Finish The Damn Thing!

At a show last weekend someone came up to me and said “Hey, are you still writing your Thursday Thoughts?”

I assured them I still was and that I post them regularly on my website. Turns out, he used to see them weekly on Facebook and wasn’t seeing them anymore.

As a result of my push to get off of social media and limit my screen time, it appears that FB has punished me with limited visibility. It seems stupid that an app designed to connect us all controls how connected we can be.

So yes, I’m still writing Thursday Thoughts. And yes, I’ll keep sharing them on social media. But if you want to make sure you never miss a post I set up a mailing list so you can get these essays delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday.

Only join the list if you want to keep up with my blog. (If you’re looking for updates about my upcoming TV projects or tour dates, join the list at the bottom of my website.)

I’m going to be shifting my approach to Thursday Thoughts over the next several months. I want to share helpful, digestible content that is useful to you - along with my existing personal essays about life on the road. And I want to make sure you see it, so do me a favor and click the button below to sign up:

I’ve been thinking lately about finishing projects.

I just ordered a new mattress and it sat in a warehouse for a week until I called to follow up. Then, out of the blue, the company did a same-day delivery. An otherwise perfect shopping experience was clouded by an unorganized, slow shipping process.

If you’re going to do something, then go all the way. Finish the damn thing!

Promise something and deliver. Simple as that.

If I hadn’t called I’m pretty sure the mattress would still be on a truck somewhere. It’s almost like the company worked really hard to get my business then stopped providing good customer service once I was a customer.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

You should work hard to get a customer, then work even harder once they’ve trusted you with their business. Customer service should be for the entire transaction - not just for the start of things.

This got me thinking about some of my own personal projects…

For instance, I’ve written a few TV episodes and a couple years ago I tried to get them picked up. I had a dozen meetings with agents, then with production companies, then with networks. The process dragged on for a year and amounted to nothing. So I thought to myself: “Why don’t I just make this myself?”

So I started rewriting it for a more run-and-gun, guerrilla style shoot. Then I started planning and preparing. And now…I’m just sitting on it.

Why? I don’t know.

Maybe because it’s easier to keep thinking about the thing instead of actually following through. If I keep brainstorming then it’s like I’m tricking myself into working on it, without having to face criticism, failure, or even a successful reception.

Maybe it’s because I know I’m good at one thing but not another. And it’s easier to put it off than embrace being an amateur.

Or, maybe I’m just a quitter. It's easy to get discouraged after you spend so long trying to accomplish something.

I think all of those might be true. But I don’t want an idea - good or bad- to be left undone. So I’m gonna finish the damn thing. I’m gonna make it happen. I’ve done everything else, so I need to see it through to the end.

Otherwise, the idea might as well be rolling around on a truck somewhere with no expected delivery date.

Here’s something you should try:

This year, I’ve been writing to people that inspire me. I’ve written to authors, designers, friends, actors, etc. I’ve written to people overseas and down the block. Anytime I say to myself “Wow, this person is fascinating!” I make a mental note to let them know I feel that way.

When I say write, I don’t mean social media. I mean actually writing a letter.

I prefer my typewriter, if possible. If I can’t find a mailing address then I write a brief e-mail.

I usually just say a few things about how the person has inspired me, how I found their work, and what it means to me.

The return rate is amazing. Every single person has gotten back to me. Sometimes it’s a quick sentence or two, but typically it’s a much longer response.

I love sending something meaningful off and wondering if I’ll get anything back. When it does arrive, there’s a magical, mysterious quality to it.

It means that somewhere in the world, this person that inspired me felt compelled to write back. They had to sit down and actively think about their response instead of clicking “like” on a screen. They had to actually take the time to respond.

It’s incredible.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

The Power of Moments - As a person who creates memorable moments for a living, I find this book fascinating. But it’s useful for anyone looking to create meaningful moments in their everyday life.

Educated - I can’t believe it took me so long to start reading this. It’s unbelievably good.

The Coddling of the American Mind - Really enjoying this and perfectly suited to our current political climate.

If you’re on Spotify here are some summer vibes for you:

Finally, you have two chances left to see MIND READER at the Chicago Magic Lounge. We’ve been packed every Wednesday since March so don’t miss your chance to see it!

After that, I’m off to Pittsburgh to perform at Liberty Magic for six weeks. All dates, showtimes, and ticket info can be found here.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.

Push Through

“Any big plans for the weekend?” my trainer asked me last Friday.

“Just have some writing projects I’m working on!” I replied.

“Oh, that sounds like fun,” she said. “How do you work? Like, what’s your writing process?”

I told her exactly what I tell you now:

My writing process is that I tell myself “Tomorrow I’m going to write as much as possible!” and I carve out as much time as my schedule will allow so I can get creative and finish some projects.

Then when “tomorrow” comes I think about my writing all day, telling myself that I should probably sit down and get to work. I pace my studio, drink too much coffee, and do anything I can to avoid the task at hand.

Then, around bedtime, I finally sit down and write two or three sentences. Another successful day of writing in the books!

Since I started keeping a consistent blog 18 months ago a lot of people have asked me about my process. But the truth is…I don’t really have one. All I do is just think about writing as much as possible.

Most of the time I struggle to put my concepts into words, let alone a series of paragraphs worth reading. The key is to not give up. I know by now that if I just push through my creative roadblocks then a good essay is waiting to be discovered.

The same goes for my show.

I rarely rehearse it start to finish. Instead, I start to work on a new idea but barely get anywhere. So I’ll work on bits and pieces at random moments. I’ll talk through the script in the shower. I’ll pace through the blocking while I’m on the phone with a client. The new piece slowly comes together in sections, often over many months, but only if I don’t give up and push through.

A couple weeks ago I was trying to come up with a slogan for a special event. I wanted something catchy and to the point, so I started brainstorming with a friend. Everything we came up with was either incredibly stupid or had already been done before. Before I knew it, I was frustrated beyond belief. I decided to abandon the whole idea and hung up the phone in disgust.

I turned to leave the room and stopped dead in my tracks as the perfect slogan popped into my head. My good idea had only been minutes away and I had nearly lost it. I just needed to push through to the other side.

You can call it writer’s block or discomfort or rejection or the creative struggle. You can get frustrated when you run out of ideas and mad when you don’t have any to begin with. You can admit when you don’t know what to do next…

But whatever you do, don’t give up. Don’t give in to the struggle. Don’t give up on the work. You never know when your best idea might be one more sentence away. Push yourself to keep working. Push past the fear. Push aside your doubts and know that you’ve been creative before and you’ll be creative again.

Push through.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.

Almost Ready

A year ago I submitted my show to the Chicago Fringe Festival. It was my first festival and a nerve-wracking experience.

In the span of four days I went from ZERO pre-sold tickets to SELLING OUT.  I only did three shows but I got bit by the fringe bug. And I began planning The Mystery Tour.

Around the same time I had a bunch of personal stuff happen all at once. I lost a friend to suicide and my apartment flooded. It was a rough several weeks. Being onstage gave me a respite from the realities of life and I channeled any stress I was feeling into my creative projects.

Flash forward to this week and I’ve come full circle. It took a full year - A FULL YEAR - but the new floors were finally finished this week.  I’ve been living out of boxes and bags for months, sleeping on a pull out sofa, and unable to get in a routine.

But somehow, over the last two months, I wrote the fragments of a new show.

I storyboarded ideas onto post-it notes on the back of a door. Then, when the door came off the hinges I moved the notes to the floor.

I wrote several new monologues for the show - really personal, cerebral stuff that I’m still not quite convinced anyone will care about but me. Somehow I discovered a thru-line and tied all the stories together.

But last week as I was tearing boxes apart in search of a prop, I literally freaked-the-fuck-out because I couldn’t find what I needed. I eventually found it but not before I had a full-on mental breakdown. The stress of the home renovation, the exhaustion of traveling, and the rigors of working in this environment had finally gotten to me.

It was time to come to terms with my situation. I had to be honest with myself and admit that the show is finished - but it’s not ready.

It’s 50%, maybe 60% ready, but it’s not up to my standards. When it comes to my show, I’m a perfectionist. And it’s hard to get the show where I want when I’ve been living in a construction zone for the past six weeks.

With another two weeks of rehearsal in a less chaotic environment I would probably be ready to debut the new show in full. But, this is the reality of living where you work and working where you live. When you live a creative life you learn to be satisfied with how far you've come even if you aren't quite satisfied with where you are.

A year ago my fringe show was a few lines in my notebook. But now, a year and 100+ performances later, I’ve written not one - but TWO - completely different shows. And I’m putting the greatest hits from both shows onstage seven times over the next ten days at the 2017 Chicago Fringe Festival.

After that, I’m going to perfect the rest of my new material on my new floors at home. And once it’s ready, I’m going on tour all over again. You’d better get ready, too.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.