The Neglected Lawn

No Lawn Mowing Today!One big issue that comes with being focused on your creative projects is you focus to the determent of your non-creative responsibilities. Let’s just use, as an example, my lawn.

I haven’t mowed my lawn this year. I’m going to do it today! I swear! But here is a little story that comes along with the lawn neglect.

I do not live near a body of water, but ducks love to nest in my backyard. So, this Saturday, I stepped out into my yard to see if any waterfowl were making themselves a nice home.

While I was standing in the middle of the yard, my backyard neighbor lady (technical term, I know) leaves her house. Noticing me in the yard, she says “hope you’re thinking about mowing.”

Okay, yeah. The yard is a mess. And I will mow it. But, first off, that’s a weird thing to say to anyone in passing.

But second, these are the first words she has spoken to me in the four years I have lived in my home. If I had any presence of mind, I would have said “nice to meet you too.” But I didn’t. Oh, missed opportunities.

So, somewhat out of spite, I didn’t rush to mow my yard. I went inside and worked on some podcast projects.

But I will mow lawn. And, a nice “how are you” would be a better first time greeting, backyard neighbor lady.

Add Another Project to the Pile

I can’t help myself. If I have a neat idea, I need to make it happen. Excitement trumps laziness every time. So I purchased my millionth domain name and created Better Strangers.

The idea had been percolating for a while. I realized that, even with my good friends, I don’t have any deep or meaningful conversations. So…what if I recorded myself getting to know my friends for a podcast?

Too easy.

I needed something more. The number of “two friends gabbing” style podcasts equal the number of domains I claim to have purchased (a million). This podcast idea needed to be much more unique.

While listening to the Wolf Den podcast with Jeff Ulrich, he stated that there was plenty of room on internet for more podcasts as long as they were unique. That little notion kicked my brain into high gear, where a fully formed podcast idea was born.

I would combine my previously stated lack of conversational skills with my social awkwardness. A podcast that combines the exploration of what makes a conversation with me getting over my fear of talking to new people.

And so, Better Strangers was created. A podcast where I would only talk to strangers. It would be awkward. It would be interesting. And I’d learn how to talk to people.

The first podcast will be up this Monday. And, if we don’t know each other, feel free to submit your name and phone number and I’ll give you a call. We’ll talk. It might be awkward. It might be great. It will be entertaining.

And, hey, if you know someone I don’t know, tell them to take part. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone hangs up. No biggie.

The Deafening Echo

Yell - BarnstapleI was going to use a “does it make a sound” title for this post, but I already did that. It’d be a shame to start repeating myself so quickly. It might not matter to anyone aside from me, but it’d still matter.

There wasn’t a blog entry yesterday, and that destroys my latest attempt to “blog every day.” Hold on a second while I look up “bootstraps.” Hmmm. The origin of that phrase makes little sense. Let’s not get hung up on it.

This site, which is in its infancy, only gets traffic when I bug people on Twitter or Facebook about a new article. If there is no new entry for the day, the same amount of people visit the site as would if I wrote an entry and didn’t bug the world about it.

It’s really just an excuse, but it’s still hard. Creating without outside reaction is lonely. That’s probably why any god who creates the universe also needs to make people, so they can say “See? Yeah? Pretty good, right?” But then who will react to the people that the god creates? Let’s not get into paradoxes, okay?

So the site keeps rolling, waiting for things to catch on. Waiting for RSS subscribers and links from other sites. Until then, I’ll have to keep yelling out into internet with the hopes that someone will hear the yelling and like it.

Nobody likes yelling. I’ll speak at a reasonable level.

To Extremes

Tiger on ParadeI take things to extremes when confronting fears. These aren’t “afraid of tigers” types of fears. If I lived in an area where a tiger might pop out at me for a quick snack, I’d probably stay inside and cry quietly on the floor. No, these are the social kinds of a fears. Like not having anything to say in a conversation besides “unh huh.”

So what do I do? Improv. On a stage. In front of people. I go from the fear of having nothing to say to one person all the way to deliberately going in empty handed in front of a crowd of people expecting entertainment. The stakes are high and I love it.

I’m getting into a rather annoying habit of starting each sentence with a question. I was going to say “did it help?” But now I don’t want to. Let’s try something different.

Fifteen years later, I’m still quite socially awkward. But I have improv to point to. I can say “See? I’m not like this all the time!” Most people are shocked when I tell them I improvise. This leads me to believe I should bring more from the stage into everyday life.

The improv has helped. However, my personality hasn’t done a 180. I’m still who I am, and that person seems to be pretty awkward. But I know I can go to the extreme opposite. It’s in me, and that gives me something to hold on to and continue to work on.

Other extremes? I was a vegetarian for a year because I was bored. Not sure that helped with anything. Oh, son of a gun. I started this paragraph with a question.

I’m No Expert

WTF With Marc MaronI’ve been listening to a lot of the WTF with Marc Maron podcast recently, which is more than a little responsible for the creation of this site. Take a listen, if you haven’t. Marc has an amazing interview style. He turns most every question into a question about himself. While this might make it seem like Marc is full of himself, he isn’t. Marc’s openness regarding every part of his personal life allows the people he is interviewing to open up and reveal their own guarded triumphs and insecurities.

And wouldn’t you know it? Celebrities are people. The more open Marc is, the more open they are, the more you feel a little better about yourself. This isn’t a matter of taking joy in the misery of others. This is a realization that there are people out there who have gone through things similar to you. People who continue to move on and create in spite of setbacks.

I’m no expert. I like to say that I’m okay at a lot of things, but not great at anything. At least, I like to say that in my head. Not to other people.

This site will fill itself with my personal musings about creative routines and the like. But these aren’t instructional howtos. There are no shortcuts to “hack your brain” here. These are observations from someone who you might see a little of yourself in. Someone who keeps plugging along, because they find joy in creation.

And I’m not trying to be full of myself. I’m simply putting myself out there and hoping it helps out others who feel and work the same way.

And if you don’t work the same way, feel free to laugh at me. But do it behind my back, if you’d be so kind. Thanks in advance!

One of These Days I Gotta Get Myself Organizized

Joseph Gordon-LevittThis site, a project itself, is part of another project I’m working on. Don’t worry, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We aren’t going any deeper than that.

It’s time to revamp AricMcKeown.com. Right now, it’s a dumping ground for whatever my brain spits out. Or it was. Let’s see here, the last post was from September of 2010. Huh. The site represents my actual laziness pretty well.

Maybe I shouldn’t lead with that. My online doppelganger could use some cleaning up. We’re moving the “projects” aspect and the “where to find Aric’s projects” over here. How do you do?

Brain dumps don’t belong there. They are better left fro Tumblr or Twitter sites. Not to pollute like a sewage line, but entertain like a sewage line with a grate at the end to catch some of the junk.

Next, resume time. Acting resume. When is the last time I updated this thing? What’s my suit size? Maybe I’d know if I bought suits. Oh, and I should get new headshots. And I’ll need to redesign the site. Save the content I like. Remove the rest.

Uck. It’s like cleaning a virtual house. And I’m no good at cleaning the regular kind of house.

Okay. Headshots scheduled for May 10th. Sounds like I gave myself a deadline to clean up AricMcKeown.com. I’ll get started on that May 9th.

Working Ahead

A capsule library at your fingertipsIs something I’m bad at. Did that work? The title being part of the first sentence? Bah. I’ll say it again in case it was dumb. Working ahead is something I’m bad at.

If a project needs to be done at 5pm on a Sunday evening, the project will expand fill the time between now and 5pm on a Sunday evening.

No. That’s wrong. In fact, it’s the opposite. The project will condense and shift. Where a normal person might start working on this imaginary project on Tuesday evening, I’ll get started on Sunday morning. However, I will stress out about starting the project from Tuesday evening to Sunday morning. That sort of counts as working on it, right?

I know working ahead and not procrastinating would lead to more fun, but I’ve delayed completion of projects my entire life. In middle school I’d finish my homework, but not turn it in. Does that make any sense at all? I did the work. Why wouldn’t I turn that damn stuff in? Maybe fear of judgement. Oh boy, let’s not get off topic here.

Saying “it’s how I work” seems lame, but it’s how I feel. I get a lot of good stuff done at the last minute. Then again, a lot of good stuff probably slips through the cracks of time when I leave everything to the last moments.

There must be a way to combat this procrastination. Pretending the deadline is earlier doesn’t work. Knowing that working ahead is good for me doesn’t work. Turning off the TV doesn’t work.

I’ll do some thinking on this. I don’t have any answers. When logic and non-logic don’t work, what other options are left? At least I’m still finding ways to get stuff done.

And if anyone from work is reading this, I’m talking about my free-time creative projects. I’ll get to your stuff in a second.

Weekends: The Struggle

Anti- Hobo CouchI sure hope you’re not visiting this site for “life hacks” on better ways of getting things done. Sure, it seems like I’m giving out advice. But I’m really only showing you how I process and work (or don’t work) on ideas and projects. Maybe you see yourself in some of these articles. Maybe you see the opposite of yourself. This site could be a “how-to” or a “do-not” depending on how you work. I’m not sure how to spin this weekend though.

What did I get done this weekend? Ummmm.

I recorded a story for somebody else’s podcast. I finally finished Halo: Reach. I tried to watch City Island. I tried to watch Monsters. I tried to watch Winter’s Bone. I successfully watched The Fighter.

Should I have written something more for this blog? Yes. Should I have worked on scripts for my video projects? Yes. Should I have written more scripts for Blank It? Yes.

It doesn’t feel good to not get things done, but sometimes you can’t get yourself going. It’s difficult to do things in the present so that your future self doesn’t feel like past you screwed him over. I think that sentence worked. We’ll say it did.

Creativity ebbs and flows. Sometimes you’re inspired and other times you want to eat cool ranch chips and watch Kurt Russel escape from someplace. There are tricks to shorten the ebbs and lengthen the flows (gross). Just realize that sometimes you’ll wear yourself out if you’re fighting against the current. There are times to push through and times wait for the next round of inspiration.

You want one trick to take away from this? Sorry. I don’t have one. Sometimes weekends, when you have the most free time to create, are simply for sitting on the couch.

Permission to Fail

Back to the Future IIYou’re holding yourself back if you aren’t giving yourself permission to fail.

Oh, and whenever I say “you” I’m really saying “me.” But hopefully my mes are relatable to your yous.

Permission to fail isn’t the same as giving up. If your only option is success, you’re going to try a lot less things. And even then, you might fail.

The more willing you are to go out there and try, the more chances you have to succeed. This is starting to sound a lot like dating advice. Did I mention you should wear a pink scarf and those Back to the Future 2 sunglasses from McDonald’s?

Failure is scary. It doesn’t feel good. But it is going to happen. No matter what, you’re going to fail at some things. And you’ll learn from them. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll succeed. And that will feel pretty great.

Ratios, right? It’s all about ratios. What if you succeed 5% of the time and fail 95%? Then the more you try, the more you’ll succeed.

So give yourself permission to fail, but only if you’re actually trying. If you limp into something because it’s okay to fail, then you haven’t learned a thing here. Jeez, commit to your projects already! Good luck with your weekend, not-learner!

If a Project Falls in the Forest

ForestIf you never tell anybody about a project you’re working on, and it fails, does it really matter?

I have an illogical hangup that involves not telling people about exciting things I am working on. I feel that, if I tell anybody, then I’m jinxing it.

Example? During my Make Me Watch TV days, I was approached to be a commentator on a Toronto television program where people talk about pop-culture things as they fly quickly past your TV screen. I know you’ve seen VH1 before. Like that.

Okay. So I didn’t tell a lot of people about it, because I had this gnawing feeling that it wouldn’t happen. But I still chatted it up. And it fell through.

Would it have fallen through if I didn’t tell anybody about it? Of course. But then I would be the only one who knew nothing had come of it. So why does that matter?

It doesn’t matter. Someone might say “hey, how is that thing going?” And then I’d say “it isn’t.” Then it’d uncomfortable for a second, and we would move on.

What is the upside of telling people about your projects? Support. It’s hard to go through the world alone. We’re all scared, right? Why not have people rooting for you?

If you keep trying, no one will call you a failure. So what if something you tried didn’t pan out? You’re not through.

So my upcoming projects, which are little to unknown? Making new Danny Washington and Educational Egg videos with MPLS.TV. Making new So I Am Told videos for a yet unannounced comedy website. And making Mustache Rangers puppet videos with an extremely talented video producer.

Will these projects succeed or fail? Who knows? But I’m trying. And I’m trying publicly. And if they do fail, it won’t be because I told you.

Unless you sabotage me. That’d be a weird thing for you to do. What gives?