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30Apr/110

“The Cheat Sheet” – FREE STORY #6

If you've already read and enjoyed "The Cheat Sheet," would you PLEASE give me a quick Amazon review here?

Romantic comedies are so predictable.  Or are they...?

COMEDIC ROMANCE

The beautiful brunette in the flowing dress walked with a purpose down a busy West Village street, though the street looked hyper-real. The sidewalks too perfect, even in how they were cracked and gum-speckled. The newspaper boxes too shiny and clean, like they were actually still installing new boxes for the dying media. The other walkers on the street a little too pretty, even for a very pretty area like the West Village.

Coming from the other direction down this hyper-real West Village street, a street you could somewhat recognize but not exactly pinpoint, came a handsome man in a tight t-shirt. Rugged and scruffy, chomping on some gum as if trying to get rid of its sugary flavor as quickly as possible.

As this handsome man neared a street corner garbage can—again, far spiffier than any Manhattan garbage can you've ever seen—he cavalierly spat the gum wad from his mouth, shooting it at the can, but missing just barely, the wad resting on the sidewalk. Moments later, the beautiful woman accidentally stepped in it.

The woman tried to lift her expensive shoe but it adhered strongly, creating an elastic affect which snapped her foot back to earth every time she tried to lift it in a tiny bit of physical comedy, though she was hardly laughing. She was rather furious, yelling “Hey!” at the handsome and unwitting man.

The man turned and asked if “Something's the matter?”

“You spit your gum on the ground and I stepped in it. Now I can’t get my foot up!” she cried.

“That wasn’t my gum,” the rake replied with a smirk on his face.

“But I saw you!” she countered.

“If you saw me, then why did you go ahead and step in it?” he volleyed back, a wiseass grin plastered on his face.

“Ugh! Could you just help me!”

The man casually bent down and grabbed the woman’s bare leg, looking up and cockily smiling at her as if he was touching her leg in a most romantic manner. The man finally removed her foot from the gum and, using a free newspaper from a bin, wiped her shoe clean.

“You’re lucky I don’t have you arrested!”

“For what?”

“For...for...for spitting gum onto the sidewalk!”

The woman stormed off in a huff and...the director called cut because this was just the opening scene in a soon-to-be blockbuster romantic comedy (working title: The One) directed by an intentionally eccentric director of some ambiguous Nordic origin who simply went by the name of Super-Sven (real name: Sven Erickson Johannes) and which was slated to be released by my company in the early summer of 2011.

The opening scene was what is called in my business—that business being the movie business—a “meet cute.” People in the business don't really use that term any more because it's been around since at least the 1930s and movie people have no regard nor knowledge for history—either movie or just historical history (why so many historical epics are historically devoid of accuracy)—but meet cutes still exist. Perhaps now more than ever. Hollywood's hacky like that. They are always the opening scene to a romantic comedy, a contrived encounter of two people under unusual circumstances, a purportedly comic situation created entirely to bring these two seemingly opposite people together. Back in the 50s and 60s, these opposites might be black and white or rich and poor or Jewish and Christian or even pretty and ugly. But nowadays, with all the PC bullshit and the desire to not offend any one less we potentially lose even a hair of box office share, we usually just make the “opposites” opposites in demeanor. Usually a cool, laid back stallion of a guy and some snooty cunt of a woman. I don't know about you, but I've never fallen in love after first hating someone's guts, but this must happen to other people a lot as audiences keep eating it up.

After Super-Sven called cut, Welsh actor Alexander Hugh Davies exhaled and smiled at his fellow actor and scene partner Shelly Clarke. It was weird to go from being contentious in a scene with someone to quickly being nice to them on the drop of a dime. The drop of a clapperboard.

Hugh was immediately apologetic to Shelly.

“So sorry I literally arrived a second before today's scene. My red-eye was delayed a few hours.”

“Don’t worry about it. I know you had that project in, where was it...?”

“Easter Island.”

Super-Sven approached. He sported a silver fox head of bushy hair, a full beard, and wore glasses and a denim shirt tucked into jeans with white sneakers. For inspiration, he had noted during pre-production that he would be spending each day on set channeling a legendary director both on the inside and out. Today he was channeling George Lucas for some reason, perhaps due to the action content of the day's work. Super-Sven wrapped Hugh and Shelly for the day, asked them if they needed car service (both declined), and told them he'd see them for their 6:00 AM call the next day. Then, Hugh and Shelly were again alone as underpaid PAs cleared stuff from set.

“Um...what time is it, Hugh?”

Hugh looked at his watch, surprised at what he saw. “2:15?!” He laughed, quickly understanding, and tapped the Timex. “Fuckin' prop watch.”

Shelly laughed, too, and Hugh got an idea.

“Hey, if you got a few minutes, that kiss-up second AD gave me a decent bottle of wine. Would you like to share a glass with me? We should probably build some rapport or something being that this is the first day we've ever been around each other.”

Soon, both Hugh and Shelly knelt side by side in his trailer, looking closely into a mirror as they removed their make-up.

“What exactly do I call you, Mr. Alexander Hugh Davies?” Shelly wondered.

“Hugh is fine. Hugh is my name. I had to take that unwieldy name because of SAG. Some washed-up asshole who was on some sitcom in the 60’s gets to be the real Hugh Davies. So annoying.”

“Well I’m the first asshole to be Shelly Clark, so other Shelly Clarks can be mad at me for the rest of time.”

Their conversations continued after a few glasses of wine.

“Have you worked with Sven before?” Shelly wondered.

“Once. On a commercial. He’s a good bloke, bit of an eccentric, bit of a hack, but his movies do quite well.”

“My manager wanted me to do this project. I’ve never really done a romantic comedy before but he says I need a hit since I haven’t had one in a few years.”

Hugh was shocked. “What about G-Spotting? I fuckin' loved that picture.”

“You saw G-Spotting?!” Shelly was even more shocked as it was a small indie film that only played four theaters in New York and LA and wasn't even available on Netflix as of yet.

“Of course I saw it. I specifically asked my agent for a screener. It was terrific. You were terrific.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Shelly lamented. “But it made about fifteen dollars at the box office.”

“Hey, fifteen bucks ain’t so bad. Wait...was that domestic or international?”

Shelly laughed hard. Hugh had a great sense of humor, she thought. Most actors were real stiffs. Perhaps he was different since he was...she couldn't exactly tell but she thought Australian maybe.

“If it was something you wanted to do, Shelly, then you made the right decision to do it regardless of box office. You should always only do what you want to do.”

Shelly smiled. He was funny and sweet. A rare combo. You typically had to be an asshole to also be funny. She suddenly felt a little tipsy. She wasn't one of those actresses that never ate so that even if the camera added those ten pounds they'd still look skinny as sin, she'd just been too busy on this day to eat, having only been able to snag some fruit from the craft services table during a brief camera set-up break.

“What time is it, Hugh?”

Hugh lifted his wrist toward Shelly.

“Remember? Prop watch.”

Shelly glanced at the small twin-sized trailer bed behind Hugh.

“You ever slept in one of those things before?”

“I AM a movie star,” Hugh half-jokingly boasted.

“Oh, so what, you take all your co-stars back to your trailer?”

Hugh feigned shock, putting his hand to his chest.

“You got a dirty mind, Ms. Clark. What I meant was, I AM a movie star so I usually sleep in a giant bed in my giant mansion. Not in a twin-sized bed in a trailer.”

They were soon having sex.

The next day on set, Hugh (as character “Gary McBride”) strolled into the Cock of the Walk past several clothed strippers gabbing. He briefly chatted with a busty blond named Erica about her lack of tips the previous evening. He took his place in the DJ booth and introed “Destiny” before she went on stage to dance for the lunchtime hour's few customers. Gary's boss, Guy Clemens (an overage frat boy archetype portrayed by popular TV star Mick Ritter), entered the booth to razz Gary for being late. Gary told Guy about his encounter with the pretty woman in the Village. Guy was intrigued, you could tell his character was always intrigued when it came to women, and wondered if the women had “big fakies, long blond extensions, a slutty look on her face?”

“Quite the opposite actually,” noted Gary.

“Disgusting. So tiny mosquito bites, pale skin, and...” and here Mick (as Guy) shuddered, “dark hair?”

That afternoon Shelly (as character “Lizzy Olney”) acted frazzled as she arrived late to a college lecture hall packed with students. She walked to the front of the room where she was greeted by her flamingly gay T.A., Ricky (no last name mentioned in the script, portrayed by straight comedian Andy Stevens), before launching into a discussion with her all-female class on Third Wave Feminism, noting that just because society is patriarchal, it doesn't mean women have to be stripped of their self-sufficiency.

After Sven called “cut” and “that's a wrap,” Shelly was surprised to find Hugh still lingering by the playback monitors, being that he had wrapped several hours earlier. He claimed he liked watching his co-stars perform in order to aid in his own “craft,” but quickly and embarrassingly amended it into an admission that he really just wanted to ask Shelly out to dinner.

Shelly reluctantly accepted but told Hugh they couldn't go to a restaurant in L.A. lest the paparazzi catch them and immediately start some buzz. Instead, she entered her address into Hugh's iPhone and told him to come over for a home cooked meal at 9:00.

That night, as Shelly chopped veggies and prepared dinner, Hugh sat at a barstool next to to the massive island in her massive kitchen and sipped on a beer. They made small talk.

“It’s nice to be home for once. My manager makes me occasionally go to all these awful celebrity restaurants just so people will take pictures of me. I didn’t want that to happen today. Not yet at least.”

“The paps don't bother me in Hollywood.”

“But you’re really famous, Hugh.”

“Yeah, in Europe.”

“No one recognizes you here?”

“Oh, people recognize me. As Gerard Butler, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackman. Never myself.”

“Well, do you get bothered when you’re back home?”

“Nah. They let me be. They’re proud of me: local boy done good.”

Shelly smiled.

“I’m embarrassed to ask this but us Americans just hear 'sexy foreign accent.' We don’t know whether it’s Irish, Scottish, Australian...”

Hugh smiled. “I’m Welsh.”

Shelly nodded. "Oh. Wales."

Hugh was impressed. That dope, Mick Ritter, had thought he was from some country called Well.

While Shelly's back was turned as she sauteed some garlic, Hugh flapped open the laptop on her counter and started surfing. He read something and smirked. Not an asshole smirk like the way he smirked when he was portraying Gary McBride in The One, but a more pleasant smirk. Shelly turned over her shoulder, curious.

“What are you smiling at?” she wondered.

“You know how the first date is all about questions? Like a job interview. Just like you asked. Where ya from? Where’d you grow up? How are you parents? Where’d you go to school?”

“Right.” Shelly wondered whether this was technically their second date being that they'd already been drunk together, slept together, and, well, actually slept together.

“I hate that part of dating. So boring.”

“I’m sorry.” Hugh disarmed her, but she liked the feeling. Maybe it was the Welsh accent.

“No big deal. But it’s nice to go on a first date with a celebrity. I don’t have to waste time asking you those questions. I can just pull up your Wikipedia page and...”

Shelly dropped her spatula and sprinted over to the island to find Hugh actually on her Wikipedia page.

“...see you were born in Durham, North Carolina. Grew up in Charlotte. You made your screen debut at age twenty-one, you like to golf...hmmm...interesting. And it looks like Autograph magazine named you the second rudest female celebrity autograph signer of 2009.”

Dismayed, Shelly leaned in to read her own Wikipedia bio, quickly scanning the screen.

“Hey! It doesn’t say that!”

She snapped the laptop close. She found Hugh incredibly charming. Soon, their home-cooked meal was a home-burned one and they were having sex for the second time, in her enormous bedroom on her enormous canopy bed.

Afterward, they discussed what was happening between them. Hugh claimed he had never hooked up with a costar, heck, a fellow actor before. Shelly felt like she shouldn't believe him, but for some reason she did. She had to wonder why, though. He noted that he took his work very seriously and, until meeting her he'd never wanted to lose focus just to dip his pen in the company inkwell.

“I'll thank you not to call my vagina an inkwell,” cracked Shelly.

That was the line that made Hugh fall in love with her. Shelly had already fallen for Hugh. They'd barely known each other twenty-four hours.

Principal photography progressed with eccentric Sven shooting in sequence despite the $2.5M in additional costs to the studio. On the day Sven wore a bald cap with a pasted on ginger beard, Gary and Lizzie bumped into each other again, this time at a neighborhood coffee shop where she was a little taken aback to see him studying a text on Marcus Aurelius. “You're into the Stoics?” she asked, clearly shocked that this man she had thought nothing more than a Neanderthal was into something so cerebral. “I wrote my thesis on Stoicism at Princeton,” she added. She walked out of the coffee shop and couldn't help but catch herself grinning.

On the day Sven wore an E.T. ball cap, glasses, and a salt and pepper beard (he was beginning to realize there must be something about directors and their beards), Lizzie and Ricky attended a Yankees/Red Sox game. Ricky complained about always having to attend “boring” baseball games with her. Lizzie told him to enjoy the night air and eat his hot dog. Ricky made a mild sexual entendre about hot dogs. On the other side of the stadium, in the bleachers, Gary and Guy slugged beers and Guy taunted the Red Sox right fielder. Gary mentioned to Guy the amazing fact that he yet again ran into that pretty brunette and he, yet again, didn't have a chance to get her name or number. Just then, on the Jumbotron, the “Kiss Cam” was turned on, a popular segment between half-innings during which the camera quickly scans the ballpark, looking for couples, and encourages them to smooch each other for the entire 50,000-plus in attendance to see.

“It's her!” yelled Gary when the "Kiss Cam" parked itself on a shocked Lizzie and Ricky. Lizzie was even more shocked when Ricky planted a big kiss on her kisser. “Why did you just do that?” she screamed, after the cameras were off them. “Just givin' the fans what they want,” noted Ricky. “I guess she has a boyfriend,” lamented Gary. “Go track her down any way, that guy looked like a real fruit,” added Guy, a line we at the studio hoped wouldn't be flagged as discriminatory by GLAAD.

Hugh and Shelly's second date took place at Hugh's Santa Monica rental home and, smartly, he ordered some sushi in. They fed each other hand rolls while playing a little game Hugh had just invented on the fly: all they were allowed to discuss that night, he said, were terrible things about themselves. Hugh figured that, since they were celebrities, and since so many terrible things were always said about them, they might as well lay their honesty cards on the table before going any further. Shelly agreed.

Hugh revealed that he had been married, but for just a week, to some girl he'd met on a vacation in Thailand who may or may not have been a prostitute.

Shelly revealed that she'd had her breasts augmented.

Hugh revealed that he had briefly dabbled in cocaine in his early twenties.

Shelly revealed that she'd had a year-long affair with a very famous man who was still married to his very famous wife who still didn't know.

Hugh revealed that, despite what her agent told her, he was actually making double her salary for The One.

Shelly revealed that she really had a thick North Carolina accent but that she worked really hard to lose it so that she'd be more castable. Hugh thought that was cute and made her show him what she really sounded like. When she did, he laughed and mimicked her the best he could. “I don't think you'll be getting cast as a gal from the Carolinas in any upcoming films,” she giggled. They ended that night in Hugh's California King, yet again having passionate sex.

From there, their romance progressed like most normal romances progress, even despite the fact they were A list celebrities (well, Hugh was actually B list in America, but who's counting?).

The movie proceeded according to the Aristotelian Drama Pyramid as run through an American rom-com Mad Libs fill-in-the-blank, despite Sven insisting he was making something “sui generis,” a word he'd just learned after having skimmed through a biography of Stanley Kubrick (another be-bearded director) on his iPad during his last cross-country flight.

Hugh and Shelly started boosting the national sex averages of fifty times per person per year at four minutes per time by having sex ten times per week (over the next two weeks) at an average of seventeen minutes per time if a "time" was defined as starting at Hugh's entry and ending at Hugh's orgasm, which was a totally archaic and patriarchal way to measure these things, but even your prototypical left-leaning pro-women Hollywooder, like myself, probably couldn't have come up with any better way of measurement.

Gary and Lizzie continued to run into each other, pretend to hate each other despite the obvious sexual attraction and tension, think about each other, then head back home to masturbate to those thoughts (the latter, of course, never filmed nor shown nor mentioned on screen because us producers were hoping for a more viably lucrative PG-13 rating.)

Eventually, their relationship reached a certain point of seriousness, even though Hugh joked that nothing in his life was “serious.” It's why he'd become an actor in the first place and not some boring CPA like his father. “I've never understood why when you decide to commit to someone monogamously you have to tell people you've gotten 'serious.' Because we haven't,” he told Shelly. “Haven't we decided to commit to each other because all we've done is laugh the last three weeks? There's been nothing serious about it at all. Just fun. Instead, can't we tell people we've finally decided to get 'comical' with each other?” Shelly laughed.

Gary and Lizzie were seriously getting sick of randomly running into each other at the bodega and the grocery store and the bar, especially in such a large city like New York, when the forces of nature, the parameters of simplistic scripts, insisted that something occur at the end of what was called Act One, in order to catapult the action to a new level, to “up the odds,” and make you wonder “What next?” In good scripts this was handled effortlessly, subtly, realistically. In Pierce Underwood's (author of previous rom-com smashes Status Update, Plus-One, and Groomzilla) script, this was handled by Gary amazingly being the only person to sign up for a $550 eight-week summer course on Corporate Feminism that Lizzie was teaching for the Learning Annex, a dramatic stroke only more farcical than their meet cute.

There are no second acts in life, they say, but since Hugh and Shelly were now in the second act of The One, they were spending everyday acting across from each other, which was great, despite the contentiousness of these scenes dramatically. They were likewise spending two to three nights of every week with each other, and all forty-eight hours of the weekend, mostly indoors.

Lizzie was furious and embarrassed. Embarrassed only one person had signed up for a class she was teaching to supplement her income so she could afford to take a sabbatical semester to help abused women in Vermont at the start of fall; furious her one student was this “frat boy” who was clearly only taking the class to annoy her. Despite his ever present smirk, Gary insisted his reasons for taking the class were honorable, he was truly interested in learning the subject matter, something us as audience members skeptically believed despite what we knew about his character.

Staying in each other's mansions having sex marathons was great, but Hugh and Shelly began desiring the ability to leave the house together, grab a drink, dinner, see a rock show, shop on La Brea, simply hold hands on set and let it be known they were together. Shelly's manager publicly “outed” their relationship by “anonymously” tipping off one of his Hollywood blogger friends that the new couple would be dining al fresco that evening at Beep-za (a hip neo-pizzeria that made brick oven pizza that tasted like it just came from the microwave) where they shared a medium Veggie Addicts pie.

As the film progressed, the two-dimensional supporting characters in Gary and Lizzie's life became even less dimensional, now simply used as occasionally appearing sounding boards for our main characters to work out problems without the script having to resort to clunky, “on-the-nose” narration.

All the tabloids and blogs were excited about the new romance between Alexander Hugh Davies and Shelly Clarke. I was even more excited as it was giving our film tons of free buzz well before principal photography had even wrapped.

On the morning Sven wore a suit over top a fat suit and kept saying in a jowly drawl, “Goooood evening,” Gary and Lizzie accidentally kissed each other during a late night study session. They quickly retracted their heads and acted like they were disgusted with each other.

Hugh started getting annoyed that just going out to grab a bite or a pint, even if he was alone now, had become a media circus. Shelly thought he should be thankful that the simple act of dating her had made him into a much bigger celebrity on these shores. Hugh reminded her that he may have been less famous than her, but he was still getting a larger salary than her. “Plus points,” he added, a fact she hadn't known and which he hadn't shared with her until then.

Gary wondered aloud to Guy why Lizzie retracted so quickly from kissing him, even when she clearly wanted it just as much him. “Must be because she's still dating that fruit,” insisted Guy, the second time Guy had called Ricky a “fruit,” something that would surely be noted by GLAAD.

With only ten days left in shooting, and only six weeks into their relationship, Hugh told Shelly that he thought they should quit seeing each other. He was still attracted to her, but perhaps that's all their relationship ever was: a sexual relationship. “Love at first sight is easy in a business where all your co-workers are a sight to behold,” he noted, which Shelly thought sounded both like a complement and a slam and, perhaps, a confirmation that he had actually done this kind of thing before despite what he'd initially said.

As Act Three drew to a close, on the last day of their class together, Gary told Lizzie his feelings for her. Lizzie was torn, trying to fight her own clear feelings for Gary. Yet, all she could do was tell him he'd gotten an “A” in her class. Gary left the building distraught, confused as to why Lizzie wouldn't fall for him the way he'd fallen for her. That night, he went to his job at the strip club where we learned that he wasn't working at the strip club for some sleazy reason. He wasn't even working there just to earn a little extra loot, no, he'd been working there as a secret way to observe strippers and strip club owners in their environment for a massive academic book he was writing about the feminism of strippers. Unfortunately, only us in the audience learned this and not Lizzie, who had decided, on her own, that she really was in love with Gary and wanted to go tell him. Using the address he'd used in enrolling for the class—a class he was taking in order to help him with his book—she excitedly marched over to “West 45th and 7th Ave” looking for Gary's apartment but instead finding Cock of the Walk...and Gary inside introducing “Heartlights” to the stage for a dance. Lizzie was disgusted and dismayed and fled the scene. Gary never saw her.

Luckily, both Hugh and Shelly were professionals and were able to finish out their shooting schedule with no problems arising on set.

On the last day of shooting, our set designers had turned soundstage G into a replica of Grand Central Terminal for what I was certain would become an iconic scene in the genre, despite its real-life inaccuracies. Like in any good rom-com, Pierce Underwood had used this final scene to recall something from the opening scene, the meet cute. When Lizzie had fled the Cock of the Walk dismayed, Guy, outside smoking a cig, had curiously noticed her, mentioning to Gary that he thought he saw “that chick you wanna pork” come into the Cock. Now Gary was the one dismayed, telling Guy he had to jet. He sprinted to Lizzie's apartment, but she wasn't there. Taxied over to her classroom where he found Ricky, who informed Gary that she had decided to leave early for Vermont and, in fact, was probably about to board her train right about now.

Gary hauled ass to Grand Central where he amazingly saw Lizzie hauling ass, too. He tried to catch her but she was fast, allowing us to recall when she had mentioned she was a college sprinter at Vassar in what we thought was an off-the-cuff manner in the Second Act. Our shooting day began with Shelly (as Lizzie) bursting through the revolving doors into Grand Central and Hugh (as Gary) following suit some fifty feet behind. Here, Gary realizes, and so do we, as locked-in audience members, that if he is unable to stop Lizzie from boarding the 8:25 to Vermont then they will never be together. Which we want them to be.

Gary calls after her. “Lizzie! Lizzie! Lizzie! I love you!!!” But she either can't hear him, or doesn't want to. Soon, she is sprinting toward track 124, her track, where the train to Vermont is calling “All Aboard,” about to leave, yet Gary still can't catch her. Down the track she goes. “Lizzie! Lizzie! Lizzie! I love you!” he calls.

Finally, Gary has an idea. An idea? Heck, he has no choice. He pulls a piece of gum from his pocket and begins chewing. Once it's a sticky wet wad he hurls it ahead of him toward Lizzie, but his throw is too short. He tries again. Again, too short. And again, one last throw before she will be on the train, about to leave the station. This wad of gum lands just inches in front of her and Lizzie doesn't notice and she accidentally steps in the gum—in the same shoes she was wearing in the opening scene—and she can't get her foot unstuck and her train pulls away and Gary pulls up and they look at each other and both are panting hard and Lizzie kind of looks mad.

And he says: “Lizzie, I love you. I can explain.”

And she says, “How about you unstick me?” but she's finally smiling. And then they hug and kiss.

It was the little things like this that made the audience feel smart and as if they had been along for the entire ride of a couples' romance from meeting cute to finally falling in love.

Privately, during that shooting day, Hugh had told me he was furious at how Shelly kept missing her mark. Later that same day, Shelly told me she was pissed they'd cast such a “rag-armed Welshman” in the role as his weak throws of the chewing gum kept messing up the blocking.

A few months later, at the public premiere at the ArcLight, it was no surprise to me that all the “normal” people in attendance went crazy for The One, it was clearly going to be a hit with the female demographic and make me a bundle. I heard a group of twentysomething girls beside me even say, as the lights went up, “I want that. I want a Gary.”

Walking out of the theater, I caught up with Hugh and Shelly begrudgingly holding hands so the paparazzi could get it on camera as they exited, still forced to pretend they were dating and in love for the sake of the picture and to counteract the internet buzz that they'd broken up. I stood behind them and between them, my arms resting on their shoulders, as they graciously fielded a few questions from entertainment reporters.

“Hugh, Shelly, great picture! Are you guys planning on making a sequel?”

Hugh and Shelly looked at each other and smiled big, as if they were two people still madly in love, pondering their next move, their next movie. They were truly great actors, great stars. They both turned back to the reporters and spoke the same words at the same time.

“We'll have to see how things go...”

© 2010 Goldfarb

*

You'll love the rest of the collection too, all stories about the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York, which features these ten other tales:

"The References" -- The final few lines of one's resume are usually devoted to references that can tell a would-be employer you're the right person for the job. One's life references are a little different, but even more important.

"The Ambiguous Woman" -- A man struggles to figure out exactly what a woman is thinking while on a date with her.

"The Boyfriend Trials" -- A fed-up thirty-year-old woman has a most interesting methodology in searching for the perfect partner.

"Health" -- Arthur Lampkin is the sex-ed teacher at a Staten Island high school whose life is a living hell of comical sex-ed tools, oversexed teenagers, and an undersexed home life.

"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.

"He Proposed" -- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.

"Born. Again" -- What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?

"Gross Humans" -- If you knew what most couples did behind closed doors, you'd be repulsed.

"Ain't Nothing Like a New York Romance" -- There can't possibly be a better place to fall in love than New York City. Can there?

"The Cheat Sheet" - [plot redacted]

*

You can purchase THE CHEAT SHEET on Amazon Kindle for a paltry 99 CENTS here:

29Apr/114

The Vanity of NOT Self-Publishing

Vanity publishing.

That's a nice (but not really) way of calling something self-published.

It's a euphemism for what you really want to say:

"Oh, that's cute, no 'real' publishing house wanted your shit so you self-published it, huh?"

As in, the only people with the nerve to self-publish are those not skilled enough to write something commercially worthwhile yet too vain to realize that.

This might have been true years ago, but no longer.

In fact, self-publishing is anything but vanity nowadays.  Self-published authors are typically some of the most interesting, hard-working, boot-strapping artists out there.  From having to find editors, to designing a cover and interior, to acquiring copyrights and ISBNS, to getting the book up for sale online and in stores, to figuring out how to market the work and perhaps even sell a few copies.  Investing their own money and working without the net known as an advance.  And I haven't even discussed the actual writing of the damn thing.

Self-publishing isn't vanity, it's a labor of love.  It's done by people that truly have something to say and would die inside if they weren't allowed to say it!  Even if they don't expect to make a buck or garner any fame doing it.  Is that vain?  I sure wouldn't say so.

You want to discuss "vanity"?  How about Gallery publishing a book penned by Snooki.  St. Martin's publishing books by the Kardashian sisters.  Or pretty much every "important" publisher under the sun releasing ghostwritten books for Donald Trump over the years.  These aren't worthwhile books, they're nothing more than commercial packages "written by" vain people to further their fame, published by publishing houses to make an easy buck.

(If the person that "wrote" the book is pictured on the front of the book, it's usually a true vanity project.  Think of the book as a mirror, with Snooki or Khloe Kardasian or Donald Trump holding it up to their face, admiring the cover of something they'll never even read.)

Snooki, the Kardashians, Donald Trump, none of them would ever have the balls or chutzpah to self-publish.  They wouldn't even know where to start.  If we can even assume they could come up with a unique idea then hole themselves up for a few years to write the damn thing, it would still be hard to believe they'd figure out how to accomplish everything else to get the book to market.

But for them to get a book out there from a major publishing house, all that involves is them signing their name to a contract (or writing an X in Snooki's case), smiling wide for the cameras at a few signing events, and letting a huge team of people at the publishing house do all the rest of the work.

Now how vain is that?

RELATED POSTS:

Self(ish)-Publishing

Who Cares Who Published It?  The Domino Project

My "vanity" work:

29Apr/112

How I Nearly Became a $1000 a Day Dogwalker for a World Famous Fashion Designer

The first in a series of jobs I've taken, or almost taken, to support a writing career.

I tried to stay warm but my flimsy suit pants weren't cutting it.  The snow fell briskly, coating the luxe Soho street with a fine glaze.  At 11:30 AM I was scheduled to finally meet the man, THE man, the rich and famous celebrity man for whom I was trying to get hired as a $1000 a day dog-walker, a ludicrously lucrative sum.  Over the previous two weeks I'd been put through a meat grinder of an interview gauntlet to try and score this plush gig.  But this was the worst, forced to stand outside in the freezing snow waiting for a text from the man's third assistant letting me know Bob* was ready for me.

My journey had begun the previous Tuesday morning when my friend Lawrence, a headhunter, had called to tell me about the position.  At the time I was underemployed as a writer, but, then again, with the exception of probably five writers in the world, we all feel we're underemployed.  Believe me.  But I wasn't "underemployed" as in only selling one book and two screenplays per annum, I was underemployed as in I had awoken that very day with a feeling of existential dread, wondering where my next paycheck would come from.  I was even angling for a writing job with the free newspapers handed to people as they entered the subways in the morning.  I was also considering moonlighting as a bartender but every time I went to an understaffed bar to see if they needed help, I'd inevitably end up ordering a drink before I could even inquire about career opportunities.  This would lead to another drink which would lead to me waking up the next morning with a wicked hangover and a lofty and unremembered bar tab.  I was spending $50 I couldn't afford each time I went looking for work and no one was even getting my resume or writing samples for their files.

This celebrity dog-walking gig sounded promising though.  The job description was as follows:

Arrive at twenty-five room mansion every morning at 11 AM when celebrity leaves for work at his offices next door.  Sit in living room of twenty-five room mansion, amidst one of the world's finest collections of Richard Phillip's works where I could read a book, watch a 100" TV screen, surf the internet, or just do my own writing work.  Twice a day, locate Ginger the dog within twenty-five room mansion and walk her.  Hand leash over to celebrity when he returns from work at 6 PM.

Write in a gorgeous mansion while making a fortune and occasionally rubbing elbows with celebrities?  I could dig this.  I mentally began spending my money on stupid things.

If you're a man you probably haven't heard of this celebrity.   A woman, and you would shriek and consider this guy pure A-list.  A gay man who lives in New York, LA, or one of three international cities and you've almost certainly had sex with this celeb.  As for me, I knew enough about culture to at least recognize the guy's name, though I didn't really know anything about him.  I quickly read his Wikipedia entry.

My first meeting was with the celebrity's first level assistant Raymond.  I met him at Lawrence's offices in midtown.  Headhunting offices have always given me the creeps and I always hated visiting Lawrence's specifically.  The waiting room was constantly stocked with desperate people in cheap suits and tacky dresses filling out forms on a clipboard noting which skills they possessed (usually none) and how many words per minute they could type (usually 30 poorly spelled ones.)

Raymond met me in the waiting room with a big bear hug as he looked me up and down. I had actually worn a suit, my only suit, an ill-fitting Ralph Lauren number, sans tie, but the rotund Raymond was clad in a pink paisley button-up untucked, teal jeans, and maroon boots.  Lawrence led us to a private conference room where my interview would take place.  I had prepared myself for a litany of questions related to dog-walking.  I'd memorized breeds, spied on people in my Hell's Kitchen neighborhood's poop-picking-up technique (inside-outted plastic bag over the hand), and even put some pictures of my sisters' dogs on my iPhone so as to pretend I was already a loving dog owner.

But Raymond didn't really care about me or my skills at picking up dog shit.  All he cared about was fawning over the greatness of his boss, his idol, Bob.  Seems with this celebrity's busy international, jet-setting lifestyle, and countless companies, he didn't have much time to walk his own dog.  But he still "loved" the thing and wanted it taken flawless care of.  No price was too large to pay for a caring companion.

It was not an interview of me, but, rather, as if I was interviewing Raymond about Bob, with the paisley-clad fella rambling on and on about his boss and his boss's lifestyle.  Raymond had been the previous dog-walker, apparently the lowest job rung in Bob's hundred million dollar empire, before getting promoted to his current position.  Dog-walking was entry-level but full of prestige in Bob's mind and company.  Raymond was moving up Bob's ladder briskly, but he still had the stories to share from his few month's past:

*"I remember arriving at Bob's one morning to find Gwyneth passed out drunk and naked on the living room couch.  I slung her over my shoulder and carried her to the guest room where Chris was sleeping."

*"The only tough parts of this job are when a crazy drunken party is going on all throughout the mansion and you can't find fucking Ginger and you're looking everywhere, underneath beds with people getting mounted on top of them, yelling Ginger's name down hallways full of naked bodies, blow jobs happening everywhere.  It's stressful!"

*"Now Bob isn't your typical fag. He's very buff. He's always like, 'Hey Ray, wannna go shoot some hoops, drink some beers?' Of course I don't. He'll love you though. You look like a guy that can shoot some hoops and drinks some beers."

*"By the way, you're willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement, right?"

Now I was intrigued. I went home and Google Imaged Bob.  Indeed, in most pictures at major celebrity events, he towered over other people and, with a penchant for appearing shirtless, if not 99% nude in ad campaigns and magazine covers, one could tell he was indeed quite buff, despite being in his mid-40s.  I'd quit playing pick-up basketball recently after getting tired of getting dunked on by 12-year-old urban youth who were already 6'5" so I looked forward to have a new boss that could be a potential one-on-one partner.  Maybe I'd go from dog-walker to one-on-one partner to millionaire business partner!

Apparently, despite my shoddy straight male style and lack of speaking during my interview, I moved onto phase two of the process, this time getting bumped to a meeting with Bob's #1 assistant, a female Sheri.

I met Sheri at the offices of Bob's high-end fashion company.  She kept me waiting for a good half hour in the lobby with nothing to do but stare at the nude male "art" pictures covering the walls.  Eventually she arrived, with her fashion forward shirt and it's massive jutting shoulder-pads entering the waiting room a few seconds before her.

Her job "interview" with me consisted of a single question.

"Do you do drugs, Aaron?"

I didn't.  I was a bit taken aback and Sheri assumed my silence to mean I was having an eternal debate as to how to answer.

"It's OK if you do drugs, Aaron.  Weed.  Coke. Crystal Meth.  It's truly cool if you do them.  So does Bob.  Once a month.  Just please let me know if you do and what you do and how often you do it.  And, if you do, I'd prefer if you don't do it around me.  I used to be a coke addict myself.  Bob's second to most recent dog walker though was a meth addict who we had to check into rehab.  I had to fucking walk Ginger for a few weeks.  So if you do drugs, I just hope you can keep your shit together enough to walk precious Ginger."

I still hadn't met her.  Precious Ginger.  Or, him.  Bob.

Sheri must have liked my response to her interview as I found out that afternoon I was one of three finalists who would actually get to meet Bob the next week.  Raymond, who had taken a liking to me and wanted me to be selected, called to brief me.  He noted that the interview would be less than a minute.

"Bob makes decisions quickly, based purely on 'feel.'  That's why he's so successful."

I felt it.

And, that's how I found myself standing outside, on the street corner a block away from the twenty-five room mansion, one that had just been featured in some magazine, "Awesome Homes Monthly" or some shit, eyeballing my watch, now several minutes past our schedule 11:30 AM meeting.

I'd arrived far too early I suppose and seen one of my competitors, perhaps the 11:20 appointment, already enter Bob's residence.  This potential dog-walker looked more a fashion designer's speed, a thin pixie-ish man with a bowl haircut and patent leather sneakers.  I'm sure he'd never walked a dog in his life.  Then again, I really hadn't either.  I'd grown up with plenty of dogs, but I'd always let other members of my family do the dirty work.

Finally, I saw my competition exit with a smile and, two minutes later, I got the text.  Bob was ready for me.

I banged the loud door knocker and a minute later a frantic Raymond greeted me.  We walked through a never-ending halfway to an elevator which we took to the top floor of the five story apartment.  There, sat Bob, bigger in person and casually dressed, face down looking over some sketches as several designers surrounded him.  Raymond pointed me to a seat at the massive table which was at least ten feet in diameter.  The dog, Ginger, an enormous sheepdog, was sleeping under the table.

Bob hadn't looked at me once, but the second I sat down he began throwing one word questions at me in between the conversations he was having with his assistants.

"College?"

"Uh...yes.  Syracuse."

"Hobbies."

"...drinking?"

"Dream?"

"Writing."

The whole time I histrionically reached under the table, petting an unresponsive Ginger, trying to let Bob know I loved dogs. Even dogs that smelled like shit, like Ginger, who seemingly hadn't been bathed in a year.  Bob didn't even seem to notice my efforts.

After a few quick one-sentence questions, Bob never looking up once, I was dismissed from the table with a wrist-flick.  Raymond returned to the room to escort me on the long walk out of the mansion.

By the time I'd excited the building and turned the street corner my phone was ringing.  Raymond.

"Sorry, Aaron.  Bob's already hired some one else.  He didn't like your shoes."

NEXT WEEK!

How I Once Ghostwrote the College Application Essay for a Future Reality Show Airhead

27Apr/111

The Presidential Easter Eggs of “How to Fail”

What job more exemplifies success (and perhaps ultimate failure too) than the U.S. Presidency?

Filmmakers sometimes like to have a little fun and add "easter eggs" for their most astute fans to discover.  I, likewise, decided it would be cool to subtly sneak a reference to all 44 presidents within HOW TO FAIL's 372 pages and see if any one caught on.  Unfortunately, edits led to a few references ultimately being nixed and only 35 presidents ended up being represented in the final work (36 if we count Grover Cleveland's non-consecutive terms).

(Bolded presidents actually appear in the book.  Other presidents are mentioned how they appeared in previous drafts.)

George Washington - In Chapter 2 while arguing with Keith about dentistry being "overrated," Stu notes that when he becomes a Hollywood success:  “They'll cap my teeth. Fill my facehole with a bunch of big, fake chompers. Like Ben Affleck or Hilary Duff. Gorgeous and pricey mouth Chiclets that’ll make Gary Busey, Mr. Ed, and George Washington’s teeth look subtle by comparison.”

John Adams -- Stu dreams of his "How to Fail" life becoming the stuff of legend, with a Hollywood producer one day telling him:  "We'll do How to Fail: The Major Motion Picture and a How to Fail HBO miniseries which will be bigger than that suckfest John Adams one..." (Chapter 13)

Thomas Jefferson -- "People love to overrate those that fail in childhood...like the class president who dies in a car wreck who was certain to be the next Thomas Jefferson." (Footchapter 6-B)

James Madison -- Both Madison Avenue and Madison Square Garden are mentioned in the book in a fairly cheap reference to Presidente Numero Tres.

James Monroe -- The happy hour bar Stu and his ex-girlfriend Ash loved to drink at is called J. Monroe's. (Chapter 6)

John Quincy Adams --  In the "I've Never Been Happier" deleted scene, Stu speculates on how his life could have turned out if he'd taken the road of most successes.  He wonders if he'd have become more conservative John Quincy Adams, the kind of prude that doesn't even appreciate a woman's shorn pubic hair.

Andrew Jackson -- Though both Michael and Phil Jackson are mentioned in "How to Fail," Andrew Jackson does not appear in the book.  In earlier drafts, Stu occasionally referred to $20 bills as "Andrew Jacksons" until I realized that made him appear very douchey.

Martin Van Buren -- Ash's best friend, struggling actress Patricia, works at Times Square novelty restaurant First Ladies where she serves food while dressed like Martin's wife Hannah Van Buren. (Chapter 6)

William Henry Harrison -- (see below)

John Tyler -- Stu reflects on all the useless shit he learned in high school:  "We read The Great Gatsby and learned about derivatives and the Doppler effect and 'Tippecanoe and Tyler too...'"  "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" being an influential Whig Party campaign song praising the William Henry Harrison/Tyler presidential ticket, while denigrating opponent Van Buren. (Footchapter 6-B)

James K. Polk -- When Stu visits his highly successful screenwriting pal Wesley out in Los Angeles, they go to a cheesy Hollywood Boulevard nightclub.  Stu hates it, but Wesley digs the quasi-celebrity scene:  “Jesse Owens' great-grandkids party here. And that chick over there is related to James K. Polk.”  (Chapter 11)

Zachary Taylor -- At Stu's job interview in Chapter 13, his potential future boss notes that he needs to talk to his company's "big wigs" though not, he joke, "the big Whigs like Zachary Taylor."

Millard Fillmore --  In earlier drafts, Chapter 13's job interview took place at the Millard Fillmore office building, a made-up building in midtown Manhattan.

Franklin Pierce -- Stu's successful friend Danny does banking work for the Franklin Pierce firm.  Also a nod to "American Psycho"'s Patrick Bateman who does similar mergers and acquisitions for Pierce & Pierce.

James Buchanan -- Stu doesn't care a lick about his own sordid past, noting that it hardly matters:  "You didn't have to be good at anything to be a politician. You only had to be good at getting elected.  Taft was obese, Buchanan was a closeted friend of Dorothy, JFK was a philanderer, Nixon cursed heavily, Bush drank, Obama did coke."  (Footchapter 6-B)

Abraham Lincoln -- Mentioned as "Honest Abe" in an anecdote about Ulysses S. Grant (see below)

Andrew Johnson --  Stu notes that Ash's former and future boyfriend Trevor enjoys some hipster activities as "playing kickball in Park Slope, drinking kombucha at neo-beatnik coffee houses, showing off his dilettante harmonica skills at The Hole in the Wall Tavern in Harlem, and ranting in Union Square about there not having been a truly small-D democratic president since Andrew Johnson." (Chapter 6)

Ulysses S. Grant -- Stu notes that he'd always dreamed of being a legendary drinker like "Your Humphrey Bogarts, Babe Ruths, Jackie Gleasons, and your U.S. Grant who, legend claims, was once accused by President Lincoln's advisers of being a drunkard, to which Honest Abe replied, 'I wish you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel to my other generals.'" (Footchapter 6-B)

Rutherford B. Hayes -- A strong advocate of not shaving himself, Stu considers Hayes to be in the top 1% of beard growers alongside Kenny Rogers, Ice Cube, and Sean Connery.  (Chapter 2)

James A. Garfield -- Keith's beloved cat is named James A. Garfield.

Chester Arthur -- "E-commerce came about so we'd never have to go into a bookstore and talk to the bookish nerds to acquire that well-regarded biography on Chester A. Arthur."  (Footchapter 12)

Grover Cleveland -- Stu is obsessed with knowledge, garnering most of it by relentlessly reading Wikipedia entries:  "I was so well-versed on so many topics. I read books and watched important films. If I didn't know about something, I read the Wikipedia entry on the subject. I hadn't known what subprime loans were. So I read the entry. Or, why Grover Cleveland was our 22nd and 24th president. So I read the entry. (He got screwed in the 1888 election.)"  (Chapter 2)

Benjamin Harrison --  In earlier drafts, Stu goes on a rant about how he eschews paper money (in favor of a debit card) and absolutely detests coinage, especially those of a low denomination:  "The penny's so worthless it doesn't deserve to have a great president on it.  Naw, it should have some presidential clown like Benji Harrison or Johnny Tyler."

William McKinley -- When Stu moves into the Ola Dubh building on the Upper West Side he finds himself living amongst people old enough "to answer 'where they were' when Czolgosz shot McKinley" referencing the 1901 assassination of the president.  (Chapter 8 )

Theodore Roosevelt -- In Part II when Stu works on improving his health by becoming a jogger, noting he's even thinking about running a half-marathon, his friend Keith wonders which:  "The Yonkers Fun Run? The Battery Park Classic? I've thought about doing the Teddy Roosevelt Road Race myself.”  (Footchapter 13-B)

William Howard Taft -- Stu's thoughts on perspective and how even being a president would have sucked back in the day: "I mean, if you or I was forced to live the exact same life that, say, President William Howard Taft lived back during his term, we would probably kill ourselves. He was the most famous man in America, probably one of the richest, most successful, and most coddled of his time, yet we would find his life utterly repugnant. No indoor plumbing, no cable television, no fast food, no porn. We would rather be a bum in the 2000s than Taft. Than probably every single president up to, oh, I don't know, JFK? Carter?! The internet wasn't even high-speed as recent as Clinton's second term."  (Chapter 3)

Woodrow Wilson -- In Footchapter 5-B "How to Live With Fucked Up Neighbors," Stu notes that his next-door neighbor looks just like a Dominican Woodrow Wilson, dubbing him "Maderow Wilson."

Warren G. Harding --  In earlier drafts of Chapter 2, after Stu discusses his theory of the "Catch 23," worrying that the Joseph Heller estate might sue him, he notes:  "I don't need any more lawsuits pending against me after that little kerfuffle I got into with the Warren G. Harding estate regarding the Teapot Dome Scandal."  Not funny.  Lame.  Nixed.

*Calvin Coolidge -- While a long ago drugged obsessed roommate of Stu's is named Calvin, old "Silent Cal" never actually appeared in ANY draft of "How to Fail."  That was to be my joke and he was to be the only president that didn't appear.  I was going to even give a prize to the first nerd who discovered this and emailed me.  Alas.

Herbert Hoover -- In earlier drafts of Chapter 11, Hollywood producer Mark Gordon notes that the "DON'T BE AN ARTIST" sign on his desk is his version of "The Buck Stop Here."  Though he makes an egregious error in claiming that buck sign was on Herbert Hoover's desk when it was, actually, of course, on Truman's.

Franklin D. Roosevelt --  Stu notes that The Great Depression look bearable:  "Those Depression-era movies never looked too bad to me. A lot of waiting on soup lines and drinking potato vodka while leaning against a building. I could handle that. Except for all of FDR's radio chats interrupting my favorite shows."  (Chapter 4)

Harry S Truman --  In earlier drafts, Stu constantly mocks politicians that roll up the sleeves of their dress shirts when they're out and about with blue collar folks trying to be "of the people."  Stu notes:  "Do you really think Truman was doing that shit [rolling up his shirt sleeves] during his whistlestops?!"

Dwight D. Eisenhower -- Ash's best friend, struggling actress Patricia, works at Times Square novelty restaurant First Ladies where one time bartender Mamie Eisenhower makes Stu a terrific cocktail.  (Chapter 6)

John F. Kennedy -- JFK is mentioned three times in the book, both as a notable philanderer and airport.  His brother Robert Kennedy is mentioned in the second line of the entire book:

They say some men see things that are and say, “Why?” Robert Kennedy dreamed things that never were and said, “Why not?” Well, I see my life unfolding and I just say, “Why me?”


Lyndon B. Johnson -- Stu notes that the famous quote “Those that don't recall history are doomed to repeat it" has been incorrectly attributed to LBJ among others.  (Footchapter 6-B)

Richard Nixon --  Stu figures it was harder for Adam to not prematurely ejaculate with Eve being that he couldn't turn his mind to things like "baseball and walking the dog and Richard Nixon naked."  (Footchapter 6-B)

Gerald Ford -- Stu wonders if books will one day be written completely in emoticons, figuring  :O :-D :-P :X :( could eventually be an entire chapter from some new Gerald Ford biography, Swell Guy.  (Epilogue)

Jimmy Carter -- (see Taft)

Ronald Reagan -- Stu dreams of one day meeting his mysterious nemesis, film producer Mark Gordon, figuring him to have "a luscious head of Ronald Reagan hair even though he must be fifty-eight or so."  (Chapter 11)

George Bush --To appease his father, Stu makes the most over-the-top resume ever which includes "undergrad degrees from Princeton and Oxford, law school at Harvard, medical school at Columbia, business school at NYU, drama school at Yale. Personal recommendations from Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, Coach K, and Ringo Starr."  (Chapter 12)

Bill Clinton -- In Chapter 6, Stu chastises himself for having such marriage-phobia issues when people such as Dennis Rodman, Kurt Cobain, and Bill Clinton were able to handle the institution.  Hillary Clinton is also mentioned in "How to Fail," most notably when Stu and his Lesbian Wingman go searching for chicks at Hill's presidential announcement party, meeting Brandi there.

George W. Bush -- From Chapter 3:  "Being middle class is the worst for a failure. If you're an upper class failure, your parents' wealth, connections, and pure unadulterated nepotism can still allow you to end up on top (see: Bush, George W.) or, at least, enjoying the good life of promiscuous sex and substance abuse (see: any of the twenty-first century reality show retards whose fathers worked their asses off at legit professions [attorney, hotelier, gold medalist, etc] so that their children could go to Hollywood clubs every night to do coke and fuck each other [see: Kardashian, Kim; Hilton, Paris; Jenner, Brody; et al])."

Barack Obama -- Mentioned countless times throughout the book (Stu notes of Ash's once and future boyfriend Trevor that he's "the kind of guy who still wears an Obama pin even though the election has been over for nearly a year, still so proud that he voted for the man."), the book was supposed to actually finish with this quote from our esteemed current president:

“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition.  It asks too little of yourself.  And it will leave you unfulfilled.”

Help make me some unfulfilled, unambitious bucks by buying "How to Fail:  The Self-Hurt Guide."

MORE EASTER EGGS:

The How to Fail Literary Bar Crawl

MORE DELETED SCENES:

How to Make God Hate You

The Failure Intervention

"Fuck Yous"

 

26Apr/114

New York City of Movie Flops

There are few things sadder than walking through beautiful Manhattan and seeing billboards for movies that have already flopped.

In fact, if an alien film buff came to our planet, he might think Manhattan's aesthetic was to cover the city with countless images of recent movies that tanked.

It has to be demoralizing for a studio head or producer or filmmaker or actor to wander the city and everywhere he or she turns--a phone booth! a bus stop! a billboard!--is a reminder of the shitty fucking movie they spent the last year on.  (And movie fans spent hardly a weekend on.)

You'd think studios would just produce high-tech billboards and posters that somehow know to self-destruct once a movie's opening weekend gross is less than $20 million or fares worse than 70% fresh on the Tomatometer.

Or, perhaps, they could just start making good movies.  Movies they'd be proud of seeing posters of in ubiquity for perpetuity.

Just a few months ago, every free spot of New York started getting wallpapered with posters for "Arthur" featuring Russell Brand's ghastly visage.  I don't believe I heard a single person in town go, "Oooh, I'm excited for that."  But, you didn't really know.  The original 1981 version of "Arthur" was a comedic masterpiece with Dudley Moore as the lovable drunk.  Did it really merit a remake?  It didn't seem likely but it was hard to be sure.

As release date neared, critics offered the resounding opinion NO and then the few schmucks that actually went to investigate for themselves came to the same conclusion.

Now, we have a city still covered with Russell Brand's smirking puss.

I like to think of Russell wandering the streets unable to escape his massive failure.

In fact, that would be the best creative prison sentence possible for filmmakers who continue to just phone it in:  Put them in a city wallpapered with his or her failures.

Nic Cage would surely make better movies if during a walk through the East Village he turned to the left and saw "Windtalkers" on a phonebooth, turned to the right and spied "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" on a bus stop, looked up and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" on a roof, ducked into a cab with "National Treasure 3" atop it, before sprinting into a skyscraper plastered with a 25 story poster of "Ghost Rider."

Or, perhaps artists could just start trying a little harder.  Start making product they're actually proud of so when it's still hanging in the city months if not years after its release, people will look fondly upon it and go:  "Now that was a great movie."

Naw, they'll just keep making shit.

Whoa!  A bus just blew by with a "Drive Angry" billboard on top of it.  Man that movie fucking sucked.

RELATED POSTS:

How I quit worrying about watching shitty movies

6 Ways Being a Writer Makes You Unfit for Society

 

25Apr/111

The Wasteful Commute: How Staying in Bed is Productive

This morning I awoke at 7:00 AM sharp without an alarm.   I grabbed my iPhone off the nightstand and dicked around on it for a few minutes.  By 7:10 I flapped open my computer and began work.  I worked steadily until 10:30 AM when I finally got out of bed to go grab a coffee at the corner market.   I had already done 200 minutes of work for the day without leaving bed, without even putting on a shirt.

The man who works a 9 to 5 rolled over at 7:30 AM and snoozed his iPhone two times 9 minutes* before finally waking up at 7:48, turning off the iPhone alarm and then dicking around on it for a few minutes.  He headed to the bathroom at 8:00 to use it for all the things bathroom are used for, grabbed a slow shower, then toweled off before looking through his closet at the same lame dress clothes he hated to buy and detests having to wear every day.

By 8:30 or so he's dressed and out of the house, walking to the subway (he's perfectly timed it), where he stands for a minute on an over-crowded platform at the most downtown end ("his" spot), before sardine-ing** in the first car with a hundred others, barely having enough space to play "Angry Birds" on his iPad.  20 to 45 minutes later, he arrived at the Rock Center subway stop, or maybe Bryant Park, perhaps even all the way down at Chambers, and walked another five blocks to his office where he swiped his ID badge at the front desk of an unnecessarily fortified skyscraper (are companies in fear of people arriving to rob...boredom?) before a long elevator ride upstairs.

The man walked through the office saying hello to his few friends--correction, the few co-workers he can handle--perhaps catching up on last night's Yankees game, or the latest "American Idol" vote-off.  He stopped at the break room to make himself a single-serving pod coffee, heading on to his cubicle where he fired up the shitty company Dell, goofed around again online another ten minutes, before finally hunkering down and beginning work at 9:30 or 10.

Some two to three hours after waking up.

The exact same slog happens in reverse at the end day of his day, perhaps adding a stop at his local bar for a few happy hour libations to work off the stress of the day's double commute of pain and torment.

This isn't simply arrogant speculation from some "out-of-touch" writer who doesn't get it and now doesn't have to do it.  I've done the slow ass commute a zillion times to and fro.  I've worked at home a zillion times too.  And, if you want productivity, your best option is not spending the first 200 minutes of your day showering, walking on crowded streets, riding subways, talking about Derek Jeter, grabbing coffee, and getting pissed off about a jam-packed city getting in the way of you being allowed to do work.  At "work."

Aside from, say, service industry professionals and teachers and strippers and professional basketball players and a few face-to-face work-based others, there's not much reason to waste so many productive hours of the day "getting ready" for work and then commuting to work and ultimately getting pissed off about the Odyssey-like daily journey of traveling there.  It would be better to just stay in bed.

(Then again, one of the best teachers in the world doesn't leave his house.  Live-streaming on the web is terrific and stay-at-home strippers can presumably strip for more people than they've ever stripped for before.  And, the Knicks certainly didn't show up for work over the last week.)

If you're sick of wasting such productive hours of your day, and all you need to do the work is your brain, a computer, and a phone, why not ask your boss if you can work from home tomorrow?  Print this out, Sharpie out the naughty words, and give this to him even.  Tell your boss by the time he's arrived at work tomorrow, you'll have already done three hours of work from bed.

How can he possibly not let you work from home?

Why would you possibly want to continue working for this person if he won't?

RELATED POSTS:

"How to Fail to Do Something Productive All Day"

How to Fail at Conquering The Resistance

*Why snoozes are nine minutes.

**Did you know America's last and final sardine factory closed last week?

24Apr/110

“How to Fail to Do Something Productive All Day” – FREE EXCERPT

This week saw the release of Steven Pressfield's road map for productivity, "Do the Work."  Friday, I reviewed the book.  Yesterday, I discussed my ways for battling The Resistance.  And, today, I offer a free excerpt from HOW TO FAIL which shows how protagonist Stu Fish fails at conquering The Resistance, at doing a single productive thing all day...

EH EH EH EH! My alarm clock buzzes strong at eight AM.

I'm not one of those people that hits snooze three times in a row, which I suppose makes me a success of the lowest regard, but it will be my only victory for the day so I have to brag a little.

I rise from bed like a zombie, hungover, perhaps still drunk, and enter my squalid bathroom. I should probably clean it this weekend during my hour or two of sobriety.

I flip two switches, the hot/cold knob on my shower, and the power button on the Bose wave radio I won at some charity raffle I should have never been at in the first place. The fates wish to musically mock me and the song that plays is Top of the World by The Carpenters.

I lean over the sink, staring at myself in the toothpaste-speckled mirror. Look at you, loser. My self-loathing turns to hatred for my job. I'm not the loser. I just have a shitty fucking job. Another fucking day at the shitty fucking job.

I reconsider the running water and turn the shower off. Cleanliness is not in the cards this morning. My first failure of the day, quite minor or quite huge depending on who you ask. You’ve heard of an Irish shower—washing your pits and crotch with a washcloth? Or, maybe, the Puerto Rican shower—dousing your body in cologne? I’ll take my own special Stuart Fish shower today. That’s simply doing nothing. I won’t shower, I won’t wash, I won’t splash on cologne or apply deodorant, I won’t even comb my bedhead or put on clean undies. I don’t care about the exterior I present to this world. I've been nothing but an empty vessel since Ash broke up with me.

Soon, I am on a packed subway, running late to work, disheveled in rumpled business casual attire. I have to wear anything-but-jeans to work, so I do, a single pair of shoddy fifteen dollar slacks with big pleats and bigger cuffs. At the end of each day I take these pants off, spritz them with Febreze, and drape them across my desk chair. I haven't had them dry-cleaned since I was dumped a few weeks ago. My dress shirts are three alternating button-ups I purchased my senior year of college for a variety of nicer functions I needed to attend. These shirts are old, worn out, perma-stained. My shoes are a stinky filthy pair of black Doc Martens I've been wearing for a decade.

I stare with admiration at the successes packed into the subway car around me. Them in their Hugo Boss suits, crisply pressed Thomas Pink oxfords, their Ferragamo lace-ups, a Wall Street Journal snapped and folded so they can read it, they soon to have their own woodcut visage on the front page no doubt, if newspapers even exist by then. The women in their sexy work attire, listening to music on their fancy iPhones which I can only dream of affording.

On my commute, I do nothing productive. I don’t read the paper, or a magazine, or a book. I don’t do a crossword or play Sudoku. I don’t even listen to an iPod or play BrickBreaker on my cell phone. I might ogle a businesswoman's pumped-up calves, thinking about them straddling my waist, being thrown over my shoulders. Thinking about her being my next girlfriend. But, usually, I just stare in a daze at the advertisements for chiropractors and ESL courses.

By 9:18 I've arrived to drop my shit at my desk, to check in and let my inferior superiors know I am in the building.

It doesn’t matter what I do for a living because I don’t really do anything for a living. I am essentially paid $39,000 a year to show up at an office building approximately 230 times a year for about eight hours a day. I never arrive at nine, not even close, but like Fred Flintstone I sprint out of the office the second the bird’s tail is pulled and he squawks five o’clock.

I am no hypocrite, just as I mentioned in Chapter Two how I don't give a shit what others do for a living, I am just the same when it comes to my own job. I frequently get the “So what do you do?” question, just like anybody does, but I rarely answer it by revealing what I “do.”

People ask “So what do you do?” to get a grasp on who you are as a person.

You're an investment banker = you work long hours, make a butt-load of money, are nerdy.

You're a lawyer = you had no explicit dreams in life so you went to law school, now you push paper all day waiting to be made partner in a decade or two.

You're a doctor = you like exploiting people's ailments for your own financial gain.

I tell people I'm a writer. Cause that's what I want to be. It's the only thing I could possibly enjoy. Screenwriter is the only job that's interested me since I realized at age fifteen I would never be a Major League third baseman.

“Wow, a screenwriter, that's awesome!” is what you probably think people would respond, opening me up to a series of uncomfortable follow-up questions proving I'm not really one. But, no. No one cares. People are just waiting for you to finish talking so they can start talking again. Follow-up questions only come if they think it will allow them to brag a little bit more about themselves.

After I've dropped my shit at my desk, I head off to get coffee, caffeination being of crucial importance for getting me through the wretched day. I need coffee like zombies need brains. I don't head to the standard break room, though. Instead, I walk down two floors and visit the janitorial lounge.

Not only does the lounge have superior coffee, but the janitors, repairmen, and handymen that congregate in this uncarpeted room are the best. All so funny, so interesting, so kind. All clad in jump suits or Dickeys, shirts with patches on them and their names sewn onto the breast, though these are people whose names I actually care to know. J.J. the electrician and Kenny the janitor, Oswaldo the plumber and Carl the superintendent. All with jobs that sounded a helluva lot better than mine. Getting to clean toilets, fix electrical cords, vacuum. Much better than being chained to a desk. You think I'm joking, but I'm not.

The only job I've ever enjoyed was a blue collar one. Back in the summer between sophomore and junior year of college, Keith convinced me that instead of interning at some stuffy office, waitering, bagging groceries, we should get a house in South Carolina and golf every day.

Our first day in North Myrtle Beach, we saw a rich local loading some day-laborers into a pickup truck and asked him about work, needing some coin to facilitate our golfing lifestyle. Mr. Showalter was having his gigantic guest house painted and was thrilled to have two English-speaking boys up for the low-paying job. Low-paying for a true adult, sure, but for us, ten dollars an hour was phenomenal.

Every morning, Keith and I would wake before sunrise, throw on some filthy coveralls, slam a thirty-two ounce Mountain Dew to shake off the cobwebs, and walk over to Mr. Showalter's house where we'd take our place among a few kindly Mexicans. There wasn't much talking between us painters—language barrier and lack of interest in each other's favorite sports—so it was very peaceful. Just standing on a ladder, you and the brush. Brush into bucket, up, down, up, down, up, down, dip, repeat. Seven straight hours of this. I figured out so many things during those days. I tackled my problems, had great explosions of creativity, planned the next fifty years of my life. Most satisfying, at the end of every day, I'd get off the ladder, walk back from the house about twenty yards and go, “Look what I've accomplished today!” You just can't do that in an office environment.

After our day of painting, Keith and I would rip off our coveralls and head over to cheap public courses where we'd get the twilight rate and rush through eighteen holes, our hands and fingernails still caked in paint flecks. After a quick clubhouse shower, we'd hit the bars for cheap beers and to try and hook up with tourists on the beach. By the end of the summer, I was breaking eight-five regularly and had upped my sexual number eleven-fold, but the painting ended up being what I remember most about that time.

The beginning of my day is actually the only part of my current work day I enjoy as I check the previous twelve hours of unread e-mails, though most are of the SPAM or “Please finish this report ASAP!” variety. The random personal e-mail excites me, however. I don't know why e-mail is still such an exciting form of communication. Did worker bees back in the 1970s sit at their desks staring at their rotary phone, hoping it would ring? That's how I treat e-mail. I always have it up in one of the windows on my computer and most of the time I just stare at the inbox with zero new messages in it, hoping a new one arrives. Story of my life, just sitting around waiting for others to take action. When the box refreshes and a new message comes in, I jump to, quickly opening it, elated when it's from an actual friend. A simple message, a funny link passed along, some sage wisdom forwarded.

Sometimes, on those days I'm not getting any messages, I'm forced to create them myself by initiating contact with someone in my address book, though never Keith or Danny or Jack because they tell me they're something called...“busy.” Do you know that word? They also fear repercussions from their companies for using work e-mail for personal purposes. And don't get me started about cursing. When we do actually e-mail, they make me write stuff like “sh*t” and “*ss” and “f*ck” and “c*cks*cker” so their systems won't be alerted to profanities usage. P*ssies.

Even without them, if I can get e-mailing threads started with five or so people, that gives me enough fodder to blow through a whole workless day.

When I've exhausted all my e-mailing, I start hitting up websites, anything to waste time. Sports, entertainment, politics. Shit that doesn't even interest me, though that's one reason I'm so smart. I'd much rather read a long, boring Wikipedia entry about Noam Chomsky than actually do work.

Before I know it, I've done not a lick for the entire morning though I have learned a reasonable amount about generative grammar. It's remarkable how quickly noon comes. Noon, on the dot, is when I go to lunch, a fact that makes my coworkers laugh at me. Not that I talk to those losers. I don't even know most their names. There's the one guy I call Flanders in my head because he dresses like Flanders from The Simpsons and is the most phony nice person I've ever met. There's Creepy Pants who I always run into by the copier. He has a perpetual look of pedophiliac leering on his face. There's Skank who is this jappy chick with the exact same job as me. She spends all day yakking on the phone to her friends. I call her Skank because every time she bends over to reach into her bottom drawer, her Filene's Basement blazer lifts up a little revealing a mermaid tattoo on the tramp stamp portion of her lower back. I have no idea if she is literally a skank, or a tramp, but that's what I call her because I don't know her real name.

Flanders, Creepy Pants, Skank, The Koala, Stinkbreath, Gayman, Fartface, Perv, and Ze Zit (an acne-scarred German fella), they work within a thirty foot radius of me, have for years, some of them, and I've never taken the time to know their names. I guess that's just the kind of person I am.

I would never pick these people as my friends. Why should I befriend them just because we're forced into the same situation due to every human being's need to earn an income? Having work friends I see outside the office would just remind me of my shitty job. I'm not one of those people that likes to bitch about things he dislikes, one of the major reasons a lot of people have coworker friends.

While the diligent Flanders orders in some Chinese, Skank goes out to grab a salad to bring back to her desk, and Creepy Pants nukes a Lean Cuisine, I luxuriate for the full hour I'm entitled. I stretch my lunch to about ninety minutes as I walk around midtown Manhattan, as far north as 59th and Central Park, as far south as 42nd and Bryant Park, as far east as Madison Ave., and as far west as Eighth, chowing down on styrofoam trays of Halal street meat, gawking at tourists, window shopping, reading magazines at newsstands, working on my tan.

Back from lunch and it's more goofing off. By now, I'm on cup five of coffee. Its lackadaisical laxative quality begins to rear its ugly head and soon some fecal matter will be rearing its ugly head out my back end. This is a terrific development as I can kill a good half-hour in the bathroom. I don't do anything special, I just treat the work bathroom like I'd treat my at-home bathroom. Sitting on the can, reading internet printouts about string theory, The Prisoner's Dilemma, Mel Ott, Pliny the Elder, texting people on my phone, working crosswords, daydreaming. I may even stick around for a few extra minutes to peel one off (please see Footchapter Four-B: How to Masturbate at Work).

By now it's three and you can't get any work done the last hour or two before it's time to leave. I've already begun packing it in for the day.

People say to me, “Surely at some point you've exhausted every single time-waster and literally have no choice but to work?!”

Amazingly not and I'm sorry if you lack the time-wasting skills I have. At the art of time-wasting I am, in fact, a wild success. I do have to work a little, just to assure I keep my plush job, but I've found that “little” can be fifteen to thirty minutes a day. To my credit, I'm actually pretty good at my worthless job when I do it, and a focused half-hour flurry can produce an output that rivals most of my dumb coworkers' whole afternoon.

On those days or weeks that my boss, Dough (pronounced Doug), feels particularly chippy, I'll focus a little harder, and produce so much work it'll make his life exponentially tougher as he has to process it all. I usually don't hear much for him after that and am again free and back to my own devices.

Remember, this is a time of recession. At least that's what we're told. No one really knows. Rich people know they are poorer. Poor people know that rich people won't shut the fuck up about it. No bonuses this year? Shit, I've never gotten a bonus in my life. A person like me loves this recession because it has made so many successes into failures. I know how to cope with failure. I've been dealing with it for years. But some dude who has been pulling six figs and taking black Towncars and bottle servicing it since the days of Clinton, that fuck has no idea how to cope.

In fact, it's possible, as we near a second Great Depression, I will soon be one of the leaders in this new world. As brokers and bankers and traders leap to their deaths from my building, I will slowly rise to the top of the heap of corpses. Why, I might just be the recession's white collar Mad Max.

If some cataclysmic event caused the world's modern technologies to go down, who would be the new leaders on this planet? It wouldn't be the well-heeled Ivy League educated poofs. It would be the high school dropouts that knew how to live on the land and deftly use a knife. As this cataclysmic economic event has brought the money world to its knees (and not for some fellatio), it's not the well-heeled Ivy Leaguer who knows how to cope. It's me. I thrive on failure. I watch CNN and read The New York Times to get a good laugh. The Dow Jones drops, and my place in the world rises. Those Depression-era movies never looked too bad to me. A lot of waiting on soup lines and drinking potato vodka while leaning against a building. I could handle that. Except for all of FDR's radio chats interrupting my favorite shows. Being an Okie and heading West? Well, at least we seem to have solved the major dust problems of the last century.

By 5:28 I am back home, sitting on my couch in a t-shirt and mesh shorts, watching Pardon the Interruption in a catatonic state, slowly coming out of that work-induced coma. Missing my ex-girlfriend. Trying to snap out of my malaise.

A box of pizza appears in front of me. I will eat it.

A six-pack of beer appears in front of me. I will drink it.

A reality show on MTV about tween semi-prostitutes appears in front of me. I will watch it.

By midnight, I go to sleep. Not because I’m tired but because I’m bored.

479 minutes later my alarm clock will read 7:59 AM as sunlight creeps through the window...

And then one more minute will turn over...

And then EH EH EH EH....

And I will shut it off...

And march to the shower...

And work another eight hours like a zombie.

*

If you enjoyed that I think you'll love the rest of "HOW TO FAIL" too.

Available at bookstores, Amazon, and Kindle for a special price of $2.99!

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23Apr/117

How to Fail at Conquering The Resistance

A lot of people seem to think that if they aren’t failing then they are succeeding.   Like they’re one in the same.  They aren’t.

The opposite of success is actually not failing because if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” --Henry Ford

Failure is the “close, but no cigar” of the success industry.  The silver medal of success.  Come back next Olympiad and you’ll be the favorite for the gold.   Luckily, in the real world, you don’t have to wait every four years between attempts at success.

Someone who failed to make a jumpshot was a lot closer to being successful than someone who never took the shot (unless you’re Shaq).  Someone who never took a shot never had a chance at succeeding.

Sure, he can haughtily say: “I didn’t fail at making the shot.  Like you did.”  But so what?   That’s nothing to be proud of.

The thing is, we actually admire the sports stars that fail.  Why don’t we adapt that thinking to our own lives?  We admire Carmelo Anthony when he misses a game-winning shot because we know he’s the only guy on the court with the balls to attempt it.

To be so audacious!

No balls, no babies.

Who we don’t admire is the player who slinked to the corner and avoided any chance at taking the final shot.  And potentially failing.  (see:  Jared Jeffries)

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I've lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.” --Michael Jordan

I too, like most every one, have serious problems at even attempting to fail.  At battling the Resistance that Steven Pressfield talks about in "The War of Art" and "Do the Work." Problems which are, sadly, all too similar to Stu Fish's struggles in HOW TO FAIL Chapter Four:  "How to Fail to Do Something Productive All Day."

HOW I FAIL AT CONQUERING THE RESISTANCE

*By being lazy -- Lounging around, watching TV, "getting to it later," is so much simpler than doing the work.

*By being stubborn -- Claiming I'm not quite ready to work, it's not the perfect time to work, I'll start soon enough.

*By being insulting -- Making fun of other people's work and claiming, "If I chose to do that work it would surely be so much better," is so much easier than doing my own work.  You should never make fun of people that have actually finished something, even if it's hacky garbage.  Try to write your own hacky novel.  It's ain't that easy.

*By sabotaging myself and my projects -- Starting a project is a piece of cake.  Writing a first line, an opening scene, the first act is a simple.  Writing the third act, the ending chapter, the final line, "THE END" seems impossible.  Easier to sabotage my project halfway through and just bail out.

*By letting my mind wander --I wonder what's happening on Twitter, what new beers are on tap at Rattle 'n' Hum, whether the Yankees have a home game today, what's playing at the Angelika, etc, etc, etc...

*By indulging in other's arts -- So much easier to read a great book, enjoy a wonderful movie, become entranced by a great TV series than actually create my own.  I make the excuse I'm getting "inspired" for my own work by indulging in these things.  Bullshit.

*By choosing lizard brain hedonism over hard work --I mentioned yesterday how a few drinks can help me release the tension and conquer The Resistance, oil the pistons to actually start the work, but too many drinks just leads to hedonism, primitive goofing around, and waking up the next morning feeling too lazy to work.

*By lacking balls -- Writing a witty Tweet, dashing off a quick blog post, creating an outline for my new book takes no courage.  Any one can do those things.  Millions of people do every day.  But closing the door, turning off my phone, setting the computer to offline and writing for the next five hours, and then for the next two years til I finish another book...that takes real balls, baby.

22Apr/110

The “Do the Work” Drinking Game

“This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.”

--Marcus Aurelius


I am not a rereader of books.  I prefer to try the new as opposed to revisiting the old.  But there are two books I reread every year, that are constantly with me, both in physical form and on my mind.  The first is Marcus Aurelius's stoic masterpiece on how to live a life, "The Meditations." The best thing ever written in my opinion.  The second is Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art," a brief manifesto on how to "break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles."  This book has helped me immensely in my own writing output.

This week sees the release of the companion manifesto to "The War of Art," the second Domino Project release "Do the Work."

In "War of Art," Pressfield introduced the idea of The Resistance, that unexplainable inner force that prevents us from accomplishing things.  Something we all suffer from, yes, but something some of us are better at managing.

I met so many people on my 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour who had their own apparent dreams of writing a novel.  They'd see my book and go, "A self-hurt guide?  Ha.  I don't need to buy that.  I could have written that!"

And, I'd always snap back, "Well you didn't.  I did."

They couldn't have written it.  Because they'd also wonder:  “So, how long’d it take to write HOW TO FAIL?”  When they found the answer was several years of intense effort, you could see the look of fear and self-doubt and mercy in their eyes.  They would never do that work.  Too much Resistance to overcome.  Too much lack of immediate gratification.  Too unreasonable to write that long with no road map laid out, with no potential reward.

I know other writers, good writers, that just can't quite finish things.  They have 90% of a manuscript, 95% of a screenplay, but they're frozen with an inability to complete the work.  It's not perfect.  It's not good enough.  It could suck.  It could flop.  It's not "ready."  What does that even mean?  It's means The Resistance is defeating them.  It means they are being too rational.  "Bad things happen when we employ rational thought, because rational thought comes from the ego," says Pressfield.

It's too easy to think how utterly ridiculous it is to write a novel or make a movie or start a company or even get six-pack abs.  No one you know does these things so you become an outlier amongst your friends and family for even attempting them.  You become a source of mockery even for having such outlandish dreams.

Thus, we are forced to become unconscious in our own work if we have these unreasonable dreams.  "Let the unconscious do its work," say Pressfield.  I do this through irrational confidence in the future success of my work.  And by drinking.  No better way to release the unconscious, to be irrational, to silence The Resistance in me than by popping a few beers or nursing a few glasses of bourbon.

(Yeah, I know this is unorthodox thinking, I doubt the fine Mr. Pressfield endorses it, but it works for me, and I've written two more books than 99% of you.)

Pressfield wants to encourage us to release this "second self, an unlived you" from inside of us.  The second self that wants to write books, make movies, etc. but keeps convincing himself otherwise for the most silly and rational reasons.

"Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur's indispensable allies."  Again, drinking helps get that ignorance and arrogance released, just like the sauced lout hitting on every pretty thing at the bar, thinking he's as suave as George Clooney.

"Don't think.  Act."  Drink some more.  "Get your idea down on paper.  You can always tweak it later."  Drink.  Then start writing.

Be impetuous.  Drink.  Quit having an inner critic that judges you, that prevents you from doing things.  Drink.  And become impervious to it all.

Work isn't pretty.  Writing and creating art is just as primitive as hoeing fields.  Pressfield says it's "better to be primitive than sophisticated, and better to be stupid than smart."  Drink, drink, drink and you'll be pretty damn primitive and stupid eventually.  Pressfield uses the indelible image of a women giving birth:

"The hospital room may be spotless and sterile, but birth itself will always take place amid chaos, pain, and blood."

To produce work we have to get dirty, we have to have this killer instinct, focusing only on the work at hand and the joy in creating it, and ignoring every inner and outer voice of resistance around us.  "The War of Art" laid the ground work for tackling Resistance, "Do the Work" gives you the road-map.  And, I'd add, a few drinks will give you the courage to slay the dragon of Resistance.

"Do the Work" is free on Kindle until May 20 so I'd pick that up now, but I'd also grab "The War of Art."  I think that's a better overall book and a better place to start conquering The Resistance.  Both these books could be knocked off over this weekend (perhaps while having a few drinks).  No better time to start than the present.  Then, on Monday, you can begin doing your own work.

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Tomorrow: How to Fail at Conquering Resistance

21Apr/111

“An Excellent Grasp of the English Language”: The Writing Jobs Offered on Craigslist

Once a week or so, I check out the writing jobs on Craigslist.  As a freelance writer, I'm always looking for new potential work.  But, since it's Craigslist, where everything sucks (especially the Casual Encounteresses--rim shot!) it more becomes just looking at terrible, terrible, terrible jobs for shits and giggles.

"Excellent grasp of the English language."

These Craigslist writing jobs don't usually have the most demanding of standards.  Like the job for an editor of a "Geek News" website who, most importantly, perhaps above all else, needs an excellent grasp of the English language.  Lofty criteria.  Don't be applying for that job if you use an interpreter.

"You will prepare grammatically correct and enticing copy."

Or how about the marketing copywriter gig that wants someone with the above ability?  Sure, many people can write grammatically correct copy.  Some people can write enticing copy.  But few people can combine those two immense skills.  I'd actually be curious what grammatically incorrect enticing copy would look like.  Probably a bunch of emoticons and LOLs.

"An affinity for grammar."

Now you may be able to get some writing jobs by simply being grammatically correct.  But for the truly great jobs, like the one for a restaurant review website, you're gonna need an affinity for grammar.  You're gonna have to motherfucking LOVE grammar.  Prepositions and adverbs and conjunctions and possessives and all that shit.  Unfortunately, I merely like grammar.

"The candidate will also be required to have a strong knowledge of computers, internet, and Microsoft Office."

Well fuck, I thought we could still just hand write everything in #2 pencil.

Suffice to say, most of these plumb gigs pay about 10 cents per word.

If you have any intriguing writing offers, e-mail me at aaron @aarongoldfarb.com

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If you have an excellent grasp of the English language, perhaps you'll get a job interview!

And of course follow me on Twitter to see my grammatically correct and enticing Tweeting