Archive for category Success
Most serious writers want to connect with an audience; preferably a big one. You have something to say. You have a story to tell. You want people to read it. One of the best ways to make people want to read your work is to create memorable and relatable central characters. Whether you are writing a short story, screenplay, or a novel, you want your readers to identify with and live the story through your main characters. To do this, you have to create three dimensional characters that live and breathe in your reader’s imagination. I’d like to share with you a method I learned for from professional, published writers.
I started writing in earnest when I began a career in marketing communications. In my early thirties, it became clear to me that writing was the thing I enjoyed doing the most when it came to work. I wrote promotional copy and content for radio and TV ads, brochures, websites, press releases, Power Point® presentations, sales contests and salesperson motivation, and on and on. In my forties, I wrote a few not-so-good short stories. At the age of fifty, I decided to try my hand at writing screenplays. I was scared shitless. Deep down, I really didn’t think I could do it. Some crazy impulse pushed me towards the cliff’s edge and over it into the unknown.
Fortunately, I was old enough to realize I needed help. At fifty, I didn’t have the time or inclination to fall into the traps most beginning fiction writers do. I had already suffered enough scars from learning how to write business communications. I wanted to walk as straight a path as possible in this new world of fiction writing. I knew that mistakes were inevitable. I just wanted to avoid the detours.
Somehow, I found my way to the Online Writers’ Program at UCLA. One of the first things I learned in my online courses was the necessity of building an original and compelling Protagonist and Antagonist plus an interesting cast of supporting characters. Unless you are an incredibly gifted genius, you will need to know your characters thoroughly before you start writing your story. You must know them in detail, including the seminal events that made them who they are today, commonly called their backstory. Why is this necessary? Because if you don’t know who your characters are and what they need and want before you start writing, they will almost certainly be flat, two-dimensional cut outs. At the very least, they won’t be original and interesting.
If you craft your characters carefully and thoughtfully, your story will write itself. Your plot will be character driven, rather than contrived. Your readers will become emotionally attached to your characters.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Enough of this baloney. Tell me how to write amazing characters.
There are two methods I can suggest. You can sit down and write everything you know about your character. Hopefully, you’ll fill several pages with your biographical information. If you can do this effectively, more power to you. There’s only one catch: You better know what to include in your character’s bio because, as we’ve said, you have to know your character inside and out. That’s why I prefer the second method, especially if you are new to creating fictional characters.
The second method, which I deveoped from my online courses at UCLA, employs a character template to build your character. I feel it’s better than writing about your characters in an unstructured format because it forces you to answer questions about them that you might try to avoid or just plain leave out. Here’s the template you can use to create central characters with more originality, specificity, and complexity. Filling out the template takes a bit of work, but in the end, I believe it can expand your audience and pave the way to greater writing success.
Build or Figure:
Past/present home life:
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. For more information, please visit www.davidgittlin.com
This is going to be a rant of sorts with some upside. It’s also going to be a little embarrassing. Maybe more than a little. Anyway, here goes.
I am a very active person. To avoid boring you with the particulars, let’s just say that I lead a busy life chock full of errands and enjoyable past times strung together with “work” that I try to make meaningful. I put the word “work” in quotes because I believe that work has to be enjoyable to yield measurable, positive results.
I have done things I really didn’t want to do called “work.” My father once told me that “you can’t always do what you want to do.” This is true, but I think I took what he said to an extreme.
I have read and observed that highly successful people enjoy what they do. They work very hard because they enjoy it. Now, “working very hard” has to be put into perspective in my case. I have never, ever, worked very hard compared to someone like Tom Brady, or Warren Buffet, or my investment advisor.
However, I have worked very hard (for me) at writing. I am passionate about writing. And looking back on forty plus years of writing, I see that what I’ve written has had very little impact as far as making the world a better place to live in. This includes the latest novel I wrote with a subtext about the energy and environmental crisis (Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.)
This bothers me because I have put a ton of myself into the three books I’ve written, particularly the last one which is available in digital, paperback and audio formats. Another thing that bothers me is the world, not just the Amazon forests, is on fire. We are facing extinction due to the environmental crisis we have managed to visit upon ourselves. The environmental issue has finally become a big topic of discussion, but we aren’t taking the radical steps that are required to confront the problem. That’s why I wrote Micromium a year ago, but it didn’t help. Not the way I wanted it to.
So, if I’ve been doing what I truly want to do for the past thirty odd years, why isn’t it working?
Well, it seems that I finally have a clue. I have not been as successful as I’d like to be because I DONT BELIEVE IN MYSELF ENOUGH. I’ve learned that a strong belief in oneself and in what one is doing is essential for success. I’ve known about this principle for a long time, but knowing about it and doing something about it are two distinctly different things.¹ Just like the environmental issue.
Recently, I’ve found a way to significantly cut through my self-doubt. It’s called Somatic Experiencing. Since starting this training a month ago, my energy is more focused and it is coming from a deeper place. I’ve already witnessed some positive results. Nothing big mind you, but definitely positive in relation to myself and other people. I’m in the beginning stages of this process, and I hope there will be much more growth to come. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make some positive waves in this troubled world. It’s never too late.
Thanks for reading this. Hope it helped.
¹I’d also like to mention that it helps to do the thing or things you are designed for. It’s important to find your true purpose. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
There’s a lot of stuff happening in the world that is bad—really bad. We know this, and we tend to focus on the bad stuff. So, I’m asking myself: what is good?
For starters, we are good—even the worst of us. The trick is; how do we get to that goodness?
I ‘ve found that it takes some work to get to the goodness. In my case, it’s taken a hell of a lot of work. It’s taken constant digging. I know what I should do and what I’m supposed to do. I’ve gotten pretty good at doing the stuff I need to do and should do. For example, I’m thinking about working for the best democratic presidential candidate that I can find. Am I excited about doing this? Not really. It’s just a matter of necessity. We have to remove the lunatic currently occupying the White House.
Okay, so there are all sorts of things we have to do and should do. What about the good stuff? What about the place inside where goodness happens naturally? It’s a feel-good place and the source of true inspiration.
When I meditate in the morning, I have, on many occasions, experienced the good place inside me. I’ve experienced peace, love, and joy. I like these feelings. Who wouldn’t? The problem is that these feelings fade away too quickly. I often wonder how so many people do so many good things consistently. I’m thinking of people like doctors and nurses, of gifted mental health counselors, of social workers, of accountants who work hard under heavy pressure to provide essential services to businesses and individuals. The list goes on. How do you guys do it EVERY DAY? If you are a hard-working person, please clue me in.
Why do I wonder? Well, I like to PLAY. I try to make a game out of everything I do, except going in for a colonoscopy. I admit that one is a bit of a challenge. Not too long ago, I held down honest jobs in sales, marketing, and real estate. I even did accounting for a while. I worked in a family business for thirty years doing all of the above–not hard work, mind you–just plain old don’t kill yourself work. After all of those years of (ahem) work, you would think I’ve changed, matured, and learned to accept that life is hard and full of work. Nope. I haven’t changed one bit. I still like to play. I envy people who like to work. I imagine it’s much easier to live in the world as an adult if you like to work. I wouldn’t know, of course.
Are you resonating with any of this? If yes, please drop me a line or two.
Let’s get back to the essential goodness inside each one of us. How do I (we) tap into it more consistently? It drives me nuts how it comes and goes. If I’m feeling more peace, more love, more joy, than I can be and do more for other people. I’m working on making these good feelings more consistent. If I can pull it off, I’ll be sure to brighten your day with some goodness first aid.
Update: I HAVE found a way to make this happen with something called Somatic Experiencing Therapyplay. In my third session, I felt and visualized light pulsating throughout my body and mind. Now, I feel more grounded. I feel more ALIVE. Since I know blogs are not supposed to be too long, I’ll write more about this in my next post. Stay tuned.
Where does self-confidence come from? Where does it go when we need it most?
How does an energetic child with a mountainous capacity for curiosity grow into a narrow-minded, emotionally constricted adult full of hopelessness and suffering?
The answer is simple. We lose the key to the door that opens to a satisfying existence; belief in ourselves and the faith that every day can be sculpted into a masterpiece of joy.
Self-confidence is an elusive commodity that fluctuates with life’s events including, but not limited to; our mood, brain chemistry, the weather, acceptance or rejection. It is a fragile, unpredictable elixir; here today, gone tomorrow. Yet for a fortunate few, it is a constant, a second nature, a faithful servant and friend.
With self-confidence, we can create the next, great wonder of the world. Without it, we walk bent over through life, a mere shadow on the wall, a faint reflection of our glorious and noble human potential.
If your self-confidence is at a low ebb, you can take the first step towards a more joyful and productive life by LOVING YOURSELF. Forgive yourself for past transgressions, whether real or imagined. Start each day with a clean slate. The past is dead. The future is a possibility based on how you think and what you chose to do in this very moment.
Think with hope in your heart. Hopeful thoughts are positive, creative, loving thoughts. Hopeful thoughts will fill you with possibilities. They will fill you with confidence in yourself because they come from your true self, the real you.
There are always two roads stretching before us. One road leads to freedom and joy. The other one leads to misery and limitation. Take the time, right now, to cast away doubt and fear. Listen to your inner voice, the one that wants to set you free.
Self-confidence comes from being the person you truly are; your best self. Trust yourself. Love yourself. Let the flame of love grow in your heart. Seek the sources that support and nurture your truest and best self. Self-confidence will bloom automatically, along with passion and a free enjoyment of life.
I enjoy reading words of inspiration as much as you probably do. I believe in the power of positive thinking. I love practicing the art of creative visualization. (My man Jordan Spieth, last week’s winner of the US Open Golf Championship, is the ultimate practitioner of creative visualization.)
Having said this, I have to say something more. You probably guessed I’d go on for a bit in this week’s blog. It takes more than a stranger’s words to affect lasting, positive change and success in any endeavor. It takes loving support from caring mentors. The ideal personification of this support comes from a set of caring, loving parents. Let’s take Jordan Spieth again as an example. He seems to have an ideal relationship with his loving, caring, teaching parents plus a monumental talent that have helped him to win two major golf titles in his young and promising career.
Jason Day, a young professional golfer from Australia, battled bravely through dizziness and nausea caused by vertigo to finish high in the US Open final standings. Jason, unlike his contemporary Spieth, did not have a strong connection with his parents while growing up. He had a troubled youth before meeting Colin Swatton at Kooralbyn, a golf-centric boarding school in south-east Queensland. Jason’s mother had to borrow money to send her son to Kooralbyn in a desperate attempt to do something about his delinquent behavior after his father died of stomach cancer when Jason was 12.
Colin Swatton was a golf instructor at Kooralbyn when he first met the head-strong, rebellious Day. Swatton’s non-confrontational style won Jason over. When Swatton moved on to teach at Hills International College, Day followed him. From there, Swatton became Day’s golf coach, mentor, close friend and full-time professional caddie. Jason Day is now one of the top-ranked golfers in the world with a family of his own and the admiration and affection of his peers.
After I’ve read a self-help book the inspiration and advice usually fade within forty-eight hours. Formulaic self-help exercises quickly become dry practices that yield little or lasting benefits. I picked up a few Wayne Dyer books a year ago and two things became immediately clear: (1) Wayne has a lot of nice things to say and (2) I could not practice or live what Dyer says if I tried for a million years.
So what does it take to move forward, achieve, and grow? To amplify what I said earlier, it takes a special personal relationship. It is a relationship that always accepts and honors who you are and where you are. It can be a parental, mentoring, teaching, romantic, or friend to friend relationship. In the case of the first three, the relationship begins with the child, mentee, or student receiving more at first. I’ve learned that over time the best of these relationships blossom into mutuality where both parties reap significant rewards. There’s an energy and information exchange in these relationships; call it love, call it caring and concern, call it chemistry. Whatever it is, it’s a radiant, magic elixir. It produces extraordinary human beings; some famous and others who live and work quietly outside of the limelight.
I live in Aventura, a city in the northeastern tip of Miami-Dade County. While the US Post Office refuses to officially recognize us, we exist, complete with our own police force and city bureaucracy. I offer these facts to verify my official status as a South Floridian, a person living in Miami or Aventura, depending on your point of view.
In addition to the weather, one of the major benefits Floridians enjoy is our basketball team—the Miami Heat. I used to take my daughter to heat games, but that was when she was younger and it was possible to score a good ticket (legally) on the Heat Ticket Exchange for anywhere between eighty and a hundred bucks. Those days are gone, but I’m no less enthusiastic. Watching the games at home is just as much fun, now that we have big TV screens.
The Heat Organization is one of the finest cultures ever created in the world. It starts at the top with team president Pat Riley and trickles down. The players and coaches don’t give lip service to values like diligent practice in the gym and on the court, accountability, community service, sacrifice, and unselfishness. These men live those values every minute of their lives. You don’t read about Heat players racking up DUI tickets, using drugs, beating up wives or girlfriends, bullying, or any of the insane behavior associated with highly paid professional athletes. It doesn’t happen in the Heat organization despite the constant pressure of high expectations, criticism, and scrutiny the players and coaches live with. These men are role models. They love and support one another, and enjoy coming to work every day.
When one of the Heat’s high draft picks could not stop smoking marijuana, the team traded him. Now that same guy is back, playing better for less money, minus the marijuana, plus character and maturity developed in the Heat family atmosphere.
I hope the Heat wins a third consecutive championship, but if they don’t, I’ll still love every one of them. How could you not love these guys? Each player has a unique story of overcoming obstacles, building character, and ascending into the rarefied air of Heat team membership. Udonis Haslem is one of these stories. Despite an outstanding high school and college basketball career, no NBA team drafted him. He played for a year in France, hated it, but still played well enough to try out for the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Haslem came to the Heat training camp 25 pounds lighter, made the team, and hasn’t looked back in eleven seasons.
Win or lose—take a lesson from the Heat players and organization, among the best in the world.
Think about what it takes to become an NFL draft pick. A young man must be a standout player in high school to make the team at a college or university with a nationally recognized football program. The same young man must play at a high level at his college or university, establish a reputation as a man of character, and avoid a career-ending injury. Talent, discipline, perseverance, hard work and luck are just a few of the necessary ingredients for success.
After college, the young man goes through the rigors of training for the scouting combine and an extensive vetting process by NFL teams. The next excruciating step is the NFL draft, where the dreams and expectations of deserving, hardworking young men are regularly shredded like paper documents by the blades of NFL football reality.
Finally, consider that only first and second round draft picks receive guaranteed contracts and a spot on the fifty-three man NFL team roster. The other draftees, taken in the third through seventh rounds, must compete with established players possessing competitive instincts and talent honed to such a high level that they are nothing less than freaks of nature.
All of the foregoing begs the question that has nagged me since the Ritchie Incognito and Jonathan Martin story broke in the news: Why must men who have endured so much be subjected to rookie hazing? What do these men, who have overcome staggering odds and every kind of adversity, have left to prove in terms of their talent and manhood?
The answer is nothing.
Why does rookie hazing exist? It seems to me, in this enlightened age, there is no place for this practice. To call rookie hazing a rite of passage is an unfortunate misnomer. Rookie NFL players pass through a demanding gauntlet so severe that only a tiny percentage of their peers pass the test.
Rookie hazing exists for the purpose of entertaining veteran players, pure and simple. It is a perk for older players who have survived, for however short or long, in the NFL. The problem with this is that it comes at the expense of young men who have already paid a very high price to ascend to the perilous and exalted status of NFL team player. It is grossly unfair to demean these men with the immature and sometimes cruel practices that come under the heading of rookie hazing.
NFL players justify the practice as “good fun” and even “therapy” that helps to defuse tension in training camp. I’m sure the players doing the hazing are having fun, but what about the rookies? They might be smiling, but it’s only because they have to. And, there is the ever lurking danger that this good fun and therapy will cross the line into harmful and damaging behavior.
Does hazing help the rookies and older players bond? I doubt it. I can’t see how hazing can effectively build team chemistry. It can certainly build counter-productive resentment in the rookie players.
I am reminded of the Miami Heat basketball team, where veteran players regularly mentor and encourage younger players to build their skills, work habits, and character. This is a product of team culture. It is something we should see much more of in the NFL.
I say rookie hazing should be banned by the NFL, or anywhere it exists. In professional sports, the penalties should be fines and suspensions.