When I first started this post, I had an idea to review all of my personal milestones from the past year. 2017 has marked several key moments in my career, with the goal markers inching ever closer to the coveted touchdown at the end (where is this football metaphor headed? No idea).
But that's some pat-yourself-on-the-back bullshit, and you don't need any of that.
Instead, I wanted to share my top lessons learned. I am a firm believer that you never stop growing, either professionally or personally. Life is an endless classroom, and we are just students struggling to get by. The day you think you know it all is the day you're going to end up on your ass.
That happened to me more than a few times in 2017, but here are the highlights.
Failure is Learning
It has been my privilege to work with an LA production company on 5 incredible short films. Our first effort swept the 48 Hour Film Fest and gave us a huge ego. The second film took second out of 98 teams. We grew a little too big for our britches, though, and ate a bit of crow when one of our films was knocked out of the competition early.
I still contend that it is a great film, including our best closing shot to date. But that failure sent us down a path with only two exits: One, we give up entirely and stop making films together; or Two, we learn from our mistakes and rise to the challenge.
This past year, we took second place again. Yeah, second isn't first, but the competition is friggin' stiff. More than that, and most importantly, we didn't just shrug off criticism and blunder forward. We grew as a team, as filmmakers, and worked even harder to create something memorable.
Time is Precious
I don't know about you, but this year was some sort of temporal anomaly. On the one hand, it felt like every week was a panic-stricken year. On the other hand, I have no idea how it is already New Year's Eve.
During this year, I set a few writing goals for myself. While I failed at some, I managed to hit the mark on others. I finished my outlines, turned in my manuscripts, and locked down NaNoWriMo for only the second time.
What I've come to realize is that time is unrelenting. The harder you try to hold it down, the quicker it slips through your fingers.
Making goals is not enough. You need to make deadlines. More than that, you need to stick to them. To that end, I recommend accountability buddies (or accountabillabuddies, if you're nasty). Tell your friends to hold you to a schedule. Have them send you angry texts reminding you that writing isn't going to happen by itself.
Get to work.
It's Chaos, Be Kind
I've watched/played/read a bunch of different stories this year, but none touched me so deeply as Patton Oswalt's Netflix special. In his first recorded performance since the passing of his wife, he revealed a deep wound to millions of us. More than that, he shared the memory of the incredible Michelle McNamara.
One of her sayings about life was this: It's chaos, be kind.
To put it simply, the world is tough. Life is tough. Existence, on the whole, can kinda suck. Don't go out of your way to make it worse for others. Reject calls to hatred, but take an active role in helping.
I hope you have all had a wonderful year, but I know that might not have been in your control. Instead, I'll ask that you go to the New Year with whatever optimism you can bring along for the ride.
I'll be there with you, shoulder to shoulder, and we'll face what's coming together.
Happy New Year, everyone.