Sunday, January 20, 2013

Collective Story Writing: Title TBD

Working with kids to create a story as a group has given me an idea.  I'd like to brainstorm and develop a story based on feedback from my friends on the web, Facebook fans, blog followers, etc.

From what I can see on the web currently, it's not a new idea, but I don't see anyone taking one story and seeing it through to a conclusion, especially a full length novel.  This may not pan out, but I'm gong to give it a shot, because you know what they say about creativity... Be Fearless!

So here's the start of the story.  Feel free embellish on characters, setting, and plot lines.  The main goal is to keep the story moving along.  Post your ideas in the comments, and I'll use the comments to add to the story.  Nothing vulgar, please.

Even if it takes a year, when we get to the end of the story, and I'm satisfied with the result, I'll publish and promote it.  Any money made from the book will go to charity.

Happy writing!



It was the start of an ordinary summer day in the suburbs.  Little kids were starting to mill around their houses in their pajamas.  Neighbors were letting their dogs out to do their business.  The sun was casting long shadows of the ten-year-old maple trees planted in neatly manicured front flower beds.  But something felt different.

Tim Johnson rolled out of bed at 9:00 a.m.  He had to grab some breakfast before he went to driver's ed class.
"Morning, mom."
"Timmy, you need to grab something quick, we need to get over to the school for driver's ed," his mom replied as she handed him a breakfast bar and some juice.

Tim wolfed it down and headed back toward his bedroom to get dressed.
"Don't forget to brush your teeth and put on deodorant," his mom yelled down the hall.
"I know, mom, jeez."
Tim's mom rolled her eyes.  Hygiene was not the first priority of a fifteen-year-old boy ... unless a girl was going to be around.

Tim finished getting ready around the constant prodding and nagging of his mom.  The two of them got in the family's mid-sized SUV and backed out of the garage.  Tim was driving with his learner's permit.  He'd been driving for six months now and had gotten pretty good at it by this point.  At least that's what he thought.  His mom was still nervous.

"Timmy, be careful of the mirrors."
"Mom," said Tim, perturbed by her constant nagging.
"I know, honey, it's just ... you're new to driving.  I just want you to be safe," she replied.

Tim cleanly extracted the SUV from the twenty-by-twenty-foot suburban garage and backed out onto the cul-de-sac.

"Watch the neighbor's trash bin," his mom said in a voice that said she was nervous, but trying to be calm.
"Mom, I've got this.  Relax."
"I know, honey.  I know."  She didn't sound very convincing.

Tim put the car in drive and began to head down the long cul-de-sac street to the main road that snaked through the giant subdivision.  Something seemed out of place.

"Mom, look at those trash bins.  Why are they all over people's lawns?"
"Huh, that is strange, honey.  I'm not sure, but don't let it distract you from the road."
"C'mon mom!  I've been driving for six months now.  You need to rel ..."


"Mom, are you OK?  There was nothing in the road a second ago.  I swear!"
Tim's mom was dazed from the sudden impact of the airbag.  Her face was bruised and it looked like her nose was broken.
"Mom!  Mom!"
She opened her eyes and wobbled her head toward Tim.  "I'm alright, but owww!" She gingerly touched her nose.  "I think my nose is broken.  Are you OK, honey?"
"I'm fine, mom, but I'm not sure what I hit.  And whatever it was, it's not there now."

The two of them got out of the car to inspect the damage.  Tim's mother was holding a wad of tissues over her nose to soak up the blood.  As they rounded the quarter panels to the front of the car, it came into view:  a giant indentation in the street.  It was oval-shaped and about the entire width of the SUV.  The indentation in the blacktop was nearly a foot deep.

The two of them just stared at it for a moment as the fear set in.
"Mom, what on earth could do this?!" Tim said, visibly frightened and shaking.
His mom didn't speak right away.  She was as frightened as her son, but she had to collect herself.
"Timmy," she said in a nasal, broken-nose tone, "we need to get back to the house and report this to the police."
Tim nodded in agreement, and the two of them walked quickly back to their two-story, four-bedroom house on the cul-de-sac.  Somehow, the quiet streets of the suburb didn't seem very safe anymore.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I wish I could...

Do you ever find yourself saying, "I wish I could [insert dream/goal here]"?  

But then you start to think of the reasons why you can't.  Too busy with work/school/something else.  Not sure I really have the talent to do that.  How are others going to view me if I do that?  Don't have the money to do that.

Even if you decide to try it, people around you aren't quite sure how to react to your new endeavor.  Your first attempt doesn't go well, so you're just not sure you should pursue it.  Maybe you really aren't cut out to do it.  If this is something you've experienced, you're not alone.  Many people never realize their true calling because they fail to believe in themselves.  And the truth is...

No one is going to believe in you if you don't believe in yourself.  

If you want to realize a goal, think big.  Look around at role models.  Figure out what they do and start doing it.  What most people don't consider when they see a famous athlete, actor, artist, etc. is that famous people typically weren't always famous.  Most of them worked hard to hone their skills and more than likely, failed many times before they succeeded.  And along the way, you can be sure there were people who told them, "Don't pursue it.  It's too risky.  Very few people ever become big time."

What most people don't realize is that making it to the big time is great, but even if you make it to the "medium" time, you can live comfortably and happily, because you're doing what you love.  And if you're in the medium time, the big time is much closer than it used to be.

At this point, you might be saying, "That's great, Brant, but I just don't have the time to do anything.  I work 12 hours a day to support my family and keep a roof over my head."  I understand that.  I have three kids.  However, my reply to that would be this question:  How important is this goal/dream?  If it's truly important to you, you'd be surprised what your family is willing to sacrifice to let you pursue it.  I'm not saying quit your job and let everyone go hungry.  I'm just saying that often times, it just takes a lifestyle change to free up money (no cable, cheaper car, smaller house, etc.).  When you free up money, you might consider a different job, because you don't need as much money to live.  A different job could free up time.  And free time is what you need to focus on your dream.

Too often, we pursue material objects as a source of happiness.  Since we're always paying for or saving up for material things, we are handcuffed from trying anything new and different.  If you want to go after a dream, you have to remove those handcuffs.

I know it's easy to say I'm going to rearrange my life to pursue my dream, but it's not easy to actually do it.   It typically means changing the way you live and being different than others around you.  This generates internal and social turmoil in your life.  However, in my experience, any major change I've made in my life takes about a month to get used to.  It's going to feel strange and a bit scary at first, but if you can push through the initial shock of the change, you'll become accustomed to it.  And the people around you will too.

Once you've gotten yourself in a postion to follow your dream, you need to remember that it will be an uphill battle that will likely take awhile.   But as the great Babe Ruth once said, "You just can't beat the person who never gives up."  Persistance.  Persistance.  Persistance.  Not just for a month, not just for a year, but in perpetuity.

So the next time you find yourself saying, "I wish I could", remember the three P-words:

  1. Position - You have to be in the position to pursue.  Remove the unnecessary stuff from your life.  It's holding you back.
  2. Pursue - You have to take the steps to go after your goal.  Model the behavior of others that you wish to emulate.  Believe that you can do it.
  3. Persist - Press onward.  Learn from mistakes.  Try again.  Never stop trying to get better.
Decide on a goal/dream you want to pursue, position yourself properly to do so, and go for it.  You'll be happy you did.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Creativity Tip: Be Fearless

Whether you think about innovative painters, like Picasso, or innovative inventors, like Edison or daVinci, you can always be certain of one shared personality trait between them... fearlessness.  They had no fear of failing, no fear of being different, and no fear of being judged.

When you do anything creative or innovative, you have to let go of your internalized views on failure and people pleasing.  Let's face it.  A majority of us have been raised to fit as nicely into society as possible.  And as we get older, we are expected to behave in a certain way.  Unfortunately, this expectation often works counter to creativity.  We can't fail.  We can't do something out of the ordinary.  Or we'll be judged for it.  And we don't like that feeling.

Edison tried many different ways to create a light bulb.  99% of them failed.  He just kept on moving forward, banking on his failures (learnings) and his intelligence to lead him to a solution.  When you set out to be creative, I promise you... you will encounter failures.  In some cases, people will tell you that you're wasting your time.  Your neighbors might act a little different around you.  And it's OK.  It might seem strange at first, but eventually, most people will get used to the new "you" and they will come to accept it.

But as you move down the creative path and take the leap to put your work in front of the masses, you will inevitably find "haters" on Facebook, Twitter, and in real life.  You must always stay confident in your abilities, and remember that these people will take any chance to point out your failures.  I've worked in a creative field for a long time, and I was once told by a boss that I greatly admired, "Anyone can judge a work of art, but few can create a work of art from a blank sheet of paper."  If you remember that one simple fact, then you realize that you are one of the few that tries to contribute to the world.

And one last note about being fearless:  If you continue to practice your craft over and over, without letting others decide your fate, you will become great at it.  So don't be afraid to try.  Don't be afraid to fail (and learn).  If you feel a creative calling, be fearless.  It will take you a long way.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Creativity Tip: Get Over Yourself

Sure, you've got a gift for writing or painting or singing or something.  You've been told that by your friends, your parents, your teachers, etc.  And don't get me wrong, you need to have confidence in your abilities, but being humble about your abilities can lead to a far greater result.  Here's why:

  • You will never feel that you are the best, therefore you will strive to get better now matter how far you've risen in your craft.
  • You're always open to suggestions and thoughts.  When you do anything creative and put it out for the world to see.  Some will love it, some will hate it, and some won't care.  When you remain humble, you take all of it in stride.  Often times if we are too eager to defend against bad critiques, we miss great suggestions for personal improvement.
  • People that read/view your work will be impressed by your humility.  This garners more respect than someone who's gifted and can't wait to tell you about it.  
The end result is a better you.  By practicing humility in your craft (and in other aspects of your life), you will reach en even higher potential than you imagined.

Humbly yours,