Tag Archives: George Lucas

A Writing Month to Remember — And 7 Tips for Continuous Productivity

When I was working on One Giant Leap for Mankind, NASA’s 25th anniversary salute to the Apollo 11 moon landing, Apollo 10 commander Thomas Stafford introduced me to the “forcing function”. He said that many great achievements and accomplishments in our lives, and our society, come from a motivating factor that “forces” us beyond our limits. Or, it propels us to reach a target due date that might seem impossible at first glance.

Stafford was talking specifically about the race to the Moon in the 1960s, to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s proclamation that we would land a man on the lunar surface and return him safely before the end of the decade. However, he added, “it (the forcing function) works for everything you really want to accomplish.”

That’s how November has felt to me: one big forcing function. I’ve been working with four deadlines all month. Last week, we finished producing The Legacy Series: Celebrating Innovation & Technology, a year-long project that will be released next week in print, online, mobile and tablet form. What a blast! Besides editing the publication, I wrote articles on the Future of Filmmaking, the late Steve Jobs’ long-term legacy, our “Innovation Nation”, and the Crowdfunding phenomenon. I also conducted wonderful interviews with some truly innovative, creative business and technology leaders: Jeanniey Mullen, a trailblazer and key international figure in digital publishing and email marketing; Chris Voss, one of Forbes magazine’s Top 50 social media experts; Craig Perkins, winner of the iPhone Film Fest; Dr. Gustavo Rabin, author of Becoming A Leader and a man with whom I worked last year; and two giants of industry, GE senior VP Beth Comstock, the woman who masterminded the online TV and movie viewing site hulu.com when she was at NBC Universal; and the one and only Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, a co-star of Shark Tank — and co-owner of Magnolia Pictures and the Landmark Theaters, two components of a 21st century version of the old movie studio system.

More on The Legacy Series in a release celebration blog next week.

On Tuesday, I reached the 50,000-word goal for National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo), an international online event where you, well, write 50,000 or more words in a month. I used the occasion to write part of a rough manuscript for my memoir, Do I Have A Story for You!, which friends, associates and two literary agents have suggested I write for 10 years. Now, I am finishing book proposals for a biography I am writing, as well as my sweetheart Martha Halda’s memoir, A Taste of Eternity, concerning her near death experience and increased purpose of her life since.

And people say we slow down in our 50s, that it’s impossible to crank it out in this busy world. This month reminded me of something filmmaker George Lucas told me years ago about his least favorite word in the English language. “I made a career out of people telling me it was impossible,” he said. “It’s not a good word to use around me.”

It’s been a very creative and productive month, during which I have been reminded of six tried-and-true rules about writing, creativity and productivity:

1)   Write every day. If we commit ourselves to writing for even 1 to 2 hours per day, pages get written and books and articles get finished.

2)   Write or create something new. Try a new form of writing, or a new type of art or craft. Bring play into your work. The key to a great story is to make the ordinary seem extraordinary. So it is with our lives.

3)   Set daily goals. What do you want to accomplish today? Set a specific, measurable goal that is attainable, realistic and timely. They’re known in business as SMART goals.

4)   Connect. Spend time each day connecting by e-mail and social media. Blog, Tweet, post on Facebook, build Google + and LinkedIn accounts, and follow people with large follower networks. The phone works great, too.

5)   Focus. Practice focusing on one thing for long periods of time. Use visualization or meditation to build greater concentration. The more we focus, the more organized we become, and the deeper we can move into our subject.

6)   Eat Well and Work Out. Working out is the perfect accompaniment to creativity. It burns stressful energy, clears our minds, and rejuvenates us. That goes for food as well. Eat high-protein, low-carb diets — especially when powering through major projects.

7)   Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy. As ultramarathoner Pam Reed told me once about the pain that comes with long races, “You know it’s gonna hurt. But enjoy the experience.” Same holds for writing books or dealing with tough projects. Enjoy the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Royal Farewell to Harry Potter

Since today is the premiere of the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this book and movie franchise’s contributions to literature, entertainment, culture and reading. Then, this morning, I saw an article from GalleyCat, “Harry Potter Lives Forever in Fan Fiction,” with a statistic that stunned me: Fanfiction.net now hosts 420,000 fan-written stories inspired by Harry Potter.

That’s four hundred twenty thousand stories.

Time to share my deepest appreciation for J.K. Rowling and the most important series of books to grace the children’s publishing world since Dr. Seuss (although, of course, Harry Potter books are for grades 5 and up). While grossing billions of dollars in book and film sales and selling books by the hundreds of millions, plus earning its own theme park at Universal Orlando, the numbers behind Harry Potter only make us sit up and pay attention. Especially those 63 publishers who passed on Rowling’s first manuscript before Bloomsbury gave Rowling a $20,000 advance. Seems pretty crazy now, doesn’t it?

My appreciation for Harry Potter began in 2001, when I was talking with a schoolteacher and artist who was home-schooling her 11-year-old son because of her differences with a school system that had cut compulsory reading by 50%. She handed me a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in the series, and said, “These books are making children want to read again. One day, we’re going to be crediting J.K. Rowling for making reading enjoyable for millions of kids like it was for us.”

What a prophetic comment. The combination of adventure, sorcery, danger, fantasy, compelling stories, teen romance, villains, and main characters just as dorky, intelligent, curious, silly and courageous as all kids in their awkward years created a fan base just as ravenous as Trekkies or Star Wars fanatics … only younger. Rowling’s magical storycrafting and her populating of characters in these worlds was just as meticulous and well thought-out as George Lucas’ creation of the alternate universe of Star Wars.

In an era when we were losing kids (and the printed book itself) by the millions to endless TV, video games, mobile devices and, at the end of the run, Facebook and Twitter, Harry Potter gave them a reason to read, imagine, dream and fantasize.

But what I really like about Harry Potter’s impact is the second component — the writing. It’s one thing to read books, but it’s another to sit down with a piece of paper and write creatively — something that seems to be phasing out of more and more schools as students approach high school age. As the GalleyCat post makes clear, the Harry Potter franchise has sparked writing by young people big-time.

I submit that today’s incredible number of highly talented, highly determined fiction, memoir and narrative non-fiction writers in the 14 to 25 age range were directly or indirectly influenced by reading Harry Potter books. All of the popular genres of this group — graphic novel, horror, fantasy/supernatural, romance and adventure — are “grown up” offshoots from Rowling’s narrative premise. I’ve worked with a lot of these kids in various schools and writer’s conferences, and seen some incredible works along the way — works of incredible depth, imagination and emotion.  In addition, some of these writers illustrated their own books and already know how to brand them through social media, blogs, websites and the like.

Yes, today is the grand finale of an incredible youth literature franchise. While I admit to only reading four of the books, and seeing five of the movies (I’ll see the new release, for sure), I just want to be sure we always hold J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books very high in our hearts as writers, readers, parents, teachers … and the young writers who were sparked creatively for life by a band of pesky students with supernatural powers at Hogwart.

Indeed, as the GalleyCat article proclaims, Harry Potter Lives Forever.

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