Write a Screen Play, A Story, A Pterodactyl

Phteven
Phteven

Have you ever wanted to write a screenplay?  Me neither.  But if you didn’t want to write a screenplay, have you ever wanted to write a story?  How about a short story?  Essay? A Tweet? A Haiku? Nothing?  OK, this book is not for you.

I figure only a subset of humans want to tell stories that are fictional outside of the dog eating homework genre.  But if you put your mind to becoming the next Stephen King, Steven King, or Phteven King, consider checking out the book Story (amazon link).  I was listening to the Michael Hyatt podcast and he listed 10 books that were most influential to him and one of them was this book Story.  Since I subscribe to Audible I thought I’d check it out eventually (I have an ever growing wishlist over there) and what I found most fascinating is that of all the books on Michael’s list, this one was less business oriented.  Unless you’re in the business of telling stories, I guess.

The power of the book lies in how the author grabs onto the demands of a professional story teller and pushes them into the reality of the job.  And then pushes some more to get them to hone their craft.  And then pushes them some more to keep honing their craft.  He made a statement that really got my attention [paraphrased because it’s an audiobook]:

The reason Hollywood is putting out the movies with the plots that it is putting out is because this is the best writing that they can find.  They would love more and better writers.

Now, please don’t quote me on that, but that was the gist of the sentence that almost caused me to stop mid-run and post the quote to facebook.  I believe this was a jarring first point in the book to begin digging into the craft of story telling in movies (and in part other forms of story telling).

After laying down his perspective so tersely the author leans in and pushes in towards how to fix this problem.  Along the journey he points out other issues like audiences not being able to follow, authors wanting to add in irrational or unexplainable twists, and the need to write characters just the right way so that the writer doesn’t over build something that will become a distraction or leave the audience wondering why so much energy was put into someone so unimportant.

This book is a great introduction to thinking through fiction, thinking through your audience, and thinking through story quirks.  If you find the analysis of stories, the analysis of the writing, and analysis of movies interesting, you definitely need to check this out.  It’ll ruin every movie you’ll ever watch 😉

Essentialism

What’s the most important thing you could be doing right now?  It could be reading this blog (I’m skeptical of that myself).  The book Essentialism (Amazon Link) is a focused book about the idea of doing just the most important thing. For now.  The point is not that you can do more things, but that you can do the most important thing and, as the author Greg McKeown says, “less, but better.”

What I found the book challenged me to think about, that I’ve wrestled with for some time, is really putting some grey matter into thinking about what I really want to do with my life and then actually cutting out the things that are not that.  Not to the harm of others, not to be ascetic or to be removed from the world around me, but to push forward in some way that will put a dent in history and leave behind something that is life changing for future generations.  I suppose everyone searches for those sorts of things (or maybe not?), but the book has pushed me into considering the opportunities or commitments I have said no to, I have assumed as defaults, or that have me unnecessarily trapped.  In short it has asked me to dig deeper into my thought life and sense of purpose.

So far I’ve basically come to the conclusion that I need to

  1. Work on discipline

I know it’s a short list, but the purpose of the book is to work on the most important thing.  Which is singular, not plural, and is required to be the most meaningful thing you could work on.  Discipline requires me to focus on less, but do better on the smaller list.  So I will try to be disciplined and then we’ll see how we go from there.

About the book: I really enjoyed this book and recommend you consider getting it.  There’s a lot of valuable perspective in the book and I think it will really challenge today’s modern workforce to say no more, but to get better work done.  It will challenge todays relationships to be picky about their commitments so that the ones that they do have are extra rewarding.  The audiobook is read by the author, and he’s quite listenable.

I’ve Been Reading a Lot Lately

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  Below is the list of books I’ve read since October, almost all of them have been 4 or 5 out of 5 stars.

The Power of Who [5/5] – a great book on the importance of relationships and their use in our growth and achievements as people.  There are people in your life that are willing to help you, are you asking them?  Are you settling for “what else” or are you striving for “what’s more”?

EntreLeadership [5/5] – Dave Ramsey has been known for his personal finance book, “The Total Money Makeover”, but this book on leadership in small-to-medium business is a must read.  Lots of insights into people, planning, and developing a winning culture.

How the Mighty Fall [5/5] – What if you could avoid leading a company into disaster?  What if you were able to turn a company headed for disaster around?  This book has a lot of good material in it and it may be just the awakening that some company leaders need.  Once they read that one, they should read “Great By Choice.”

Great By Choice [5/5] – This great book on what makes companies stand out in a crowd should be read by anyone in the business world looking to evaluate their own company’s success or failure.  The illustrations help make the points in this book and engaging research ties into incredible value for anyone who is looking for direction on how to improve their company and their company’s leadership direction.

Kanban [4/5] – This book is about starting up a “Kanban” or LEAN implementation in a software development environment.  There’s a lot of good material in here, but some of it went on a bit long for me [thus the 4 out of 5 stars].  However, despite needing to be a bit shorter in a few places this book is a must read for anyone looking to bring transparency to their software development projects in a team environment.

I’m also working on Lean Startup and Passionate Performance.  Reports on those are to come!

Read Alice In Wonderland

If you can read (and you’re reading this – so you have no excuse) and you have not already read Alice in Wonderland, please find a copy and get it before your eyes (or fingers) and enjoy the humor in it.  I’m reading it to Abby & Evie right now and its great fun.  You will not be miss-appointed.

Feeding the Addiction

My buddy Craig gave me another gift yesterday: Home Coffee Roasting.  I am officially going to be joining the ranks of Coffee picky persons [AKA: Snobs].  This book has color charts to compare the roast depth to your beans (I’ve successfully roasted a ‘moderately dark’ roast).  It also covers a wide variety of techniques, beans, regions that coffees are grown in as well as types of roasters and the history of coffee.  This book is cool!  I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m so impressed with what I have seen so far that I had to share.

Rich Dad Poor Dad

I just finished reading the book Rich Dad Poor Dad (Amazon Link). There’s lots of stuff to chew on in there. I didn’t get the impression of the book was about being one type of father or not, nor was it about being wealthy in the definition of “money out the wazoo.” Instead the real focus of the book was financial competancy. I disagreed with some of the author’s philosophy, but nothing severe enough to not recommend the book. In short my Christian worldview conflicted with some of his assertions, but over all the principles in the book seem sound and I’m really just left thinking about what I need to lear next. Not a bad place to end considering many books come across as having the answer. I definitely recommend this book and suggest that you give it a read through.

The book is very narrative and comes across more like you’re sitting at a table and your friend is sharing his life story with you rather than a list of ‘To Do’s.” Further, their is a recognition of your current situation. Rather than just saying that its time to jump out of your comfort zone and just do something he encourages readers to learn. I really like that. I’m ready to learn about lots of areas I know I’m weak in rather than just wallow in my inability. Being a self-starter type myself I found this book engaging because that is much of what the book talks about -> I’m not waiting for money to come to me, I’m not waiting to get filthy rich, I just want to take care of my family, my extended family as they get older, and be able to go visit relatives and take vacations to places I’ve never been. Oh, and it doesn’t recommend you leave your job, but be smarter with the money you make with your job.

One major focus is on assets. What assets do you have? I don’t really have any…yet. An asset generates revenue (by the author’s definition) where as a liability takes coninued resources. I’m going to have to look at my liabilities, see which ones can be trimmed and then start collecting assets – it’s just better that way.

This book gets 5 stars and I highly recommend it to readers of this blog.

Recommended Reading

Farley Farts is a book that Abby picked out at the Library. Being a good mom, Jessica let her check it out. I strongly recommend this book to help get more dads reading to their children. Sure it’s about an amphibian with gas, but since most guys relate so well to this I think that it’s a must read.

My favorite part of this book is actually when Jessica reads it. There’s a mild awkwardness about it that makes it a book that we’ll most likely be adding to our library 🙂

The Bourne Identity

If you read books, and you should, then I highly recommend the Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. I just finished it about 2 minutes ago and am strongly encouraging you to check it out at your library, buy it at the store, or order it at Amazon.com. It’s somewhat graphic at times but is very good in suspense, plot twists and frankly, some really good writing.

I have to go to bed now, but I’ll write more tomorrow. This is a quality book! Oh, and if you’ve seen the movie… it has only a few things in common: names. The plot is absolutely, completely, 100% different in the book.

Gluten Free Bread

cover
If you only buy one gluten free bread book this year (you do buy gluten free bread books don’t you?) this is the book. Our friend Krystal lent us this book and we’re buying it because the recipes are good, the pictures are tempting and I’ve gained more weight than Oprah in the 90’s! Sure you’ll have to buy some special flours, and maybe a package of egg replacer, but the bread that will replace your dry, tough rice bread will be worth it. The pizza crust recipe is great and tastes like normal pizza crust – I can have Hawaiian pizza without the wheat! I’m sure this is a shocker, but you can buy it on Amazon.com [and I’ll make a few cents in the process to help fund this site].

Oh, and in case some of you are wondering what I’m doing reviewing this book, I’ve got allergies to wheat, corn and your cat. I also don’t do well with lots of sugar. Yeah, I’m crazy like that.

Back To the User

User Interaction on the web is a critical area of study. Sometimes called UI, Usability and a number of other things this book is probably a good read for those working on web sites (not so focused on web applications). Back to the User (Buy it at Amazon.com) discusses the effects certain design patterns have on web surfers, how to conduct test, how not to conduct test and a slew of other useful things to help you design, layout and publish great web pages.

This book talks about things that would be difficult for me to implement as a one-man-show, but if I get a chance to work with a larger client this may be a possibility. If you’re in charge of a larger web site with a budget that allows it, do some user testing… but not until you’ve read this book.