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10 Lessons Learned from An Evening with Kevin Smith

Director/Actor Kevin Smith at the 2008 Comic-C...

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(Sorry for the late post today, folks! Up till 3 a.m. last night, head buzzing with ideas.)

Last night I spent an evening with Kevin Smith. Well, me and hundreds of others. He’s written and/or directed 10 films, authored several books and comics and rocks the mic on several podcasts from his own theatre, Smodcastle. The Q&A lasted almost four hours. When he was done, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough with my life. Not by half. Here’s a few things I learned (or was reminded):

1. Be inspiring through your actions. His prayer before each performance is, “Be honest and it will be okay.” Also, be inspired. (Kevin found inspiration in George Carlin when he was 12, hired the great comedian when he became a filmmaker and later Smith took the stage himself.)

2. Be kind and generous. Kevin has been generous, sometimes to a fault. The podcasts are free and his childhood friend, Jason Mewes, is off heroin, in part because of Kevin.

3. Be funny. Loosen up. You should probably do more weed, too. Smith didn’t start smoking pot until he was 38. (Also It’s okay to pander to the hometown crowd as long as you do so ironically.)

4. “Don’t chase the puck. Go where the puck is going to be.” (Kevin loves the Gretzkys, Walter and Wayne.) Any writer can see the application to publishing. Mr. Smith is the DIY indie flick king considering he funded his first film with a stack of credit cards. Going DIY makes sense for writers, now more than ever. See the video link just below this one for more on that.

5. Use the whole stage. Kevin Smith‘s a big guy, but he shows so much energy. He not only has stage presence, you’ll be convinced he’s thinner than you thought and glowing under the lights (like the post-mortem Yoda and Jedi, though that could have been the bright stage lights.) I’ve lost a lot of weight recently, but I think I need to live louder and larger.

6. The work you do now prepares you for the work you do later. (For example, if I hadn’t written a particular short story a couple months ago, I would have been without a paddle when I got to NaNoWriMo Creek. See the post on The Back-up Plan and the Hyponogogic State for more on that.)

7. Don’t give the critics so much credit, especially when they make you feel bad about yourself or decrease art’s productivity.

8. Develop your craft and work on your dream. Kevin’s obviously very familiar with Malcolm Gladwell‘s reportage on how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master. I haven’t worked hard enough on my dream. I’ve let distractions and other missions get in the way. I can’t do that anymore.

9. Make friends. Kevin Smith is surrounded by close friends from childhood, but he’s one of those gregarious guys who connects with people easily. (I’m working on that, too. For more on that, see the post about my friend Peter, the Master of the Instant Connection.

10. Be as happy as you are smart.

That last one requires a little more discussion on my part, if only so I can make it clearer to myself. I listen to Kevin Smith at least twice a week and sometimes more depending on what podcasts he’s on. I thought I knew his voice so well, but I was unprepared for the effect of seeing him in person. I thought he’d be more cynical. Instead, we had so much fun because he had so much fun.

And here’s where the experience made me uncomfortably self-aware. I realized that I have often equated intelligence with unhappiness (and therefore happy equals dumb.) This summer I remember making a joke about hearing Journey’s Can’t Stop Believing. “For a moment,” I wrote, “I’m an optimistic idiot, too!” Okay, I still think that’s kind of funny, but the subtext is sad, isn’t it? Being and acting more positive costs nothing and would benefit me greatly.

Thanks for the reminder, sir. As a neurotic Jack Nicholson says to Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets, “You make me want to be a better man.” He warned us not to meet our heroes, but I sure wasn’t disappointed in mine.

Filed under: publishing

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