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ACHIEVEMENT (aka, If I Can Do It So Can A Nutless Monkey, So What The Hell Is Holding YOU Back??!!)

June 21, 2011

Dreams.  Goals.  Ambitions.  Plans Of Action.  Reasons To Be.  Whatever the hell noun you choose to use to describe these things that drive us to try and accomplish what we feel will make us happiest in life, everyone has them.  Even the so-called “realists”, who will tell you that they’re perfectly content just doing whatever it is they’re doing, and will also swear to you that they have no talents whatsoever outside of the job they’re currently doing then lament that even if they did, they have absolutely no time for such foolishness as to actually follow said dreams that they assure you they don’t have.  *Sniff* *Sniff*…you smell that?  Smells like….FEAR.

Not a very horror-centric way to start a new blog for an extremely horror-based website, is it?  But since everywhere I look these days so many others out there are blogging incessantly on and on and on about the problems with Remakes Vs Originals (and yet, I may also do so in the future since I’ve hated 97.2% of the remakes in the last decade) or making Top Ten Lists about everything under the sun (again…I’m sure I eventually won’t be able to resist), I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could bring something new to the table just this once and if not at the very least entertain you, then hopefully at the very most, motivate and inspire some of you.

Now, if you haven’t guessed it from what I’ve rambled on about above yet, in my alter-ego world – where I’m the coolest kid in the ‘hood and characters like Hank Moody and Richard Castle pale in comparison to my talent – I am a writer.  A horror writer to be specific, and this is my very first of hopefully very many blogs for the one and only Green Machine himself, Mr. Frights.  But this blog isn’t all about me tooting my own horn (sadly, I’m just not that flexible these days) no matter how it may sound right now – this is to help motivate YOU out there reading this, wherever you may be and no matter what your goals may be, to say to yourself, “Hey, if this old dude with a dream and a smidge of talent can do it, so can I”.

See, I’ve known since 1986 after watching NIGHT OF THE CREEPS on the big screen that I wanted to be a professional writer.  Several people had told me prior to that that I should be and yes, even could be, but it took watching a genre-bending flick like that to make me realize it in my own head hells yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted to do – entertain people the way that Fred Dekker entertained the hell out of me with his hybrid creation that night.

Sure, I wrote tons of stories after that, spanning all genres, both for classroom grades and my own gratification. But sadly (for me) it wasn’t until early 2006 – twenty long years later – that I actually dusted off that dream and put my notebooks of nightmares, obsessions, and yes, even a couple of true, actual fears, to use for myself.  It wasn’t for lack of encouragement, that’s for sure.  So what the hell was it?  Was it fear of failure?  I’d say that’s the true answer to the Final Jeopardy question right there.  So if you’ve got a dream – whether you’re 16 or 96 – don’t be me, folks.

Well, I suppose I should clarify – don’t be me prior to 2006…don’t let fear kick your ass like it did mine for so long.  Since that time that I finally broke out of my creative shell, when I first dove headfirst into the deep end of the writing pool by reaching out to the lovely and talented indie horror filmmaker, Michelle Fatale, and told her how much I loved her short, DEAD LINE, things started falling into place faster than even I ever imagined.  A couple months later she had me reaching out to other filmmakers and actors/actresses and getting permission to review their films and interview them for her website, and not once have I ever looked back.  And while my career the last five years has spanned horror movie reviews, filmmaker interviews, co-hosting a weekly internet radio podcast show, monthly columns, and blogs – all for various websites, I’ve also written several short stories – two so far have actually been filmed (one of those that I co-wrote with and was directed by Michelle, THE CLEANER, actually won several short film awards), and I’ve even written feature-length scripts through the last few years, one of which is being shopped around Hollyweird (fingers crossed) as we speak.

So yes, while my chosen career is as-yet-unpaid, I know that eventually, my goals will be realized because I can see the vision happening.  That’s the important lesson for you for right now – you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t believe in yourself and actually see your vision happening in your own mind over and over on a daily basis, you’re just setting yourself up for failure before you even reach the starting line.  Sylvester Stallone wrote in his book, SLY MOVES, that you should “only choose a goal that – if you had to – you’d gladly pursue for free.  In order to achieve success, you’ve got to follow your passion.”  And so I keep typing away, visualizing my goals in between clickity-clacking away on the keyboard, making new contacts and friends along the way, and knowing (nay, BELIEVING) that every single day brings me closer to realizing my goal of being a *paid* professional writer, and eventually getting to point at the screen in a theater and screech out, “I WROTE THAT!!!!”  Yeah, I’m excited and giddy enough to do just that, and more…

So how can you out there, just starting out or maybe wasting away your talents for a lack of belief in yourself or what you may think is a lack of options, get your foot on the first rung of the ladder and start climbing your way up out of the slime and finally start achieving your goals?  Well, let me tell ya:

Two things right off the bat that have worked quite well for me…number one, network your ass off.  The internet is a wonderful tool that can be used for pretty much everything to your advantage, if used correctly.  Hell, just in the five years I’ve been pursuing this professionally, technology has evolved faster than a school full of mutants.  Horror-based websites are almost constantly looking for new blood to add insight to everything from movie & book reviews to columns to blogs to lists.  Search the web, find the sites, and see who’s looking for what.  If no one is advertising directly on their site that they’re looking for new help, click the “Contact Us” tab on the ones that interest you and see if they’re looking for anyone new.  Never hurts to ask – the worst they can tell you is no.  The best they can do is ask you to submit writing samples (always a good sign), then hopefully bring you into their fold so that your particular writing style can start getting exposure to a much wider audience than you would have had on your own.  That used to be how I did it, and over the years moving from smaller to larger sites every time, it has worked better than I’d ever dreamed possible.  So what happens these days?  Folks now come to ME asking me to contribute whenever I have time.  To be perfectly honest, there ain’t much out there that is more flattering to me and as much of an honor to have happen than that!

Number two – and I believe I said this in an interview Mr. Frights did with me last year and it holds true these days more than ever and is truly genius in its simplicity – JUST GO FOR IT!!!  You’ll never know until you try, and sitting around 70 years from now looking back and whining, asking myself “Well, what if?” just ain’t my bag, baby.  I’ve never been a drill sergeant, although I’m positive that I was a Pirate Lord (savvy?) in a former life, but for me the words “I can’t” are actually an ancient Latin translation for “PUSSY”.  Don’t be that “what if” person…if you have dreams, no matter how crazy your friends and family might think you are for wanting to chase after said dreams like a rouge firefly blinking at you in a dark field, get off your ass and make them a reality!!!

One last thing, and to me this is very important – never be afraid to ask for advice from someone.  Especially from someone you may already admire for their established work and/or who has already done time in the trenches.  Indie filmmakers, especially in the horror genre, are some of the most easily accessible, we’re-all-one-big-happy-dysfunctional-family-type of people you will ever come across in your life and firmly believe in the whole “The more the merrier” philosophy when it comes to bringing in new blood…as long as you have something good to bring to the table.  I can tell you from my own personal experience that the likes of Michelle Fatale, Dave Reda, Justin Lewis, Jamie Jenkins, Joe Flynn, Jeremy Benson, Jeanette Comans, and if I may be so bold, even myself, just to name a very select few, are more than willing to offer advice, guidance, critiques, anything else you may need a gentle nudge in the right direction with on your way towards achieving your goals.

See, through most of the 90s, I fell into a realist phase as well, which greatly hampered my forward momentum from high school and college.  But then in the last decade, folks like my lovely wife, friends like Michelle, and inspiration like my irreplaceable Muse, brought me back to where I honestly feel I’m supposed to be through tons of encouragement, love, and massive rib-poking to get off my ass and use my talent to get where I really want to be.

That’s when I realized that the main difference between dreamers/doers like me and my crowd and the realists is…fear.  Fear can never kill you…well, except in one of my stories ;)…so don’t let it hold you back even one more second.  See, I’ve also learned one more thing in the last few years – whether they want to admit it to themselves, or the rest of the world, or not (or both); EVERYONE has dreams and goals; just like everyone has at least one talent that rises high above the others.  Yep, even realists…

 

– Craig McGee

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