The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Path

Here's the URL to learn more about this event.  This price is unbelievably low--I designed it specifically so that NO ONE who wants to genuinely change his or her life will have to miss it.  This is one time only, an experiment as Scott and I refine our ability to teach together.  Simply put, over the years I've watched Coach Sonnon refine his ability to teach the body as route to mastery.  And realized that he was, precisely, filling in the gaps in Lifewriting.  That if it was possible to combine our approaches, we could create something that has, literally, never existed before.  A simple path, requiring only an hour a WEEK.  In just one day, you'll feel the truth of it.  Then we'll send you home with what you need to continue. No kidding.  No b.s.  At the very least, you'll have a complete fitness and goal setting system.  At the most, you can wrest control of your life back from the world in a tiny fraction of the time available in any other system of therapy or self-improvement available in the western world. 

The link is:

If you need to sign up for Scott's forum to see it, don't hesitate.  We'll have a more public link VERY soon, and I'll let you know.  This is a secret, a gift for those of you who've been aware of my efforts in this regard.  More very, very soon...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Northwest Readers--Save April 22nd!

I have a very, very special announcement coming tomorrow.  All I'll say right now is that I'm back in town after a week on the east coast, and that I'm trashed.  Much sleep needed.  Oh--and PLEASE, if you live in the Northwest, save April 22nd for a day in Portland that you won't soon forget.  I've finally worked out the details with Scott Sonnon, and the two of us are going to rock your world.  Again, more tomorrow...I've got to sleep!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Xmas Vacation

Taking off in a few hours for Atlanta, Georgia, where T and I will have a blessed chance to visit with family and friends.  Computer access is a bit more dicey on the road, so I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas, a happy New Year, and all that good stuff.  I'll get a copyedited manuscript for Great Sky Woman while I'm back there, so Santa is going to be busy as heck.  Love to all of you!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Memory of the Masters

Am I embarrassed!  In a recent article I wrote on the “three Questions of Science Fiction” I forgot to mention who first formulated the “What If? If Only? If This Goes On…” rules that influenced so much of the field.   And I got spanked for it, as well I should.  Mr. Heinlein was a gentleman and a scholar, and the hours I spent with him were some of the best in my life.  There is so much to be learned from an encounter with greatness—and he definitely held that space.  While I can’t say I loved everything he wrote (“Farnham’s Freehold,” anyone?) he was, as someone once said about Clint Eastwood, one of the least-disappointing Icons I’ve ever met.

I had the pleasure and honor of meeting each of the “Big Three” of SF: Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein. There were interesting differences with each, and one way to describe that difference would be in the ir basic attitudes toward interaction with their fans.
Asimov’s attitude seemed to be: Look how wonderful my mind is!”  Now, his mind was an absolute marvel, and he said it with a twinkle in his eye, with malice toward none.
Clarke’s attitude was (at the time I met him.  Sir Arthur is still alive):  “Look how wonderful the universe is.”
Heinlein’s attitude was:  Look how wonderful YOU are.  Come with me young man, young woman, and I will show you how to get the very best from yourself.”

What an incredibly generous, brilliant, sweetheart of a man.  We should all aspire to have such qualities, to both develop our gifts to the utmost, and to help others d the  same.

In ’06, why not commit to making the career breakthroughs you’ve always desired?  Why not write harder, more honestly, take more risks?  Why not form a writer’s group and help other reach their potential?  And most of all, why not re-connect with your own dreams of writing and sharing your visions, knowing that your success will inspire others? That’s what I want for each of you…a dream to share.

The world needs all the greatness we can manage. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

You Are The Axe

Today, I'm going to be working on the fourth Dream Park book, so that I can get the outline over to Larry Niven before I take off for Christmas.  I like to move back and forth between projects, but have to be careful to center myself before each day's work.

Listen: everything that you write comes from where?  From YOU.  Your observations of the world.  The books you have read, the movies you have seen.  The classes you've taken, and the conversations with other writers you've had.  And from your experience re-writing, polishing, planning, and first-drafting your stories, scripts, books, whatever.  No matter how you look at it, YOU are the instrument of your success, or the means of your creative downfall.

The trick is to learn to bring the absolute most to the table, every time you sit down to work.  It is said that Abraham Lincoln once said that if he had four hours to chop down a tree, he would spend three of them sharpening his axe.  THIS is the attitude you have to have, the perspective you have to bring to everything you do.  YOU are the axe.  You are the implement. Your mind, your heart, your energy, your honesty, your education.

I LOVE doing this blog, because I get the chance to remind myself, again and again, of the core values that have driven my career.  And more, I love sharing those ideas with others.  I believe that art is a precious thing, that communication can make the difference in this world, that every one of us has physical, intellectual, and spiritual aspects, and that those of us who believe in such things as hope and faith and the human spirit have a responsibility to sing out to the world.  So...what in your life is important enough to die for?  It is important to answer that question, because every minute that you invest in any activity is a minute you'll never get back.  One minute, one moment at a time, our lives are passing. 

We're coming to the end of the year.  I beg you to take a few minutes...maybe your "Golden Hour," to ask yourself what in the world is of greatest value to you.  And then plan a story to express it, or an action to promote that value.  Then raise your energy.  Clarify your courage.  Sharpen your focus.  And go after your dream with all your heart and mind and strength.  That, to me, is what life is about.  You are the axe.  You are the tool that creates.  And your greatest gift to the world is the best and brightest human being you can be.  There is no better.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ten Things To Remember When Rewriting

Ten Things To Remember when Rewriting

This week, my editor Betsy Mitchell will send me the manuscript for “Great Sky Woman” for me to check copyediting and make last-minute revisions.  Because it was so tardy going in, I need to do this all in two weeks. 

The most important things I’ll be addressing are:
Is the  dialogue “voice” of all characters distinctive and individual?  Does it reflect their world view?

2) Does every scene  function to comment on the major theme of the book?  

Does every page engage at least two senses?

Are my male and female POV’s balanced?  Since this is one of the book’s themes, I’d better the heck have that covered!

Are my action scenes vivid and real? 

Is there any anachronistic language?  Set in the Upper Paleolithic, it would be easy to remember that there are no domesticated animals, and have someone saying that X or Y has a “cheesy” consistency.  Unless that cheese was from mother’s milk… Nah.

Is there a flow of humorous, dangerous, loving, earthy and spiritual scenes?  In other words, am I addressing the full spectrum of human emotions and responses?

Is the poetic potential of the language raised to my current level of ability?  Polish, polish, polish.

Is there lazy, unimaginative description?

Is this the book I wanted to write?  How is it different?  Are those positive or negative changes?

There’s more, but these are the first to roll off my fingers.  What an adventure this book has been!  If I do the material justice, it’s gonna be wonderful.  If not, I have no one to blame but me.  Back to work!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Crush

I’m feeling a bit slowed down by the holidays.  Taking off for the East coast on Thursday means getting all my ducks quacking in a row before then.  Very little writing is getting done in the house these past couple of weeks, but that’s a self-correcting situation.  I’m taking a look at the books, and screenplays, and television pitches on the table, and have to give my subconscious major credit for keeping it all straight.  We should chuckle at ourselves for the way we lambaste ourselves for lack of perceived perfection. 

The most important thing I can do right now is to remain centered and prepared.  To remember that all creativity originates in a calm, secret place within us, and that my daily meditations allow me to contact that place, and feel the chaotic creative energy that gives birth to the writing.  Without that energy, all there is is words, and scenes, and stick-figure characters.  Only that divine spark brings them to life.

This is one of the reasons I’m experimenting with a more formalized class.  Having a few people say they are interested in exploring their mind-body link is one thing.  Getting the critical mass of interest necessary to support a class is something else.   Tomorrow, Sunday, is the next class for those of you in Los Angeles. The time is 2:30, and the place is the International Arts Academy at 20628 E. Arrow Highway #3, Covina, Ca 91724. The first class is free, and subsequent classes are whatever YOU earn per hour.  So don’t let money stop you!

If you can’t make it, please try, at least three times in the coming week, to just sit quietly and listen to your own heartbeat for twenty minutes.  If you can already do this, you can try a more advanced version by splitting attention between your breathing and your heartbeat.  Just spend a bit of time appreciating the beauty of the life-flow within you. 

If you’re really ambitious, go for a walk in nature.  Walk slowly enough to feel your heartbeat, and also strive to concentrate on the process of exhalation, allowing the body to create exhalations with compression, and inhalations with relaxation.  This kind of careful attention will force you to quiet your mind, to really feel your body.  After ten or fifteen minutes, you will probably find that your senses seem sharper: hearing more distinct, vision clearer.  You may notice things about your environment you haven’t noticed for a while.  That clarity is precisely what you will need to isolate and remember the kind of telling details that make your stories memorable.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

King Kong (2005)


It is impossible to discuss Peter Jackson’s staggering, beautiful, heatbreaking, exciting, overlong, magical and wholly successful remake without touching on the social aspects of the film, but I’m telling you right now that I give it an “A.”  Blasphemy it may be, but “Kong” improves upon the original in every respect save brevity, and reveals the 1976 version for the hollow travesty it was.

I remember saying to Larry Niven that the 1976 Kong failed for multiple reasons, but looming large among them was the fact that there were no dinosaurs.  Because of that omission, Kong was merely a big bully, not a king among creatures his own size.  I also remember that Larry, in his uniquely Niven-ish way, grinned and said “they couldn’t have put dinosaurs in the movie.  If they had, everyone would have forgotten about the big monkey, and taken a T-Rex back to New York.” 

Very funny, and while it’s curious that no one really mentions the dinosaurs once they are off the island (in much the same way they never tell you HOW they got Kong onto the ship!)  I don’t think its true.  Kong is a thinking, feeling creature, even back in the original 1933 version, and therefore it would be infinitely easier for audiences to be fascinated, to see a reflection of humanity in the simian that they would never have glimpsed in a raptor.

Let’s get it out of the way for the two people left in the world who don’t know the story: Kong is the story of an ambitious movie producer, Carl Denham (Jack Black), who talks an unemployed actress/vaudeville performer named Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) into traveling to an uncharted island to make an adventure film.  Along the way she falls in love with a playwright (Andrian Brody).  Oh, yeah, she meets a tall, dark stranger.
     Of course, with the dancing black natives, the offer to trade several of their women for one blonde, dark-furred Kong’s endless fascination with Ann, his removal to New York in chains, and even his end atop the phallic Empire State Building have triggered endless essays on the racial subtext of Kong, and it would make sense for me to comment on this, but before I do, just let me say: Wow.  Probably the best time I’ve had at the movies this year.  And yes, it’s too long.
     I think that the original Kong would have been made even had black people not existed, even if the unfortunate history of slavery had not created the tensions we deal with to this very day. 
     On the other hand, I think that part of the reason for Kong’s enduring success DOES have to do with that racial tension…but that that is only one of the major aspects.  From time to time a story emerges from the unconscious of a writer that strikes deeper chords.  Did Miriam Cooper intend a racial metaphor?  I’m sure he was at least partially aware of it, but there are other important aspects, and director Jackson obviously read every essay on this film he could get his hands on: what we see on the screen strongly suggests a director aware of his project’s history.
Evolution of man.  Zoos and circuses are popular at least in part because the natural world used to be (in part) a place of horror.  The sight of lions and tigers balancing on balls, where once they were the terrors of the night, triggers awe and laughter.  How far we have come!  How mighty we are as a species, ruler of the planet!  The fact that mere humans could conquer any beast alive, including the “King” of them all, speaks to something within that ancestral memory.
We see ourselves within Kong—unevolved mankind.  The sight of the most powerful primate who ever lived come face to face with “his descendants” has resonance.
Yes, there is inevitable racial subtext.  (And yes, the black First Mate in Jackson’s film dies spouting Spiritual Guide twaddle, trying to save a white woman, and protecting a young white boy. 
Wonderful.)  But Jackson has made the natives racially indistinct, and there is a self-aware quality to the scene of black dancers onstage in Jackson’s utterly phenomenally re-created New York that says that the director was aware, and using aspects of that tension to his advantage. 
The aspect that Jackson worked hardest was the ancient pull between men and women.
There’ a guy who used to teach relationship seminars.  His theory: “Men are gorillas, and women are gorilla tamers.”  And that attitude is a powerful ingredient in this particular cinematic mix.  Ann is given to Kong on the island, but after seeing the deadly nature of the other creatures there, she gladly accepts his guardianship, dancing and juggling to amuse him, to catch his attention. 

The fact that that bond leads to Kong’s destruction devastates her, as well it should.

The use of Adrian Brody as the sensitive playwright who becomes an action hero to save his beloved is fascinating.  He is so thin and “sensitive,” his eyes so wounded that I almost wish it had been Brody, and not Andy Serkis, who enacted Kong’s facial expressions—on the other hand, that would have been seriously on-the-nose.

I would consider myself a sexist, but not a chauvinist.  In other words, yes, I think there are important differences between men and women.  No, I don’t think one gender is superior to another, or that either gender has the right to control or dominate the other.  That said, I think that women can be, and have been, a seriously civilizing influence on men.  Marriage from one perspecive is much like hooking a race-horse to a plow.  I’ve always had the lingering sense that young girls are better prepared for the realities of life than   young men.  Boys are playing cowboy, secret agent, space man, explorer, whatever…none of which will they ever be.  At the same time, girls are playing nurse, mommy, throwing tea parties and inviting the neighborhood boys.  However limiting that may be, at least it actually prepares them for the lives they will live.  I think that men are stunned by how much they want and need women, and the degree to which they abandon their dreams of wildness and freedom for a steady supply of sex.

Sure, there’s more to it than that, by a long shot.  But sex opens the doorway to love, and to an entire type of spiritual awareness, the continuance of life, the birth of hope in the form of a child.  Women are the doorway to this, and men are both repelled and hypnotized by that mystery.

“Kong” is that aspect of the male-female relationship, writ large indeed.  One reviewer says that Ann teaches Kong to understand beauty.  Wrong.  She teaches him the word or symbol for beauty, but he already understands.  Already watches the sunset every day, and when Ann touches her heart, saying “Beautiful” she is not only teaching the word, she is also associating herself with the sunset.  “I am beautiful” she is also saying.  “I am valuable.  Protect me.”  And so Kong does.  She gives him a gift, a doorway into his heart.  The first gentleness he has ever known since the death of his mother.  And it is quite probable that Kong would consider the loss of his life worth this contact, however brief, with another being.

The sensitive Brody and the Brute Kong both love Ann. Brody must win, or all of civilization, all of society devolves and dies.  The wonderful Jackson teased out that theme, developed it far more powerfully than in the original, and around it has created a fantastic entertainment, with the thrills and chills one might ordinarily find in five good movies.  Is it too much at times?  Yes.

But so was the natural world.  I’ve seen human beings living very, very close to that edge, and it’s not pretty.  I look at the glittering cities we have created, and felt a sense of loss along with the sense of accomplishment.  And I know that one of the forces driving that development is the desire to keep more of our children alive.  The urge to provide our families with everything they need. The ancient tug of war between man and woman, each trying to make the world in their own image.  Survival.  Sex. Power. Love. 

When Kong climbs the Empire State Building in his futile, courageous stand against technology, he is the primal male animal that must be subsumed within the intellectual, the artist, to survive and evolve.  Yes, he represents native cultures.  Yes, he represents the black man…but only insofar as either of these things represent deeper, more primal conflicts and struggles within us.

We have won so much.  We have lost so much.  Men and women love each other so dearly, and are locked in mortal combat for meaning and freedom.  It is sad, and it is wonderful, and it is us, our species, our history, our destiny.

The original Kong is arguably the most mythic Hollywood film.  Jackson has done it proud.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Coach Sonnon wins San Shou Championship

I wasn't talking about this, because, frankly, I was nervous.  But Coach Sonnon, with six weeks training, competed in full contact San Shou kung fu and knocked the daylights out of a younger, professional opponent.  You can learn more about it here:

Scott leads from the front, and absolutely walks his talk.  Congrats, Bro!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Working backwards from the end

Tomorrow, Tananarive and I will pitch a movie based on a comic book (no, I won't say which one).  The point is that we've had to deconstruct the entire thing, trying to get a sense of what the real gold in the story, and what is the fluff.  There are some excellent basic concepts, but my sense was that the writer didn't know the subject matter as well as he any rate, we've created some good scenes, a decent through-line, and are now working to knit it all together. The approach  I want to use today is to gain REAL clarity on what the very last scene should be.  What are the stakes?  The conflicts?  What do I want to reveal about the heros and villains?  Once I know those things, I can go backwards and be certain that the rest of the story supports those intentions.
That's exactly the same thing we need to do with our goal-setting: deciding exactly what we want, and then being certain that our actions and attitudes support it.  When you do this, you can answer the question: Do my actions this week support where I want to be at the end of next year?  If so, great!  If not, there are changes to be made.

At any rate, my goals for the  end of next year definitely include another movie deal, so I have to get back to work now...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Golden Hour level #1 workshop

We had the workshop yesterday, and it was nicely attended, but I couldn't get over the feeling that I wish the folks who showed up had been the second or third group, rather than the first.  I just need to think through the material more.  How much background is needed?  Not sure.  Do I need to tell any of the theoretical foundations, or just demonstrate the movements?  Not sure.  Arrgh!  But then, that's why I needed a test case.
I tried to give them a history of my search, and thoughts on why this specific approach was important.  Time will tell whether I managed to do that appropriately, but WOW, did I understand why it is difficult to convey certain concepts directly.  Sigh.  But they were willing, and attentive, and open.  Again, time will tell.
For those of you who made it out to Covina to hear me speak of 1st level Golden Hour, thank you very much, and I hope you had a great time--but I definitely have work to do!

Canadian UFOs...

the above link is to a news story wherein a Canadian official demands U.S. officials reveal what is known about UFOs.  It would be a LOT more interesting if he at least said that he had seen secret documents or something (in which case we could question the documents, or his honesty or sanity) but his opinion seems to be based on nothing in least that he's willing to discuss.  Too bad.  Thoughts?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Coming Out Of The Closet

Arrgh.  In working on my presentation for Sunday, I go over and over the basic pieces, trying to find the simplest way of relating everything.  This blog post is really my last written thoughts on the subject, before a very busy weekend kicks in. 
Basically, I noticed years ago that the rules we run our lives by reflect the world view that we develop over the years...and that that world view also reflects the rules.  If I began years ago believing that "we become what we think about" and that "we don't see the world as it is, we see the world as we are," then there were certain other conclusions that were inescapable.  That the model (or map) of the world we carry in our minds and hearts determines the results we get from that world, and that for that reason, there needs to be a feedback betwen our inner dreams and the outer world in which those dreams are pursued.
but that external world fights back--as does any false ego-image we're carrying around.  So something is needed to keep our sense of the world sharp and accurate.  We must continually test the reality of our perceptions. How to do it?  there must be countless ways, but I chose body, mind, and spirit.  All I wanted to do was to point people in the direction of their own individual inner truths, to get them to ask the question: what would it mean if I was responsible for my results in these three arenas?  What would I have to change in myself to improve those results?  What would be the best way to approach that improvement?
Well, it feels as if the pieces are in place.  I can only know if I'm right by actually experimenting, actually having human minds and hearts and bodies giving me feedback.  I also know that what I'm trying to set  up is designed to give students control of their own lives, not to make them dependant, so the technology has to be very, very, portable.  Ideally, I should be able to explain the basics in an hour, so that I can share it with audiences as quickly as possible...but I suspect that the full treatment will take a day.  That would be laying down a theoretical framework, then teachng and refining mental and physical techniques, getting feedback, helping the student design a home study program and possibly even create their own support systems.  I don't know.  What I DO know is that I'm really looking forward to this.  It feels just a little bit like coming out of the closet, that I've been hiding for a while. it comes.  I REALLY wonder what '06 will be like...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Walking the Line

There is a great scene in the new Johnny Cash biopic
"Walk The Line" where a record producer asks Cash
an incredibly powerful question.  "If you were dying in
the street, and you had the time to sing one last song
that would sum up your entire life, your feelings about
God, and Love, and all the world, what would you sing?"
And Cash drops his act, and actually sings from his soul.
And wins a record contract. 

That's the key for all of us as artists, to live each day as if
it is our last, and to find a way to pour into each and every
work of our art the essence of our lives.  What else do we have
to put in our work?  Our education?  What we've read?  What has
gone before?  All that is well and good, but each and every one of
you has a unique contribution to make, and unless you learn
to tap it, you will never hit your heights.

Yes, it can be embarassing to be so revelatory, but such honesty
is the key to greatness.  The most important point in my
career came when I realized that I was avoiding
speaking my feelings about race and sex and power in
America.  While possessed of no urge to strike out in
anger, I felt I was being cowardly not to address
the very pains that had damned near crippled me as
a child.  I wanted to create a bridge to the future, and to
do that, I had to process my own anxiety and damage, and
offer it to readers without overwhelming them with it.  The result was
"Lion's Blood," to this day my most popular and successful novel.

I believe that each and every one of you has a similar nugget of
honest pain or love to offer the world.  Start digging!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Thank God for "Down Time"!

The value of “Down Time”

Since finishing “Great Sky Woman,” my anthropological coming-of-age story (set 30,000 years ago in East Africa), I’ve found it a little difficult to work.  Or at least, that’s what a little voice in my head keeps chattering at me.

Truth be told, I work every day.  Every day.  Whether it is on a first draft, polishing a later draft, editing a manuscript, researching a new project, or teaching a class, every day of my life I am engaging with the Work.

And you know what?  I have to be careful not to let that become a compulsion.  The truth is that you can’t sprint all the way to Disneyland, but you can walk there.  In other words, it’s important not to allow impatient ambition drive you to distraction.  Just lay out a plan for the next year of your work, including both intense writing time, and “down time” when you are laying fallow. The word “recreation” is actually “re-creation.” To create ourselves anew.

This makes perfect sense if you exercise.  Your muscles don’t grow while you work them.  They grow during the rest BETWEEN workouts.  Similarly, our minds do their very best “cooking” during our down time.  You’re playing with your kids, driving down the freeway, or singing in the shower when BANG!  Here comes an idea!

So it’s cool.  I’m going to lay back, enjoy myself, tinker with a new screenplay, and let my subconscious recover from three brutal years of work on this book. Hey!  I deserve it.

Don’t you?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Well, I'm a bit nervous about the workshop coming up this weekend. It's my first chance to try to boil down the basics of what I've been talking about.  There is a difference between being able to sense or feel a path, and being able to express it as succinctly as possible--or necessary.  You know, there has to be a reason that spiritual teachers have cloaked their lessons in mystery and metaphor.  I'm really just hoping for a test, to see whether it makes sense.  Here, though, in basic form, are the most important elements, and my reasoning.  They overlap a bit, but I'm not certain I can avoid that, and still present this in a useful manner.  Any and all comments are welcome.

1) The Hero's Journey.  Seen as the complied world wisdom about the course of our lives.  It implies the need for commitment, role models and companions, patience, and the abilities to deal with fear and failure. 
2) The Chakras.  A detailed map  of the evolutionary stages of human energy.  The Hero's Journey can be viewed as the path between them.
3) Fear removal.  Fear stops our growth more than everything else combined.  the "Fear Removal" exercise, or its components, need to be built into our weekly routines so that we automatically process the emotional sewage as it arises.
4)  Balanced Goals.  Man oh man, I've come up with more different ways to say the same thing.  The "Soulmate" process, I.D.E.A., Mind Reading...all them are  pointing to the same mountain.  We will hide our real damage in the place we know we won't look.  Without balanced goals, and taking responsibility for past and present results, we can spin in a circle for years (or decades!) and never know why.
5) The Flow State Performance Spiral.  Coach Sonnons utterly brilliant body-mind link.  Understand this, and you'll know why Yoga and Tai Chi and other physical disciplines have emotional and spiritual impact.
6) Perpetual Exercise--another of the Coach's concepts.  Re-wiring your nervous system so that every breath and step is a deeper re-integration of your body-mind link.  The Five Minute Miracle is an implementation of this.
7) The Golden Hour.  Stealing your life back from the hustle and bustle can be the most heroic journey of all.  The Golden Hour is a road, beginning with one hour a week, maxing out at an hour a day.  Just beginning will create massive change in your life.
These are the basics.  Implementing them most simply would probably be a matter of:
1) Choosing balanced goals in all three arenas. Concentrate on the Soulmate process if possible.
2) five Times a day, breathe properly for sixty seconds, and visualize a triangle.
3) three times a week, practice a physical discipline is a) aerobic and b) develops flexibility in all major arcs of movement, breaking up the muscle tension locking negative emotions in the body.
4) Once a week, specifically practice the "Fear Removal" process.
I THINK that that about covers it.  I am nervous about this, because the potential, if I'm right, is phenomenal.  What seems to be goin on is a re-connection of cultural/spiritual knowledge scattered across the globe for the last six thousand years.  This may be the first time in human history when it would be possible to re-connect the dots.  There must be many, many others engaged in similar work, and I feel honored to have been allowed a glimpse of this powerful path.  It's time to find out how accurate my hunch is...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tuning OUT For Success

It would be impossible to list all of the things people have considered crucial to success in life. Honesty, energy, bonding, modeling, control of fear…all are important.  For my whole life, I’ve searched for the answers in this arena, and treasured the gems that have been revealed.

In July of 2005, I went back to Longview, Washington, where I’d lived for nine years, raising my daughter.  When we left, we packed much of our house into two storage units, planning to return once we had our roots properly planted in Los Angeles.  Going through the storage units was bittersweet—my wife and I didn’t have a huge amount of time to carefully examine every item in every box.  But one book fell out of one box, almost as if it intended to jump into my hands, refusing to be junked.  It was called MASTERY (now out of print), and its author was an old friend of mine, Tim Piering.

Tim was (and is) one of the best men I’ve ever known.  A husband, a father, an engineer, a Marine officer, black belt in four martial arts, Tim is a gentle giant with a gift for teaching and coaching.  During the 80’s, it was my honor to be part of a group with which he shared extremely high-level neurolinguistic and hypnotic patterns, advanced body-mind work that still, twenty years later, seems ahead of its time.  Hands trembling, realizing how close I’d come to throwing away one of Tim’s few books, I opened it, and came to page 47.  there, it said that if you only had two tools in the world to help you succeed, they would be:
Well defined WRITTEN goals.
The ability to take action despite the “Radio Voice” in your head.

And I was stunned.  Never have I heard anyone, anywhere, state the secret to success more clearly, or succinctly.  The impact of those earlier days flooded back to me in a moment, and I realized how much of my own accomplishment I owed to just this simple understanding.
Why are these so important, and what EXACTLY does it mean?
We all understand goal-setting, and most of us are aware that writing our goals down increases our odds of accomplishing them by at least 10X.  There is a quiet magic in the act of writing goals, and anyone who has practiced this art will know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you doubt it, just check around and find out how uncomfortable the average person is in performing this simple, basic act.  They KNOW that a written goal, unlike a misty dream or hope, is a contract between your conscious and unconscious mind.  A written goal is half-way between a thought and a reality, marking the way to the future.
But what is the Radio Voice?  It is the voice in your mind that doubts you, that questions, that offers seductive alternatives to performing the daily tasks that make up our lives.  You want to write a chapter—it tells you that your work is crap.  You want to exercise—it tells you that it is too late, that your body is beyond repair, why bother? You want to find a healthy relationship, and the voice tells you that all the good men, or women, are gone. 
Don’t believe you have one?  Just sit quietly for two minutes and listen.  Go ahead, use a kitchen timer.  Listen. 
Did you hear that voice saying “what voice?  I don’t hear a voice!”
That’s the voice.
It is imperative to become aware of it, aware of its power, aware that it lies.  Aware that the voice in your head IS NOT YOU.
No.  You are not the voice.  YOU are the one LISTENING to the voice.  And this is so important to understand that I cannot overstress it.  Please go back and read that again.  And again.
All over the world, there are literally thousands of meditation techniques designed to “turn off” or “turn down” the voice of failure.  The voice, composed of the memories of teachers, parents, friends, and our own past selves, can make us doubt ourselves even in the midst of victory.
Whatever you do, whatever you desire in life, you MUST find a way to either quiet or ignore those voices, or your results will suffer.
One of the most powerful ways to turn the voices off is physical flow.  This is the state reached in Tai Chi or Yoga when your mental and emotional commitment to the technique becomes intense.  You can find it in jogging, when you reach “runner’s high.”
In meditation, you can observe a candle flame, the smell of incense, or even your own breathing or heartbeat for 15-30 minutes at a time, on a daily or thrice-weekly basis.  When you try to do this, believe me the voices will freak out and try everything in their bag of tricks to get you to stop.
This mental/physical practice is directly applicable to any other activity in your life.  To large degree, your chances to succeed in life will be in direct proportion to your capacity to maintain “flow”, or relaxed concentration,  under mental or emotional stress.  The depths of this trance state vary, but we’ve all heard stories of artists, inventers, writers and poets so absorbed in their work that they didn’t hear the phone ring, or even a tree fall through a window!  THAT is concentration. THAT is the ability to shut up “the voices,” and that is the state you must approach to find your own greatest genius.
       Thank you, Tim, for reminding me of that lesson.

FREE Mastery Workshop for L.A. Lifewriters

Here's hoping you're close to the L.A. area! I'm teaching a
90-minute workshop this Sunday, the 11th of December in
Covina,California. For the very first time I'll detail the
core of the "Mastery" system, complete with the physical
technique necessary to integrate it into your life. If you
will commit to five minutes a day and one hour a week,
you can change your life. A complete fitness and success
system, absolutely Free--I need twenty-five volunteers
to test the technology. If you can walk continuously for
20 minutes, you can do it!
The class will be held at the International Dance Academy at
20628 E. Arrow Highway #3
Covina, 91724

Bring a mat or towel, a notebook, and a standard
folding chair (for support, not sitting!).
Please e-mail me if you are interested in attending:

Tell your friends!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The "Casablanca" Secret

Hi <$firstname$>,

     Good writing is often designed around a character
who has a distorted vision of himself or of the world.
During the story, he is placed under sufficient pressure
to force an epiphany, a moment of clarity in which,
he sees the world as it is, not as he wished it to be.
     A classic example is “Casablanca,” where Bogart’s
immortal Rick has managed to create an insular world
in which he can pretend to be utterly detached and
uninvolved.  He supposedly has no political beliefs,
and no real human connections.  But the reappearance
of Ilsa forces a cascade of events that cause Rick to
reexamine his attitudes about love, fate, patriotism,
courage, fidelity, friendship, and life itself. 
     Rick begins as a damaged, closed off character,
carrying wounds to his heart and ego.  What he WANTS
is to be left alone to his self-pity. What he NEEDS is to
be re-awakened to a life of purpose.  The writers,
wisely, give Rick what he needs, not what he wants,
and in that manner a classic was born.
     In Lifewriting™ we trust that the quality of a writer’s
skill will be heightened by his evolution as a human
being—in other words, his ability to write people will
be based on his capacity for honest observation of
himself and others.  His ability to turn a plot creatively
will be based on his understanding of the world as it
is—not as we often fantasize it to be.  This ability to
create moments of suspense, revelation, humor and
horror often triggers an “ah!  Life is just like that!”
response from the audience, a recognition of universal
humanity that can transcend culture and time.
     The easiest way to learn this is to look at our own
lives.  None of us make it through our years without
wounds, damage, pain.  Just as physical scar tissue
shortens muscles and limits mobility, emotional scar
tissue creates “armoring” around our hearts.  It also
begins to warp our reality, as we create justifications
for why THIS relationship self-destructed, or THAT job
crashed and burned…once again.  It’s never our fault
, of course.  The opposite, and even more damaging
reaction is to take not just responsibility for our
failures, but massive guilt as well.  Our lives don’t
work (so the reasoning goes) because we are bad,
terrible, horrible people undeserving of healthy bodies
or relationships or careers.
     Either attitude clouds our vision, makes it difficult
to see the world as it is.  Those clouded inner eyes
and warped “reality maps” make it very difficult to
navigate a path to our chosen goals.  Again and again
we will bark our shins on invisible rocks, crashing into
invisible walls, almost as if life is trying to teach us,
to educate us, to enlighten us as to the realities of
     What we WANT is the comforting womb of our
illusions.  What we NEED is to be born into the world
as it actually is.
     Often, we are dragged kicking and screaming
into clarity, forced ultimately to accept the ways
we’ve been wrong.  “Too soon old, too late smart”
is one rather fatalistic way of speaking of this process.
  Too often, we must be old before we grasp that WE
are the ones who sabotaged our dreams of success. 
We are the ones who refused to exercise and eat
reasonably—that our bodies are more the result of
our behaviors than our genetics.  We are the ones
who broke communication in our relationships, who
lied and withheld and blamed, and thought  that “the
other person” was responsible for our misery. We
are the ones who refused to grow up, to stop blaming
our parents, or society, or racism, ageism, sexism or
any other “ism” for our lack of happiness.
     Too late, we are battered by one failure or
disappointment after another, until the ego walls we
created to protect our self-image are shattered, and
we’re forced into contact with our true selves.  The
moment of death is supposed to be absolutely first
rate at creating such clarity, a realization of our true
values, and regret at the way we sold out our true
     But there are events that create clarity.  The
birth of a first child.  A near-death experience. 
Accomplishing some worthy and transforming goal. 
The first deep and true moment of love or friendship.
  Transformation. In such moments, we see ourselves
for the magnificent, wounded, earthy, spiritual beings
that we are.  We forgive ourselves, and our families,
and the world around us, knowing that we have no
right to expect more perfection from others than we
ourselves possess.  And as the saying goes, “all have
sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  No
perfect people in this world.  Accept it.  And move on.
     Stories that deal with these core stressors--life,
death, birth, transformation, love—are always, and
have always been the most popular stories in human
history.  Under this stress, your character, robbed of
their self-justifying lies, must speak the truth.  Under
these stressors, they are revealed in their
magnificence…or sometimes (especially if they refuse
to acknowledge reality) revealed in their venality,
cowardice, and dishonesty.
     This is one of the functions of story.  The writer
must create story pressures beyond the capacity of
the characters to maintain their illusions. Then, and
only then, can you reveal their true natures.  To do
this, just look at the times in your own life that you
awakened, transformed, grew, went kicking and
screaming into the next level of your life.  Then
create dramatic exaggerations or simplifications of
these passages, and create characters to experience
them.  Let them be as human—as flawed and
magnificent—as you yourself are.  As we all are.
Heighten their qualities for the sake of drama, to
be sure, but always, always, at their core, let them
be human, whatever it is that you believe human beings to be.
     Let them struggle.  Let them learn. Let them love.
     Let them live.
     Do this, and it will mark the beginning of a beautiful
friendship…between you, your muse, and a world
audience starved for entertaining truth.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Adaptation of "Fear Removal"

Here's a note from a student who used a unique variation of the "Fear Removal" technique to interesting and valuable effect...


Dear Steve:

A few weeks ago the kids were out with my mother-in-law so I put on The
Color Purple to watch while I folded laundry, put away toys et cetera. 
I hadn't seen it (or read it) in ages but I did know it was a
tear-jerker.  On account of being alone for the day I decided to go
ahead and let myself cry.  Shortly into my sobbing I noticed that I was
sitting on the couch, right next to my stationary bike.  If I stopped
with the laundry (which I was holding more than folding anyway) I could
get on the bike.  I could push for that second wind thing you'd told me
about.  I pedaled my ass off.  I let myself feel all the fear and anger
I felt for the characters and for myself in all the things I'd
experienced that made their woes so easy to relate to.  I pedaled like
I was running for my life, I pedaled like an act of violence too.  I
remember the pins and needles sensation spreading from the bridge of my
nose across my red, puffy, tear-streaked face and I remember feeling my
lungs fill with cold sharp air.  I don't know if I'd been breathing at
all before that sudden inhalation, but my lungs felt huge and powerful
suddenly.  I pedaled joyously for a little while, just liking feeling
strong, and then sort of lazily for a while after that, 'cause I was
right in front of my movie anyway.  It wasn't exactly the fear removal
technique, just sort of an impromptu utilization of what I'd remembered
about what you'd told me before.  If I'd been doing it right I would've
just posted this on your blog.  It was still really cool though, so I
thought I'd take a moment to thank you privately.  I think I'll watch
all my tear jerkers on the bike now, it gives me that sense of
challenge as something that strengthens me (as opposed to breaks me)
that I had when I was younger and still immortal.

Wow!  Fascinating.  To my knowledge, this technique works with fear, anger, and grief.  Anyone else who has experimented with it, please let me know!

Rent (2005)

Like many of us, I lost friends inthe AIDs epidemic of the 80's.  "Rent," the film version of the smash Broadway musical, is stagy and preachy and a bit too convinced of its own enlightenment...and also a life-affirming, vital, important piece of film.  I love musicals, and about half the musical numbers work for me, which is a blessing.  The story of a group of penniless Bohemian would-be artists living in poverty in New York, it weaves between their relationships, dealing with the impact of death and love and hope and fear on the human heart.  This is a true musical--they don't disguise that fact as in "Chicago" (which I loved).  Here, people drop into song to express their heart's longing, their joy, their regret. And I hope the audiences will grasp and accept the gift, because "Rent" is just that.  I'm going to give it an "A" and then criticize it a bit from the other part of my brain.
O.K., here are my complaints.  Man oh man, was this directed and written by white guys.  Talk about sexual exclusion of heterosexual black men.  There were at least five black women visible in various scenes. All were with white men, or in one central case, a white woman.  Taye Diggs plays "Bennie," the upscale friend of the Bohemians.  He supposedly has a wife somewhere--we never meet her.  He floats around as a friend to Rosario Dawson (once again, for the umpteenth time, wriggling her wares around a white guy), but with no real visible human connections, utterly wasted (please remember that in film, all that matters is what you SEE).  I can't tell you how hard I had to work to stay centered when a love song was beautifully rendered, the only time I've ever seen a black man in a love duet in a major Hollywood film...and it was with a transvestite.  Once again, relegated to the non-breeding pool.  Sociobiological genocide.  Yuck.

Fear Removal

I was asked to expand on The Fear Removal technique again, so here goes:

The technique, taught to me by Coach Sonnon, takes advantage of a unique physiological response to actually train your body to process anxiety or anger in a healthier fashion.  It requires the student to have sufficient aerobic fitness to enter "second wind"--usually reached after 14-17 minutes of rhythmic steady-state exertion (walking, running, rowing, swimming, whatever).
You can use this on any fear or anxiety (or anger) response that is sub-clinical.  If you are dealing with a clinical level problem, the technique still works, but we would ask you to practise this only under the supervision (or with the agreement) of a trained professional.

1) Select the issue to be addressed.  Say...fear of public speaking.
2)  Sit and generate the fear.  Imagine your worst case scenario, perhaps people laughing or booing, you forgetting your speech, perhaps even showing up for the speech inappropriately dressed or otherwise embarrassing yourself.  Really sink into the fear, until it manefests in your body--until you are crying out of your nose, for instance.  Take ten full minutes to do this.
3) IMMEDIATELY after, perform the aerobic activity.  Step onto the treadmill, get on the rowing machine, etc.
4)  Perform the aerobic activity  until you reach "second wind," the period when the perceived exertion level seems to drop a bit, and you get a burst of new energy.
5) Continue at least 3-4 minutes more (for an approximate total of 20 minutes) and then stop, stretch.  You can sit quietly for a few minutes, or go about your day.
This technique can be done about once a week, and will reduce your anxiety by 15-25 percent with a single practice session.  It works so well it's spooky.  We'll talk about WHY it works another time.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Just For Us Bloggers...

I've been updating the blog with articles I'm doing in connection with a very specific marketing project, but I made a promise to treat the readers of this blog a bit more like family, so I'm going to do something a bit different.  I want to lay out the complete pattern of what I'm now calling "Mastery" but will probably have another name soon.  Coach Sonnon is supposed to have his "Eclipse" video out within a month, and that is perfect for this purpose (you only need an hour a WEEK to fulfill all BASIC fitness requirements, plus the "fear removal" effect we need to make "Mastery" work) but I want to be as clear as possible, and also to suggest alternate sources of info or options.  If I'm right about what I've found here, the path doesn't belong to any one person or culture. I just want to be another finger pointing toward the mountain.  I also want to make it clear that this is just one path--I'm sure there are others, perhaps better. Also, you might be able to modify aspects of this, and still get good results.  But I can only promise positive results to those who follow this pattern as precisely as possible.  Darn it, in some ways it isn't even a "pattern."  At this point it's a cluster of techniques and technologies which, together, cross a critical line and deposit the seeker directly on the path to genuine self-awareness and, I suspect, enlightenment.  Again, there are other paths. Here is this one, based on my forty years of seeking answers.
1) Start with goals in the three major arenas: body, mind, relationships (spirit).  It is reasonable to expect a 100% improvement in a given arena in a year.
2)  Five Minute Miracle.  Learn a good stress-reducing breathing technique (go to a yoga or Tai chi class if you need to).  Practise it for 60 seconds five times a day, especially morning and night.  As you do, visualize a triangle representing your three goals.
3) Keep a journal.  Every morning and night look at your three goals, and generate as much enthusiasm as possible for them.  Write down your thoughts, plans, dreams.  Keep a record!
4) Three times a week, exercise aerobically.  This could be walking, running, rowing, ANYTHING. 
5)  Once a week, spend ten minutes generating fear or anger BEFORE you do the exercise, then exercise until you've reached second wind.  This will take between 14 and 17 minutes, for most people.  this is the "Fear Removal" exercise, and it works like crazy.  Ask me questions if you don't understand, as this step is critical for most people
6) Practice a physical discipline that requires alignment and precision.  Martial arts, yoga, dance, Tai Chi...there are many others.  If possible, get a coach or teacher to criticize your form.  NOTE: When "Eclipse" is ready, it will satisfy steps 6 and 5, and improve step 4 tremendously.  BUT THERE ARE OTHER RESOURCES!
7) Proceed toward your goals at no more than about 1% per week.  Believe me, if you have balanced goals, your psyche will generate tons of resistance. You'll need the fear removal to cope with it.
In the most basic form, this is it.  The "soulmate" or "I.D.E.A." concepts I've explored here will accelerate the effects.  Questions, please.  I know that this is basic, but I owe it to all of you to give you the outline as soon as it exists...tomorrow is promised to none of us, and this, I swear, is the root of a process more powerful than anything I've ever even heard of. 
More later.

Four Steps To Tripling Your Energy

     Tired?  Tired of being tired? You aren’t alone.  There are few human qualities more highly sought than energy.  It determines our ability to enjoy life, to attract mates, to finish projects, to protect our families, to shape our bodies effectively, and so much more.
     While there are endless specific suggestions about herbs, exercises, meditations, supplements, rest patterns and so forth that I could mention, the most important and over-arching components are relatively simple, and available to anyone with the willingness to begin.
     Basically, your energy level will be controlled by three physical and one psychological factor.

Fitness.  There are a variety of different things that contribute to the quality called “fitness,” but a few of them are specific to energy level.

Cardio-vascular fitness.  A dead minimum of twenty minutes three times a week, just to stay in the game.  If you want to create a swift, powerful change, try forty minutes four times a week.  Walking is sufficiently intense, if you stay in the “aerobic zone” which can be described as a level of exertion where you can’t sing, but you can still talk!
Body-mass index.  Unneeded weight is like a sack of wet cement strapped to your back. It eats up energy like crazy.  Regardless of what anyone says or implies, there is only one basic way to lose fat: to change the ratio of calories consumed to calories burned.  In general, this requires discipline on BOTH ends.  Fat loss is a two-headed snake. If you diet but don’t exercise, your metabolism can slow down to a crawl, denying you success.  And if you exercise but don’t eat sensibly, well, a pound of fat has about 3500 calories.  An hour of running only burns about 350 calories.  Do the math.
Flexibility.  Often overlooked in the search for energy, flexibility is a measurement of tension in the body.  A stiff body is like a car with its brakes on. Think how much gas your car would waste!! That gas is your energy, when you carry unnecessary tension. Most stretching activities are less a matter of “lengthening” muscles, tendons, or ligaments than learning how to communicate with your body, to learn how to breathe into tension. 
Strength.  Contrary to popular belief, strength is more in the mind than the body.  It is a matter of leverage, concentration, and controlled excitation even more than it is the “size” of the muscles involved.  On a physiological level, it is a matter of the percentage of your muscle fibers you can recruit at a given moment.   Weight training, or body-weight exercises like Hindu Pushups and Hindu Squats, are great ways to increase strength, which makes physical tasks much easier and less fatiguing.

     B)  Controlling food intake.  A critical factor.  Note that I didn’t say “diet.”  At this point, we all pretty much understand that diets don’t work—that any eating plan intended to have long term benefits must represent a change in lifestyle.  A few pointers:

3:2:1 ratio of fresh fruits and vegetables to complex carbohydrates to lean proteins.  Note that this ratio works for people who are ACTIVE—they need the carbs.  If you are trying to lose fat, or are relatively inactive, try reversing the ratio of protein and carbs.

Drink more water.  The classic recommendation of eight glasses a day is debated, but the truth is that a lot of hunger and fatigue is actually dehydration in disguise. Note: this means water, not beer, soda, or even milk, all of which contain various nutrients or chemicals which actually require water to process through the body.  In other words, they can use up as much water as they give you. 

Eat six small meals a day.  This helps keep your bloodsugar levels even, which will keep your energy from crashing in the afternoon.

Eat today for how you want to FEEL tomorrow.  Not for emotional reasons, or just for taste. 

     C) Rest.  As a culture, we aren’t getting enough sleep.  The human body seems to need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and if you’re getting less or more than this, you may be having stress reactions, and compromising your health as a result.

1)Find out what your ideal sleep pattern is, and stick to it.
2)Try to get to sleep before midnight.  Folk wisdom says that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after.
3)Take naps during the day.  A quick power nap for 10-20 minutes can renew your energy like magic.
4)Make your bedroom a place of rest, healing and recreation.  Keep your stress in another room of the house.  Your sleeping place should be a womb of comfort and pleasure, specifically designed to lull you into the depths of dreamland.
D) Focus.  In some ways, the most important tool for increasing energy.  You need to know EXACTLY what you will do with the energy when you have it.  This means written goals, clearly delineated.  It means being task-oriented, believing that if you can do A,B, and C, there will be pleasure and satisfaction on the other end.  I know people who are AFRAID to have more energy, because they think their kids, mates, or boss will just exploit them further. You have to have PERMISSION to be energetic, alive, and sensually involved with life.

But if you will give yourself this permission, if on a daily basis you will move your body, eat responsibly, rest intelligently and write out your goals and steps to achieving them, you will begin to take control of your body/mind’s energy-generation apparatus, and you’ll be shocked at the energy that will flood your life.  It is your birthright.  Own it!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It Was Good Enough For Shakespeare!

One of the core conflicts for creative artists of all kinds is the tug-of-war between art and commerce.  Frankly, an artist needs to make money, and it is preferable to make it from his craft.

Why? Well, for our answer—and a solution--let’s be specific and speak most directly of the field of writing.  A writer who must work a full-time job to support himself will struggle to find the time to work, and often eventually gives it up altogether.  On the other hand, being able to write on any project at all can polish valuable skills, and teach one the rules of the publishing industry. 

On the other hand, I’ve met writers who were clearly working on projects, or toiling away at a career, that was burning out their souls.  I remember meeting one such writer.  His business card read “freelance hack and literary mechanic.”  Sadly, but not entirely unexpectedly, he was dead of alcoholism within a year.

How to avoid such burnout?  Well, in my own career, in addition writing the books I cared about the most, I’ve written Batman comic books, a Star Trek novel, and a Star Wars tie-in.  In my television career, in addition to writing for “Outer Limits” and “The Twilight Zone,” I also wrote four episodes of “Baywatch”(!)

And never for a moment did I feel that I was selling myself out.  Let’s get something straight: Shakespeare wrote for money.  One can keep a careful eye on the bank account, and still reach the heights of  craft.  But again, how?

In my own case, the answer is fairly simple.  Envision the thought process like this: I draw two circles.  In the first, is everything I would like to write (and there are always dozens of projects in the mental hopper!).  In the second is everything someone else is willing to pay me for.  Where the two circles overlap, I write.  In other words, are there projects I’d love to write, but can’t get paid for?  You bet, and I generally don’t write them unless they are quite short.  And there are projects that producers or publishers might want me to do, but don’t touch my heart at all.  Having learned through experience that there are limits to my creative flexibility, I turn those down.

But from time to time, an opportunity arises that is in the no-man’s-land between the circles.  There is money, but the project isn’t exactly something you have ever considered writing.  What then?

Then, you ask yourself if the project is something that you could be proud of.  If you would read it, or respect someone who did.  For instance, when my agent called and said that the producers of “Baywatch” wanted to talk to me, I had the office send over six hours of video on the show.  I sat on the living room couch and watched them with my daughter, who was about six at the time.  After a few episodes, I asked her what she thought.  She liked it.  I asked why.  She said:  “Because it’s about nice people working hard to make the beach safe for us.”  I thought about it, and then replied, “you know?  There are worse things than that in this world, by a long shot.”  And decided to try writing for it.

Every show, every project has its limitations.  You must use certain characters, must get them into certain kinds of situations, and must avoid certain topics.  That can be restrictive, but you can also decide to take it as a challenge.  After all, you could give Fred Astaire a stage of any kind, and props of any kind, and he would find a way to create dance.  Should you be committed to a lesser level of skill and vision?  No.

You must   find ways to amuse yourself while writing, to stretch your skills by trying something you’ve never done before, by empathizing with a younger audience if necessary—never ever writing “down” to your audience.  That is the death of art.  But if you can be truly flexible, you’ll find that more doors are open to you, more opportunities arise, that brass ring comes around more often.  A writer ready to leap at any opportunity to  show his skill, and who   finds it easy  to fall in love with about a project will often out-perform a brittle “genius” who must have everything his way in order to work.

And if that approach is good enough for the Bard, it’s good enough for me.