THEMES: AMBITIOUS DESIRE FOR SOCIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, THE RISE OF ECONOMIC AWARENESS, EMOTIONAL TRANSCENDENCE, TRIUMPH, REVENGE.
GAMECHANGERS YOU CAN USE
Step Up Your Career Game in 2017 (Without Spending A Dime!)
When I meet a new person and they ask what I do, they are oftentimes amazed at all the different hats I wear to bring to life my numerous creative projects. It may not come as a surprise but no university taught me the skills I use to write books, create art, podcast, compose music, or strategize. To say that I milked my skillset from The Internet would also be misleading. My secret (that I shout from the mountaintops whenever I see there's a chance someone may listen) is CreativeLive.
Even if you’re not in a line of business that you consider ‘creative’ you can learn skills and concepts from world-class experts who curate and share what they know on CreativeLive to boost your earning potential.
Want a promotion? Gift yourself with some new skills. Step up your game. Open new pathways in your mind, and you will be, do and have more than you've been able to in the past. Learning and understanding leading-edge concepts will bleed into all areas of your work-related and personal life. You can even learn how to improve your communication skills and come away with practices and habits that work, immediately improving your interactions with coworkers -- and even your boss.
Do you have a business? CreativeLive offers courses on Search Engine Optimization, and Marketing & Strategy that will improve your customer relationships, teach you how to think about branding, and why.
Are you a student? Dive into the Art & Design, and Communication courses to make your presentations really shine!
I highly recommend this, I put all the CreativeLive On-Air Classes that look interesting to me on my calendar with reminders so I don't miss out.
If a live classroom experience is what you're looking for, CreativeLive can fulfill that desire too.
CreativeLive courses are taught by people shining in their field. You'll learn from people like Tim Ferriss, Ira Glass, Matt Halpern, Steve Renne, and other people who have forged a path in their fields (and in life) and want to share what they know. All CreativeLive Classes are curated and taught by the world's leading experts.
There are over 1,500 classes on Photography, Art & Design, Music & Audio, Money & Life, and Crafts. Whether your interests are in Music Production, Web & UX Design, Writing & Podcasting, Finance, growing your business, or enhancing your lifestyle by living a fuller life, CreativeLive has a series of classes that will tickle your interest and grease the gears in your mind. Check out the offerings at CreativeLive. Sign up for a free course or reserve your space for a live course -- the remote live online experience is excellent. Whichever you choose, I hope you'll come back to my blog and let me know what course you took and how you liked it. Sharing the products, habits and practices that I find useful with other people looking to break new ground and enhance their lives is a passion of mine and hearing about your positive experiences as a byproduct of something I shared with you is my favorite part of that.
I'm looking forward to seeing you in the CreativeLive chat in the courses online.
Phenibut—the mood-enhancing nootropic smart-drug (that I finally gave a try)
Phenibut just might be your new wingman (or wingwoman)
After hearing accomplished people rave about them for months, I found myself a reputable distributor and bought myself some smart drugs—drugs made especially (and with care) for my brain.
There were a lot of nootropics to choose from but I had a specific scenario which I was seeking to see if I could improve so it was easy to narrow it down to Phenibut.
As you may know (and if you didn’t you now know!) that I am the host of three podcasts, two are fiction—audio drama—podcasts. I perform these works—yes, I do all the voices—and I engineer myself. I’m coming to the close of my first year, which is to say that I’ve recorded and produced an episode of either comedic or suspense fiction every week for the past 49 weeks.
Some of those episodes are over an hour long. I have experimented with a few different methods of production but early on I realized that the best (read: most efficient) way to produce an episode is to spend a minimal amount of time editing so, unlike my audio drama brethren who record a number of takes then choose the best take to edit into the mix, I rehearse my episode and perform it straight through. I sometimes mispronounce a word, and when I do—just as an engineer would—I roll back to just before the flub, hit play then tap the red button to record to punch myself in at the point where I left off, leaving no trace of a break in dialogue. Over the year, I’ve learned to come in on the middle of a phrase with the appropriate inflection—you can never tell when you’re listening where I may have broken off to correct a mistake but it’s a better experience for me not to mess up in the first place. It allows me to lose myself in the piece and really get into the emotionality of what’s going on in the story.
Some sessions run more smoothly than others. That is to say that some days my reading is more fluid than others. I’m doing what I love so there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ day but I have wanted to feel more in control of my performances. Before many performances I feel anxious or excited. My general solution is to start off the recording session with a big fat glass of red wine… and then maybe another. Which works. It’s a lovely thing: wine. I love it. (You too, right?)
Here’s the thing about wine, too much turns my reading pear-shaped. After a few glasses I might as well hang it up. So you can see, for some of those longer episodes—or on days where I record more than one episode, wine isn’t a viable solution.
I’d heard about it mostly from people who were using it in social situations as an alcohol replacement—it’s reported to give that same calming mood lift and genial sociability that I could expect from a couple drinks. Since a couple drinks is what I generally have to smooth out my performance anxiety, I thought I should give it a try.
After reading literally a hundred or more reviews, I decided to place my order from LiftMode. Why? LiftMode had mostly five-star reviews. Repeated in each of the reviews were comments that their orders had arrived quickly—a big green check mark in my book. Some customers left video reviews on YouTube—yes, I looked on YouTube for reviews! I found several unboxing vids of LiftMode customers showing off their wares. The packaging was clean and packed with obvious care. Plus, the product reviews all seemed satisfactory—customers seemed enthusiastic about the quality of the products, and the consistency.
The LiftMode website is nice to look at and use. It was easy to find what I wanted, explore all their products and place my order. There is a lot of useful information on their website, and there’s even a little box on the side for customer support. I used that box to ask a few questions and received a friendly email from customer support within minutes answering my questions in a way I could understand.
Certain beyond a doubt that I’d found a reputable company, I placed my order on liftmode.com.
Within a few days a small box came in the mail. It was clean and undented. Inside were all the products I’d ordered with a receipt, a quality assurance report, and a scoop in an appropriate size to accurately measure the product—there was some love and appreciation inside that box too, I could feel it.
The recommended dosage for Phenibut varies but the range suggested is from 500mg to 2000mg per day. As with anything employed to achieve a result, it’s best to go with the minimum effective dose. Also, Phenibut has the potential to achieve two effects: nootropic and calming. A larger dose might feel nice but I didn’t want to be too relaxed in my performance, or succumb to the irresistible urge to take a mid-afternoon nap in the sunshine.
I dosed 500mg of Phenibut Free Amino Acid.
After about 40 minutes I was sure that I was feeling a subtle improvement in my mood but I didn’t experience the other effects I’d read about. I decided to dose larger the next time.
The following day I dosed 750mg of Phenibut … and recorded an episode straight through without stopping once to punch myself in.
I was mind-blown.
My read was flawless.
But the thing that impressed me the most was this: the performance had been effortless.
I’ll continue to experiment with my dosage. It may be that 750mg isn’t even my sweet-spot. We shall see. I’ll keep you posted.
I’ve heard about Phenibut being helpful to people in social situations and I can personally attest that it is helpful in performance situations too. I tried it again, and again I was able to replicate that same effortlessness in my work.
Generally I need to intensely focus to maintain the high-quality concentration required to read long passages aloud without making errors, simultaneously imparting the appropriate emotion and vocal inflection in my narration to keep the listener engaged and be hyper-aware of which of the characters is speaking and about to speak—each character has his or her own cadence and dialect, and I have to keep them clear so that the listener always knows who is speaking. It takes a tremendous amount of focus to do all that while at the same time listening to myself—keeping an ear out for mispronunciations or words spoken too low… there’s more, but you get the idea.
For me to flow effortlessly through an entire episode without stopping seemed like a dream. When I’d reached the end of the recording, the pessimist in me said, “Yeah, but listen back to it and see if you actually did such a great job.” Of course, you’ve heard of the writer or painter who got into some powders or a bottle of good wine and created a masterpiece only to discover the next day that their masterpiece was a piece of sh*t —LOL — hey it happens to the best of us. But guess what?
The next day it was still a masterpiece.
No matter what it is you do throughout your days and nights, I encourage you to give this a try and compare your results experientially. If you paint gnomes for a living, or are a writer like me, or any type of performer certainly—if you do anything that you feel could be easier with enhanced confidence, focus, or cognition, I hope you will give LiftMode’s Phenibut a try. You can buy a sample — which itself will give you between 2-10 doses (depending on the effect you want to achieve) — for less than $5. Here’s the link.
As with anything, read the guidelines, ask questions if you don't understand something; use it responsibly—and if you try it, let me know about your awesome experience.
Something to consider: Phenibut is available in capsules and bulk powders. If you don't have a .001 gram scale at home and do not plan to invest in one, I suggest choosing the capsules. As you experiment to find your most beneficial dose, you'll want to know exactly how much you're taking so that you can replicate your results once you hit your sweet spot. You don't want to be guessing about what that is — after all, this isn't iced tea mix we're talking about, these are nootropics. The scoop included is helpful but it's a measurement of volume and can at best provide an approximate range of the amount of product in the scoop, and there will always be variations depending on how densely you pack the powder into the scoop and how high you're piling the powder upon the scoop: no scoop can provide you with an accurate measurement the way a scale can. Capsules have the additional benefit of being easy to transport for travel and to consume on the road should you wish to do so. They are also more discreet. The quality of your experience will be the same no matter which you choose. Bulk powder has the advantage of being administered sublingually, which means that you won't have to wait for 30 minutes for the capsules to dissolve in your belly. If you're a mad scientist like me and you do want a scale, consider this one.
And if you'd like to take a listen to my fiction podcasts, here they are: The Mollyville Dystopian Suspense Audio Drama Podcast and my award nominated Afterlife Paranormal Audio Drama Podcast — Afterlife is nominated for multiple awards, including Best New Original, Long Form, Small Cast, Ongoing Production and Best Writing of a Fan/Adaptation Production. At the time of this posting the polls are still open. Here's the link if you'd like to cast a vote for me. Whether you choose to vote or not, I hope you'll take a listen. It's a deep little podcast, and darkly funny so I'm told. If you like what you hear, please tell a friend who you think would appreciate it and let me know you're listening. I always appreciate a hello. You can find me on twitter at @maxximillian.
RAVES & REVIEWS
I GOT 999 FACES BUT A HERO AIN’T ONE: GAMECHANGING MUST-READS FOR FICTION WRITERS
Ever since I began calling myself a writer, people have recommended that I read The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. I use the word ‘recommended’ here loosely as there have been a wide range of indignant attitudes evoked by my not having already read the book—on account of me being a writer—with one uppity literati telling me:
“Until you read that book, you’re not really writing… You think you are, but you’re not.”
This came (of course) from a man who had written (you guessed it) ZERO books himself—typical, right? That exchange might have bothered me a bit more than it did were his psychology not so glaring: he considered himself a great writer—at least one superior to me—because he’d read The Hero with a Thousand Faces. (Obvious and utter caca, but I believed in his belief of what he was saying.)
Well even if it could have been true, it sure ain’t anymore because after two years of enduring supercilious sneers, insistent cajoling and (in the one case) outright contempt, I have finally read the book!
I’m happy to report that it was interesting, but it was not the gamechanger that for all these years writers and academics have promised it would be.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces reminds me of another book, a book that actually was—and still is—a gamechanger for me, The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri.
The Art of Dramatic Writing gave me a new way to think about my characters.
More than just insightful observations pointed to in a specific scene of an ancient film or play, in The Art of Dramatic Writing, Egri discusses what elements of the character (personal prejudices, background, immediate wants/needs) are active in the scene and how those motivations that I mentioned (upbringing, etcetera) influence that character’s actions.
In a later chapter, Lajos takes this discussion a step further by playing out how the writer might construct a life (from scratch!) that arrives at its dramatic end bit by bit, choice by choice, so that the entire series of actions/inactions that get our protagonist strung up, excommunicated, suffocated, blanched, dried, and eaten as snacks are understandable because we’ve come to know his character and witness his shortcomings.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE TAKE-AWAYS FROM THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING IS THAT WHEN THE MOTIVES FEEL REAL EVEN THE UNLIKELY SMELLS AUTHENTIC.
For example, in Romeo & Juliet there is all this drama with Romeo killing himself since he can’t be with Juliet.
We get it, he’s hurt and their families both suck but we accept his resignation of life because he has come to the conclusion that his life without someone to love isn’t worth living, and we believe that he feels that way because at the very beginning of the play when we first meet him, what is he doing?
Fucking skulking around, kicking rocks, with his head hanging down because he’s sad about some bitch named Rosalind! I know, I know… Are you like, who the hell is Rosalind?!
I was too.
We’re made to quickly forget about Rosalind because Romeo—like the fickle man-child he is—forgets about Rosalind the instant he lays his fuck-boy eyes on Juliet. (A fuck-boy is the worst kind of guy, or at least one who represents the worst trends of the present moment—an excellent definition from Slate.com)
Romeo has entitlement issues, is impetuous, reckless and self-destructive—if he were alive today, he’d probably be on antidepressants and bipolar meds.
But there wasn’t any Vortioxetine in Shakespeare's day and I’m guessing talk-therapy wasn’t popular, so he might have been feeling really bunched up; suicide might’ve looked like the only relief to someone like him.
Even if you don’t know anyone who would intentionally take poison then lay down next to his girlfriend to die, it’s believable that mad-at-the-world, spit-in-your-eye, crazy-in-love Romeo would do exactly that.
Remember: Romeo party-crashed the Capulet’s dinner party, even though they had threatened his life, just to see Rosalind—who didn’t even like him!—damn reckless. Who does that? People who want to die, that’s who.
Shakespeare's Romeo is an angry, self-destructive guy who uses his unrequited love as an excuse for the ultimate lashing out at his family. Seeing him as he is—a jilted, self-destructive, unattainable tail-sniffer, self-proclaimed bad-luck-having guy—it’s a believable leap from self-pity to defiance to suicide.
Romeo & Juliet is a well constructed play with characters so well-formed that even their wildest actions seem believable.
Lajos Egri addresses the why and the how in The Art of Dramatic Writing.
I’d hoped that The Hero with a Thousand Faces would show me a new way to think about the elements of a hero’s journey through a story in the same way that The Art of Dramatic Writing expanded my awareness to include universal parallels in character and motivation.
It did not.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces is interesting reading, but if you’re a writer looking to enhance your own writing with the superpowers you can only get from reading well-written books on the craft, I recommend these books instead:
• The Art Of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
• The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The serious business of writing comedy by Steve Kaplan
• Writing Blockbuster Plots: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Plot, Structure, and Scene by Martha Alderson
Just a few words on Martha Alderson—All of her books are thoughtful and helpful. She’s active on twitter, and inspires a great online community of friendly writers that participate in her motivational online book-writing events like PlotWriMo.
I’ve read and own maybe twenty (maybe 50!) books on writing.
Some focus on a specific aspect of writing—say, creating a character, and others illustrate the finer points in the long-game of creating fictional worlds, or how to realistically kill a character with various poisons, I could go on… My point here is: I love to read, and I love to read about writing BUT (and I don’t think I’m alone in this) I only like reading books that leave me with tools that I can use to hone and polish my own lump of quartz, you know?
I’m a book nerd, not an information perv who gets her rocks off on familiarity with literature alone.
I like to read shit that helps me do my shit better. That’s the shit I like best.
By the way, if you prefer more interaction to books or want to spike your experience with something IRL, both Martha Alderson and Steve Kaplan offer consultations, writing events and courses on writing.
If you want the straight dope right this minute, these videos of Steve Kaplan sharing his insights on crafting a compelling comedy, the business of writing, and his tips on storytelling—that are helpful in any genre—will flip your wig back.
In closing, dear writers, and lovers of books of words on the writing of words, it is my hope that these tips are helpful. And with that, I’m off to work on my latest novel.
P.S. Have you been listening to my fiction podcast? If so, consider writing me an iTunes review — here’s the link.
If you haven't heard any episodes yet, here’s a great place to start, it’s Ep 011 Popping Bottles—my favorite episode so far.
The story here picks up with the female protagonist, Karen, a newly minted Hollywood celebrity that after years doggedly pursuing her dreams has finally become rich and famous.
In this episode, Karen has accepted a bribe and used her celebrity status to get invited into a popular rap mogul’s Beverly Hills garden party. As it turns out, for Karen, there’s not much to celebrate.
The Afterlife Podcast is serialized fiction based on my book AFTERLIFE, available on Amazon.
The Afterlife Paranormal Satire Audio Drama is an award-nominated audio drama that chronicles the afterlife of Jimmy Jennings who wakes up dead in Los Angeles in 2026 to discover that he's still "here". This irreverent look at life after death is based on the book Afterlife, a paranormal satire. Read the first 7 chapters free (see below) and if you like what you read, consider buying a copy to support the author—that's me!—your financial support makes it possible for me to continue writing stories and creating audio dramas, which I give to the world free.
Subscribe to Maxximillian Presents: Thematic via Email
A Podcast For Smart Curious People
Maxximillian Presents: Thematic is a journalism-based storytelling podcast featuring listener-themed stories. Each episode features an interview with a creator, innovator, writer, artist or scientist. A musical feature from a unique musical group, solo artist, or musician ranging in style from classical to funk is presented in each episode to shine a light on Maxximillian's favorite—sometimes obscure—musical discoveries.