What’s Going On (Random Life Stuff)

Welp, I’ve let a couple months go by without posting, and now enough has happened that it’s difficult to pick any one thing to talk about, so I guess I’ll just ramble and see what comes out.

Right now, Paul and I are babysitting for our three and a half year old nephew. It’s a fun age to spend time with kids because they tend to be very loving and enthusiastic about the familiar adults in their lives. But it’s also an age where they demand lot of attention. Today’s original plan was to arrive around 6pm, and our assumption was that we’d eat and play and nephew would stay up an extra hour or so (that was a big deal when I was a kid!), and be asleep around 8:30ish. My original plan had been to work on one of my current gigs —story for a digital comic— for a couple hours in the afternoon, and then a couple more after nephew went to bed.

It turned out we actually needed to come earlier —around 3pm. When we got there, my brother-in-law informed us, that because it was special baby-sitter night, there were no rules! Our nephew had permission to watch TV or play as late as he wanted, etc… and they had let him have an extra long nap in preparation.

I’m sure you see where this is going…

At 3pm, our nephew was literally shrieking in excitement at our arrival. He couldn’t wait to show us his new plastic black widow spider.

The beloved Black Widow Spider

Eight hours later, we’ve played about a hundred games that involve hiding the spider, going for walks with the spider, building a cushion cave for the spider, playing “the floor is lava” with the spider. My nephew informed me at one point that the spider has “had a very good day.” It’s going on 11pm now, and I can report that while the spider’s battery seems to be depleting, my nephew’s energy is unflagging. Right now, he and Paul and the spider are watching You-tube videos set to repetitive carnival-like music and I’m stealing some laptop time to write this and send grateful thoughts and psychic reinforcement to all parents, teachers and childcare providers in the world… (more tomorrow).

Pacing at the Starting Gate, Waiting for the Right Amount of Rain…

I am delighted to announce that I’ve got —not one, not two, but —three cool freelance gigs coming up.

JOB A is producing some product sales meetings for a well-known company.

JOB B and JOB C involve story creation for two different technology / game apps.

I am being super vague because I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’ll say that I’m excited about all three: Each one will involve learning new vocabulary (which is one of my favorite things) as well as new software (which I enjoy if it’s not overwhelming). And I get to collaborate as part of a team. I’ve been in a good mood as each of them has become more solid in the last several weeks.

The producing gig, JOB A, scheduled for mid-July to mid-September, is the most definite because it’s built around pre-scheduled events that involve multiple people and businesses, so barring some natural disaster or new pandemic surge, it will happen. I’ve spent the last month virtually “onboarding” with their third-party payroll vendor, and just received my company email address and access to their Microsoft Teams hub, so am feeling very official.

For JOB B and JOB C, the “paperwork” is still being sorted — i.e. various parties and lawyers are defining and agreeing to terms etc.

Here’s where I’m getting a little antsy and “pacing at the gate.” Both of these jobs became possibilities after meetings in early May, and are slated to happen in June. In particular, JOB B was supposed to begin June 1, for a duration of about 30 days. June 1 would have been a perfect start day, as then JOB B would have ended with a couple weeks before the beginning of JOB A, with some wiggle room if we were running late.

But, as I write this, it is June 11, and a weekend, and the paperwork is still “being finalized.” I’d have to start JOB B on Monday in order to have a full 30 days before JOB A starts.

I keep reminding everyone on my end that JOB A is not one of my usual day jobs where I can write in the evenings and go to meetings on my lunch break and pretend like I don’t really have a day job at all. JOB A will be a real, on-location, with (hopefully only) 10-hour days, production-type job that will require my full attention.

But legal departments rush for no one (at least no one at my level, but I think maybe no one ever).

Writers often juggle various jobs without their clients being the wiser or really caring, as long as the job gets done. And people who aren’t actually writing tend to act like miraculous things can happen. Also, I’ve noticed that people in entertainment are used to acting like miracles can happen, but then having them not happen, and deadlines get pushed all the time. What I don’t know is if that also happens in the tech world.

I’ve heard George Saunders say, “A cliche is a truth that has lost its luster.”
It never rains, but it pours is a cliche.
And it is true. I don’t know why.

The year so far has been a work-drought, so all the rain is welcome. But when too much rain hits packed dry earth … (you get it–that’s why it’s a cliche).

The blessing of these gigs is that 1) while they are short term, each should lead to future fun — if I can establish a good relationships, making it over the learning-curve hump and do a good job, and 2) I really want to do them all because I’m genuinely interested.

But the blessing of caring about all three will become a curse if they all — with their unique learning curves, new people, new software, and new story forms— end up landing at once.

So today’s manifestation is that the starting gun goes off on Monday… because I’m raring at the bit—And that for the next few months the rain can fall steady but not torrential.

Let’s get this party started!” says the horse.

Write about THIS (All the Woo-Woo, #2)

In a previous post, I talked about my energy-healer friends C_ and D_ supporting me after my cancer diagnosis, and how Woo-woo visitors from the beyond joined our sessions. You can catch up here.

On my third session with C__ and D__’s another relative comes to visit. They think his name is Robert. “He’s dressed,” my friend C says – “like a Quaker, but he’s not a Quaker.” “He’s dressed like Benjamin Franklin,” D_ clarifies. (Apparently she can see him too?) “He’s like a Puritan, but he’s not a Puritan — he’s not someone who’s afraid of a drink.”

I’m getting the picture—my ancestors were Scotspeople, hard working pragmatists who likely did enjoy a drink. Judging from their descendants (the ones whom I’ve met or been told about) they weren’t much for coddling and were advocates of “getting on with things.

Which is in keeping with what Robert tells them to tell me. You’ll come through this. You come from “strong stock”  and there are “still important things you have to do.” *

Pretty much the same kind of tough love as I got from Beatrice, but with a little something added. I am, of course, interested in what “important things” Robert sees on my life’s to-do list. It’s fun to imagine doing something important, especially if it’s something that other people might think is important, too, or that might involves rewards like accolades! or money!! Though I’m guessing it might be writing a student referral letter that gets them into school, changing their life, or some step in my own development, like achieving more inner peace or paying off my college loans. If it’s like other predictions in my life, the trajectory will be that for a while I’ll remember and wonder in the back of my mind if every little thing is the important thing… and then I’ll forget all about it. And then much later I’ll remember again and, looking back, assign importance to to something I did in the interim when I wasn’t thinking about it at all.

But Robert isn’t the only one with a message for me this evening. My friend C__ says there are “others” who have come to visit as well. (As of now, for want of something appropriate to call these energetic beings from the beyond, I’m just going to call them, collectively, “the Woo-woo.”) C_ says the Woo-woo have some advise for me, and that advice is:

Write about THIS.

“THIS is in all caps” she says, relaying their vehemence. “Write about THIS.” 

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“I guess it means THIS, right here. What you’re going through now.”

(Brief digression: If C__ were the type to consciously or unconsciously embellish, this might be the moment. Nothing commits writers to life like a some project they feel they are “destined to write.” However, this is not some deathbed situation where I require new purpose to give me will to live, and C_ knows this. Also… I don’t think she’s not the type to make up the Woo-woo. So, if she says the Woo-woo is saying I should write about THIS, then she’s hearing the Woo-woo say I should write about THIS.

Okay. So what part of THIS are they referring to?

  • My health journey, either this particular cancer or, the mutation behind the cancer—the Lynch Syndrome? 
  • My journey into more WOO-WOO terrain, (such as the Woo-woo telling me to write about THIS”). 
  • Or just LIFE in general? A cancer / woo-woo combo?

Is my assignment from the Woo-woo is to keep some kind of Lynch-Syndrome-Life diary? That would be… serendipitous? Since it’s something I do already do here in this blog (albeit on a sporadic basis, and always with some sense of guilt for not spend the same time looking for a real job or writing things that I could show my agents or at least submit to literary journals). 

Although, when I mention I’ve already been writing about THIS, C_tells me, she thinks I’m supposed to make it easier to access. “Like a YouTube or a podcast.” I feel like this must involve at least some interpretation on C_’s part. A bunch of Woo-woo’s in Ben Franklin era clothes can’t be saying “make a YouTube channel” right? 

I don’t ask this aloud, but C_ answers anyway, “Not Youtube specifically, but something where people will see it or hear it.”

Here, I’ll mention that if you are reading this post, you should feel special, because out of the 7+ billion people in the world, fewer than 20 are likely to read this post,** and you are one of them! For me, one of the more freeing aspects of this blog is that almost nobody reads it. The almost is key. As a writer, I work and revise and publish on the premise that someone will probably read a post I write. I love my handful of subscribers (hi guys!) and the idea that a stranger might randomly happen upon any post at some point in the future. But there’s also security in being mostly lost in the online crowd, free from criticism, cancellation or multiple opinions for how I should revise my writing or my brand or whatever. 

It’s safe.

Which is NOT how I feel about talking to a camera on YouTube. I don’t love looking at myself on camera, feeling foolish and vulnerable and conscious of the growing waddle under my chin. Editing video is always tedious and frustrating. And I have mixed feelings about uploading them. What audience are they aimed for? Other people who have Lynch Syndrome, I guess? YouTube videos, like blog posts, can exist without getting any views. Is that what I want? Or does an unwatched video feel somehow sadder than an unread post?

I am resistant to the idea. Thinking about it makes my chest tight.

But in these last months, I’ve turned a corner in my appreciation for video and audio. While I’ve combed through a lot of medical journal articles, which were for informative but anxiety provoking, it was a relief when I could find explanations in video or a podcast form, delivered by a person. Personal delivery made information easier to digest, assuaged some of my anxieties, and reminded me I am not alone in my experiences. I was very grateful.

Would the Woo-woo tell me to Write about THIS simply because writing will be therapeutic for me? (Maybe… it could be, right?) Or are they pushing me to stretch and put myself out there for other people—to inform them or help them feel less scared and alone?

And, just to circle back around… could this effort —whether big or small, or the seeds of something else — be important?

I’m going to have to make a YouTube video, aren’t I? 

F*ck. 

*Robert doesn’t make any great efforts to prove his existence or his exact familial connection to me, but when I ask my mom later, it turns out there are plenty of Roberts on branches of our family tree across multiple generations.

**Extrapolating from historical statistics of average posts on this blog.

2021 Year End Recap

Things to be grateful for this (and every!) year: For the warm snoring bodies of the people we love next to us in the bed. For daily walks past people’s yards landscaped with strange desert flowers. For breathing clean air. For rainy days and cars that run. For creative impulses, and the time and ability to pursue them. For family, friends, and random moments of beauty shared with strangers. For sudden trips to far-off places. For the continuation of life. 

2021 in a Nutshell: 

⬆ B got to see old friends in Indiana.

⬆ We both got to see friends again in Los Angeles.

⬆ B took a trip to Argentina – it’s on a whole other CONTINENT, ya’ll!

⬇Paul had his gall bladder removed – it was stressful…

⬆ …but now he can eat Panda Express orange-flavored chicken again.

⬇Some household-maintenance issues that were not fun or short or cheap.

⬆B joined some writing groups and loved having an online writing community. 

⬆Paul was happy to go back to live board game groups, and recordings for his podcast group

⬆B achieved a 265-day Duolingo streak. (Como se llama at me, baby, I’m ready!)

⬆Paul and B got our first produced TV writing credit.  

⬆B won a prize for a short story, optioned a show, and got a TV agent. 

Americanish, which Paul produced, won prizes at almost every festival where they played! 

⬇Nobody sold a script or got a job in a writers room.

⬇ Some health stuff that we’ll talk about in a minute… 

But first,

Some Stuff We’ll Do in 2022!

Barrington:  

  • Exploring UX Writing and Content Design as a career path. No idea what this is? Doesn’t matter, just say “something with computers.”  The exciting thing for me is that the more I research, the more I’m finding that the many jobs and side-hustles I’ve juggled over the years have all been training me for a job in this field. Seriously, I might be The Karate Kid of UX Writing! 
  • I’m also committed to some Kondo-level decluttering this year, in my physical space and beyond. 

Paul: 

  • After threatening to start his own podcast for most of 2021, he says that 2022 could be the year he pulls the trigger!  Two potential titles are: Five Ticket Ride (there’s a story behind this one) and Paul Saves the World… featuring Patrick. (I’m assuming his friend Patrick is his partner in crime on this.) 
  • He’s keeping the faith for his various film projects breaking through, looking forward to the pandemic actually being over, visiting friends, traveling and, of course, winning the lottery.

Dumb Health Stuff I Don’t Want To Write

No one knows every hurdle a new year might bring, but in our case, the first one is already up to bat.  In October, I received a cancer diagnosis. It’s colon cancer, like once before in the past, but smaller. Really, so much smaller. It isn’t life-threatening, but there are varied opinions regarding what amount of surgical intervention will be necessary to remove it.  If you know me, you know that in addition to jumping through the traditional medical hoops of doctors, second opinions, etc., I’m also doing all the things like veggie juice, supplements, no-sugar, meditation, etc.

I am gratefully accepting prayers, healing thoughts, good vibes and any and all assorted types of woo-woo energy. If you need a mantra or something to manifest, try the phrase: stage R-zero.

If that’s too short, you can add: and Paul wins the lottery!  (This letter has been edited by Paul.)

Quick Wrap Up

That about wraps up 2021. Despite a few things that didn’t turn out as awesome as we hoped, we really did have a lot of fun times this year. Here’s a picture to show you that we’re still standing:

Proof of Life!

Sending lots of love and affection and our very best wishes for 2022,

Barrington and Paul

The Whole Screencraft Screenwriting Interview

The folks at Screencraft (they run the contest that I won earlier this year) recently sent me some prompts / questions about my screenwriting journey in order to cull testimonials from my answers. They managed to find a few uplifting snippets to use in their Instagram / Twitter posts — and kudos to them for that, because even though I made real efforts to be positive, some of these answers feel a little… dark. However, I seem to have arrived at a point in my life/career where young hopefuls ask me for insights and advice, so for what it’s worth, here are the prompts and my answers in their entirety.

  • What did you find were some of the biggest obstacles to your screenwriting career goals?

Before I went back to school for writing, I was a freelancer who worked on various shows and events, one gig would always lead to other gigs. You work with people, they get to know your personality and work and then either request or refer you for another job. I got used to that. But after I graduated from my writing program, I took a full time day job that was separate from the industry I wanted to be in, and I think I really gave up an advantage by removing myself from the daily view of people who were in the industry. I see the question come up a lot among early career writers — “Is it better to stay close to the industry, even at the expense of writing time, or to get a day job that lets you practice skills and generate material?” It’s a tough call! At the time, I had reasons for making the choice I did, but purely in terms of career-building, I can see how stepping away from the path had some costs.

  • Was there ever a point when you felt most rejected? 

If anyone out there is unaware, it’s probably good to know that the entertainment business is the business of rejection. After your dreams get dashed the first few times, I’ve found that all the rejections kind of become a blur.  But I’m happy to tell you about my most recent example:  I gave a new script to someone who I really needed to like it — a gatekeeper — and they didn’t like it. At all. A big door that I’d hoped would be opened instead slammed in my face. It’s clear in my memory because it was literally a couple days ago and I’m still recovering as I write this.  But at the same time, I’m aware that even having a relationship with a gatekeeper who’s willing to read my work and give their honest opinion is a privilege —one that took me years to achieve, and that many people don’t have — so I never forget to appreciate it.  A rejection of one’s work is still an affirmation of one’s existence!  

  • Are there moments when you think about giving up. What motivates you to keep going? 

In terms of ever making my living by screenwriting, I’d say I think about giving up six days out of seven. My escape strategies are a running joke with friends—I literally have tabs open in my browser right now for “how to be a UX writer.”  But thus far, I’ve kept going, and I think there are a couple reasons why:  The first is that I somehow always have one more iron in the fire. Like right now, I have a pitch being considered at a company for a project I would really-really-really like to do, so I’m waiting to see what happens. And while I’m waiting, I’m working on other things, so by the time this project doesn’t work out (or maybe does—this could be the one —manifestations welcome), I’ll have something else to hope for. The second reason is a little more “woo-woo” which is that I deep-down believe that this is where my gifts lie, and that someday I’m going to be part of making something awesome and meaningful, if I can just find my way to it.

  • Where are you currently in your career? Anything that you are excited about?

I’m at a place in my career now where it’s easy to feel frustrated, because time passes and I’m still side-hustling to support my writing when I want my writing to support itself. But, I’m also in a place where I once aspired to be: I’ve had representation for a while, and recently added a TV agent to the team! And I’m celebrating my first produced TV credit (with writing partner Paul Seetachitt) — an episode of Creepshow that came out last month called “Time Out.” It’s gotten a lot of complimentary reviews, which is validating. These things give me hope that I’m getting closer to where I want to be.

  • What drew you to ScreenCraft and how did the competition help you?

A good friend who knows that I also write short stories sent me the link to the ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story competition. At this point I’ve largely forsworn writing competitions, but for some reason I decided to enter… and it worked out! I got to meet with one of the judges which was my first one-on-one meeting with a showrunner and was exciting for me. And while I already had representation, the buzz surrounding winning the Grand Prize inspired my reps to send the story out, and I think was key in their decision to add a TV agent to my team, which is something I’d really been wanting for a long time — so that felt like a victory.  I’ve really appreciated that Screencraft has a team of real people who have checked in on my progress since the contest. They’ve pushed me to evaluate those things that any writer can and should control — like online visibility and professional outreach —  and encouraged me to be accountable and level those up. 

  • What advice would you give to your younger self as a writer?

Now that I sometimes teach writing, I’ve realized how much I appreciate students who make the effort to show me who they are — I don’t mind if it takes a few minutes after class. It’s enjoyable, and it makes it easier for me to write a recommendation or refer them for an internship or whatever. Being on this side of things makes me look back and think about how often in my life I’ve made the choice to  “not bother” someone higher up the ladder than me instead of taking that little risk. If I could advise my younger self (without disturbing the time-space continuum), I would say, “Be braver sooner. You’re a joy, not a burden.” It’s probably good advice for my older self as well.