Playing Possum

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Image by csbonawitz from Pixabay

Note: I was digging through old drafts last night, and found these song lyrics in an untitled document from January 2014. I’m not sure what exactly inspired these words, but at that time I was in my third month of unemployment after being laid off from a dream job. Safe to say I wasn’t feeling great about the world.

Moon is high, mercury low
Cars fly by the end of my nose
I’m playing possum in the middle of the road

Heard a noise somebody made
Nowhere to hide, feeling afraid
I’m playing possum in the middle of the road

I only look like roadkill
In fact I’m feeling quite well
But I’m gonna stay oh so very still
While hoping you go along to hell

Biding my time, biting my tongue
Don’t want to fight, no strength to run
I’m playing possum in the middle of the road

Second Cherry Revision

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Photo by Min An from Pexels

The boring, unglamorous work of screenwriting
Seems, to me, a fitting metaphor for being human.
The bits and pieces of ideas, snippets of dialogue,
Coalesce into a rough draft. Notes from trusted eyes
Clean up the zealous, adolescent narrative
And over time we’re ready to present the “White Draft.”

Decisive black letters on crisp white paper.

But as the demands of production come in,
As roles are cast and locations secured,
As the dialogue between writer and director continues,
Pages are rewritten.

To make things easier, only the edited pages are replaced.
As this process continues, if you follow the WGA pattern,
You wind up with a sheaf of rainbow-colored pages
(At least metaphorically, since no one prints on cherry-red paper)

Clunky dialogue is replaced.
Leaps of logic, cleaned up.
Plot holes, filled.
Extraneous nonsense, removed, replaced by all-caps OMITTED.
But many early words are retained. The heart of the story, retained.

Every now and then, you see a finished movie
That clearly needed another draft.
Every now and then, a page-one rewrite is called for.
Sometimes a screenplay goes into turnaround,
And new partners are found to work with.

But here’s where the metaphor breaks down:
Most screenplays don’t benefit from change.
They gather dust in a pile of other abandoned screenplays
Or worse, are tossed in the trash, forgotten, irrelevant.
While the ones that get made are forever fixed in one form.

That’s not you. That’s not me.
There are further revisions to be made.
Further revisions are being made, all the time.
What pages are you on?

Spring Whispers

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“Deptford in the Snow: Flowers” by Caroline CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Winter with her lonely air
Coldly scolding us inside
Sighs her last as Spring so fair
Hints arrival by and by
Warmly whispers, “it is nigh”

Soon the flowers, soon the rain
Mossy earth, and trees redressed
Longer days to Summer train
Hatchlings singing in their nest
Life’s green glory full expressed

Whispers fade, and cold winds blow
Winter still, her claim in hand
In her threadbare shrug of snow
Makes a final stoic stand
O’er the frigid, sleeping land

The Way Things Go

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“Tetherball,” image CC0 Public Domain

Who was it that gave me the impression
That things are supposed to go a certain way?
The episodes of life, it seems, just happen
I often feel I can’t affect the day

It’s tether ball with near infinite players
I am but one, and my attempts so lame
To change the shape the path the ball follows
Won’t be missed once I have left the game

And yet I seek the solace of the tether
In metaphor as well as day to day
And to the thought remain stubbornly fettered
That things are supposed to go a certain way

What 100% Means

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Wayne Gretzky by kris krüg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Thus spaketh The Great One, an inspirational quote that holds much power in its brevity. And yet, there is a depth to Wayne Gretzky’s wisdom that we don’t often think about. Let’s look at the numbers.

894

That’s how many goals Gretzky scored over a legendary career in the NHL. 894 is a tangible number. Our evolved monkey brains have a hard time visualizing large numbers, but 894 is not so large we can’t get a sense of what it means.

No doubt about it, many of those goals approached the Platonic Ideal: clean breakaway, beating the netminder. But how many were odd bounces? The puck hitting a defenseman and slipping in? Greasy goals? Goals that were shot by another player, but just happened to deflect off of Gretzky’s stick before going in? We remember the perfection, but you don’t get to 894 by being perfect every time.

1,963

More than twice the number of goals Gretzky netted is his number of assists. Gretz could have just as easily said, “Your teammates miss 100% of the goals you don’t set them up for.”

Gretzky had a crisp pass, and the hockey IQ to know when to use it. He didn’t have to be the rockstar every time. When your entire team is working toward the same goal, you all share in the victories, even when someone else takes the ultimate credit.

17.57%

The man who, to this day, holds or shares 61 NHL records is way down at number 44 on the NHL leaderboard for shot percentage. 82.43% of the time–5,090 shots on goal–he didn’t score.

And that doesn’t take into consideration shots he took that don’t register as shots on goal: blocked by a defenseman, hit a post, went wide. If you only focused on the misses, excluding all the goals and assists, you could easily think of The Great One as The Great Loser. Crazy, right? We do it to ourselves all the time.

100%

The full quote is, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, even though there is only a 1-5% chance of scoring.”

Success can be greasy or quirky; the result of error or a weird bounce. Success may not even be your own, but the “loose change” a teammate knocks in.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” but that doesn’t mean you’ll be successful 100% of the time. Your shots may be swallowed up by a threshold guardian who stands between you and success. Your shots may go wide. The fact is, you will fail more than you succeed. We all will.

That doesn’t mean stop trying.

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!

And what would the New Year be without resolutions? Here are a few of mine:

On the weekends, wear nothing but one strategically placed sock, and run around yelling “Dobby has no master! Dobby is a free elf!”

Start pronouncing “Paul” like “Raul” and vice versa.

Float affirmation memes out into the world that neither make any sense nor are based on any personal experience.

SurfAngry

Whenever someone asks me my name, roll my eyes back and respond, “WE ARE LEGION.”

Occasionally fire up Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” on repeat and wash every dish in the house. Maybe shirtless. And wearing a headband.

Get the band back together. Offer to remove their gags if they promise not to scream.

Learn enough Klingon to get into trouble.

Worf

Put forth more of an effort in my structure of sentencing and grammar and seplling and stuff.

Dress up on laundry days.

Eat healthier. Like maybe start using my mouth again.

Lon

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My bones don’t fit together
I’m a bit disjointed it seems
Ligaments act as tether
Lashing misshapen beams

My gait is all herky-jerky
With pops and grinds and snaps
I pass it off as quirky
I play it up for laughs

If my outside is ungainly
My inside is much worse
I flail around so vainly
In my inner universe

No tether for these thoughts
No audience for the dance
As I spring and twist and plotz
Through a dark and lonely manse

 

(Happy Halloween!)

Updated Poster

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The poster graphic has been updated to include my credit. Rock!

Harry and Noah are fantastic collaborators, in case I haven’t said yet. And I know from fantastic collaborators! Being in the room with them, spit-balling ideas, the back and forth over details that result in far better choices than any one of us might make on our own — it’s been a very fruitful and enjoyable experience thus far.

Over on Mad Theatrics, my blog about live theater, I once wrote about how to work with a partner or collaborator in the cleverly titled post, “How to Work with a Partner or Collaborator.” There’s some pretty good advice in that article, if I do say so myself. One thing I failed to do was wax on and on about how freaking awesome it is, how amazing it feels to be in the flow of creating with a partner or collaborators.

You step outside yourself. You’re engaged in the process in an exciting, live way. Another person or persons will make demands of you that you simply will not make of yourself. It’s a challenge, a game, an activity. Action. Movement. The most rewarding creative experiences I’ve had have involved some collaboration.