Drinking Etiquette (for Conventions and Public Gatherings)

In light of my recent Saturday night con experience, it occurs to me that not everyone remains the consummate (if blacked out) professional I am when imbibing beverages of the alcoholic persuasion. These are in no particular order, at least in my original draft of this entry.

  • Never say or do anything you wouldn't if sober.
  • Always back your actions. Don't blame it on being drunk since alcohol only uninhibits you, it doesn't change your opinion.
  • It's better to drink with a buddy than to drink alone.
  • Drinking on an empty stomach is not recommended.
  • Water is your friend
  • If you can't stand, you can't drink.
  • Drunk texting/tweeting is not allowed, unless relaying a hilarious story.
  • Admit to being drunk in the moment or the next day. People can tell, and denying makes you look like a fool.
  • Never vomit on anyone. Hotel planters are allowed, but in a bathroom (toilet, not sink) or privately in nature are the preferred options.
  • If you vomit, you have two options: 1) Call it a night, return home, and brush those teeth. 2) Pop some gun (mints will NOT do the trick), grab your other drink (for your double-fisters out there) and proceed to get the party-restarted like you just got a new lease on life.
  • If you're a freelancer, realize your antics may cost you work due to appearing unprofessional. Of course, it might also gain you work if you're entertaining enough. The latter case is extremely rare and should not be used as advice for how to break into comics.
  • If you're an employee at a company, your actions represent that company. It's one thing to make a fool of yourself, and quite another to make a fool of your company, your co-workers, and/or your boss.
  • San Diego has street cleaners working at 3am who will yell at you for "pissing all over [their] street if you can't aim properly.
  • Know when to say when.


TGIM - Sleep

Comic-Con International in San Diego is one of the best times of the year. But it's also one of the most exhausting. For the first time in 5 years of attending, I wasn't involved in the building or destruction of a booth. That meant I got to head home a little bit earlier (and hit all that fun traffic).

We got home right around midnight. I got to sleep close to 2 (don't ask) and promptly slept for 12 hours. Still feel like someone hit my awareness with a sledgehammer, but sleep is truly the greatest invention ever. Thanks, G-d.

Also, for those wondering... Drinking on an empty stomach means getting utterly blitzed/tanked/wasted/to' up. Not recommended, as my Saturday night and its missing moments can attest to.

For those that I saw, it was a great time. For anyone I missed, we'll talk soon and I'll catch you next year. I want to sleep some more, but I have dodgeball in a few hours so I'm trying to get my mind and body right to destroy. Frutti di Beppo will be missing the game, so I have to step up for him and comic pros everywhere.

"The real sin of San Diego is that when it ends... it's Monday." - Nelson Blake II


The San Diego Comic-Con Post (2009)

Hey faithful readers,
how are you? I'm headed down to San Diego for a little thing we like to call Comic-Con (or SDCC for those who don't have time for anything but acronyms). Wanted to drop you guys a quick line to let you know where I'll be at, as well as how to reach me or keep up with me during the show. If you're a creator or friend reading this and attending the show, let's definitely make sure to hook up while we're down there.

My main gig is promoting Days Missing from Archaia/Roddenberry, and we'll have the first issue on sale at both booths (#2635 and #2734 respectively), as well as creators such as Phil Hester and Frazer Irving (issue #1), David Hine and Chris Burnham (issue #2) and Ian Edginton in a rare US appearance (issue #3) on hand to sign. They're all quality people turning in damn fine work, so be sure to support them, so please come to the panel and check out the book.

My 404 mobile number is now disconnected, so anyone dialing that will find themselves SOL when trying to reach me. Don't call it. Either email or message me on twitter for the new number, or just click this handy little link. It will send you direct to voicemail, but only because I'm leery of putting my number out there for bots. Leave a message, I will get back to you. Unless I hate you.

I will be providing live updates from the show via twitter, and you can follow me @roblevin. Expect updates, pics, quotes, and drunken twittering (hopefully with pictures).

12-1pm - LongBox Panel - Room 32AB - I'm not on this, but anyone not attending is foolish. And Rantz is a very forward-thinking individual.
1-2pm - Top Cow signing - Booth #2629 - with Phil Hester and Michael Broussard
2:30-3:30pm - Days Missing Panel - Room 3 (featuring all the creators, series creator Trevor Roth, Eugene Roddenberry, and the Archaia crew)

Just floating around, sitting in on a couple panels. Might be an announcement about some editing I'm doing at one, but I don't want to talk out of turn.

4:30-5:30pm - Top Cow Panel - Room 7AB - not on it, but I always support the Herd. Who knows, maybe they'll announce something of mine...
5:30-6:30pm - American Original Panel - Room 7AB - same as the LongBox panel, if you're not here, you're missing out. Really curious to hear more of Jeff Katz's nefarious plans to improve media.

11:00am-12:00pm - Top Cow signing - Booth #2629 - with roommate extraordinaire Nelson Blake II and Michael Broussard

Obviously I won't bore you with my meetings/partying schedule, but I'll be doing that tip, as well as hanging out at the Archaia and Top Cow booths. Just don't go asking them where I am if you can't find me. A freelancer has to roam, after all.

P.S. Did everyone know there's an awesome SDCC iPhone app? It's like having a program guide with you when you forget to have a program guide with you. Only downside is there isn't a way to view the panels/booths/etc. you select as favorites, so the favorite feature is kind of useless.


TGIM - 30 Rock

Feeling a little pressure to take care of last minute prep for SDCC, or maybe that's just an excuse, but today's TGIM will be a short one.

I've been watching 30 Rock on Netflix Instant all weekend (and into today), and it's pretty fantastic how far the show has come. I thought it was better than I expected at the beginning of Season 1, but had low expectations going in and had never been a Tina Fey fan. I watched for Tracy Morgan, fully assuming Studio 60 would be the better show (and for a season it almost was).

But something happened in Season 2 and the show started to really find its footing. The characters went from being quirky to hyperbolized - in a good way. What got good toward the end of Season 2 became almost uniformly great in Season 3. All of the dynamics work together in a way that few comedies with disparate plot elements have managed since Seinfeld's departure. The supporting characters began to step up, and I actually started to like Fey on the show. Some weeks across this past season it was even better than the mighty juggernaut that is The Office.

If you haven't watched, the whole series is on Netflix Instant. And if you don't have that, rent some DVDs and check it out, or stream a few on the website (link above).

And here's the scene that first made me think it had potential for greatness:


When All Else Fails...

When all else fails, do the thing you're afraid of.

Okay, let me back up. The thing I'm afraid of, apparently, is writing a bad screenplay. I already resolved to write it (as bad as it needed to be to get done), then re-write it to make it good. I took the bad part out of the equation. I set a firm deadline for when I wanted a draft done (by the time I leave for SDCC) and set about writing. I made some strong progress up front, slowed, and then... Well, I haven't written anything on the screenplay since late last Wednesday.

Really? A week off with two weeks to go and two thirds to write? Good plan, jerkface.

I wasn't happy with what I was writing. I had written ten pages of manuscript that I somehow slogged through, hating nearly everything I typed. But I was moving forward. And then... I dunno. I let myself get caught up in editing, distractions, and being lazy (watching the entire season of a TV show I found out about on Monday night for example).

Tonight I was frustrated by the fact that I was spending another night in front of the TV instead of writing, and was angry about it but not enough to stare at the screen and type a few words. So I stopped the TV, walked into the bathroom, and did 95% of what I was afraid of.

If you'll recall, I added a little punishment to my deadline for the screenplay. Namely, shaving myself baby-faced smooth right before Comic-Con if I didn't get a first draft done. And I realized, sitting there watching TV, that I had thought more about the threat of being shorn and looking young than I had writing. And that goes for pretty much every day for the last week. Not to say I've been focused on grooming, but it should tell you how much I haven't been writing.

So I walked into the bathroom, grabbed the beard trimmer, put on the smallest guard/length attachment, and shaved myself down as far as it goes. A little bit left so I'd have something solid in a week's time if I earn it, but enough gone so that I had a pretty good preview of what I'd be missing if I didn't get my shit handled and finish on time.

For the record, I hate not having a beard (or goatee). Mainly because I hate how I look when I walk in front of a mirror without one. People don't care, and I don't care what people think, but I know not finishing and shaving means I'll suffer through a show without the armor that being a man who can grow a beard gives.

So I did it. Shaved it off, saw what's waiting for me in 6 days time if I fuck up. And I still don't know if I'll write anything tonight...


Things I'm Enjoying on a Wednesday

In lieu of updates (been busy), I figured I'd just let you know what I was enjoying today.

- Lethal Weapon script by Shane Black

- Party Down (via Netflix Instant), as recommended by Erik Tillmans. How did I not know that Paul Rudd, quite possibly the greatest actor of this or any generation, was involved in this?

- Bruises and Black Eyes - Lee Bermejo's blog, and quite possibly my favorite pro blog on the Internets. Of course, I have a major man crush on Lee, so...

And, you know, life... Dodgeball later, I'll post some stuff this week. Writing has been non-existent, but I'll push that boulder up the hill soon enough.


TGIM - The Most Powerful Mantra

Before I start, let me just post a bit of a disclaimer. I have no idea if I even believe the title of this post. I seem to get myself into a positive state more by looking at the post-it on my wall that says "It's Always On." more than I find myself repeating this. But I digress...

I guess I find myself talking a lot about self-help/self-improvement of late. In the face of daunting tasks, negative ideas, and general conflict, it helps me to fall back on something I've already learned. It gives me a strategy for dealing with my days. But that's where the brilliance of this particular mantra comes into play.

"Whatever happens to me, given any situation, I'll handle it."

Think about that for a minute. Think of all the bad things that have happened in your life. Death of a loved one, getting mugged, getting dumped, losing your job, humiliation, defeat, etc. And yet, if you're reading this, you've handled it. You've made it through the other side. Every single thing that's been thrown at you in your life, you've dealt with and overcome. I first heard this when reading Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, a pretty fantastic book by Dr. Susan Jeffers.

I haven't had a particularly good year. In the past 7 months I lost my job, broke my thumb, watched my bank account dwindle to nothing, had to make a lot of sacrifices (several of which I would imagine have weakened some friendships), and to top it off I haven't been dating. Sounds bad enough, but when you add in that I've taken 5 and 3-week stints off from drinking, as well as not hanging out at bars... I don't know how I made it through either.

But this mantra, and the knowledge of its simple truth in the back of my head, has helped to keep me on the path. When things go bad I'm not immune to reacting negatively. But more often than not, I can pause, consider, and then remind myself that whatever happens, I'll handle it.

And handle it I have. I'm still here. I'm happy more often than not (if busy all the time). And I'm finally in a position where I'm pursuing my dream full-time. I'm not getting paid full-time to pursue said dream, but I've placed myself in the position for that to become a reality.

When the world spins out of control, when it feels like nothing will ever be right again, you could do worse than to remind yourself of this mantra. And for those sick of self-help stuff, I promise I'll talk about writing or movies or comics this week.


How to Handle a Missed Deadline

In the five years I spent at Top Cow, and even the ensuing months entering the freelance world whilst straddling both sides of the desk, I've seen almost everything. No, no one ever pulled a fast one like fake tracking numbers or empty boxes, but I've heard the entire gamut when it comes to excuses for why things don't coincide with the initially agreed upon deadlines.

One of the things I've been careful to remember, and hopefully succeeding in doing, is that as a freelancer you are your brand. Your company is you, represented not only by your work, but by your actions. On your personal projects you can screw up as much as you want. You're the only one that suffers. When you're working for someone else, there are no excuses.

And yet, things happen. You mess up, a crisis can't be averted, etc. Read this article tonight about how to handle missed deadlines, and I think plenty of comic PROFESSIONALS and freelancers in other industries would be wise to brush up on their client-freelancer etiquette in the event they find themselves missing a deadline for any reason.

Sometimes just these simple acts go a long way.


Stuck in a Rut

8 pages today, most of which were written after 12:30am (Wednesday). I'm not sure I like anything I've written in the last 10 pages, largely because it feels like filler.

Part of it's that I only did a beat sheet for the story (clocking in at 7 pages), but not a treatment. I don't know what my winning formula to an ace screenplay is since I haven't finished one. But I was tired of planning and not taking action, so I went for it. There's always more to research, plot out, or another book on writing to read before you start. The goal isn't to make it great. Not yet.

The goal is to get something on paper, revise, and then make it great. Still, I feel like I'm in a rut. I knew Act 1, really well in fact. That's the reason Saturday was so productive, and I got the remainder of it out on Sunday. I know some of where Act 2 goes, but it's way more broadstrokes until I reach the midpoint. And getting there, well... It's going slowly. I don't like the scenes I've done, and I keep wanting to go back and revise. But except for tweaking a few lines each time I start a new day, I'm not going back.

I just have to get to the midpoint, then I'm taken care of until the last 10-12 pages which will need some blocking out. I could also easily skip where I'm at right now and start from where I know exactly how things play out, but that seems anti-process. Part of me wants to spend tomorrow writing a treatment so I can follow it to a T for this draft, but I know while it's a good move, it's a day (or more if I stall out there) lost. That could be 10-30 pages I don't get written (or 2). So for now, I soldier on, trying to make it all sing.

The other part is that the recent batch of scenes either don't do much with character (outside of introducing a B storyline) or enough with plot. I don't know the dramatic need of each scene, and so it feels kind of pointless. I'm trying to approach each one with a goal in mind, but some just feel like they need to be there so I'm getting them out. But they're not essential in their current forms, which is slowing me down. I guess I'm terrified of writing 65 pages, rather than 140 and then trimming.

Keeping the end goal in sight, not to mention the threat of a shorn face, really does work though. I've been upset that I haven't had time to do much work this week because editing gigs have gotten in the way, but it makes me value the time I do spend writing that much more. And even if I don't love (or even slightly like) what's coming out, it's flowing and I'm not wasting time. So yeah, small favors and all that.

I'm up through page 34 for anyone keeping track at home.


A Price to Pay

I shaved my head on June 1 and made myself a promise. I wouldn't cut my hair until I finished a screenplay (or a novel). That's not that big a deal, just a minor inconvenience and potentially a long term hindrance.

In light of getting trapped doing other things today and not making any progress (though I'm not asleep yet) on the screenplay, I've had another idea. If I don't finish my screenplay by the time I hit the road to San Diego, I'm shaving.

I've been sporting some form of beard since just before Comic-Con in 2005 I think. I went down to a mustache once for a dodgeball event, but that was a minimum. It's been goatee, beard, or stubble every day. I don't believe in men who can't grow beards.

So here's the thing. I look like I'm about 13 years old (maybe 12) sans facial hair. San Diego is a big networking opportunity for me. I take meetings, I do signings, and I sit on panels. Plus I hob knob. And doing that without facial hair of any kind scares the shit out of me. I don't want to look like a clean-shaven baby.

So that's been added to the quest. You heard it here first. No screenplay, no facial hair at San Diego.

EDIT: Managed almost 3 pages tonight. Will do at least triple that tomorrow, and hopefully I'll like some of it. Tonight's work felt kind of "meh," and I'm not sure two of the shorter scenes really did anything to push the story.

TGIM - Setting Goals

I wrote part of a screenplay once. 51 pages across two night. I came home from a birthday party (not mine), sat down at the computer and got it out of my system. Wrote a little more the next day and then never touched it again. For years I thought it was lost as I was unable to remember any of the possible names (it was Untitled) and couldn't remember any terms to search for within the document. This weekend I found it.

It's more of a relic of who I was and what I was interested in writing at the time than it is something I'll ever get back to. Some of the themes are things I still play with in my current work, so it's not completely abandoned. But what's crazy about it is that it's the longest screenplay I've ever written, even in its incomplete form.

If you didn't know (and I do believe I've mentioned here), I've never finished a screenplay. Outside of the last 6 months, I didn't spend much time writing over the last five years. I had work, school, and other things to occupy my time. Writing was always something I'd "get to." And yet the longest thing I'd written for one particular medium happened on a lark, with no planning or foresight.

It's an anomaly more than anything. You really do have to set goals or things get put off. "Tomorrow." "Soon." "Not right now." Sometimes it's healthy to delay things. Other times it gets in the way of ever getting anything done. My goal is to be a working writer who only has to write to pay his bills. I'm not there yet, and part of the reason is because of my track record, part is skill, and the other is that I don't have enough completed work to offer up as samples.

I've been working on LYP since the final day of 2008, but I've been scared. Scared I couldn't finish it. Scared it wouldn't be good. I've pushed back my personal deadlines for a first draft numerous times. I had them before I got laid off, and that gave me more free time than I was anticipating. But I missed the first date, and hadn't written a page. Eventually I got the story completely broken down. And for weeks (or perhaps months) I didn't write a thing.

On June 3rd I wrote the first three pages of my screenplay, hoping that I'd tear through it in June and get a draft done by the end of 2009's first half. But I didn't touch it again. Not until this past weekend.

On Friday I went for a walk, listening to Jack Canfield's The Success Principles for the second time in as many weeks. My biggest takeaway from the program is the idea of setting goals. They don't have to be realistic. In fact, they should be grandiose and outside of your reality. A goal that's as simple as, "to pay my bills," will probably get met. "Make $100,000 this year," is a little loftier, but no less achievable if it's the goal you're striving toward. There's a line in the book that illustrates this point:

"If you give your mind a $10,000 problem, it will come up with a $10,000 solution. If you give your mind a $1 million problem, it will come up with a $1 million dollar solution."

Setting goals and visualizing them as completed actually does work. Case in point, I resolved to get my screenplay done. Not only to get it done, but to get it done by San Diego Comic-Con so it was one less thing I had to worry about at the show. Hell, that's a good three weeks or so out. And Bryan Hill is planning to have two screenplays done in that time. Surely I can manage to complete one.

The first thing I did was give myself permission to make it bad. I'm striving for good, but even the worst screenplay ever written is finished. And it's not going to come out of the oven perfect. I'll get some notes, do another draft, and see where it lands. Rinse and repeat until it's to a point where I'm happy with it. By giving myself that permission, by freeing myself from the monster that is perfection, I finally felt like I could work on it.

On Saturday I wrote 18 pages. On Sunday, in limited time before heading to a barbecue and a concert, 3.5. In 48 hours, with plenty of time for relaxation and socializing, I managed to write more than 7x what I had done in the previous 6 months.

Set a goal. Believe. Achieve.

If I sound like a cheesy self-help salesman, it's because I am. When I discovered self-help/self-improvement two years ago, I thought it was lame. I was a guy who didn't need help. I was a man, dammit. We don't ask for directions and we don't need help. But I gave it a chance and let it transform my life. It helped me get over a rough patch personally, and there hasn't been a single thing in my professional life I've been unable to deal with. And while I had dealt with everything that had happened in my life before taking initiative, now I do it in stride. Knock it, use it, whatever. Everyone finds their own path. If it helps you achieve your goals, at the end of the day that's all that matters.

Recommended Reading:
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Pretty much anything by Anthony Robbins or from Nightingale Conant