About Mario

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mario Piumetti is a freelance writer of science fiction, horror, screenplays, and nonfiction. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Lutheran University and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. An avid music lover, his work is heavily influenced by rock, punk, and metal. You can contact him at mario.piumetti.writer@gmail.com.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The 5 Best Pep Talks

Being stuck with a day job at a gardening center far from anything remotely literary, I often think my life has taken a wrong turn.  This happens at least once a week, usually just before my weekend begins when I'm exhausted and vulnerable to negative thoughts.

I was out for a walk yesterday reading an article by Sara Benincasa about writers (or any artist, really) needing day jobs to support their craft.  It seemed to do the trick of lifting my spirits at just the right moment.  Benincasa's tone almost said, "Yes, you hereby have permission to not get yourself down for doing what you have to do to pay the bills."  And in case you've been feeling like you're taking a similar vacation to Funkytown - the bad part of Funkytown, the part without Cynthia Johnson - here are five successful individuals give you the pep talk you need.  I know their words came along when I really needed them.

Neil Gaiman

I'm a writer, so obviously those of my ilk are getting the first shout-out.  Gaiman's Make Good Art speech at the University of the Arts was so well-received that it was later published.  Unpretentious and with an almost child-like sense of honesty, Gaiman reflects on advise he ignored from Stephen King when Sandman became a hit: "This is really great.  You should enjoy it."  But at the time, Gaiman didn't enjoy it.  He couldn't when he was so worried about what his next writing job might be.  He must have had all the questions many of us would have.  How am I going to pay my rent?  How am I going to pay for groceries?  What if this is all a one-time thing and I've peaked?  I can't blame Gaiman for this because, as an artist, you've got to keep producing new material to stay in business, and I think he might have been worried that he wasn't as creative and action-packed with ideas as the public might have thought he was.  But the first lesson is this: Enjoy yourself.  Have fun with what you're doing.  If you're too focused on the bottom line, you're not focused on telling a good story.

Max Brooks

This is part two of a great interview Brooks gave at Mansfield University.  The whole thing is about an hour, so if you have some spare time, I highly recommend it, but fast forward to 15 minutes and 20 seconds.  Brooks is asked for writing advice.  He looks straight at the camera and gives the audience a no-bullshit answer: "if you want to be a writer, just write.  Don't worry about being a great writer.  Don't worry about being a prolific writer.  Just write." For Brooks, there's no substitution for the work.  A lot of writers say the same thing, and a lot of us think that's a lie, but it's not.  If you want fame and success and all that, fine, but the success will never come if you never do the work.

Bryan Cranston

Yes, Mr. Say My Name.  But in spite of achieving success with two television series - Malcolm in the Middle and the more critically acclaimed Breaking Bad - Cranston admits his only goal was "to be a good, respected, working actor."  For Cranston, like Brooks, it's about the work.  A lot of people say an actor showing humility is just an act.  Maybe, whatever.  I think it's genuine for Cranston.  Cranston gets it that you've got to spend years working boring, mind-numbing day jobs in order to do what you really want to do.  And don't feel like you've got to apologize to anyone else for that.  You don't.

Henry Rollins

If Gaiman understands the value of fun.  If Brooks understands there's no substitute for the work.  If Cranston understand working the job you hate to do the job you love, then Henry Rollins understands you have to be focused.  I wasn't very focused as a kid, and I've had to pay for that, but Rollins, having worked that day job managing a Haagen-Daz, knows that talent isn't enough.  If you don't have the discipline to work your potential to the max, you're just wasting that potential.  Yes, you could say that Rollins is a workaholic, but he has to be. I think he'd agree with me when I say that once you've hit your lowest point, or when you've moved on to better things, you never want to regress.  Success can go away.  I remember talking to a film executive earlier this year after temping for his company.  He'd actually just been hired after a period of unemployment, so he knew the boat I was in quite well.  And I told him that you can't experience a recession like this and come out of it taking things for granted.  Of all the people on this list, Rollins is the one I turn to when I feel like I need a kick in the ass.

John Paul DeJoria

I can't write this list without giving props to DeJoria.  The man went from homelessness to founding two very lucrative companies: Paul Mitchell and Patron Tequila.  Not only that, he got out of his predicament without sulking.  I'm sure it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but the way he's able to present himself with enthusiasm and diligence, even happily admitting that Paul Mitchell should have gone out of business on a weekly basis when it began, all of it leads me to one conclusion: everything gets better.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

National Novel Research Month

It doesn't seem to want to end, almost as thought it's achieved a measure of self-awareness and now has the sole purpose of driving me insane.  Of course, I'm talking about my research list.

National Novel Research Month doesn't exist.  At least, I don't think it does.  I've been researching for this book idea I got stuck in my head.  The idea's been floating around for about a year.  I've been doing hardcore research for about a month now.  And because I don't want it to drag on and on, I've given myself a New Year's Eve deadline, so I've still got about a month and a half to finish it all.

A lot of that research is history-based.  Looking at The Document the other night, I was surprised to find that the history section is about 130 pages long.  If each page yields three pages of fiction, I've got a novel right now.  But I'm still pressing forward like a maniac.

By my guess, I've got about 67 hours of documentaries to screen still.  Part of me really doesn't want to do it.  Part of me thinks it's just a little while longer.  Part of me wants to hire someone else to take notes, but the rest of me says, "You can't afford a research assistant, moron!"

I wish I could ignore job-hunting for a teaching post or a story analyst position.  I wish I could call in to my day job with a fake illness.  But I know I can't.  I think the only thing I can do is reserve the evenings.  The evenings are the one part of the day when I know I'm afforded writing time to myself, even if I stare at a blank page for a couple of hours.

Shit, I guess it really does come down to that, huh?  Slow down and be the tortoise when I'd rather be the hare?  I'm rambling out loud, of course.  Or in writing.  Or whatever the bloody equivalent of stream of consciousness is.

All I can really think of right now is how in over my head I'm feeling.  67 hours.  Even at only two hours a day, I can meet my deadline, but geez, it seems like such a hill to climb.  If I do get through it, I swear my New Year's resolution will be to set aside a day and veg out.

Friday, November 13, 2015

I'm Breaking Up With Facebook (Sort Of)

For a while now, I've been wondering whether or not it's worth having a writer's page on Facebook.  It was originally started because I thought my friends were getting sick and tired of seeing me link blog posts on my personal page.  Basically, it was intended to keep separate my writing life from my personal life on Facebook.  Or something.

But the fact is that the Facebook page no longer interests me.  I've done nothing with it for at least a month.  It's stagnating and I often ask, "What's the point?"

So let me just put it out there and get to the point: my Facebook page is slated for deletion, and should be gone in about two weeks (around November 27th).

I got the idea for a writing Facebook page in an edition of Writer's Market a few years back.  It had an article on how writers can best use social media.  Twitter was the go-to method of quick social engagement with audiences.  Blogs are how you showcase yourself like the ladies do in Amsterdam's red-light district.  But the Facebook page?  I never quite grasped it.  I just assumed it had to be done.

Here I am three years later, and the only activity I do on the page is when a new blog post goes up.  The torrent of activity has all but died, and I felt bad about it, almost guilty, like a fellow who should take his grandmother off life support but can't seem to justify it.

Seeking a solution to my issue, I stumbled across this Huffington Post article tonight.  In a nutshell, you don't need a Facebook page.  It's really aimed for people with a considerable following.  Hundreds at the least.  Thousands for sure.  Millions?  Well, if you've got millions of fans and still question the need for such a page, then you need your head checked.

Tech Dependency Sucks

My computer froze.  Nothing, not even the cursor on my track pad responded.  This has happened a few times in the last month, so I hold down the power button, let it cut off, and tried rebooting the machine.  I have a Macbook, so usually there's a progress bar during start-up before I log in with my name and password...only two and a half hours later, I still waited for the computer to ask me for this info.

I got my Macbook midway through grad school, around 2009 or 2010.  There have been just three major repairs needed in the last year or two.  The first was when the display started to deteriorate.  The second was a battery swap.  Today, the technician told me it was time for a hard drive transplant.  Virtually all of my files are on Dropbox.  He hooked up my computer to his store-provided laptop so I could email myself a few files that I absolutely needed.  Half an hour later, I was upgrading my operating system (they reverted me to Mavericks; I've been working with Yosemite), and then I realized that Microsoft Word and Excel hadn't survived the transplant.  These are among my most frequently used programs.  Almost all of my files are from one or the other, so all I can really do is write notes on Google Docs and hope I can borrow my brother's copy tomorrow when I see him.

But what really bothered me about all this is that it brought to home how utterly dependent I am on technology.  I like to brag about how I can unplug.  A couple of times, I've thought about chucking my laptop to the trash and getting a typewriter.  Yeah, that's it.  Hammering out stories like Hemingway used to do it.  Old school.  That's the real shit.

Romantic as this is, it's impractical.  I mean, when you unplug, you start to realize just how just about everything you do is reliant on computers.  Want to submit a story to a magazine?  Most take submissions online only these days.  Need to get a manuscript to a friend across the country for feedback?  Email's the fastest and surest way.  Did your manuscript get lost or destroyed?  Print out a fresh copy.

From where I'm sitting, the sad fact is that you're not nearly as productive on a typewriter as you are on a computer.  Now you can make some arguments against that.  I was surprised when George R.R. Martin told Conan O'Brien that he writes on an old DOS computer.  I didn't even know those computers were still around.  But Martin's essentially doing what I've just described with the exception that his manuscript can be saved.

Part of me would love to get my hands on a Smith Corona or an Olivetti typewriter.  A mechanical typewriter works simply though a series of levers.  And before you accuse me of being too old-fashion, I've never seen one myself.  We had electric typewriters in my youth.  But the other more rational side of me knows it's about as practical as using quill and ink.

And so, I remain heavily addicted to technology.