Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reflections on Turning 40...




Warning: Harsh language ahead...

In a couple of days, I'll be turning 40.

A lot of people see this as some kind of otherworldly milestone that requires endless celebratory nonsense but I've never been one to make a big deal out of my birthday.

I usually use the time to reflect on what I've learned in the previous 12 months and pray that I've become a better person in the ways that matter.

The past 39 years have not been a walk in the park. I had to leave my family much earlier than I preferred and spent many years hating myself for decisions that I never made - about situations I didn't create but had to deal with during my formative years.

By the time I hit 30, I felt I figured out everything I needed to know about life. By 35, I realized I didn't know a motherphuking thing about life, reality, the human soul or what love is supposed to be.

On the verge of 40, I've seen some crazy stuff happen with my family and friends and I've lost more than a few of both along the way. However, there have been lessons that I've learned that get me a little closer to spiritual peace and relaxation.

Feel free to share, discuss, compare and contrast if the mood hits you. No animals were injured during the production of this blog.


LESSONS BY 40:

1) A good chunk of people are selfish. There's nothing you can do about that. Selfishness manifests in multiple ways, but the best way to tell is if a person constantly "takes" and never gives you anything in return. Taking advice, money, food, time, space, clothing, job leads, other friends, lovers, etc. Yet, in your time of need, these folks are nowhere to be found. Selfish people aren't bad, but you cannot expect much from someone whose best friend is a mirror.

2) Family can be awesome but family can also destroy you. I know that parents and siblings like to run guilt trips as a form of manipulation. Don't fall for it. I realize honoring your family is a core social and cultural construct that helps maintain a stable civilization, but we often confuse "honoring" with "appeasement" or worse - enabling. No one is obligated to give up their dreams or a chance at success because their family needs something. If your family loved you, they'd want to see you happy instead of acting as a servant. Of course, go back to #1 if you need clarity.

3) You cannot hold other people accountable to your idea of success. This one was the hardest lesson to learn and accept. For a while, I truly believed that some of my friends needed a kick in the ass to get to the next level in their lives. I believed that seeing me struggle and fight and then achieve a measure of success would inspire them to pursue their goals and dreams. When they didn't do much with their lives, I began to lose respect and consider them underachievers. Whether or not they were "underachievers" is irrelevant because it is not my place to tell them how to live their lives.

I spent the better part of my 30s trying to help a few friends go to college, move to better cities, engage in healthy romantic relationships, start their writing career or just be happier people when I should have spent that time working on myself. Around 36, I decided that I wouldn't do anything else for anyone unless they specifically requested my assistance. I'm still dealing with this one, but I've learned to let go of my disappointment - after all, it's based on what I think my friends should be doing instead of what they want to do for themselves.

4) Ignore people who turn being "healthy" into a religion. I know I'm overweight. I deal with it everyday. I know I might die a little younger than others. That's life (no pun). There's a group of folks out there who plaster social media with images of tortured cows, chickens and sheep (because *gasp* we shouldn't eat meat). They take selfies with tall glasses of green sludge at fancy juicing bars. They specialize in sharing pics of them doing some ridiculous athletic activity. This wouldn't be an issue if the photos weren't accompanied by a fanatical smugness and sense of superiority about going to the gym and "eating right."

They remind me of born-again Christian nutjobs who believe they're responsible for saving the heathen masses from an eternity of suffering in the bowels of Hell. In the case of the health nuts, saving the masses from the hell within our bowels. A few have their hearts in the right place, but most are just being annoying and sanctimonious. See #3.

5) Get rid of sexual repression. If you believe I'm about to admit something salacious or scandalous, think again. I like women, always have liked women and will always like women. I'm not into BDSM or anything regarding pain or filth exchange, no bestiality, no kiddie porn, nothing illegal. Yet, there are things I like to do and like to see happen on a sexual level with consenting adults that I would have been ashamed to admit to myself in the past. I'm not telling you people any of that stuff but I will say that we all are sexual beings and many of us have desires that society makes us feel bad about (FYI - Not bisexual).

One of my core theories about what's wrong with our world is that many personal problems are the result of sexual repression. When humans repress what they desire or need to function on a regular basis, that repression often morphs into hatred, spite, anger and devious behavior. The best example of this can be found HERE - where a list of anti-gay activists are caught doing gay stuff in deviant situations. I'd argue that the men in that list repressed their natural feelings for so long that it turned into a crusade against their base nature. Who knows how many other people react violently because of repressed sexual impulses? I do know that when I stopped feeling ashamed or angry with myself about a few sexual desires, I had the best sex of my life.




7) Making declarative statements can solve problems before they begin. Here's a good one - if you have a girlfriend that you love but demands most of your time and attention and you also have friends you want to see on occasion what is the best way to navigate that situation?

a) "Hey babe, I'm going to see my buddies next week. I won't be out late, but I'm looking forward to catching up with blah blah blah."

or

b) "Hey babe, is it okay for me to hang out with my friends next week?"

If you said "b" then go watch the movie I LOVE YOU MAN and/or get a testosterone injection.

Of course any man worth his weight in salt will want to be considerate to his lover, but there comes a point when you have to show that you have your own life and interests. This doesn't just apply to dating, but also career, health, family and friendship. No one can read your mind no matter what the X-Men films would have you believe and if you don't say what you want, how you feel and what you need to be happy, then no one will know and you'll stay pissed off. It starts with a simple statement: What I need to be happy is...

8) Women respect strength. I get in trouble with women colleagues and friends because I say that women are as flawed as everyone else because they're human beings. This doesn't excuse rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or intimidation, this just means that women can do fucked up stuff just like men, can be as shallow and superficial as men, can hurt other people in deep and everlasting ways just like men. I don't claim to know much about women because just when I thought I had it figured out, women changed the universe again so I've decided to just stop trying to reach any kind of conclusion on the opposite sex.

With that said, I have observed that women respect men with a backbone. They don't like wishy-washy guys who don't take a stand on anything or aren't working toward a goal. Women test men in small ways to see how far they can go with making you acquiesce to their demands. If you get past a tipping point, they will lose respect for you. Now, I'm not saying that a man should be a recalcitrant prick on every issue, but there comes a time when you have to stand up for your beliefs and show that you're willing to be an equal partner, not a pushover who hangs on the whims of a girlfriend because you're afraid of driving her away.



9) People take you seriously only after you achieve a few goals. During my 30s I was constantly working toward getting my graphic novel Shadowlaw published. Even though I really was waiting for my various art teams to finish the work, after a while it must have seemed that I was just another one of those "it's coming soon" creators on the scene. You know the type, always got some "project" just over the horizon or an excuse why their work hasn't hit the scene.

When I moved to LA in 2008, I didn't realize how tough it was for anyone to give you the benefit of the doubt. People in the industry do not believe anything they hear, only what they can see, which means that you better have something to show for your talents or else you'll end up in the wastebasket of human potential. I met a few creators here but I noticed that they kept me at arm's length despite me being earnest in my intentions of breaking into the screenwriting scene.

Then my graphic novel was released. Then I got some TV animation writing credits. Then I won a writing award for my graphic novel. Then I got signed to a new comic book company. Then got nominated for some more awards. Then I produced and directed my first documentary. All that stuff happened to me over the course of about 20 months. Now, influential and important people within the film and TV biz return my emails and phone calls. I get meetings with very talented writers and producers. Some would say it's common sense that an increase in output would equate to a growth in respect and recognition. I take everyone at face value and that's considered a positive by some and a negative by many. That's not something I plan on changing anytime soon.

10) Trust people until they give you a reason not to trust them. There's a dominant pathology out there that suggests you must always "cover your ass" (CYA) and "don't trust anybody" (DTA). I've always found that mindset to be a monumental waste of time.  An intelligent and logical person will always do what is necessary to protect their interests and assets. That comes with basic survival skills. The idea of not trusting anyone is kind of stupid unless you're kind of stupid too.

Here's why: all you have to do is learn how to read human body language and ask the right questions. It's not magic, it's not something you learn from watching The Mentalist, it's not a just a requirement for CIA agents. When I meet someone that claims to want to be a screenwriter, I ask them a few simple questions about their progress and process. If they're serious, I can tell instantly and I take them seriously. If not, I move on. It's that simple. You can apply to this any career or conversational situation. Serious people stand out, serious people have real answers - not amorphous rhetoric; serious people can back up everything they say, serious people don't have a need to show off.

The idea that everyone is out to get you with their hidden agenda is born from arrogance and narcissism. The only folks on Earth who actually have people out to get them are political heads of state, chairmen of central banks, CEOs of multinational corporations, law enforcement officers and drug lords. If you're not on that list, then you probably have an overdeveloped sense of self-importance.

I still believe that most people are good, but there's a lot of bullshit-minded jackasses out there who have nothing to contribute to our society. They're usually not hard to spot but for some reason, way too many of us assume those jackasses are the rule and not the exception.

Halfway through life... it's been a helluva ride so far.



B.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Just Listen - Sexual Harassment In the Comic Book Scene...

Check that website!

Every human is sovereign in their own body.

They have the right to say what happens to it. 

I might be preaching to the choir with this one but I felt that I needed to say something about the level of sexual harassment that goes on in the comic book scene - specifically the stuff that happens at the conventions. 



Please listen to my podcast where I discuss this in great detail:

http://writingforrookies.podcastpeople.com/posts/55856


To sum it up: Just because a woman turns you on sexually, it does not mean she is obligated to engage you on a sexual level.

She is not responsible for your hormonal reactions. Part of being a mature person is understanding what you are entitled to and what you are not entitled to – men are not entitled to sexual favors just because they get hot and bothered.



And here's some rules when encountering women cosplayers:

a) Keep your distance until you ask if it is okay to take a picture with her.

b) If she says yes, DO NOT touch her unless she initiates contact first.

c) If you are unsure she is open to being touched, ask if it is okay for you put your arm around her shoulder for the picture, if she says NO – then DON’T TOUCH HER.

d) Do not make any sexual comment about her body or costume. Trust me, she is fully aware of what body parts are heaving out or how much skin is showing, she has a right as a human being to wear what she wants – the issue of taste and morality is an important one and deserves a lengthy conversation – but not now.

I agree that some folks shouldn't dress a certain way in a family-friendly environment, but that does not warrant sexual assault or harassment.

e) Chances are, approaching one of these women for a date in the middle of a comic book show is not a good idea, she is usually not there for romantic reasons. However, I will say that if a woman is interested in your romantically, she will find a way to let you know. Usually, women aren’t that ambiguous or coy – at least that’s been my experience.


There are many women cosplayers whom I find incredibly attractive, but in my entire life, I've only taken pictures with two of them.

Mainly because I get why they enjoy dressing up and why they come to shows. I feel it is enough to say “nice work there” and keep moving. 



HOW TO BE AN ALLY TO WOMEN: 

a) Listen… just be quiet and listen to what she is saying.

b) Don’t make excuses for the harassment.

c) Don’t assume the woman is being too sensitive.
            
d) If you don’t believe her, the worst time to tell her would be in the moment where she relates her situation.

e) Geas much information about the incident as possible and don’t be afraid to contact the organizers or law enforcement authorities if the incident was more than innuendo.

f) Talk to other men – even the men who come off as the most sexist. Men generally don't LISTEN when women relate their issues with patriarchy. It is a powerful statement when a man will take a stand about sexism with no women around. 

Damn right...

Monday, February 03, 2014

Black Geek Stockholm Syndrome... It's real...


Stockholm syndrome

noun Psychiatry.
an emotional attachment to a captor formed by a hostage as a result of 
continuous stressdependence, and a need to cooperate for survival.

Contrary to what many people in the geekscape believe, there's a very, very large population of Black geeks in the U.S. and abroad. There are roughly three generations of Black media consumers who've grown up with a steady diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, BSG, video games, Marvel and DC Comics, D&D role playing modules and novels, Shaw Bros. Kung-Fu flicks, Japanese animation, Asian monster cinema, old school science-fiction and fantasy literature and the smorgasbord of speculative TV programming of the last 50 years. 

Geoffrey Thorne

In a "classic" episode of my WRITING FOR ROOKIES podcast - Star Trek: Titan author Geoffrey Thorne muses that the explosion in Black geek fandom and creators is a direct result of the boom of middle class Black communities of the 1960s - 1980s. 

Kevin Grevioux

This idea is substantiated by UNDERWORLD franchise co-creator Kevin Grevioux who believes that the lack of Black sci-fi creators in Hollywood is because the Black lower class is more concerned with survival and therefore does not have the time to invest in imagination cultivation and unreliable creative career paths. 

They are both correct - although I disagree slightly with Kevin's assessment about the lack of Black sci-fi creators. The truth is that there are PLENTY of Black sci-fi creators, the problem is Black geeks refuse to support them. 

Before anyone gets all riled up, understand this: WE (as in Black sci-fi creators) don't have the marketing budget of Marvel, DC, Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Universal, Paramount, Microsoft, Nintendo, Harper/Collins, Scholastic or any of the ubiquitous media giants in the pop culture landscape. 

Simply put - people don't know we exist. Not just Black folks, but most people don't know we exist. Many of us hustle and hype ourselves to the point of exhaustion only to move the needle of awareness one millimeter away from obscurity but that's not enough to sustain a creative career. 

However, let's say we do manage to get people to pay attention to us, let's say we get some media coverage and are blessed with a review on television or on a popular blog or news site, let's say a major newspaper decides to go with a profile on our careers. Suddenly we're not obscure or anonymous and yet, the social media chatter remains quiet from our so-called brothers and sisters of geekdom. 

I'm going to steer this conversation toward the comic book industry because it's a microcosm of the issues plaguing Black creators everywhere. 

Over the last few years, there's been a slew of articles regarding the lack of Black writers at Marvel and DC Comics. The article that triggered the latest wave of indignation was published in June of 2012 from the BLEEDING COOL website that analyzed the hiring practices of Marvel and DC. 

The combined percentage of Black writers at Marvel and DC? 

2.4% 

Yep. 

2.4% 

I was willing to give them the benefit of statistical deviation in surveys and say that the number might be closer to 3%. 

To be fair, that was in June of 2012. As of this writing, I believe Marvel has 1 Black writer and DC has none (but I could be wrong about that). 

There was a deluge of anger and frustration. Black geeks complained louder than they ever did before. 

Now here's the kicker: Black geeks will complain and whine and bitch and moan 24/7/365 about the lack of Black writers at Marvel and DC. 

Black geeks will whine and complain about how poorly a Black character was written at Marvel and DC. 

They will bellyache about how there aren't any solo books featuring Black characters at Marvel and DC. 

They engage in long, pointless and ultimately stupid online debates about "who'd win ______ vs. ______" or post endless threads about who'd they cast in the (possibly) upcoming Black Panther movie. 

The inherent tragedy in all of this is that Black creators are already making the stuff these geeks wish to see. We have incredible Black superheroes, or Black-created fantasy worlds, or Black-crafted future societies and Black filmmakers making cool short films about their universes. 

But you don't have to take my word for it, you can see it for yourself...



and 


But Black geeks won't give indie Black comic books a chance. They won't (or can't) seem to understand that the only way a Black writer will ever end up at Marvel or DC is if they are supported by a fanbase. 

You see, we don't get the coverage from popular bloggers and comics news sites that other guys do. You can run a poll with a bunch of Black creators and they will tell you how many times their emails go unanswered or if they meet a reporter in person and exchange cards, they'll never hear from that reporter again. 

What a lot of Black geeks fail to understand is that all the "known" comic book writers of the last 20 years were hyped to death by Wizard Magazine



How many writers were propped up by Wizard? Let's see: Kurt Busiek, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Azzarello, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, James Robinson, Jimmy Palmiotti, Kevin Smith, Neil Gaiman, Robert Kirkman, Brian Wood, Brian K. Vaughn, Scott Lobdell, Geoff Johns, Judd Winnick, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Brad Meltzer and to a lesser extent Gail Simone and Devin Grayson. 

For almost two decades straight, every issue of Wizard Magazine reminded you who these creators were, what they were working on, where they came from, what they looked like and why you should support them. I'm not saying the coverage was undeserved, because most of the folks there are incredibly talented, but imagine what would happen if we had the same kind of light shined on our careers? 

As a side note, there are two important names missing: Dwayne McDuffie and Christopher Priest. But that's another story. :) 

Some Black geeks go out of their way to ignore or minimize our participation in the industry. They won't share or "like" or comment on Facebook posts regarding our work - no matter how many times you "tag" them or flat out ask them to share the information. 

Their Facebook feeds are cluttered with movie and TV trailers of some mainstream blockbuster thing that doesn't need them boosting the signal. Their pages choked with memes and quizzes regarding Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or the Avengers or the Superman/Batman movie (please shut the fuck up about Ben Affleck - he doesn't give a shit about your whining and neither do the people who actually make the fucking movies). 

Blackwolf the "Dragonmaster" - Yea, there's a lot of folks out there like this.

Thousands of sycophantic threads begging for a Black Lightning toy or Luke Cage animated series or a Static Shock board game... nothing but perpetual dependency on those who simply don't care about what you want. 

These same Black geeks have every excuse in the world for not supporting indie Black titles: 

1) I don't know who these characters are (because apparently, you were born aware of Superman and Captain America). 
2) I don't like reading ghetto stories (massive assumption, but they make this assumption without actually LOOKING at the titles). 
3) I don't want to read books with African imagery (a form of self-hate, most mainstream comics reflect unabashed Eurocentric tropes and values, but this doesn't offend them). 
4) I only have enough money to buy the books I already like (fair enough, but it costs nothing to thumb through the book if you see it at a convention or on the shelves of a comics shop). 
5) Black indie comics are lower quality (true, some are, but most aren't, again this is an assumption - how many Marvel or DC titles are low quality yet you still throw money at them month after month). 

I could go on, but that would only serve to frustrate me and belabor the point. 

There exists a Stockholm Syndrome with Black geeks. Their captors? The mainstream (usually White) genre creators. The Marvels, the DCs, the Robert Kirkmans, the George Lucases, the Disneys, the Biowares, the Bungies, the EAs, the Stephanie Meyers, the R.A. Salvatores, the Rick Riordans, the J.K. Rowlings, the Miyazakis, the Otomos, the Suzanne Collins and Steven Moffats of the industry. 

Ask them about Black video game designers... *crickets*
Some Black geeks swear their fealty to the Kingdom of Everything Not-Black while crossing their arms in protest at the lack of blackness within said kingdom. Over time, they slowly realize that their rulers aren't concerned in the least with their expectations of representation and grow resentful. The Stockholm Syndrome kicks in when they continue to support their rulers instead of simply turning their head to the left to see the vast riches we've laid out for them to claim. 

These Black geeks prefer serfdom rather than become warrior-explorers in support of their own images in entertainment. They'd much rather read about White warrior-explorers instead. 

So what's the solution? 

It's not complicated. If we could reach out to those willing to support us and ask them kindly to share our work on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, it could go a long way in simply increasing the AWARENESS of our careers. No one is asking you to post links to Amazon or to purchase our work directly, but posting covers, web-banners, comics pages and interviews creates a domino effect of interest. 

When people other than the creator of a property shares his/her work in social media, it feels less like huckstering and more like legitimate fandom being built from scratch. 

I don't believe the Stockholm Syndrome crowd realize how much damage they do by ignoring our work. Their relentless pursuit of mainstream geekdom is ultimately self-defeating because they are building the bricks of someone else's empire. An empire arrogantly prospering off of a loyalty they never wanted from a people they don't even care to acknowledge. 

Black Geek Stockholm Syndrome indeed. 

B. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

LIST OF QUALITY BLACK-PRODUCED INDIE COMICS TITLES






LIST OF QUALITY BLACK-CREATED INDIE COMICS TITLES (put together by Jason Reeves). In the interest of fostering diversity and increasing awareness of independent African-American professionals in the comics biz, here's a great list of titles that you might not know about. If you're not on the list, feel free to add your title and link(s). 

ShadowLaw: comixology.com
www.shadowlawonline.com
http://amzn.to/1dCLm5z
Street Team #0: 
http://indyplanet.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5281
Black Comix: 
http://www.amazon.com/Black-Comix-African-American-Independent/dp/0984190651
Back in the Jay sketchbook Vol.1: 
http://133art.storenvy.com/
Storm Bringers #1:
http://www.stormbringers.com/
OneNation #1:
http://133art.storenvy.com/
Techwatch #1&2:
http://www.techwatchcomic.com/
Dread Society X: Rebirth:
http://www.comicfleamarket.com/servlet/the-461/Dread-Society-X-cln--Rebirth/Detail
Midnight Marauder: the Art of Lesean Thomas:
http://leseanthomas.com/
The Future: art of Keron:
http://kerongrant.net/
The Art of Mshindo Kumba I.:
http://mshindo9.deviantart.com/
Corsairs Prologue:
http://www.indyplanet.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=8049
Miles Away:
http://www.amazon.com/Miles-Away-GN-Anthony-Montgomery/dp/0930655036
Ghost Fighters:
http://jomil65.deviantart.com/
Indigo: Essence of the Assassin 1.0:
https://ganxy.com/i/75616/uraeus/indigo-hit-list-1-0
Black Bird: Growing Pains:
http://charlie-fab.deviantart.com/
Dusu: http://www.strangercomics.com/dusu-1/
Midnight Tiger: 
http://www.actionlabcomics.com/midnight-tiger-joins-action-lab-lineup/
Rotten Apple:
http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/21-706/Rotten-Apple-one-shot
Concrete Park:
http://concretepark.com/
Number 13 (David Walker): 
http://www.darkhorse.com/Books/17-953/Number-13-TPB
Miranda Mercury: 
http://mirandamercury.com/
Vescell: 
http://www.amazon.com/Vescell-1-Enrique-Carrion/dp/B005JF6SU2
Super Pro K.O.:
http://www.amazon.com/Super-Pro-K-1/dp/1934964417/ref=sr_1_14?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320154055&sr=1-14
The Untamed: 
http://www.strangercomics.com/the-untamed/
The Dog Years: 
http://thedogyears.com/home.html
Wildfire: 
http://www.quinnproart.com/legends-press.html
Five Weapons: 
https://www.imagecomics.com/comics/releases/five-weapons-making-the-grade-tp
Nightstalker: 
http://www.nightstalkercomic.com/

mostly digital:

Lion Forge Comics:
www.lionforge.com
Prodigal ch. #1-12 ARE UP ON THE THRILLBENT FOR FREE:http://thrillbent.com/comics/prodigal/prodigal-chapter-1/#1
Watson & Holmes #1-4: comixology.com
ShadowLaw: comixology.com
www.shadowlawonline.com
http://amzn.to/1dCLm5z
Ajala: A series of Adventures: 
http://indyplanet.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4181
Azian Mixtape: http://pyroglyphics1.deviantart.com/
Punks of Rage: Remix #0: https://www.facebook.com/punxofrage/about
The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury: comixology.com
Lucius Hammer #1-2: http://ravenhammercomics.com/
Will Power #1-4: http://www.willpowercomic.com/
Powerverse: the 101 #1: http://www.willpowercomic.com/
Powerverse Chronicles: the Action Pack #1: http://www.willpowercomic.com/
Chew #1-6, Paperbacks 2&3: Comic shop/Amazon.com
Kung-Fu Skrarch! #1: comixology.com
Midnight Tiger #1: comixology.com
Molly Danger #1-2: comixology.com
Seven % #1-4: comixology.com
the Deep #1-2: comixology.com
Ghetto Manga(magazine): http://ghettomanga.blogspot.com/
Sink or Swim: http://www.arlingtontx.gov/environmentalservices/pdf/StormWater_Novella.pdf
F-00 Fighters #1-3:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/82473510/F-OO-Fighters
The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GX35B0W/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

THE 3 LAWS OF THE HUSTLE (aka It's 2014 - Now Get to Work!!!)



Many creators I know had a remarkably shitty 2013. The combination of a sluggish economic recovery, the globalization of entertainment options and an increasingly fickle marketplace of ADHD millennials has made it tough for the independent creator to gain a foothold on the marketplace.

That said, there's also been an incredible amount of self-pity that leads directly into self-delusion. The introspective nature of the artistic process easily becomes a blueprint for the steady development of a self-fulfilling prophecy of stagnation and failure. Once you lose the momentum, it becomes very difficult to keep pushing forward and this destroys many careers before they get started.

Far too many talented people lack the one crucial element to get them over the top: HUSTLE.

What is "hustle?" There are probably 150,000 rap tracks and twice as many self-help gurus all with flashy definitions of that word, but for me it's always come down to three fundamental ideas:

1) The Law of N-GAS (Nobody Gives A Shit).
2) The Law of Letting Go.
3) The Law of Forced Discomfort.



THE LAW OF N-GAS

It took me most of my 39 years to fundamentally grasp this concept. When you're a kid in a somewhat normal family situation, you can't understand this because everyone around you is dedicated to keeping you fed, clothed, housed, bathed and educated. When you hit college, less people care, but there's still a vast support network of professors, staff and counselors/therapists available to you when you have some tough times.

However, this is assuming that you had access to college and from what I've seen, a lot of creative folks bypassed the college scene and began studying their craft. I've also run into a lot of creators who have strained and/or dysfunctional relationships with their families so many have been forced out into the world prematurely and developed specialized survival skills instead of career-boosting techniques (and this is where socio-economic class privilege kicks in).

In any case, you have talent, you have a plan, you have ambition and you enact your scheme for global domination as a writer, dancer, illustrator, singer, actor, etc. You rush out into the world with open arms only to be greeted with glassy-eyed  indifference; a collective shrug from those you consider to be unsophisticated and undeserving of your brilliance.

From this point on, creators take the first step on the well-worn trail of pity, regret and a yearning for attention from their respective industries and a non-existent fan base.

The basic idea of the Law of N-GAS is very simple: Nobody Gives A Shit about you.
Nobody cares about your last break up.
Nobody cares about your shitty living situation.
Nobody cares if you had an abortion.
Nobody cares if you can't make the rent.
Nobody cares if you're homeless.
Nobody cares if you've been single for 15 years.
Nobody cares if your parents kicked you out while you were in 10th grade.
Nobody cares if you're broke.
Nobody cares if you have an eating disorder.
Nobody cares if you have a horrible job.
Nobody cares how many degrees you have.
Nobody cares if you're a single parent.
Nobody cares if you have a tragic disease.

I could go on forever but you get the point. Nobody Gives A Shit about you unless you can make them FEEL something.

You ever wonder why complete fucktards like Snooki, J-Wow, Honey Boo Boo, the Kardashians, the Duck Dynasty assholes and every other cheap, manufactured "reality" TV personality manages to grab the attention of millions of people worldwide?

Because they elicit an emotional response. 

Somehow, they've gotten in front of a camera (or created a situation where someone would WANT to put them in front of a camera) and dazzled the zeitgeist with wild, sexy, ridiculous and simple-minded stories about excess. And guess what, it works.

The entertainment industry is in the throes of a movement known as the POST-CONTENT ERA which means that studios are no longer looking to "develop" an unknown talent from scratch, they only wish to capitalize on those who have already have "pre-awareness" aka an established fan base to bring to the table. If you don't have something to show (and preferably something already known by thousands of people) the chances of you breaking in are significantly diminished.

Sure, there will always be that "lucky" person whose lighting-in-a-bottle script, song, monologue, etc., gets them a deal, but it is far more likely and common for those creators who bring their rabid fans to the dance to get the attention they want and deserve.

You cannot sit still and wait for the world to show up at your door.

It won't happen.

Ever.

Why?

Nobody Gives A Shit.



THE LAW OF LETTING GO

So many artistic people find themselves in horrible personal situations usually caused by family, lovers, best friends or colleagues. They are enablers to emotional addiction. They are usually hosts to financial or spiritual parasites unwilling to inspire or break away from their meal ticket. I've known way too many creative people who cannot move forward in their lives because they believe they "owe" someone else their undying loyalty or obedience.

Usually, these are dangerous and corrosive co-dependent relationships and it is a tough thing to remove someone from their symbiotic trap without them making a consistent, conscious effort to do so.

Here's the thing: the people that sponge off of your generosity, time, energy and kind nature will be FINE if you cut them off. No one is saying you need to shut them completely out of your life, but if your goal is to be a screenwriter and you work three jobs to help maintain a household while your siblings hang out all day, and your parents give you a hard time about nonsense and you can't find a moment to clear your thoughts in order to compose a story... well, you know where I'm going with this.

I've had to cut off a lot of people. It wasn't easy. I won't sit here and pretend it was. I lost a bunch of friends over the last 5 years. The thing that struck me hardest was the fact that the more successful I became, the more resentful and distant these friends behaved toward me. Suddenly, I was getting attitude from guys I'd known for over a decade. Folks who I'd turn to when things got dark for me would respond with nasty and negative comments. Dudes who I'd helped when they were down and out turned into raging bastards over the smallest perceived slight. People who'd say "I always knew you were going to make it" but never once purchased any of my graphic novels nor spread the word when incredibly cool things happened in my career.

After much soul-searching and long nights of whisky-induced angst I came to a realization: there are folks out there who are only comfortable with you when you're on "their level." The moment you start to follow the path to your goals and ambitions is the moment they start secretly resenting you and cheering for you to fail. It doesn't happen overnight, but the seeds are planted whenever you make a life-altering decision that removes the parasites from being the center of your existence.

GET AWAY from these black holes of negativity. Just because you have a lifetime of shared experiences thus far doesn't mean that they are meant to be with you on the next phase of your journey.

Let go of anger about ex-lovers.
Let go of disappointment about your family (we've all been programmed to believe our lives are supposed to be like the Brady Bunch or the Huxtables - not gonna happen, grow up and move on).
Let go of your expectations for immediate success.
Let go of being superficial.
Let go of being exploited.
Let go of friends who bring nothing to your life except drama.
Let go of friends who don't encourage you to be the best person you can be.
Let go of those who are comfortable with you being miserable.
Let of of those who have no goals or ambitions of their own.
Let go of your excuses. All of them.
Let go of feeling sorry for yourself.
Let go of expecting the worst.
Let go of those who won't make time for you.
Let go of confusing a few positive experiences with a legitimate friendship.
Let go of sitting around waiting for something cool to happen while the rest of the world continues to ignore you.

Which leads to the final law...



THE LAW OF FORCED DISCOMFORT

This means change. Forcing a change in your habits. Forcing a change in geography. Forcing a change in your self-perception. The reason a lot of people don't make it has nothing to do with their talent, it has a lot to do with their inability to take big risks in service of their dreams.

I've spoken often about how I left a great life behind in NYC to go to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams of being a screenwriter. CLICK HERE if you want to read that story

I also dedicated an entire podcast episode to my decision many years ago.

It would have been highly unlikely, if not impossible, for me to have achieved what I have so far if I hadn't left my comfort zone in NYC. The film and TV industry is not on the East Coast, it is in Southern California and as much as it tore my soul in half to abandon the culture and people I love, it was a necessary evil to accomplish a monumental good in my career and personal life.

If you want to make it in the entertainment biz, you've got to find a way to stand out. Regardless of what some will tell you, the reality is that you need to move to Los Angeles if you want to be a screenwriter, film or TV actor, filmmaker or do conceptual artwork for production companies. In fact, there's so many jobs for illustrators in LA as storyboard artists and so on that I wonder why so many are afraid to make the move.

Will moving to LA suck ass? FUCK YEA.

It will mean couch-surfing.
It will mean working really, really, really shitty retail gigs.
It will mean having asshole roommates who might lie or steal from you.
It will mean needing a car to get around.
It will mean having to deal with spoiled, insensitive, superficial jackasses.
It will mean spending a few years relegated to the very bottom of the social order.

This isn't just a Los Angeles thing, if you move to NYC and want to become an actor or a novelist or a musician or a dancer, you will likely go through the same crap except the subway in New York goes just about anywhere you need to be.

I get that it's not easy to give up the things that make our lives comfortable. When I first moved to LA I had to give up video games, fast food, living alone, cable television, clean bathrooms and a sense of security. I got up each day not knowing if I was going to make it or not.

Guess what happened? I wrote more in the first three months of living hard in LA than I had written in the previous SIX YEARS.

A good, swift kick in the ass removes our complacency and forces us to become something new. It forces us to evolve.

There are things we don't like about the world we live in. There are things we would like to see happen. I've learned the only way to change it is to DO IT ourselves. For example: I've long been pissed off at the treatment of African-American writers in the comic book and sci-fi world. Instead of complaining about it, I decided to get off my ass and make a documentary that showcased all the Black writers who've been ignored by the mainstream as well as fandom. I cherry picked the best creators I could find and interviewed them about their ideas and experiences.

Well, here's the result:



The documentary should be in the can by April 2014. I made that with a budget of under $1,000. Key words: I. Made. That.

The easy thing to do is sit around and complain. Anyone and everyone does that.

To get up and do it? Well, that's why a minuscule sliver of the population gets from Point A to Point B.

One of my favorite quotes is: "Adversity introduces a man to himself."

That shit is real.

There's no secret to achieving your dreams. It's hard work. Hard work. Hard work. Hard work. Hard work.

And then there's not being afraid to change your surroundings. Not being afraid of cutting off dead weight. Not being afraid to go out into the world regardless of the odds.

Do it.

That's it. No tricks. No cons. No magic potion.

Do it.

That's all there is.

B.