Procedure (Break Time Poetry)

In the valley of fluorescence
a narrowing conch
hiding a benevolence
underneath and above and outside of the things that limbed creatures should be doing
outside of myself,
looking down as a figure that knows not how to fly, mostly hover;
translucent
and afraid of what will happen
when the wind picks up
and retrieves
the rubbish
all around.
“Is this my place? Up here,
down below? A few steps to the left, or the right?
Is there policy for this direction forthwith?” No procedure for this.
And in my bedhead,
translucent as well, and loud to the touch,
these fingers,
these broken pointers
can no longer heal or cause
a damn thing.

j

Talent + Discipline Wins. Strike a balance.

Any writer worth a damn knows discipline lies at the core of a solid, fulfilling writing life. I learned this one the hard way.

In college, we had a guest artist teach a few classes in my junior year. It was nice for a theater department in the middle of nowhere to bring professionals for us to get to know more about the craft, since it took a while for the trends to make their way to Wyoming. This individual brought an intense east coast attitude; a straightforwardness I wasn’t used to, and I struggled with it throughout his entire class. I was raised in a small town, I didn’t know how to deal with that level of directness. From the get-go, I thought he was out to get me. Don’t get me wrong, his criticisms in acting class were never out of line. This professor was not a villain, but I saw him as one back then. When I was a kid, I thought anyone asking me to challenge myself was asking me to compromise who I was. I misunderstood often, so I didn’t listen when I should have been. As you can guess, I didn’t do very well in his class. I went to see him at his office and long-story short, he asked me what I wanted to do with my writing, which has always been my primary creative focus. He wanted to know the end goal I had in mind. I told him I wanted to write movies. That’s when he said “I don’t think that’s going to work out for you. Movies and TV, with all their deadlines, that’s not what you’re cut out for. You need time, you need to keep writing plays.”

I didn’t know how to deal with that honesty, so I took it as an attack. Clenching my teeth I left his office and bitched for hours in my head. How dare he pigeonhole me? How dare he know what I can and can’t do? Fuck that guy. I got so offended I forgot to listen to what he was telling me: All those hours in class for an entire semester, and I never showed him what I could do. He could see I was a talented guy. In class he would compliment my performances and my directing instincts, but I was always unprepared, half-assing my assignments, jumping from one distraction to the next. In that office, he wasn’t limiting my prospects or pigeonholing me: He was daring me to do better. To take it to the next level. He saw talent without discipline.

I have never developed my discipline because I relied so heavily on my talent that I didn’t develop the other half of the equation. In the end, it’s hard to be incomplete.

I am playing catch-up. And it’s a beautiful thing.


It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.

Zig Ziglar

Then. (What Shaped You?)

& Thinking of Why I Wanted to be an Artist.

What shaped you? I was shaped by tacos, Mexican sweet breads, and stories. For the sake of this post, let’s say stories did most of the heavy lifting.

When I was a boy, I wrote comic strips about robots and time travelers. I saw vehicles lining the base of the rolling hills in the Southwest corner of Wyoming. Interstate I-80. I wondered where they were going, and how each one of those drivers had a story. I pondered on direction and destination often. My childhood of watching interstate travelers zip back and forth is one that fostered a fascination with time and distance, set against a backdrop of western landscapes from bygone eras. It really felt like a place stuck in time while all others moved along.

At the end of the day, I would listen to the highway traffic fleeing into a bold, amber horizon, and only the humming of the road lingered. I listened for more so I could feel whole.

Time and distance influenced my pursuits and worldview because I was in the proper conditions to be shaped by them. I listened so attentively that here we are:

I’m still obsessing over the gulfs between fictional lovers, friends, communities, and all others who push to create distance between the truth and themselves. I write about that.

I’m still lamenting the cruelty and magic of time, and how the craft of capturing those and that which is bound to leave us, is the greatest gift of all. I want to capture that joyfully and honestly.

This is why I listen, and write, and record. Why do you make stuff? What shaped you? Leave a comment or drop me a line! I’d love to hear how you came to be an artist.

j

Work in Progress: My Bullet Journal turned Planner.

A breakdown of my recent productivity attempts as a creative with a day job.

The road to self care and self control is paved with revamping and paving new roads. Yes, that sounded worse in my head. Over the last month or so, the experiment of bullet journaling has been a pretty triumphant and challenging one, but I’m getting some shit done!

Recently, I settled on a format for my quasi bullet journaling experience. While the Ryder Carroll method is extremely specific about intent and productivity, the more I learn of its methodology and idiosyncrasies, the more I realize I am prioritizing a mere planning method rather than a fuller journal for accountability. As I keep learning, I’m sure I will adopt some more of the Ryder Carroll concepts, but for the time being, as I seek survival methods to not drown in tasks and responsibility, I’m choosing to do something that works for me and my needs, whether it follows official bullet journal doctrine or not. Therefore, I’ve settled on a temporary layout for a weekly spread that has been guiding me pretty well throughout the last month or so.

Taking into account what is important to me and what I need to keep track of, I feel this has been a decent start into my journey of organization and commitment to personal betterment. This is what made sense to me and how I structured it:

  • Leftovers: A little space for all the shit I forgot to do or couldn’t get to the week before.
  • Monthly Outlook: To know what day of the week is what number and all that because I never know anymore…
  • Weekly Outlook: Provided enough room for the events, appointments and tasks in my life. I also left some room in the margins because I’m regularly having to measure my blood pressure now because thanks genetics and stupid horrible life choices in my 20s. (mostly sitting too much, nothing big).
  • Habits: Designated a space for habit tracking for the most important areas of my life and where I need more discipline:

FAMILY TIME

WORKOUTS

SLEEP

READING

JOURNALING

OUTPUT (SPECIFICALLY CREATIVE OUTPUT & COMMUNITY EFFORTS)

  • Notes Section: A section for practical daily notes and memos. (This is where I hit a stumbling block. I need more space for the creative notes, so I am currently wielding another notebook everywhere I go. I shed the agenda already, so hopefully in the next few weeks, I will be able to consolidate all my work / life / creative road maps into one well designed and customized journal for me!) For now, this notes section is just for real world, adulting stuff and the unexpected chore/task/expense/deadline.
  • Assessment: Considering how much happens in a week, I think it’s prudent to look back on what works and what can be improved upon. While some aspects of this may lean more toward the actual bullet journal philosophy, I don’t need much to know what went wrong and what I need to do better, so I made just a little spot for it at the bottom and labeled it as I pleased: VICTORIES & NEEDS WORK. Then do better next week. Easy enough.

What I am surely missing is the big picture stuff I have coming up on the horizon. Long term events and important dates, as well as personal, career, and family goals. This is why a monthly or long term spread is necessary for me as well. I started one for December but it just looked too lackluster, much like a clunky calendar. I’ll revisit this when I have time, but for the time being, the weekly spread has been the most successful part of it all.

It’s been such a blast diving into this world that I feel I have found something I truly love, and that is the process of documenting and arranging information on a page. It calms me down and puts me in a state of hope. It’s all about seeing yourself doing something different, fighting stasis, and seeking a new way to better yourself. I’m not a completely new person and I don’t think I will ever be, but I am definitely feeling more in control of my life and where I want to take it. I’m very much committed to start designing more of these layouts down the road and making them available for anyone who may want to balance work / life / creativity. It’s also been so inspiring to browse and analyze the various ways people cleverly build and shape their chore lists, worries, and hopes into one place on paper. It says so much about their priorities and life story. It’s fascinating!

How do you keep your shit together? Asking for a friend.

j

Monday

I come out of my cave all

snug blanketed

to meet a world

smiling hostile at times.

Hostile because of its indifference

not because it’s out to get me.

I caution you to look both ways:

and ensure you are wearing enough padding to handle the onslaught, as all of us adjust to the workweek.

Be well, friends.

j

P.S. The padding is the love you have to offer.

Some nights are for new edits, and learning to reach out.

I’ve been working on a dance project in collaboration with Wyoming Dance Arts based on this creative prompt of mine:

I worked with three of the WDA dancers and we created a piece based on the restrictions of the space. We spoke a lot about theme and how they could internalize it so we could produce some site-specific choreography. It was a very fruitful, impromptu shoot and I’m still going on the high of that interaction. It’s the best kind of collaboration because the dancers really owned their performances and committed to the idea behind the video. I appreciate their creative trust tremendously.

Still from the new project: Narrow (Variations)

I had to put this on the back-burner due to the Oyster Ridge Music Festival Deadlines I had to follow, but every chance I got this fall, I worked away at a rough cut for the first video. Oh I forgot to mention, this project will be designed to be edited a handful of ways in order to produce three main pieces and several little snippets for social media. I want to see how much of it sticks and what doesn’t, so by the end of the year, I hope to have most of it wrapped up. So much for free time!

So once I had a reasonable cut, I sent it over to one of our collaborators and she not only shared some outstanding feedback, but reminded me of this very important lesson: Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Still from the new project: Narrow (Variations)

I sat with my rough draft for about a month because I didn’t know what to do with it. The editing brain went stale and I couldn’t see what needed to happen next. Yes, it was a reasonable draft, but upon getting a fresh set of eyes to look at it, I was able to stand back and observe the piece for what it really was. Because of that, I went home and re-edited the first piece all over again. And it is a much better cut now: Leaner, yet patient and specific.

I would have kept the old cut and chiseled away at shit had I not taken it upon myself to ask for help when my creativity needed it the most. Don’t hesitate to reach out and communicate, and I’ll try to do the same.

Much love,

j