heso

How to Make a movie: Announce yourself

It’s official, my friend and I are making a short film! If you asked me a year ago what I thought I would be doing now, I never would have guessed this. Life takes you on a bizarre and awesome path when you follow your interests.

making a movieIn my continuing effort to share what I’m working on while still keeping my posts helpful and accessible, I now introduce a series of broad lessons I’ve learned from the process of making a movie. These lessons are helpful to anyone who’s trying to make something bigger than themselves.

Step one: Announce yourself

During the last writer’s conference, I asked my audience if they consider themselves to be writers. I was surprised that most of them said no. They believed they needed the external validation of an MFA or a publishing career in order to use that title. I shared with them that my life was never the same after I started describing myself as a writer.

  1. I felt encouraged to write every day because I wanted to live up to my title.
  2. It was easier to invest in my writing career once I was a self-proclaimed writer. It seems crazy to spend $400 on a writing class if I’m a web designer with an interest in writing, but it makes perfect sense if I’m a writer with a side job.
  3. People started connecting me with other writers because they know me as the writer. This helped me make connections for my conferences as well as the movie project that I’m about to get into.

So, yes, first things first, let everyone know what you consider yourself to be and what you hope to do. I made it very clear to everyone I know that I’m a writer. For the last few months I’ve been letting people know how much I enjoy writing screenplays and that I hope to develop a project.

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That brings us to the lovely Ashley H., who you might remember from when I dyed my hair purple. Ashley knew that I was interested in screenwriting. She also knew that her friend, Caroline, was interested in screenwriting. With this simple email from Ashley: “I really think the two of you should meet and discuss things!” we were off!  It was a match made in movie-making heaven.

Do you see how important it is for your friends to know what you are interested in doing? If I had kept my ambitions a secret, if I was too embarrassed to say what I wanted, Ashley never would have thought of introducing us. If you want to start an ice cream company, start telling everyone you know. If you want to put on a one-woman show, start talking about it now. After you share what you’re passionate about, you’ll be amazed at the connections that start popping up!

So what is your dream? What do you want to do that is bigger than yourself? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below!

Stay tuned for the next step in making a movie!

Life lessons from hosting a writer’s retreat

I know that not everyone has the desire to host a writer’s retreat, but if you have any desire to take a big risk, the skills and lessons are the same. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m making an effort to go into more details about what I’m doing and still keep it relatable.

In mid-January, I hosted my second writer’s retreat in the Catskills. This is one of my favorite parts of the year. I love being around other writers 24/7, sharing ideas, supporting each other, and getting motivated by the clicking of their keyboards. As enjoyable as these retreats are, the preparation for them can be a stressful practice in patience and faith.

If you are planning to take on a new challenge, here are some lessons I’ve learned from organizing this retreat:

  1. Commit Commit Commit
    This is the most important rule for any risk you take. If you try to do something new and out of your comfort zone, there are going to be challenges. There will come a time when quitting seems like the most obvious and sane choice. The only way to succeed is to decide that there is no quitting: you will do whatever it takes. Surprisingly, everything gets easier once you take the option of quitting off the table.
    Once I found the venue I liked for my retreat, I had to pay the dreaded deposit. This is super scary to do when you have no one signed up, but you can’t get people to sign up if there’s no venue. Once I sent out the deposit, I decided that I wouldn’t back down no matter what.
  2. Strike while the iron is hot
    For some reason, I thought it made sense to book my writer’s retreat one month after my writer’s conference. The conference takes about 200 hours to plan and market. It’s thoroughly exhausting. A week before the conference, I realized that I had no one signed up for the retreat, and the final payment was due in two weeks. I was in jeopardy of losing my deposit.
    My husband suggested I give a promotional discount for the retreat during the conference and let everyone know that it would expire by the end of the day. This seemed beyond ridiculous to me. My guests were already shelling out their hard-earned money for my conference. It felt greedy to ask for more money.
    That’s when I was forced to confront a harmful belief I had. I was thinking my guests were doing me a huge favor, rather than recognizing that I was giving them an incredible gift: my conferences and retreats are inspiring, informative and an incredible value. Once I accepted that fact, it was easy to announce the promotional offer and capitalize on the excitement and motivation I had already worked so hard to create at the conference.
    And guess what? Five people signed up that day!
    This is all to say, figure out when you can maximize your efforts and don’t let any doubts get in your way.
  3. Relax and enjoy the ride
    At a certain point you have to believe that all your planning will pay off and that it’s okay to enjoy yourself. I believe one of the reasons why my events are so powerful is because I am a writer and I give other writers exactly what I would want. If I can’t enjoy my own events, why the heck am I doing it? Passion projects are going to wipe you out. They will use up every last reserve of energy and will. If you can’t stop and enjoy the moment, I promise you won’t be able to sustain the passion.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Was this helpful? Leave a comment ’cause I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in joining the next retreat, send an email to Tracy [at] writerswork [dot] org, or apply here. I am starting to plan a week-long retreat for this summer in Long Island, and it would be a huge boost to know that people are interested in it.

*** Pictures provided by Josh Conrad. Josh has a blog where he’s tackling 25 interesting dares this year. You should definitely check out his blog and see what he had to say about the retreat! ***

How Beyoncé saved my blog

In writing this blog, I forced myself to do a lot of crazy things I would never have done without a sense of public accountability. I told the world, or at least my few followers, that I was going to figure out a career path that satisfied my (he)art and (so)ul. Through the heso project, I started a company to make baby products, I became a personal consultant in Central Park, and I tried my hand at public relations. It took a few years and a few misguided attempts, but I learned that what I love most is creating writing communities.

In the last two years, I developed Writers Work, a supportive community for emerging and established authors. I’ve been hosting conferences, retreats and readings through this organization, and while it’s extremely exhausting, It’s equally rewarding. On a personal level, the creative communities I’ve established have helped challenge and develop my  writing. I’ve even gotten into screenwriting, which I will be posting about shortly.

Interestingly enough, the more followed my heso project, the less I was writing about it on this blog. Here were my two reasons: One, the day-to-day minutiae of following your dreams can be really boring and involves a whole lot of patience. I didn’t think you guys would want to read a post about me sending a follow-up email to someone I met at a party and waiting a month for a response. Two, I don’t have a lot of extra free time. For gosh sakes, I’m writing  a novel and two screenplays, I’m constantly planning and marketing my conferences, and I take on freelance work to pay the bills.

Of course these two excuses are nonsense. What’s the point of figuring out your dream job, if you don’t know how to follow through with it? I’ve learned so much in the last tow years and it’s greedy not to share it 🙂 In my future posts, I’m going to go into more detail of what I’m doing but also keep it broad enough so that you can relate to it even if you’re not a writer.

And as for the time excuse, I love this little piece of advice:

beyonce

Thank you, Beyonce, for reminding me to use my time wisely.

Stay tuned for a  behind the scenes look at how I put together a writer’s retreat and how I’m collaborating on a film!

How much does your t-shirt cost?

They’re lucky to have jobs.

This is what employers said about indentured servants in the 18th century.

It’s what Robber Barons said about young children and poor people during the Industrial Revolution.

It’s also what people have been saying for years to justify sweatshops.

But the economy will crash.

This is what plantation owners said when abolitionism was first suggested.

It’s what people say now to argue for the mindless consumption of goods to support capitalism.


There is always an economic argument for abusing poor people. But every advancement in humanity and civility took place because people put their values before their bank accounts. Imagine what it would be like to work in the United States if we didn’t have the labor movement, or if slavery still existed. Our lives would be a lot like sweatshop workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

I recently watched a documentary that made it clear how unchecked capitalism, spiritual emptiness, corporate greed, climate change, workers rights, and globalism can all be wrapped up in the story of a t-shirt.

I urge you to watch The True Cost and tell me what you think about it. It’s available on Netflix or you can rent it through their website. I’m ready to stop being an ignorant shopper. I’m ready to quit thinking about the money I’m saving at the expense of others. I’m ready to account fo the true cost. Are you?

trash dump

One of the costs of disposable clothing: landfills of last month’s fashion.

sweatshop

One of the costs of disposable clothing: women living their lives in factories, working 70 hours a week and still unable to provide for their children.

How writing conference organizers embarrass themselves

Here are a few words from one of my speakers at the upcoming June 27 conference. If anyone is thinking of a freelance writing career, or looking for ways to boost their career, you should definitely come and hear her talk.!

April Greene

By asking me to speak!

Oh, I joke. I’m really hoping to not embarrass my friend and fellow writer Tracy Sayre at her next awesome Writers Work conference, coming up on Saturday, June 27 in Manhattan.

Her excellent conferences provide newb and experienced writers alike with opportunities to network, hear useful advice from interesting speakers, and sometimes even take a few minutes to write on the fly and share what happens.

I’m super touched that Tracy asked me to hold court on the topic “How to Pay the Rent with Your Writing”—something I suppose I have been managing to do for a while! Now, I just have to think of what to say…

There are still a handful of tickets left as I type this. Git yer hands on ’em now and I’ll see you there!

AFG

Writers Work

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Why did I start this blog?

recommitment-monthI have a confession to make. I haven’t been writing much lately. Actually I haven’t worked on my novel since March when I received disheartening news from the agent I thought I would be working with. After four months of correspondence, my hopes were dashed with this brief email:

I’m sorry to say that I’m going to have to step aside, despite my admiration for your work.  The past few weeks have been extraordinarily busy, and I have not been able to get back to your manuscript.  In any event, I cannot imagine you’ll have any trouble finding an agent to handle this—what I’ve read is quite wonderful.

OK, I know that this is overall positive, but that doesn’t make it any easier to face the fact that I have to start the long submission process all over again. But more over the writer inside me was broken and depressed by the rejection – writers have very sensitive egos. I couldn’t even look at my story.

But today, cooler heads prevailed, and I decided to open the document and read through parts of it. And guess what?!? It’s f’ing amazing! I needed a little break from it to realize what a great story I wrote. So now, before you all, I newly recommit to getting my novel published.

I am also making a promise to you virtual friends that I will write the second draft of my screenplay and enter it into a film contest by August 30. By the way, this is the feedbackI received after I entered my first draft into a film festival contest:

Your script made it through to some of the last rounds and saw many extra readings. The overall level of craft was remarkable, and made for some stiff competition.This screenplay’s concept is tremendous. And this script brought a dense and complex story alive. In the end, however–we had to pass. We found this to be a very promising screenplay. Thanks again for the honor of reading your work! And please keep writing.

I started this blog to hold myself accountable. I realized that once I state something publically I much more likely to do. So please send me lots of good vibes and encouragement. This summer it’s ON!

What’s in your Calendar?

busy calendarIf someone looked at your calendar, what would they think?

You work too much?

You don’t do enough?

You really make time for family?

You need a vacation?

Your calendar reveals your priorities – it shows what you are willing to devote your time to.

A few weeks ago I realized that it was easy for me to schedule time for networking, time for meeting up with friends, and time for work, but I wasn’t scheduling the personal activities I wanted to do. There was an exhibit at a local museum that I wanted to see for weeks but somehow I kept forgetting to go. Finally, I chose a date and time to go and put it in my calendar. Once I put it in my calendar, I noticed that there were so many times people asked me to do something on that date and I got to say, “sorry, I already have something planned.” If I hadn’t made it a priority and put it in my schedule, I would have ended up doing one of the other activities and ignoring my wishes.

Tonight I’m going to the Mad Men exhibit at the Museum of Moving Image! In three weeks I’m going to Selected Shorts to hear a tribute to Chuck Palahniuk. If I hadn’t put these events on my calendar, I would have missed them. I’m looking forward to scheduling more fun things just for myself. Now when I look at my calendar I think, “that’s a nice balance!”

Let me know what your calendar says about you! Leave a comment below. I hope you start adding some fun activities and treating yourself well!

Did you miss me?

What’s the best way to frustrate a blogger? Give her a bunch of exciting opportunities she’s not allowed to write about!

If you’re wondering why this is my first post of the year, it’s because I’ve been busy with said opportunities, but also it’s hard not to write about top-secret opportunities when you’re fully immersed in them.

So here’s what I can talk about:

  1. I just got back from a great trip to New Orleans where I celebrated the birthday of one of my favorite people. This was my first trip to NOLA, and I’m already jonesing for some Cafe Du Monde beignets, Central Grocery muffeletta, ubiquitous jazz, and the stunning houses of the Garden District. The one thing I won’t be missing? Hurricanes, a fiery red cocktail that tastes like Kool-Aid and Draino but is surprisingly hard to turn down.
  2. The writing retreat I organized is just over a week away! I’m so excited to spend a few days in upstate New York, working on my writing and sharing ideas with other writers. Enrollment is over, but if you’d like to apply for future retreats, make sure to join the Writers Work email list.
  3. My favorite program in the world, The Living Course, is only two weeks away and I’ll be assisting there! That too is all booked up, but if you’re interested in finding out more info, or signing up for the next course, head over to their site.

Alright, back to work on top-secret stuff. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you about some of these ventures as they materialize.

Top 8 of 2014

I'm exhausted after this wonderful year :)

I’m exhausted after this wonderful year 🙂

I’ve never been able to keep a diary for more than a week, so I’m amazed that I’ve been able to keep up this blog for over three years. It’s easy to forget how much happens in the year, so I love reading old posts to remember all the great times and lessons. This was originally a top 10 list but I parred it down because I know you’re busy 🙂 Here are some of my favorite posts from the last year:

  • During the busy holiday season, this advice is a must read.

Here’s what to expect from the next year of the HeSo Project. I’m planning to change the look of the site, so don’t get scared if it looks different in January. I can’t wait to write about the retreat I’m organizing this February in the Catskills (there are only 3 spots left if you want to join), the reading series, and the upcoming conference! I hope to have exciting news about my novel in the new year.

I hope the next two weeks are joyous and peaceful for you. See you in 2015!

https://thehesoproject.com/2014/04/01/2-responses-that-will-save-you-time-and-energy/https://thehesoproject.com/2014/04/01/2-responses-that-will-save-you-time-and-energy/