Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Takeaways and Nuggets

I read a blog post today in which the writer said he was told that every post should have a "takeaway" and a "nugget." I've been reading his blog posts for a while, and I kind of think they usually have plenty for me to "take away," but the comment made me wonder how my posts would stack up in the "takeaway and nugget" contest. What do people take away from reading about someone else's experiences? I wonder.

As I reflected on both my own posts and the other person's, I realized that what I take from his posts is not necessarily something he holds out to me, as if to say, "Here, take this." Rather, my "takeaway" is the meeting of my thoughts and opinions with his thoughts and opinions. I take away something, or store some "nugget," because something in there rings true, or gives me insight I might not otherwise have had. Only a strictly instructional blog post (and what fun would that be?) would hand something over that you could just take without thinking. Most of us, I imagine, continue to read because ideas strike a chord in us. If the blog post makes us think, or feel, or understand, then we bloggers have done our job--takeaway taken, nugget delivered. Which is not so different from any learning or growing experience we ever have--what we bring to the table is a huge factor in how much we take  away.

And that's the only nugget I've got I've got to give--at least for today. Go ahead--take it away!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Creatures of Habit

One of the biggest life lessons I have tried to teach my kids (along with laundry sorting and getting up before the cereal turns to mush) is flexibility--the idea that life is not necessarily going to hand you what "should be," and that you'd best be able to handle "what is." It's an ongoing life lesson, but one that I believe will be even more important than how to keep your white laundry from turning pink. (Okay, perhaps not MORE important, but just as).

Anyhow, flexible person that I am, so flexible that I am qualified to teach life lessons on the subject, I should be able to roll with anything, right?

Mostly, I have to say I am. Hey--I have juggled kids at multiple schools and managed unemployment with grace (well, at least sometimes). But what I realized this weekend is that all of us, flexible or not, count on having little things that stay the same, so that even if all around us changes, we still have things that are familiar. These things can be as simple as a toothpaste flavor or the pillow that we love, but some sense of habit grounds us in the face of what is sometimes constant change. We can roll with a lot, as long as we have something that isn't rolling. Sometimes, it can be important to fight for the little things, even more than for the big ones.

The next time I'm teaching "life lessons," I'll have to remember that. Because all the lessons in the world may help, but having something you don't have to learn--something that just is because it is--will make for much more teachable students. And a happier classroom and household all around.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tennis Lessons

I played a bit of tennis today with my family. Nothing fancy--just hitting the ball back and forth, and, given my level of ability, chasing the balls all over. I don't think I got any better at tennis,  but I did learn a few things...

1. You don't have to chase every single thing that comes your way.

2. There will be times when things are way beyond your reach. There's nothing wrong with stretching for them. But it stretching doesn't mean you'll get a hit. And it might make you a little sore later.

3. A little laughter during something challenging goes a long way.

4. It's important (and useful) to recognize other people's strengths (and weaknesses), not just your own.

5. Sometimes just getting yourself in the game is the hardest part. But it's usually worth it--win, lose, or draw.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shelving It

We collect books. Not fancy books or old books or cookbooks or some other special type of books. Just books. A lot of them.

Among the challenges of keeping a lot of books in a small apartment is having shelves to house them. Thus, today was a shelf-finding day, a day on which to find shelves sturdy enough to hold the books, but affordable enough not to make us want to throw the books out the window.

Success was not to be. You see, the intersection of sturdy and affordable is a tiny one, and is not an intersection we encountered in our travels today. Our overflow books will remain in piles and boxes for a little longer. But the endeavor was far from a complete failure. It began with hope and teamwork. Along the way, it included discussions of dimensions and spaces and types of wood. And it ended with the meeting of other household needs--needs revealed only in the process of stepping back to try to meet the bookshelf need.

Accomplishing anything often takes more than just following a straight path. But when we embrace the twists and turns, we discover that the journey was about more than just the straight path anyway. Which means we would miss out on a lot if we just shelved it.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Sometimes, when I am accomplishing many things, or learning something new, or just have had a good day, I feel very powerful. And then, I realize...

I may be able to talk about math homework, but I am powerless when it comes to making sure the advanced high school problems are correct.

I very diligently forward job postings and proofread resumes and give advice, but I feel powerless when it comes to making my unemployed friends employed.

I am fine when I comes to avoiding chips and dip and assorted other high-caloric treats, but I am powerless when it comes to chocolate or eggplant Parmesan or a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

I work hard to process the mail and the hundreds of new pieces of paper and assorted stuff that enters our apartment daily, but I am powerless when it comes to maintaining consistent control over the clutter.

I am very fast at turning around news video clips to go on the broadcast, but I feel powerless when I realize that I can't do anything to help the people and situations in the video.

I suppose the best that any of us can do is celebrate the powerful moments, and work on at least some of the powerless ones. And enjoy a little chocolate and eggplant along the way.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Time Is It?

For most of my career, knowledge of time has been a huge factor. As a Booth PA, I carried a stopwatch (the old-fashioned kind--round and silver, with a clicky button for starting and stopping and resetting), and was called upon to estimate the times of scenes, time the taping of scenes, add and subtract time, and know how script changes would alter show time.

When I became an AD, while I no longer carried the stopwatch everywhere, I remained time-obsessed. How much time would come out in the edit, how much time was it taking to shoot a scene, how much time would we lose by making a double camera move?

And, of course, when I have edited, there has always been the issue of "cutting to time," and delivering the final product on time.

Given all of this, you would think I would be acutely aware of time--at all times. And yet, this morning, as I was having coffee with a friend, I wondered at least once if I was okay for time for getting to work. Our conversation was so consuming that I pretty much lost track of time--no sense of (PA-speak) how much time we had used, how much was left, how long or short we were running. And that was a glorious feeling. As useful and satisfying as time management may be, there is nothing like losing all track of time when doing something you enjoy. Sometimes in life (not in PA, AD, or Editor land!), the best time management is about immersing yourself and counting on the time to work itself out. Not always the safest bet--you may end up with a lot of "post-production fixes"--but certainly one of the most enjoyable.

Oh, and if you're wondering, the time all worked out--the coffee was not cut short, and my arrival at work was right on time, no cuts or editing necessary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Live--And Other Successes

When One Life to Live did its "Live Week" (one of my favorite career experiences--ever) about fifteen years ago, there seemed to be some disappointment from the audience and the press that there weren't a bunch of screw-ups. Apparently, doing "live" well wasn't nearly as interesting to them as was the opportunity to see the regularly taped and edited professionals mess things up when they couldn't be edited. The thing is, we, as professionals, wanted to do things right. And through a combination of hard work and dedication, we pulled off five really good "live" shows, complete with all sorts of bells and whistles that went on virtually without a hitch. Or so I remember.

I think back on that week sometimes. I remember how exciting it was in the moment, and I also remember how great it was to live up to our own expectations, rather than down to those of the people who wanted us to mess up.

It seems that in life, there will always be people who expect the worst. Who almost delight in the mess-ups, who can't--or don't want to--anticipate success. As I learned during that "Live Week" (and honestly, have learned throughout my career), the people who get the most done, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality, tend to be the ones who think the opposite--who go into a possibly impossible situation and believe that it is possible. Who may start with the worst and, with hard work and dedication, make it the best. Who aim for success, because that's what they expect, not screw-ups because that's what other people expect.

As far as I can tell, most career--and life--experiences can have a little of that "Live Week" excitement in them. The question for us is--are we ready to make them not just exciting, but successful as well?