Quote of the Day

April 24, 2009

The public doesn’t know what it wants. If the public is paying your bills, it’s entitled to have you stand up to the thing you do because you alone know. The public doesn’t know. I think you’re going back on your public when you try to find out what the public wants and give it to them. No public knows. As compared to the fine thing they might have. They don’t know what they miss. Show them that thing which they miss. Explode once or twice and see what the reactions are.

– Frank Lloyd Wright, February 25, 1939


I Thought I Saw You

April 21, 2009

It was 2006 or 2007. I was leaving work, pulling my car onto Flower Street, when you zipped by right in front of me on your bike. I had to brake to miss you. I could have sworn it was you. But what would you be doing – at our age – zipping a bike through downtown L.A.? 3,000 miles and 20 years away from home? We made eye contact and you disappeared behind parked cars. I know it was you – you gave me that look. It was 1987 you, the last time I saw you. But it was you.

Are you even still alive? Google won’t tell me.

Last night I had this dream. My two sons (age 9 and age 4) and I had broken into your house. And you were pulling into your driveway and we were desperately trying to get out before you could get inside. But we couldn’t find our way out. You were putting your key in the door and we had to hide from you and get out before you could discover us. You try doing this with the 4-year old whose idea of playing hide and seek is yelling out where he is as soon as you stop counting so you can find him. Terrified of never being found again.

Somehow we made it out and walked past on the sidewalk just as you went inside. But you knew. You knew. You glanced backward and gave me that look again. That look like you knew something I didn’t.

My dad was in the military when I grew up so we moved around. Not nearly as much as some do, but I changed schools a few times. Different states. It’s rough when you’re a kid, but one huge thing I learned was how to come into a new situation and figure it out immediately. Intuitively. The politics, the dynamics of the relationships, all that. Every time we moved my parents told me not to be sad about the friends I left behind, but instead to just go to school and make new ones. I got practice at this – I got good at it. Figuring out who to be friends with and who not to. But there was one thing I never learned.

When my dad would come home from work and tell us we were moving again, we would be devastated. We would cry, we’ll never see our friends again, all that. But you learn to put that aside because it hurts too much. You learn to figure out the place you’re moving to, not to dwell on the one you just left. You learn to forget your old friends. But I never learned how to say goodbye – it hurt too much. Terrified of never being found again. So I never have.

So I never did.

Are you still alive? I saw you. Are you a ghost? I see ghosts. Different states. I see dead people. I saw you. Sometimes it feels like I can’t see alive people anymore.

The Night I *Almost* Met William Shatner

April 14, 2009

(Year Four of Robb’s Illustrious Career)

I was working on Weakest Link and we had a Star Trek theme show. All 12 contestants (or 8 or 10 or whatever it was) were Star Trek cast members from the various shows – there was Shatner, the chick who played Tasha Yar, George Takei I believe, LeVar Burton, the hologram doctor from Voyager, that Neelix dude from Voyager, etc. Nobody else memorable. The tapings took 2-3 hours and I was psyched to meet Shatner – I was busy with my job duties before and during the show (my job was in the control booth, not on the stage), but my plan was definitely to somehow meet the guy after the taping.

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Definition of Insanity

April 8, 2009

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. But they also say “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” So what do they know?

Look, you’re not going to get lucky. Nobody does. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you need two things to succeed: a great idea and the skillful execution of that idea. One without the other isn’t enough. Where do you get these ingredients? The short answer is this: trial and error.

You try and try, over and over, discarding the weak ideas and refining your execution, going through your process. Always hoping for a different result this time.

Sometimes – too many times – you get one without the other. On the one extreme you have the killer idea that goes nowhere. On the other there’s the immaculately-polished turd.

How do you get past these? You work through them, all the way, as deeply and as completely as you can, then throw them away and keep going. Keep driving. Keep moving. Send your stuff out if you’re happy with it, but move on. The clock is ticking and you still need more practice. 

There’s a saying in the writers room: “You’ve got to kill your babies.” Harsh? Definitely. And that’s the point.

You’ve got to be willing to throw away everything, even the ideas you’re most in love with. Especially the ideas you’re most in love with. You’ve got to keep cranking. You’ve got to keep yourself honest. You can’t hang on to anything that can slow you down, that can keep you from moving forward, from driving the process along. Hanging on to one idea is just going to keep you pinned down and preoccupied when the next idea – a better idea – comes along.

When I think about creative people who have been successful, their success has almost always come from a steady progression of projects through which they’ve practiced and improved and reached a critical command of their skills. Then at some point that key idea comes along, and BAM! the idea gets executed with these skills and the rest is history. It is rare to hear of a creative person coming across his killer idea at age 19 or 23 or something and then spending years sheltering and nurturing and protecting that same idea until a miracle happens and the skills of execution arise out of nowhere. 

But you see people – talented people – clinging forever to that one thing. That one pet idea. For years, wasting time. And it breaks your heart. Forget about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – these people do NOTHING and expect a perfect result. Now that’s a definition of insanity. 

These skills are learned. You have to earn them, from stretching. From work. Not from babying that same idea you’ve held onto forever. In love with your idea? Terrific. Now go write that idea. Then write another one. Just do it. Kill your babies.

This from the guy who’s been working on Dead Guy and Psycho Ex for about 2 years now.

Random Question #45

April 7, 2009

What is the thing you still have to prove?