When you have a big project, brainstorm with the steps are. And then break down what you need to do for each step. Get as granular as you need to and then start on your list.

For example, I am currently developing my first video course (more on that later 🙂). Here is how I chunked it down:

  • Outline Course – into 11 modules
  • For each module – write – make a video
  • Write each module – research – write lesson – write homework
  • Make a video – find images for slide deck – make slides – record video

As I work my way through the list, I can see my daily progress on the big project and my overwhelm goes away. Instead, my progress motivates me to keep going and fuels my creativity. I keep thinking of more fun things I want to do with this project!

This method also helped me get comfortable with being behind. I think in life we are never caught up. Especially as creative people we’re never finished. There’s always another rewrite to do and another project to start. I’ve shifted my perspective from catching up to making progress every day. Even if you just manage to do a little bit of your project every day, eventually you’re going to finish it. Consistent progress helps give you the self-confidence to keep going and to start something new.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, chunk it down and start with the first step. You’ll be surprised how much concrete progress you make and how much better you feel with the Laundry Method. Let me know how it goes!


Attend My Free Workshop!

On the evening of September 22nd I will be speaking to the Montana Screenwriting Group over Zoom about pitching yourself and your projects. You don’t have to be a Montanan to attend. You just have to join their Meet Up group to get the Zoom invite. Sign up here. I hope to see you!

I've written a script. Now what?  Building your Hollywood career with Lindsey Hughes

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Steal From the Best

Steal From the Best

If you have a project and you’re struggling to get started, spend some time looking at other people’s work. You will find unexpected inspiration from this exercise.

Here’s My Aha Moment

When I was redesigning my website, I felt overwhelmed because website design is not my area of expertise. After brainstorming for a couple of hours and getting nowhere, I decided to look at the websites of other coaches to see how they were organized. It was life changing.

First of all, I noticed that no matter what their subject matter most of the websites had some of the same things. There was a common structure that people were using. For example, everyone had a welcome banner with their picture. Everyone talked directly to their audience about how they could help them. Some people had icons to explain their different services.

Suddenly my website made sense to me. I took everything that I had seen and liked and made it my own. The site came together very quickly after that and was up in a few days. A job that I did not feel qualified for became something I was proud of. What a relief! Ever since, I have used this technique when I feel stuck.

Let’s break it down.

The steps for taking inspiration from others’ work are:

  1. Notice what works.
  2. Ask why it works.
  3. Notice the structure.
  4. Ask how can I apply what works to my task/industry/writing.
  5. Use what you have learned and put your own spin on it.

Other Places You Can Steal From the Best

  1. Your bio
  2. Your Linked In profile
  3. Your book cover
  4. Your book blurb
  5. Great writing

Stealing From Great Writing

Break it down. What makes it great? How and why does it grab you?

A personal logline or brand moto that hooks you. Why is it memorable?

An article that teaches you, spurring you to action. How did it motivate you?

A scene in a book or movie that moves you. Are you sad, terrified, awestruck? How did the scene make you feel these emotions?

Always be on the Lookout for Inspiration

The other day I had a flat tire. While I was waiting for my new tire to be installed, I noticed the clever way National Tire & Battery list their services with icons and catchy headlines. I immediately thought how can I use this example to level up my descriptions of who I am and what I do? I liked the service list so much I snapped a picture to keep for reference.

National Tire & Battery’s service list

There is good work everywhere and you can find inspiration in the oddest places. Adopt the practice of noticing, analyzing, dissecting, and copying, to improve your own creative work.

Do you have a favorite technique of stealing from the best? Comment below and let me know.


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