New Route

•October 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I finally worked up the gumption to take the bus to work. If I’m honest with myself, I was procrastinating on doing it: once you get into a routine it’s difficult to want to change it, even if it means giving up two hours of every day to driving. I have myself the excuse that I was listening to my audio book and I didn’t want to lose my place, that it was safer to drive because of the fires, that I needed to drive to get to an after work appointment, that I needed the car to run errands… Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

The biggest reason was that I knew taking the bus was going to take longer, and I was reluctant to take the plunge. I also felt certain that it was going to be crowded and a hassle. Cheaper, but a hassle.

Well, I finally took the plunge. I left the house at the time when I used to leave for my old job, knowing that it would be early enough to give me plenty of time. It feltjust like the old routine: familiar faces of other riders and a familiar driver. The new route was going to involve taking a bus to the end of the line and then catching a train to the heart of Hollywood. From there I could either take a shuttle or walk the rest of the way to the studio. I figured I’d walk. I figured I could use the bus ride to write, the train ride to read, and the walk to get so some fresh air and exercise.

I arrived onto the lot at nearly the exact same time that I would normally arrive by car, which meant the total travel time was only about twenty minutes longer than commuting by car, but I’d been able to use the time a lot more productively. Neither the bus nor the train was crowded. The walk was pleasant and quiet and shady. It’s been weeks since I’ve gone for a daily walk and I can really feel the difference in my body- it feels like a relief to get back to it.

And I found three pennies; which seems like a good sign.

The next test will be the return trip, of course: by evening the station at Hollywood and Vine is likely to be crowded, and the walk is likely to be dark, but I feel much more optimistic about incorporating this into my daily routine.

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Fall Feels

•October 14, 2019 • Leave a Comment

You know fall has come to Los Angeles when you wake up to the smell of wood smoke and a gentle snowfall of ash settles across everything you own. This was what I woke up to last Friday. The fires were north of us: close enough for our house to be enveloped in a haze of smoke but not close enough to be any imminent danger. By Saturday the winds shifted and the excitement passed leaving everything covered in dust. I had grand plans of how much cleaning I was going to get doneover the weekend, but only succeeded in wiping down the kitchen, then baking, then wiping down the kitchen, then baking, then wiping down the kitchen.

This was a fairly representative sample of my productivity forthe weekend: I got some things done, but not as much as I would have hoped and a disappointingly high proportion was spent just facilitating other things that needed to be done.

I met with a new therapist on Sunday. It’s hard to say if he’s the right fit, yet, but all my feelings were very close to the surface during the session, even though it was just a “getting to know you” type conversation, so if one thing is clear to me it is that I need someone to be talking to, even if I have to pay out of pocket until my insurance kicks in. The old and, regrettably, familiar feelings of frustration and fear-of-inferiority were back and were strong and even going for my usual run (which defuses about seventy-five percent of my bad moods) wasn’t enough to put these feelings away.

I’m not sure where the feelings cane from. I blame the full moon: it seems as good a reason as any. I would have thought that raising the dosage on my antidepressants would have reduced this kind of feeling, but the past week was full of ups and downs, so it’s hard to know what is cause and what is effect. After doing the dishes and wiping down the kitchen (again) I retreated to my office to do some more editing which seemed to sooth my mind. So today has been somewhat steadier.

At any rate, I don’t have a good sense of how this week is likely to go: maybe that’s just as well- it will keep me from trying to control things I have no control over. We’ll see how it goes.

Plateau

•October 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I’ve reached that point in the new job where I’ve finally settled into a routine, and the novelty is beginning to wear off. On the plus side, I feel more comfortable and at home, but in the minus side I’m beginning to plateau: now that I’m not running as fast as I can to catch up, it’s hard to feel like I’m making any progress at all. The feeling extends to more than just work: I’m at a point in my editing where I’m not noticing my page or word counts changing dramatically anymore. I’m sure they’re still changing, but it’s harder to measure it at a glance. At home the house is suspended halfway between “decorated for fall” and “a disaster area of clutter” thanks to the fact that all the decoration bins are still sitting out waiting to go back into the shed. And, last but not least, my literal running has gotten more difficult lately, now that I’m no longer walking three miles a day, five days a week. (On Friday I plan to try commuting by bus to see how it compares time and convenience-wise, so if that goes well I may get some more walking in soon.)

So, I’m fighting the urge to ruminate. Days like today, when I have too much time and not enough things to do to fill it are the most difficult. These are the days when I need to keep myself busy in an effort to avoid letting my thoughts get away from me. For the most part, my mood has been greatly improved of late: partly thanks to the life changes I’ve been making and partly, no doubt, to the medication, but the fears and insecurities are still there, and can bubble up to the surface at a moment’s notice if I’m not careful.

One day at a time.

Anniversary

•October 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

It was my year to plan the anniversary: we take turns on alternating years to make the celebration plans rather than struggling to make decisions by committee every year. This year wasn’t a particular landmark, and being wrapped up in a new job necessarily meant it was going to probably be low key: the only thing I knew I wanted to do for certain was to hike to the top of Runyon Canyon and put a lock on the fence overlooking the city. We had done the hike once before (which was how I knew the fence was there in the first place) and I’d found an old lock during one of my many walks to the bus at my previous jobs. So it seemed like a sign.

We headed to the park in the late after afternoon with the intention to hike to the top in time to catch a bit of the sunset. We elected, foolishly, to do that the steepest bit first, which proved to be a test of endurance that came close to ending in cardiac arrest. And we clearly weren’t the first, considering that the top of the trail is equipped with defibullators.

But we survived. The downhill slope was much easier, and by the time we reached the bottom, we had nearly caught our breath.

To celebrate the fact that our anniversary celebrations hadn’t killed us, we decided to get dinner at a place called Barcade that we’d been meaning to check out for months. Half bar, half arcade, Barcade was a all slightly-uppity gastropub catering to the nostalgia of Gen-Xers and by the time we arrived, on a Saturday night, it was already mobbed. We walked in, did a lap arround the floor, and I was ready to walk out again based on sensory-overload alone. It was loud. The music was loud. The games were loud. The people were loud. But we’d come all that way and we’d been meaning to do it for so long that it seemed stupid to leave too soon, so we found a place to belly up to the bar and ordered drinks and food. The food was good. The drinks helped to dull the overload, and after a while the environment didn’t feel quite so overwhelming anymore. We got ourselves about twenty dollars worth of tokens and wandered around the room playing pinball and Mortal Kombat and Tetris and PacMan. And once we used up our tokens we called it a night and headed home. A good time was had by all.

Life Change

•October 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Yikes, it’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written a post, and considering my mood struggles this summer it would be easy to interpret my sudden radio silence as Bad News, but it’s not. In fact, it’s because of good news: I have started a new job. I’m now a production assistant at Paramount Animation on a film called “Rumble” that is due to come out next July. It’s a fantastic little film and I love it and the team behind it already.

The new routine is taking some getting used to: my work day is technically longer, but I’m on a weekly rate instead of an hourly one. I’m driving my commute instead of riding the bus, which takes less time but also means it’s time I can’t use for writing and I don’t get in my daily walk. I’m trying to listen to audio books to see if that helps, starting with the book selected for the monthly book club: “The Snowman” by Jo Nesbø. So far so good.

So I’m still settling into the new pattern, but over all my mood is much improved. Last Friday I went rollerskating with a couple coworkers and had a great time. The skating rink looked exactly like the one I grew up with: right down to the rainbow carpet. This week I got to assist on a day of recording sessions for various voice actors, which felt like being back in the USC sound department, which felt like being home. Things seem to be off to a good start.

In the meantime, I’ve still been writing- or, more specifically, editing. I keep sending out query letters but find myself feeling self conscious about my wordcount being so long, so I’ve been going chapter by chapter trimming as much fat as possible without cutting into the meat of the story. So far I’ve trimmed out about seventy-five pages, which equates to about 20,000 words. I’m about halfway through the story, and I’m hoping to get out down another 30,000, but we shall see. I also submitted the manuscript to a mentorship program called PitchWars, but I suspect the length might might make it an unlikely candidate. I’ve been lurking in the #PWTeasers thread on Twitter where the various mentors mention different things they’re reading and like to pretend the nice things they’re saying might be about my work. No few requests yet, though.

So that’s what’s been new in my life.

The Thousand Steps

•September 19, 2019 • 1 Comment

Now that I’m leaving my payroll job I’ve been trying to make a step-by-step guide to help train or re-train anyone they decide to pull in to cut checks once I’m gone. As it turns out, this is a nightmare. It takes about a million steps to navigate the system and it is all done with key commands. Not all of these are intuitive. Does this step require going to the list entitled “Check” under the header “Client” or the sub-list entitled “Checks” under “Templates”? Do I need to hit “F10” to select this option or do I hit “Enter” or do I hit “End”? How can I tell if it’s working? How do I know which lines to delete and which lines to add details to?

It took me months to learn all this. I remember being TERRIFIED of it in the beginning. I didn’t have a clue how the program was structured or how to fix any issues or what to do if there was an unexpected variable like withholding for dues or a miscellaneous reimbursement.

Now I can do it so fast I do it by counting key strokes instead of reading the screen. Arrow arrow arrow Enter Down Down Down Down Enter Enter Down Right Down…

I’m realizing now just how much information I’ve accumulated over three years, which doesn’t seem long considering the volume and considering that about six months was spent learning a completely new system that was subsequently abandoned.

To be fair, some of this information is kinda Dummy information: once you know how to navigate to the invoice program, for instance, you won’t need a refresher every time. But it needs to be in there for someone who is coming at this with zero experience. The document is over thirty pages long already, and I haven’t even gotten into any of the variables like other work states or union checks yet. It’s going to be yet another monster magnum opus, but at least it has pictures. And I know someone will read it, LOL.

(Mis)Placing

•September 17, 2019 • 1 Comment

I had two different scripts submitted in the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition. One of them moved on to the second round in the drama category, and the other one didn’t place in a meaningful way. I mean, I haven’t officially gotten the Notification of Regret about it yet, but the shortlist was posted last night and it wasn’t on it, so I’m assuming that means I can expect an email that begins with the word “Unfortunately”.

The script that advanced was the script that I wrote for a USC grad student’s thesis project. I’m pleased that it placed well, but don’t really feel like I can take much credit for it since I was working off someone else’s concept and characters. It was a genre piece: nominally “steampunk” but with elements of dystopian sci fi. I leaned towards the kind of rollicking, pulp adventure of an Indiana Jones movie: heavy on the exciting set pieces, without going too deep into subtlety or subtext.

The other script was fully my own original: a coming-of-age comedy that came together in a way that I was proud of. It felt stronger than any of my other work and I expected it to do well, even if I didn’t think it was likely to win outright.

It didn’t place meaningfully in the Nicholls Fellowship Competition earlier this year and I was a bit stung: it was better than the previous script is submitted and that one had placed pretty well, why hadn’t this one? I got the reader notes a month or so later and they had a few useful pointers, but neither one seemed to have had any strong objection to it. So I couldn’t blame the readers: it’s not like one person had hated it for some reason. It’s not like the notes were politely trying to couch disdain in complimentary language.

I thought maybe it just hadn’t been the right kind of story for a Nicholls audience: too weird and lighthearted maybe. Not enough wrenching angst. I had hopes that it would do better in AFF, and felt hopeful after hearing that the other script was a second-rounder. If a swashbuckling genre adventure could place well, surely an ensemble comedy would be well received.

Right?

… Right?

I’m baffled, frankly. Is my judgement of my own work really that inaccurate? The people who beta read the script for me had nice things to say, so I’d been reassured in my assessment at the time. It’s not that I think it was such a phenomenal work of staggering genius that to be overlooked was an insult that requires pistols at dawn, but I didn’t think it was that bad either. And by that bad I mean: of too poor of quality to rank in the top twenty percent. I mean, for all I know it could be ranked exactly at twenty one percent- or it could be the script everyone secretly holds up as the example of Things Not To Do. How on earth did I go wrong? What’s more: how did I not know that the work wasn’t going to measure up? I try to be pretty realistic about my weaknesses, and I genuinely thought this was a great little script. I still do. I’m still proud of it, but it’s easy for this kind of thing to get under my skin. Am I just fooling myself? What other things have I been fooling myself about? Who am I to say my work is good if other people aren’t agreeing with me?

It’s a slippery and subjective slope. I’m trying not to think about it too much: it’s only two contests, after all. In this competition alone it was up against 11,000 other scripts so there was a lot of competition. But still… The other script did well, why not this in one?

At any rate, I guess I need to take myself down a peg and give my work a good long look to see where I can improve.

 
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