“a full day of hollywood, from the other side of the camera”



via matterhorn1959.com
via matterhorn1959.com

I took the weekend off from writing, and though I wanted to write yesterday, I had too much stuff to do out of the house to get anything done. I woke up this morning before my alarm, and I got to work as fast as I could, because I wanted to know what happened next in my story.

I think I have identified the complete three act structure, more or less, and I’ve also figured out how this story can loosely follow a Hero’s Journey. That’s not to say that I’m following a formula, just that understanding how those structures apply to this story will help me know where I am in the narrative when I get there, instead of having to look back a few thousand words and compare.

Last week, I thought I’d finish this up around 30,000 words, but I know it’s going to go longer than that. On the one hand, that’s cool because it means I’m putting together a much bigger story than I thought possible when I started. On the other hand, if it doesn’t all hold together, that’s a lot of words that aren’t necessarily going to see publication.

But I’m not worrying about that now. Right now, I’m enjoying every step of this process, and having a really good time as I level up my ability as a writer and storyteller. Even if this whole thing ends up being cut down by half or something, it will have been worth the time I spent writing it, and I’m pretty sure that, once it’s finished and I get some fresh eyes and perspectives on it, I can polish it up and ensure it holds together in the rewriting process.

This is a significant growth for me, personally and professionally, because as recently as two months ago, I would have been convinced that it had to be perfect and ready to publish right out of the first draft, when I know that only a select number of extremely experienced writers are capable of doing that.

So I wanted to share a little piece that I wrote today, because I think it’s neat. As always, this is a first draft and will likely change before it’s finally published:

If you go to Universal Studios now, it’s a full-on tourist destination. There are multiple high rise hotels, an epic shopping and dining area with a few dozen shops and fancy restaurants, and an actual theme park with thrill rides. In the 80s, it was much smaller. There was a single hotel, two fancy…ish restaurants (the train-themed Victoria Station, which was reachable by funicular, and Whomp Hopper’s, which was western wagon-themed for some reason) and not a single thrill ride. The entire theme park experience was just a few shows of varying quality, and the eponymous tour. A lot of people talk about how the world seemed simpler, and less complicated when they were young, and I think that could apply to Universal, but my clearest memory of it, the way that I can best describe it, is “uncluttered.” I’ve been once as an adult, and a lot of the magic I loved as a kid is just gone, and it isn’t because I’m older and know how all the tricks work; it’s just another theme park that’s too crowded, and the tour feels more like an afterthought than it did when I was a kid. But in 1983, it was amazing. 

When we got off the bus, the counselors met us, and we gathered in small groups around them. Carlos told us that we’d spend the first couple hours seeing the different shows, and then we’d reconnect with the rest of the group to ride the tour. We were going to all get our own car in the tour tram, which I thought was pretty cool. There were six other kids in our group, including the red headed kid from the previous day, and a brother and sister who were fraternal twins. I can see their faces in my memory, dirty blond hair and brown eyes, braces on both of them and dark summer tans, but I can’t remember their names. It was like Michael and Michelle, or Abby and Andy, or one of those precious naming combos that yuppies in the 80s did, like giving everyone in the family the same first letter in their name.

Carlos wore what would be an ironic trucker hat today, but was entirely sincere then. His Van Halen tank top was tucked into his shorts (and if I can step out of the story for a real quick second and just say to the kids today who are romanticizing how we dressed in the early 80s: no. Just … no. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.)

I did 2032 words today, for a total of 26505. I’d keep writing because I love where I am in the story right now, but Anne and I are going to a show tonight, on a date, like adults.

And this, which I found while I was searching for a title image, is too great not to share:


I really hope this all holds together, because I love telling this story.

do something kind for future you



This was waiting for me on a music stand, about a year ago, when I was doing a voice over job.

I’m part of a very small, private, online group of runners who share training tips, race experiences, encouragement and advice. We’re a diverse group of men and women of all ages (I think I’m one of, if not the oldest), but we all have a common goal: stay fit, and run more.

One of the women in the group, who I will call E, introduced me to this incredible concept about a month ago that fundamentally changed my life not just as a runner, but as a human. It’s an incredibly simple concept that anyone can apply to their lives.

Ready? Here it is: Whenever you can, do something kind for Future You.

Future You is someone you love and care about. Future You is someone who you want to be happy, and you have endless opportunities to make that happen.

This concept came into my life when she said, “I really didn’t want to run this morning, but I knew that Future E would be glad that I did, so I ran for her.”

I’ve often given joking apologies to Future Wil for eating too much spicy food, or staying up too late, but I never really thought of Future Wil as someone who existed, who was a person, who was depending on Present Wil to make his life a little easier. After E put it into context the way that she did, I could see and feel Future Wil come into existence. I could remember all the times I made myself do something I didn’t want to do, or decided not to have more ice cream, or not to stay awake too late to watch just one more episode of a show, so that I was rested, or didn’t feel nauseous, and regretful.

One of the ways my mental illness expresses itself is to make me feel like nothing matters and nothing is worth doing because everything sucks and I suck and everything is awful. One of the ways I’ve learned to live with that and push back against it is to recognize that it’s not rational, and to just get through it. But now I have this new skill to use that really helps me when Depression starts doing its best to wrap a lead blanket around me: Present Wil feels like garbage, but Future Wil doesn’t have to suffer because Present Wil is suffering. Future Wil is probably going to be grateful that Past Wil did his best to make Future Wil feel better.

I guess it’s a rhetorical trick, a way of fooling myself into taking the best care of myself that I can, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s a trick, because it works for me. I have a really hard time doing things that are just for myself, because I feel like I don’t deserve it for one reason or another … but that me from the future? That guy hasn’t done anything to me, and I should do my best to do something kind for him, like eating good food, or getting enough sleep, or getting out and exercising even though I really don’t want to do it.

Of course, the tricky part is committing to this, but I’ve been having a lot of fun doing it, and I enjoy the surreal silliness that comes along with the whole thing.

Some things you can do for Future You, to get you started:

  • Make your bed. Future You is going to love going to sleep in a clean, orderly bedroom.
  • Oh, you should probably straighten up the rest of your bedroom, too. But it’s okay if you can’t! Maybe Future You will help, after Future You sees how nice it is to have the bed made, and Future Future You will love it!
  • Wash your dishes. Future You will be so glad that the sink isn’t full of dirty crap.
  • Take the stairs. Future You will feel awesome because you did something that wasn’t easy, when you didn’t have to.
  • Get that toxic person out of your life. Future You will be so grateful that she doesn’t have to deal with that jerk any more.
  • Turn off Twitter. Future You is going to be so happy that you didn’t waste time arguing with that person you don’t even know.
  • Make plans to do something fun with someone you care about. Future you will get to hang out with someone you like, and present you has something to look forward to!
  • Buy Future You a present, like a massage, or a spa day, or tickets to a movie or a concert.

You get the idea, right? It’s so simple and obvious to me now, and it feels like something that I’m sure doesn’t come as much of a revelation to the smart people out there, but my whole life I have missed totally obvious things that were right in front of my face. Maybe some of you missed it too, and now you may feel like doing something kind for Future You.

Recipe: Vegan Applesauce Bran Muffins with Blueberries



vegan-applesauce-blueberry-bran-muffinsVegan Applesauce Bran Muffins with Blueberries

Because I posted this picture on Twitter and all these people were like HEY I WANT TO MAKE THOSE HOW DID YOU DO IT?

Okay, a few things before we start: this is just a basic muffin recipe I cobbled together from the Internet, with a couple of vegan substitutions. I didn’t make the substitutions because I’m vegan, but because I was out of eggs and I didn’t want to go to the store. Once I decided to do one vegan substitute, doing one more wasn’t that big a deal.


  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1C bran cereal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Hot Bran Cereal For Cool People)
  • 1/3 C applesauce
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1C almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 1t apple cider vinegar
  • ½ C blueberries
  • 1T flax seed meal + 3T water

Okay, a few things before we start: this is just a basic muffin recipe I cobbled together from the Internet, with a couple of vegan substitutions. I didn’t make the substitutions because I’m vegan, but because I was out of eggs and I didn’t want to go to the store. Once I decided to do one vegan substitute, doing one more wasn’t that big a deal.

Before we even start you’re going to pre-heat your oven to 375. If you have a convection oven, set it to 350. If you have a nuclear reactor, it’s going to be too hot, so find a regular oven.

First, make your egg substitute by mixing one the flax meal and three tablespoons of water together. Set aside for at least five minutes.

Second, make some fake buttermilk by mixing a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) into the almond milk. Let that sit until the egg substitute is done doing its thing. Put them next to each other, so they feel like they have to compete to be the best.

Third, combine the fake buttermilk you just made with the bran cereal, in a large bowl. Stir it all together so it’s mixed really well, and let it sit for ten minutes. Tell the egg thing and the buttermilk thing that they had it easy.

While it’s sitting there, you combine the brown sugar, the fake egg stuff, and the vanilla extract. Mix them up really well, too.

When ten minutes are up, mix the sugar stuff into the bran cereal and stir like crazy until it’s all combined. Use a spatula thing (available from Spatula City) to make sure you get all the sugar stuff out of the bowl you mixed it into. If any of the sugar stuff is left behind, it will attract C.H.U.D.s. I am totally serious and this is really important.

Now take the flour, and mix it into the bowl of cereal, milk, and sugar stuff. Mix the hell out of it because you want the moisture to be evenly distributed. Double check when you’re done. Is there any hell left in your mix? Keep mixing until all the hell is out.

Now take half a cup of blueberries and dump it in. Guess what you’re going to do? That’s right, mix it all together.

You have a bowl of almost muffins! Good for you. But don’t go high fiving yourself just yet, tough guy. Now you gotta put some paper muffin things into a muffin pan, and use a big spoon (I used a tablespoon from the silverware drawer) to put about 2 spoonfuls of batter into each muffin thing. I got about 10 muffins this way, but your total number of muffins will probably vary due to variations in weather, air pressure, time of day, the stock market in Asia, and how intensely your neighbors have recently had sex on the other side of your apartment wall while you were trying to sleep.

Your oven should be ready now, so go ahead and put the muffin pan into it and close the door. Say a prayer to whatever god of baking you think will pay the most attention to your plea.

It takes about 15 minutes at 375 in a regular oven, or about 12 minutes at 350 in a convection oven for your muffins to be all baked and ready to go. I recommend stabbing them with a toothpick, so they know who’s boss, and also so you can find out if they’re ready (they’re ready when batter doesn’t stick to them).

Put them on a wire rack to cool. Be really careful when you take them out of the muffin pan, because I don’t want to have burned the everlovingfuck out of my fingers for nothing.

You can eat them right away, while they’re hot, but they’ll be a little chewy. If you prefer them to be slightly less chewy, let them cool for about 20 minutes or whatever.

These have like up to 70000000 calories in them but they also give you superpowers if you make them right, so it’s a tradeoff.

EDITED TO ADD: I’m not a particularly skilled baker, so maybe this recipe could benefit from leavening, like a teaspoon of baking powder, or maybe some baking soda (because it would theoretically react with the vinegar) but I don’t know for sure. If that sort of thing matters to you, the Internet has answers and suggestions for you. Oh, and this isn’t gluten free, but if you use your commas correctly, you could give it away and be like, “It’s gluten, free!”

slips into the sea, eventually



grey-art-castle-by-wallpaper-beta-comThis thing I started writing a few weeks ago, which was supposed to be part of a short story collection, has completely taken on its own life, and instead of being a quick 3500 word thing about a single event, it’s become (as of today) a little over 21,000 words about the fragility of friendship, and what that means when we’re at that weird time in our lives between elementary and middle school.

I’m pretty sure that I’m in the middle of the second act, so maybe this will finish up in another 10,000 words or so. Once that happens, I’ll set it aside for a couple of days to let my brain get some perspective, and then I’ll go over the whole thing to see if it even holds together.

I started writing this because I loved Stranger Things so much, and it made me remember a bunch of stuff about the summer of 1983, when I was 11 years-old. It was the first time I had a real crush on anyone, the first time I learned that adults can be horrible even though they’re adults and they aren’t supposed to be horrible (especially to kids), and what it’s like to lose friends who are important to us.

Some of it is true, most of it isn’t, but all of it has been incredibly rewarding and fun to write. Today, I’m finishing up a thing is on one level about making a sandcastle, but is also about something else entirely. I thought I’d share some of it:

We picked up a couple of big, plastic cups and one of those buckets you buy at the supermarket, the ones that come with a little plastic shovel. Evelyn invited Brandon to join us, and the three of us got to work on our sand castle.

Some of the other kids were on either side of us, building their own castles. One group of girls was making something that reminded me of a big octopus. Dana and the CITs walked around us, offering encouragement and what was probably taught in their training as positive reinforcement.

“I think we should have a tall castle, on top of a hill,” Brandon said.

“Yeah, with a moat around it,” I said, “and some walls out here.” I dragged my finger through the sand a couple feet away from where the moat would go.

“Why do you need walls if there’s a moat?” He said.

Somewhere in my brain, the hours I’d spent playing D&D, and the days I’d spent reading books and modules filled with diagrams and illustrations of keeps and castles joined together and shoved a torrent of words out of my mouth before I could stop them.

“A moat only holds back a small number of foot soldiers, and is really only effective during a siege. It stops a coordinated attack from more than one side, if you only have a single drawbridge opening, which is good, but you want to have a large parade ground that surrounds your castle so your archers can protect it if an enemy breaches the walls beyond that. You can build parapets on the walls, too, and have an additional layer of protection from orcs. Also, walls prevent trebuchets and catapults and siege towers from easily getting close to the castle, itself. See, the inside of a castle can only ho –”

“Okay okay okay,” he said, impatiently, “I don’t need a whole stupid history lesson.”

I felt my face get hot, and I shot a glance at Evelyn. She either hadn’t heard us or wasn’t paying attention, as she built up a small mound of sand in front of her.

“Sorry,” I said, quietly.

Without looking at us, she said, “Walls look cool, Brandon. Let’s put walls around it.”

That’s from the first draft I cranked out today, so it’s still raw and will likely get rewritten, or maybe even cut entirely. But right now, shortly after I finished writing it, I like it and the memories it stirs up.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this thing, and I won’t know until it’s finished. But no matter what I end up doing with it, I have learned so much about myself as a writer and artist in the last few weeks that I’ve been writing it. I’ve developed confidence that I didn’t have before, and I feel like I have found my way back to the art, which is something I realized I’d been missing more than I knew. I’m trying so hard to get an audition for the next season of Stranger Things, and I haven’t been able to do it, even though there’s a character that I could play. As recently as a few weeks ago, I would be struggling every single day with the depression and frustration that sort of thing brings into my life, but instead of spending all this time feeling hopeless and adrift, I’m happy and inspired, artistically fulfilled, and feeling productive (where I had been feeling totally useless for a long, long time).