Anyways, if you make a New Year’s resolution, make it this: something small, every day.
A woman in Sri Lanka once told me a story. She said that the rate of malaria among the British in Sri Lanka during the 19th century was much higher than in the local population. It was the vases of flowers, she told me. In the British households, they found it absolutely necessary to keep beautiful bunches of cut flowers in vases. These vases of standing water happened also to be perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos. The British were killing themselves with a stubborn sense of aesthetics.
I think the only reason I’ve had the career life that I’ve had is that someone told me some secrets early on about living. You can do the very best you can when you’re very, very relaxed, no matter what it is or what your job is, the more relaxed you are the better you are. That’s sort of why I got into acting. I realized the more fun I had, the better I did it. And I thought, that’s a job I could be proud of. It’s changed my life learning that. And it’s made me better at what I do.
In Impro, Keith Johnstone writes that when improvisers try to be original, they fail. “Don’t be original; be obvious.” When you state the obvious, you actually seem original. Paradoxical, eh? Likewise, the more specific the feelings, experiences, stories – the more universal they appear. The trick is, what’s completely obvious to you isn’t obvious to anyone else. Many people can tell exactly the same story about exactly the same event, but if each speaks from their authentic point of view, each story will seem “original.”
“Maybe the human condition is best summarized as the constant and spectacular battle to veto one’s own programming.” - Winston Rowntree
The whole process of getting old—it could have been better arranged. But you do learn some things just by doing them over and over and by getting old doing them. And one of them is, you really need less. And I’m not talking minimalism, which is a highly self-conscious mannerist style I can’t write and don’t want to. I’m perfectly ready to describe a lot and be flowery and emotive, but you can do that briefly and it works better. My model for this is late Beethoven. He moves so strangely and quite suddenly sometimes from place to place in his music, in the late quartets. He knows where he’s going and he just doesn’t want to waste all that time getting there. But if you listen, if you’re with it, he takes you with him. I think sometimes about old painters—they get so simple in their means. Just so plain and simple. Because they know they haven’t got time. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t waste time.
I’ve always thought most book reviews are too long,” he says, explaining his truncated reviews. “People read the review as a substitute for reading the book, whereas the review should get you to read the book, ideally. The best for that would be very short book reviews; some are just three or four words long. A long one might be 10 words, but you try to make the book sound intriguing.
Nostalgia, from friends or from enemies or enemies pretending to be new friends is ever what will drag you back into old lifestyles and repeating old mistakes. “You used to be …” or “What happened to you, man?” or “For old time’s sake …” have been the preludes to a lot of regressive moves. We all know somebody we’re probably better off leaving in the past, lest we get ourselves into trouble.
Jeffrey Tambor’s acting workshop at SXSW 2010 and 2012
My friend @MattThomas tweeted from Jeffrey Tambor’s talk in Iowa last night:
Tambor’s morning routine: - wakes up and drinks a cold cup of coffee that’s next to the bed from the night before - reads for a half hour
Tambor: “You wanna have a good life? Work, love, and thrive with people who get you.”
Tambor: “If you’re any good, you’re going to be fired.”
Tambor talking about how he used to, in his darker moments, destroy his projects with worry.
His notes reminded me how much I liked Tambor’s speaking and that I never scanned my notes from SXSW 2012.
Regarding my personal time management, I also try to live by the philosophy that focuses on: ‘What did I do that was productive and beneficial in the last 40 minutes?’ I literally sit at my desk completing a task and ask myself if I am actually being valuable. If I have not done anything constructive or useful in the last 40 minutes, I am not managing my time well and need to adjust what I am doing to execute more effectively.
We hear “do what you love” so often from those few people who it did work for, for whom the stars aligned, and from them it sounds like good advice. They’re successful, aren’t they? If we follow their advice, we’ll be successful, too! […] We rarely hear the advice of the person who did what they loved and stayed poor or was horribly injured for it. Professional gamblers, stuntmen, washed up cartoonists like myself: we don’t give speeches at corporate events. We aren’t paid to go to the World Domination Summit and make people feel bad. We don’t land book deals or speak on Good Morning America.
Mixed [martial] artist Ronda Rousey was overseeing a group of fighters during a training session. One fighter, who was heavily favored to win was slacking off. Rousey approached the fighter and said that she wasn’t training to be the best in the next fight, she was training to be the best on her worst day.
A physical book is difficult. If you haven’t made one, it’s tough to imagine just how difficult it is. Every detail requires deliberation. There are many details. I will spare you an enumeration. But believe me when I say, if you think about them all before you start, you will never start. The rabbit hole is deep. The truth of any craft.