#MondayMusings – Vision Boards

Monday Musings

I just created a vision board for the second half of the year.  What’s a vision board? It ‘s a visual representation of your goals. These can be personal goals, financial goals, creative goals, goals to balance your life, travel goals, or your dream house or other material purchases. My goals are work/life balance related and steps toward improving my eBook publishing.

Vision boards came into vogue after  The Secret hit the bestseller list. You may think the Law of Attraction is so much superstitious bunk but that’s not at issue here. A strong clear visualization of your end point is always helpful in keeping your eye on the prize and spurring on your journey.

A vision board can be a cork board with clippings and push pins.  It can be a poster board with images pasted on, or it can be a digital design.  I am a fan of Simpleology as an organizing and scheduling tool and I purchased their vision board add-on for $3.00.  I’ve used the Simpleology free version for a number of years and recommend it.

But there are other digital apps out there that help you create a vision board.  Click HERE for a list. I prefer a vision board to Pinterest because it helps to look at the whole connected vision every day or multiple times a day.  Pinterest is just a large collection of individual pictures.

There are no rules.  Just try it!  I’ve created these over the years and they have really helped keep me positive and focused.  The more clearly you know what you want, or know how you want to feel about your self and your work, the more likely you are to achieve your goals. A vision board is not unlike a director’s mood board for a film. It’s what you want a certain span of time to look like and feel like– only it’s your life!

Here are some examples:


Another one:

Another one:


#MondayMusings – Coincidence? Or Not?


I love Charity Shops in the UK and Thrift Stores, as they are called, in the US.  I bought a colorful large silk scarf in Bristol and yesterday, about a year or so after my original purchase, I saw the same scarf in Madison, Wisconsin.  I bought it  (and now have one scarf for each place, the UK, and US).

What a strange coincidence to find the same donated scarf in resale shops worlds and years apart. That got me musing about coincidence in stories.

Let’s say two women buy the same silk scarf in different countries and at different times and their lives are changed.  How?  Mistaken identity? The forging of an unlikely friendship? The purchase some how spirals one woman into tragedy and spurs the other woman toward fulfilling her dreams?

It’s the stuff of stories. Or is it?  The Atlantic published a wonderful piece on coincidence in stories.   My favorite excerpt is:

(M)aybe … what makes coincidences special is that they present a piece of evidence that the world doesn’t work how you thought it did. Did you run into your friend at the grocery store because cosmic forces were pushing you two together? Did you hear the same song everywhere you went one day because it contained a message for you? Probably not, but it can feel that way, at least at first, and that’s what makes a coincidence startling. It’s unsettling to feel a ripple in the fabric of your reality.

The takeaway here is if you use coincidence don’t just use it to push the plot forward.  Instead, or in addition, use it to show how this event knocks your protagonist of his or her stride or rips a tear in the fabric of their reality.

Read the full Atlantic article HERE








#MondayMusings – Packing for Bristol

Monday Musings

I am back in the UK at the end of August and will be starting a series of Screenwriting Roundtables starting in September. Watch this space!  I am anxious to get back to my secret weapon and screenwriting guru, Mr. Otto Longi.  His expert advice does come at a price.  Packing the toys and treats he requires.




#MondayMusings – In Italy with RAI Television


I am on my way to Perugia, Italy to work with the talented team from RAI, the Italian State Broadcaster, much like the BBC in in the UK.

Although it is very basic it’s always good to start with the five most important questions in constructing a story.

What Does the Character Want?

What the main character wants is a clear and simple ego-driven goal. It is something that directly benefits the main character that he or she can physically have or obtain. It is concrete. It is specific. It is the finite object of the character’s personal desire. For example: Win the championship trophy, get the promotion, pay the rent, solve the crime, buy the fancy car, steal the jewel, get the girl (or guy), etc.

To obtain the want, the character must abandon the need.

What Does the Character Need?

What the character needs is an inner ache or yearning that the character is unaware of, denies, suppresses, or ignores. It is a deeper, more abstract or intangible human longing. It is not physical or concrete. It is an emotional or spiritual urge or inner call to live up to one’s higher nature. For example: To become a better parent, to forgive another, to act with integrity, to find one’s faith, to become more altruistic, to be a more reliable friend, to face the truth, to love unselfishly, etc.

To embrace the need, the character must abandon the specific self-centered goal (or object of desire) and address more fundamental and far-reaching human concerns.

What is the Conflict Between the Want and the Need?

One of the most common problems with stories that don’t work is the lack of a clear and specific want vs. a deep and powerful inner longing. The want pulls us through the story. The need draws us deeper into or inside the character. If this bedrock conflict isn’t clear the story won’t add up to very much.

Does the Story Clearly Distinguish the Want and the Need?

Does the main character have a specific physical or concrete object of personal desire? What does he or she want? What is the concrete physical goal or specific objective? Does the main character actively pursue this objective through the story? Does the main character have a clearly delineated deeper human longing? What is missing deep inside the character?

What is the Price?

What is the main character willing to sacrifice or surrender to obtain the want or to embrace the need? Is there a high cost for each choice?  If the character obtains the want and lets go of the need the character pays a high price in unhappiness and emotional loss.

Does that mean that no character ever gets what he or she wants? We know that’s not true. Characters get what they want all the time. But this happens in a one of two ways.

1) The character gets what he or she wants and finds that it is hollow:

For example, in Jerry Maguire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) gets what he wants, to get back in the agent game by representing a major NFL player. He finds his victory is hollow and emotionally empty when he realizes he has no one to call or with whom to celebrate after a big win. This is when he returns to his wife and family and embraces what he needs.

In Dangerous Liaisons, Vicomte Valmont (John Malkovich) gets what he wants: To seduce the un-seducible woman. He finds his victory is poisonous when he realizes he has destroyed the only woman he has ever loved and who truly loves him. The story ends tragically with his death and hers.

2) The character lets go of the want and embraces the need and then, in the classic comedic turnaround, he or she finds something even better or finds that the want comes around on the other side:

In life, this is the story of a young couple that wants to start a family. What they want is a biological child. They try and try to no avail. They realize what they need is to make a family with a child who needs them. They adopt and are deliriously happy. What happens one year later? The wife gets pregnant. This happy turnaround happens enough in life that we believe it in fiction.

Or for example, in Pretty Woman, Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) wants to pay the rent. That’s why she picks up Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) in the first place. It’s why she stays with him over the course of the story. When he offers to meet that want by buying her a condo (and pay her rent in perpetuity) she turns him down. What she needs is to live a life of honesty and integrity. If she accepts his proposition she will always be a whore. She rejects his offer and it is that act of integrity that brings him back to her as a real suitor and a true partner (rather than as a man who is simply “buying” her).

The tougher the choice is, the better the story.

Does the main character pay dearly for whatever he or she pursues and chooses? The price is the end of the long road where the character comes face-to-face with the ultimate truth. Who is the character really? This supreme price is what the audience is waiting eagerly to see.

If the price is not high enough, the story suffers and the audience isn’t really invested in the outcome.

#MondayMusings – Celebrate the Small Victories!

Too often we are so focused on where we are going, we forget how far we’ve come.  Today take a moment to look at your diary or calendar to see where you were a year ago, two years ago, and five years ago.

Several years ago I really felt I had hit a slump.  It felt like I’d made no progress and would never make progress.  I signed up for a Women in Film New Year’s workshop.

One of the assignments was to go though your calendar day-by-day and make a list of everything you’d done– every script mailed out, every meeting, every research session, every phone call!  When I tallied up the year I was amazed at what I have accomplished– progress I had completely forgotten about.

My career was moving forward!  The next assignment was to analyze what was the most effective use of my time.  What paid off and what seemed less productive.  Looking at that whole year day-by-day as it added up was a revelation.

The step by step by step of  incremental progress is always what makes a lasting career.  List the small steps you’ve taken so far this year and be sure to count ALL  the little victories.  Celebrate the mistakes you made that taught you valuable lessons and enabled you to move forward in new ways.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than an unsuccessful person with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”  Calvin Coolidge

Your small, seemingly insignificant, steps and your continued little victories make up the persistence that turns into a solid career!

#MondayMusings – Luck to Start the New Year

I was doing an end of year clean-up on my computer and stumbled across a very old newsletter article from http://www.makemorelivemoregivemore.com/

This article on luck is a great post to open the New Year.  Make 2013 your luckiest year yet by following these simple guidelines.

There are people who seem to have been born lucky. They know what they want, set out to get it, and somehow, everything falls into place. Even if something goes wrong along the way, they still manage to land on their feet.

Some people, on the other hand, who just can’t seem to catch a break. These are the people who believe that someday their luck will turn, and that someday, the “lucky ones” will run out of luck too. Some of them will simply blame the stars – they believe they’re fated to be unlucky, and they can’t do anything about it.

In a strange way, the unlucky ones are right, or so says Drawk Kwast. In his article Science of Luck on Small Business CEO Magazine, he explains that “The biggest reason you don’t have the life you want is because you are focused on what you aren’t getting. You see only your lack of luck. Successful people live life as they desire because they focus on what they are getting.”

The unlucky ones are unlucky because they believe they’re unlucky. Makes sense, right?

Drawk shares the results of a study conducted by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. In the study, he asked two groups of people, a “lucky” group and an “unlucky” one, to look through a newspaper and tell him how many photographs were in it. On average, the lucky people had their answers in seconds, while the unlucky ones took two minutes.

Luck is about keeping your eyes open

The lucky ones saw a large message taking up half of the second page that said: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” The unlucky ones totally missed it and kept counting.

The key, as Drawk puts it is this: “It’s not about luck. It’s about keeping your eyes open.” He goes on to say that he’s among the lucky ones, “not that I have better luck than other people; it’s that I can see things that others can’t.” Drawk can identify opportunities for growth and success that many others can’t, and he also interacts with as many people as possible to create those opportunities.

Luck is about extending your hand

This idea is shared by other lucky people. One of them is Tom McCarthy, whom was interviewed a few months back for a NOBS TALK on Increasing Your Luck. Tom explains: “One of the things lucky people do that unlucky people tend not to do is they maximize the number of opportunities that come to them.” By being outgoing, by introducing yourself to others, and by expanding your network, you create opportunities for yourself, and improve your luck.

Luck is about listening to your gut

Tom also shares that lucky people listen to their “lucky hunches,” while unlucky ones go against them. If that doesn’t quite make sense, replace “lucky hunches” with gut or intuition. You improve your luck by following your gut – it might not get it 100% right, but more often than not, your intuition will steer you in the right direction, and you’ll be happier for it.

Luck is about keeping a smile on your face

This brings us two the idea that lucky people are happier. The idea seems so obvious – if things just seem to fall in place for you, of course you’ll be happy about that. What most people don’t see, however, is that it works when you flip things around – happy people are luckier too.

J.D. Roth discusses this on Zen Habits in his article How to Make the Most Out of Luck in Your Career and Life. “A person who leads a balanced life is happier, more relaxed, more open to new experiences,” J.D. Explains. “If you maintain good relationships, pursue satisfying hobbies, go out of your way to help others, and continue to pursue personal growth, you will become a well-rounded person, just the sort that ‘luck’ favors.”

Michael Levy also discusses this briefly in his article The Five Principles for Prosperity. The first principle he shares is to Enjoy Everything. Enthusiasm and exploration, he says, “leave the door open for future development.”

Drawk Kwast really sums it up well: “This has nothing to do with luck. It’s pure science.” Luck is all about your attitude and your outlook. It’s about opening your eyes, creating opportunities, following your gut, and maintaining a positive attitude. The question now is this:

Will you create your own luck, or will you be one of those who do nothing but complain?

Photo by billaday www.flickr.com/photos/billselak/2067139101/

#MondayMusings – Nordkapp Film Festival

Monday, 10 September 2012

I arrived in Tromso and am having dinner with the festival organizers.  Had a brief tour of the local area.  I must say that Norway makes my heart sing.  Its beauty is breathtaking and its people are open and friendly.  Also the fish is the best in the world.  Fish restaurant for me tonight.

For the next several weeks this blog will be a sort of travelogue along with musing and observations in my consulting and teaching travels.

Here are a couple of observations from the plane:

1.  Nordic men are stunningly handsome. Just sayin’

2.  Scandinavians love America. I sat next to two Norwegian plumbers on the plan.  They were part of a group of 15 plumbers who were wrapping up a trip to New York.  They saved their money and met company performance goals– so off all the plumbers went as a company reward.  (Would this happen in America as a reward?) They had a fabulous time and the guy I sat next to is eager to return for a longer stay with his wife.

3.  The Norwegians are open and friendly observation is totally true.  Tall blond and handsome guy sitting one row forward helped me put my iPhone on non-roaming International mode so I wouldn’t rack up thousand of AT&T charge while in Europe.

Here is a look at Tromso–

#MondayMusings – What Your Comments Mean

187390_2540165_1563165_nToday I had the pleasure of “accepting” five new comments to different articles on this blog.  I want to take the opportunity to let readers know how thrilling it is to get even the briefest comment or “like” on one’s post, article, status update, tweet or other work.  One or two words will do.

So often I wonder, as does every other writer on the planet, is anyone actually reading this stuff?  Is the effort involved in making this information, personal revelation, review or commentary reaching anyone?  I am often surprised when someone mentions a post or essay weeks or months after it was written.  I thought it had gotten lost in the great ether of the Internet.

If you want to make a writer’s heart soar today,  tweet, retweet, comment or “like.”  It only takes a second and it means more than you know.

#MondayMusings – Day One at eQuinoxe

Snowy Road

Snowy Road in the Bavarian Alps

Snow began to fall at about midnight last night and continued through the day.  Slow, lovely and steady.  There’s maybe three + feet all around. It’s was quite magical and just the day to read a script in front of the fire! Looks like an early Christmas card.

The advisors all arrived today.  We attended a wonderful jazz concert at Schloss Elmau, which is renown for its music, literature and art programs.  That’s why the place is such a great fit for the eQuinoxe workshops.  It’s a great atmosphere of culture and creativity.

We had a lovely get-to-know you dinner with all the advisors.  I’ll be working with Kit Carson (Paris, Texas), Claire Dobbin (Australian Film Commission), David Keating (Last of the High Kings, Into the West), Anthony McCarten (Death of a Super Hero), Susanne Schneider (The Day Will Come), Martin Sherman (Mrs. Henderson Presents) and Time Squyers (Ang Lee’s long-time editor).

It’s a wonderful group and we will meet tomorrow to begin discussion of the scripts in the workshop.   Let the passionate debates begin!

#MondayMusings – Arrival in Munich

Part of the Schloss

Part of the Schloss

I hate to travel.  I know that sounds strange from someone who is “on the road” as much as I am.  But I find the prep, packing, getting to the airport and the flight very anxiety producing.  What I LOVE is my arrival.

I arrived in Munich and got my bags.  German airports are, as you would expect, a model of efficiency.  The baggage claim is right outside the gates, rather than in a crowded baggage hall for all arriving flights.



Typical Painting in Upper Bavaria

Typical Painting in Upper Bavaria

The workshop location manager was there to meet me, we grabbed his rental car, picked up a dear friend, the head of eQuinoxe Germany, and drove up into the alps.  The scenery is spectacular on the road.  Several small villages along the way have the most glorious paintings of religious scenes or local scenes of brewing, baking, flowers or dancing painted on the exterior walls.



Relaxation Area Outside the Hammam

Relaxation Area Outside the Hammam

Schloss Elmau was our destination, a fabulous resort and cultural hideaway tucked away on it’s own in the foothills of the alps.  Tired after a long trip I headed for the Hammam, a marble turkish bath and took a long steam treatment. I could feel all my tense muscles unwinding.





Steam Rising Off the Heated Outdoor Pool

Steam Rising Off the Heated Outdoor Pool

Then I headed out to the outdoor pool.  The water is heated to about 98 degrees and was surrounded by patches of snow.  There were two naked German men in the pool as well. In  fact, there are always naked Germans in the pool.  This is my fourth trip to Elmau for eQuinoxe and it’s a startling fact of life that there is very little body self-consciousness at these kind of spa resorts.  I am sticking to my modest flowered one-piece thank-you very much.




Sauna Overlooking the Alps

Sauna Overlooking the Alps

Next I hit the sauna for the heat to dry my hair and bathing suit.  Large windows again looked out over the snow.  Heavenly.  A quick shower and I dressed for dinner with some of the other advisors.  Then off to bed for a long restful sleep.  Arrival bliss!