Execution

Here we are, one year and fifty-two essays later. Some better than others, but all labors of love.

Since last August, I’ve spent every Friday through Wednesday working on new ideas for this blog. Through ups and downs, early mornings and late nights I’ve kept at it.

Each day I grab a coffee and sit down to brainstorm new ideas. I use an app called Bear on my MacBook. It’s incredibly useful for organizing my thoughts so I can see if they’ll make the cut for any given Thursday.

Since starting “Thursday Thoughts” I’ve also been busier than ever. In the past twelve months I performed over 100 shows in 35 states and 3 countries, made three TV appearances, sold out shows from NYC to San Diego, and went on a two month tour around North America.

I do all of this on my own. No agent, no manager - just my wife and me working tirelessly to make it a reality.

Good things start to happen if you stick with something for at least a year. You get better. You learn more about yourself. And people start to take notice.

I’ve booked some shows from the blog. Some essays led to in-person debates. One essay even led to an unexpected phone conversation.

As a result of “Thursday Thoughts” I’ve made some new friends. Those friends led to new experiences. And one of those led to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

All of this and more because I keep publishing every single week.

I always wanted to be a better writer - I was just waiting to have a platform. But I got tired of waiting…so I created my own. Now I write all the time and I’m slowly getting better each and every day.

The funny thing is, I’m not running out of ideas. The more I write, the more inspired I feel. So I keep writing daily with one goal in mind: to keep posting every Thursday. 

Ideas are easy, it’s the execution that’s hard.  But if you stick with it, it’s always worth it. That’s what these 365 words on day 365 prove.

One year down, many more to go.


If you like my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon. For as little as $1 a month, you can help me bring my show to a city near you.

Go With The Flow

I’ve been spending much of the summer working on a new show. Most of that time is spent creating new ideas and writing scripts. It’s a long, arduous process.

Sometimes I’ll spend an entire day (or week!) working on a new idea, only to flip through a book and discover that someone else already beat me to it. 

Or, I’ll suddenly recall seeing it performed by someone else years ago. It got filed away and forgotten before I convinced myself it was my own idea. Eventually, though, I remember seeing it and abandon it altogether.

It can be very frustrating.

Another good idea? No, unfortunately it’s right here on page 67.

How about this? Nope! Saw it during college back in 2008.

I was having this discussion with my wife recently. I had another idea for the show, only to realize that several people had already done it. As a result, I was hitting my head against a metaphorical brick wall and not making any progress.

“Did those other people invent it?” she asked.

“No, not really.” I said.

“Did they all perform it the same way?”

“No, they performed it in their own styles.”

“Okay, so why don’t you just perform it how Mark Toland would?”

She was absolutely right.

In my quest to be original, I was actually limiting myself too much. I was trying so hard to be different that I wasn’t giving myself a chance to get started.

A lot of people I know talk about flow - the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task - and how much it contributes to their creativity. Basically, you become so involved in what you’re doing that distractions fade away and the creative process becomes second nature.

That’s the goal. That’s what all artists dream of. But how can you get there if you never give yourself a chance to get started?


If you like my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon. For as little as $1 a month, you can help me bring my show to a city near you.

Details

I saw a one-person show earlier this summer that had a moment I can’t stop thinking about.

The performer had a bag of props on stage complete with money, comb, water bottle, and so on. They kept using the props for various reasons throughout the scene. So far, so good.

But then, they went to check the time. They glanced at their wrist and THEY WEREN’T WEARING A FREAKING WATCH.

WHAT?!

Why have an entire bag of real props but not a real watch?

For the rest of the show I couldn’t stop thinking about that tiny moment. It just made no sense.

If you’re going to do something then go all the way. Have all the props, learn all the skills, finish the project.

This is a big pet peeve of mine.

It drives me crazy to see an artist who specializes in design but has a poorly designed website. Or a performer who has never actually studied theater.

A fellow performer told me recently that he didn’t believe in writing a script. He insisted that his performance would be “fresher without one” and that “saying the same words every time” wasn’t his style.

Face, meet palm.

When people make comments like that what I actually hear is “Writing a script is too much work.”

I don’t understand how you can expect people to buy tickets to see you if you haven’t put in the work to actually write a show. And I have no idea how you can expect people to buy into your performance if some of your props are imaginary and some of your props are real.

If you aren’t willing to put in the work then what’s the point? There’s more to what you do than the thing you’re doing. You have to learn all the minor skills that go into your craft. You have to pay attention to all aspects of what you do.

People will notice the little details…even if you don’t.