"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: December 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So - What's Next For You?

So - we made it to the end of the year. I hope your 2010 was all that you wanted - and needed - from your present life.

We often think that the new year is a time to recycle all those old resolutions. I think this can be a mistake. Because we then send a message to our brains that goals and ambitions are to be confined to January - and then forgotten when the year gets under way!

The time to make resolutions is every day. Just five minutes in the morning - say at nine o clock - spent making a short list of the things that are important to you - bearing in mind the long term, as well as the short, will pay huge dividends when it comes to reviewing your progress towards your dream life.

Year End is really only a time to ask: Am I living my dream life? And if not, What can I do to make that happen by the end of next year?

If you want free help in this regard sign up to my Easy Way to Success course and for next 23 days get inspirational messages to help you plan for 2011. www.easywaytosuccess.net

No more video newsletters for a while. They're so work intensive (you end up throwing away 90% of what you record) that I've decided to make them a monthly event rather than a weekly.

I know a lot of my subscribers like the videos but there are also many that prefer the written word. I get that.

But it is worth bearing in mind that we now live in a very visual world, media wise, where writers are expected increasingly to understand the visual medium. Hence, my next course will be on writing for TV - where the whole concept of writing deliberately for the screen is a fascinating 'switch of gears' for most writers.

Plus of course, writers are often expected to self promote nowadays, either through personal appearances or via TV and radio. This can be tough for many, more insular writers - actually like me.

I may look confident in my videos but it's really just an illusion created by editing and post production. But at least it does prove that you can be introverted and still make the media work for you.

Actors and comedians often seem like extroverts - but this too can be an incorrect assumption. Performing is a skill that even the most shy writer can accomplish with enough practice - and indeed may become an essential component of a writer's career if we want success in this modern, sound bite, glitz driven age.

Besides which, it's about pushing ourselves, isn't it?

With every new writing project we want to improve, to stretch ourselves just that little bit further.

This should also apply I think to other areas of our lives.

Self help gurus always talk about the need to get outside of our comfort zones in order to grow. And what could be more outside a writer's comfort zone than performing, acting and even speaking?

I understand!

It's rare that any of us like the look or sound of ourselves on film. Even Johnny Depp says he can't watch himself on screen!

But I think it's important to overcome these things - in much the same way we need to overcome any kind of social anxiety in order to successfully interact with other people - especially people that can help us.

Think of performing as a writer as a necessary evil...

Personally, I have real problems when we go to Australian screenwriting conferences and we're supposed to be sociable and easy going - as well as ready at any time to deliver a pitch for our latest project - whether that be a movie idea or two or a TV show.

To be honest I find the whole idea of relating written material in verbal form to be slightly odd, even distasteful sometimes. I mean, why should writers be considered the best orators of their work?

They rarely are.

And how do Australian producers, directors and distributors have the audacity to turn down ideas without even taking the merest glimpse at our writing?

I could be Shakespeare and these people would never know - just because they didn't think Romeo and Juliet had sufficient 'legs' as a viable idea.

It's a crazy system.

To me, it's a thinly veiled insult to writers, really. It's basically saying that the writing is unimportant - anyone can do that - it's the idea that must sell itself.

Good in principle but I am offended by the unwillingness to even ask the question, Oh, by the way, can you actually write?

The thing that bugs me the most is the way Australian film people (who in the great scheme of things have never known real success - especially if they're still here) tell you what's good and bad about your idea, how to tweak and change it to fit the 'industry' as though your ideas are just peices of mud that need the benefit of their deluded quirks and prejudices to work at all.

I prefer the British system where a writer can present his or her entire script to the BBC - without all this "pitching" nonsense and then let the production companies talk about the merits of the screenplay and how it might work on screen.

To me this system must work better when you see the quality of the programs and ideas that come from the UK - and also the quality of the writers.

In case you wondered, I'm not knocking American writers at all - because they're gradually taking back the control they deserve, especially in TV, where the writers are often considered the most important part of the "screen machine".

This situation, sadly, does not apply in Australia - where the writer is considered a necessary evil - and not always necessary at that.

Australian TV and movies are - with rare exceptions - appallingly tedious and unappealing and don't travel very well overseas.

Far be it from me to suggest that it's Australian producers and film makers (there's a difference which I wish these producers understood), and their contempt for the writer that is actually the root cause of the dire effluent that Australia consistently produces...

Australian producers with no idea, no vision, no real integrity and no artistic sense whatsoever, have been allowed to rule our industry for far too long - supported fully by the State and Federal financiers - to the detriment of all that we've produced in the visual media since the 1970s.

The rest of the world knows that good writers have the talent, the ideas and the business sense to know how to make TV and movies work. That's been definitively proved by the US, the UK, Japan, even places like Korea and South America.

But in Australia, we're yet to give writers any of the respect they deserve.

Do Australian producers want writers to learn how to act now? To perform like monkeys to make their jobs easier?

Well, here's a suggestion: Why don't Australian producers learn how to read?

Might help, though I doubt it.

My money's on the next generation of writers in Australia that have no choice but to wrest back control from the delusional old guard.

Apologies for the rant at the end there.

I have issues - and a 12 page film pitch to write by Jan 4th!

All the best for your own writing projects in 2011.

Keep writing!

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write


"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." Bill Cosby

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Times They Are A'Changin...

December is the time when publishers traditionally shut their doors and tidy their desks - writers get a lot of their MSS back, along with their customary rejections, at this time of year.

This 'tradition' begins at the printers - who, back in the 1840s, began the habit of closing down their presses early for Christmas and opening them up again around mid January. For some odd reason, this practice still persists to this day!

I guess everyone deserves a break - but many writers don't like it!

Below is a short video I put together for the local writer's center. I didn't know they were going to ask me for the footage when I filmed it - so it's a bit rough. If I'd known beforehand...

Anyhoo, you'll see that South Australia has more than its fair share of successful writers - Sean Williams, who writes Star Wars novels, for one. DM Cornish, whose Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy has a Hollywood option. Robyn Opie, author of 85 internationally published books, Janeen Brian, author of 75 picture books, the list goes on.

Wannabe professional writers should find this encouraging.

Christmas is a time for giving, they say.

It's a time when we take a break from the usual helter-skelter rat race and pause to reflect on the real purpose of our lives.

That is, to help each other.

You hear this so often it's sometimes hard to grasp what it actually means.

Does it mean volunteering at shelters or involving yourself in community projects? It might. Does it mean coaching your local kid's soccer team or organizing garage sales to raise money for the needy? Perhaps.

These are the more obvious manifestations of charity and giving. They can smack of unpaid work and a necessary short term duty.

I prefer to think of giving as a vocation that we can all participate in - all the time - in our own way, using our own personal talents.

Rich businessmen for instance might find their real purpose is to give back to the community by using some of their money to fund humanitarian causes... some do.

In a perfect world, lawyers and doctors would spend at least some of their time working for free (we can dream)...

Working people can, through little acts of kindness, make the day easier and more pleasant for everyone around them...

But what can artists, writers and musicians do?

It's rare that artists have any spare cash - and time away from their work is a luxury few can afford.

I would argue that the most an artist can give is to focus on his or her art. The more artists work on their projects, the more they are giving - to the community, to the world at large.

The act of creating is the greatest gift we can give to each other, to the Universe, to whatever you conceive as God.

Because art can bring light into the darkness, true understanding, and joy into the hearts of us all.

What better gift could a person hope to offer?

It's scientifically proven that happiness can make a person stronger, more resilient, more ambitious, a better, more giving individual.

Plus, like the endless Mobius strip, being a better, more giving person can make us - individually and collectively - happier.

Happiness is apparently infectious. Viral, if you like.

You might think that Robyn and I are a couple of old hippies at heart. But actually we like to think of ourselves as just slightly ahead of our time.

We believe that, as a culture and a civilization, we are on the brink of a new era of 'Universal Consciousness'.

A time when materialism and technology merge with a new spiritual awareness of ourselves and our place in the cosmos.

A time when greed and self interest become less important for the majority. A time when focusing on compassion and responsibility will literally change our view of reality and help us all to become 'new millennial citizens' of our universe.

We see these subtle changes in consciousness everywhere - and you might argue that's because we want to see them, even if they're not really there. We don't agree.

Personally, I've always believed that true happiness and personal creativity are inextricably linked.

Whenever I speak with people who are unhappy and unfulfilled, I always try to discover the central cause. Underneath all the surface reasons like perceived poverty, workplace angst, family problems and esteem issues, there is always a spark...

That little fire that knows instinctively we would we be much happier if we were free - and had the time - to simply create.

More and more people are seeing the light of that fire and following their passions - whether that's by starting their own craft businesses, or painting for pure pleasure, or writing on a vague promise of eventual success.

I always encourage people - especially writers, musicians and film makers - to follow their instincts and simply do what their heart is pushing them to embrace.

Because I believe, only through creativity - which spawns real fulfillment, true happiness and a more spiritual understanding of the human condition - can we hope to repair the ills of this world and manifest ourselves as the true noble citizens of the universe we've always been destined to become.

Make this Christmas a time when you reflect on these important issues.

By doing so, I believe you can begin to make a real difference to your own life - and by extension, everyone else's - in 2011.

On that note, you most definitely need to...

Keep writing!

Rob at Home
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write


"You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer."
Margaret Atwood

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