Two years ago my life was in chaos.

I returned from an out-of-state funeral to find our apartment had flooded. Water was everywhere, destroying a rug, sofa, and the wood floor. It took over a year to get someone out to finally replace it.

Last fall, renovations were just beginning. We moved all of the furniture into one room so the floor could be stripped and replaced. In the middle of it all, I was putting together a tour.

It was a challenging and frustrating time. It’s never fun to deal with contractors or file insurance claims or coordinate with a condo association, and we were doing it every single day for over a year. Plus, I was trying to work on my new show.

I always like to storyboard my act out so I have a visual idea of what to expect. So imagine me crammed into a small section of the bedroom, sandwiched between the dresser and sofa, affixing post-it notes to a large poster board while workers pried up floorboards in the adjoining room. That was the only way I could work.

My storyboard is simple - larger notes represent specific parts of the shows (one color for Mind Reading, one color for Monologues) and smaller notes represent moments (Music Cues, Jokes, Storytelling devices, etc.). It always takes a while to get the layout started but once it falls into place I have a colorful, concise outline of what I want to put onstage.

As furniture moved from room to room, the storyboard got lost in the shuffle. I told myself I’d get back to it after the floor was finished. There were more pressing things to worry about, so my show was quickly misplaced and forgotten.

It’s very easy to put my creative projects on hold. I promise myself I’ll “start that tomorrow” even though I usually end up being too busy to ever begin. The realities of being an adult are often all-consuming. All of my artistic endeavors often get pushed off to one side so I can complete other tasks. Sometimes you can mentally multi-task and other times your ideas get lost in the shuffle so you can finally have your apartment back together.

Last week I was rearranging my home office and there, inside an art portfolio, behind some other projects, was that original storyboard. The post-its were faded but the ideas were still there. Columns of concepts, still intact, waiting to be lifted off the page.

I sighed, frustrated by the thought of another delayed endeavor. Then it hit me:

That storyboard was the making of this year’s show. I had actually accomplished everything without even realizing it. In the midst of the chaos, I had somehow managed to finish everything on the board. There are only a few, minor changes but what I’d hoped to be doing last fall is the show I travelled with this year.

I’m always happiest when I’m fully immersed in a creative project. Head down, writing and researching - even if I’m surrounded by all of the furniture I own and there are workers pounding away in the other room - that’s how I love to spend my time.

At the time it seemed like the home projects were overshadowing my creative exploits, but now I realize it was actually the opposite. I was actually trying to create and write and dream and perform to move through the chaos and have something to work towards. It just took me until now to realize that the chaos of the past couple years was actually the start of my 2018 Chicago Theatre award-winning show.

Sometimes it takes a long time to realize that you’re doing the things you once dreamt of doing. Sometimes it takes a while to understand that you’re exactly where you need to be. Sometimes it’s a year and sometimes it’s even longer.

Give thanks today for how far you’ve come and what you did to get here. Be grateful for those that helped and the ones that made you stronger by standing in your way.

I’m thankful for finding ways to deal with the chaos and knowing that someday, somehow I’ll end up making sense of it all.

I hope you do, too.

As always, I’m going to take a break from Thursday Thoughts while my travel schedule picks up over the holidays. Thanks for reading and see you in 2019.

Too Close To Home

On three separate occasions I’ve been in an airport on the same day as a shooting that occurred there. I’ve also performed in locations that had an active gunman later that day or the next. My wife once performed at Pulse Nightclub, which later became the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Recently we were at the movies and another patron stood up and loudly started running towards the exit. My first instinct was to duck for cover.

This is the new normal.

I live in fear that my next trip might be to the scene of our next mass shooting. Crowded spaces seem terrifying now and, perhaps worst of all, even people in a darkened theater - a place designed for escape and entertainment - have to be on high alert.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I am so tired. Every day or so I read about another act of gun violence in another corner of the U.S. and it’s exhausting. I wasn’t designed to experience so much pain.

The emotional weight of these tragedies is too much to bear. They’ve directly affected close friends, communities where I’ve lived, and places I’ve been. Something has to be done.

I met someone on tour this summer who told me that “voting is selfish” and they “always vote for what’s best for me”. Well, I selfishly think everyone deserves a chance to see another day and feel safe wherever they go - myself included. I don’t know about you but that’s the world I want to live in.

For ways you can make a difference, check out Everytown For Gun Safety.

Details Matter

I love packaging.

When I was younger I would take boxes apart just so I could see how they were made. I’ve always been fascinated by packaging that is perfectly suited to the product inside it.

Now, I collect boxes. A good box is a kind of functional origami, with perfectly designed compartments for the main contents, instructional manual, and spare parts.

When a box is cleverly designed my experience with the product begins before I even open it. My user experience is enriched by smart and creative design.

For example, I just bought some new camera gear and spent the first few minutes in awe at the box design. The box opened like a treasure chest, with my new gear gleaming as I pulled the flaps aside. The handbook was cleverly displayed in the camera mount. The card stock felt expensive and the graphic design for the step-by-step assembly instructions was brilliant. Every piece of the unboxing had me more and more excited for my new gear. That’s the kind of box I love.

Little details matter. The packaging that goes around what you do is just as important as the main event. Possibly even more so.

I never understand when an artist has a poorly designed website or bad promo images. If you specialize in a certain art form then all of your designs should be top-notch. Everything you do contributes to your image as a creative professional.

I get it. You didn’t go to school for graphic design or copy writing. You don’t know the first thing about logos or Photoshop or Lightroom or websites. Video editing is intimidating and photography is hard.

Whatever. Those are just excuses for having subpar packaging.

If you’re not good at something then hire someone to do it for you. Can’t afford someone? Then teach yourself.

If you want to be taken seriously as an artist, details matter.

If you want to be more than just a hobbyist, details matter.

If you want your audience to connect with you on a visceral level, details matter.

When something is packaged well, you can tell the difference. People may not always notice the details, but they can feel it.

Speaking of details…I finally have some. I’ve been invited to the Orlando Fringe Winter Mini Fest. I’ll be performing “MIND READER” twice (January 12 at 1:45pm and January 13 at 5:15pm). Hope to see you at one of the shows!