How to Make a Movie: Letting Go

It’s funny how what you want the most can also be what scares you the most.

Coming from a novel-writing background, I’m used to generating ideas, finessing them, and then presenting them as a finished product. In the end, I can stand by my story, confident I did everything I could to represent my initial idea.

But this way of working is very lonely and there is hardly any room to grow and challenge your ideas.

When I first met with Caroline, I told her that I was attracted to filmmaking because of its collaborative nature. I was excited by the prospect of writing a script with someone else, sharing ideas and coming up with something greater than either of our initial proposals. It was even more exciting to imagine how a director and actors would interpret our words. Beyond that, a cinematographer, editor, costume director, composer and so many more people would each have their input. I loved the idea of having so many creative brains tackling and developing one idea.

But once I got started, it scared the sh*t out of me.

I must admit I’m a control freak. In writing a novel, I get to control every last detail. When hosting my conferences,  I handle everything from the venue to booking the speakers to making the name cards. It’s taxing and stressful, but stress is my comfort zone. I have a deep belief that when I’m stressed, everything is being handled.

Filmmaking made me challenge this belief. It’s impossible for me to control everything and that’s scary. I spent hours scouring the internet, studying up on how to film in a car, the pay scale for SAG actors, and permits for location shoots. Each time I brought this information up to Caroline, she calmly said, “Dude, I love your enthusiasm, but I want you available to make creative decisions. These are all issues our line producer/casting director/so and so will handle.” And she was right.



Caroline, Monica and me at our first production meeting. 

For the first time, I’m working with a team, and I don’t need to do everything. It’s extremely difficult to resist the urge to research one more thing, but I’m forcing myself to let go, and trust that others will not only handle it but do it better than I would. I am allowing myself to collaborate and not let fear get in the way of what I want.


Please take a moment to like our facebook page for the film and leave a comment of support. It makes a big difference to know you care.

How to Make A Movie: Right Attitude

2014-03-23 15.58.32Practice saying this out loud: “why the hell not!” I promise this attitude will take you far in life.

As I recounted in my past posts about making a movie, I had a great first meeting with Caroline. I was taken with her enthusiasm and ambition. It was clear that we both had great ideas and we were both looking for an opportunity to showcase our talents.

A week after our first meeting I wrote to her, “I think we should just jump for it and make a short :)” That simple statement got the ball rolling. In a matter of weeks, we had a script ready and a crew forming.

It’s so easy to make excuses and convince yourself that you’re not ready, but it’s just as easy to say “why the hell not!” That attitude evokes a playfulness with your life. It makes you realize how pointless it is to resist your curiosity and excitement.

I’ve learned that once you commit to a project, the details take care of themselves. You can tackle the problems as they come. However, if you try to consider and tackle all of the intimidating details before you even start, you probably won’t get past that phase. Take the plunge because…why the hell not!?!

What would you do with a “why the hell not” attitude?

How to Make a movie: Announce yourself

It’s official, my friend and I are making a short film! If you asked me a year ago what I thought I would be doing now, I never would have guessed this. Life takes you on a bizarre and awesome path when you follow your interests.

making a movieIn my continuing effort to share what I’m working on while still keeping my posts helpful and accessible, I now introduce a series of broad lessons I’ve learned from the process of making a movie. These lessons are helpful to anyone who’s trying to make something bigger than themselves.

Step one: Announce yourself

During the last writer’s conference, I asked my audience if they consider themselves to be writers. I was surprised that most of them said no. They believed they needed the external validation of an MFA or a publishing career in order to use that title. I shared with them that my life was never the same after I started describing myself as a writer.

  1. I felt encouraged to write every day because I wanted to live up to my title.
  2. It was easier to invest in my writing career once I was a self-proclaimed writer. It seems crazy to spend $400 on a writing class if I’m a web designer with an interest in writing, but it makes perfect sense if I’m a writer with a side job.
  3. People started connecting me with other writers because they know me as the writer. This helped me make connections for my conferences as well as the movie project that I’m about to get into.

So, yes, first things first, let everyone know what you consider yourself to be and what you hope to do. I made it very clear to everyone I know that I’m a writer. For the last few months I’ve been letting people know how much I enjoy writing screenplays and that I hope to develop a project.


That brings us to the lovely Ashley H., who you might remember from when I dyed my hair purple. Ashley knew that I was interested in screenwriting. She also knew that her friend, Caroline, was interested in screenwriting. With this simple email from Ashley: “I really think the two of you should meet and discuss things!” we were off!  It was a match made in movie-making heaven.

Do you see how important it is for your friends to know what you are interested in doing? If I had kept my ambitions a secret, if I was too embarrassed to say what I wanted, Ashley never would have thought of introducing us. If you want to start an ice cream company, start telling everyone you know. If you want to put on a one-woman show, start talking about it now. After you share what you’re passionate about, you’ll be amazed at the connections that start popping up!

So what is your dream? What do you want to do that is bigger than yourself? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below!

Stay tuned for the next step in making a movie!

Life lessons from hosting a writer’s retreat

I know that not everyone has the desire to host a writer’s retreat, but if you have any desire to take a big risk, the skills and lessons are the same. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m making an effort to go into more details about what I’m doing and still keep it relatable.

In mid-January, I hosted my second writer’s retreat in the Catskills. This is one of my favorite parts of the year. I love being around other writers 24/7, sharing ideas, supporting each other, and getting motivated by the clicking of their keyboards. As enjoyable as these retreats are, the preparation for them can be a stressful practice in patience and faith.

If you are planning to take on a new challenge, here are some lessons I’ve learned from organizing this retreat:

  1. Commit Commit Commit
    This is the most important rule for any risk you take. If you try to do something new and out of your comfort zone, there are going to be challenges. There will come a time when quitting seems like the most obvious and sane choice. The only way to succeed is to decide that there is no quitting: you will do whatever it takes. Surprisingly, everything gets easier once you take the option of quitting off the table.
    Once I found the venue I liked for my retreat, I had to pay the dreaded deposit. This is super scary to do when you have no one signed up, but you can’t get people to sign up if there’s no venue. Once I sent out the deposit, I decided that I wouldn’t back down no matter what.
  2. Strike while the iron is hot
    For some reason, I thought it made sense to book my writer’s retreat one month after my writer’s conference. The conference takes about 200 hours to plan and market. It’s thoroughly exhausting. A week before the conference, I realized that I had no one signed up for the retreat, and the final payment was due in two weeks. I was in jeopardy of losing my deposit.
    My husband suggested I give a promotional discount for the retreat during the conference and let everyone know that it would expire by the end of the day. This seemed beyond ridiculous to me. My guests were already shelling out their hard-earned money for my conference. It felt greedy to ask for more money.
    That’s when I was forced to confront a harmful belief I had. I was thinking my guests were doing me a huge favor, rather than recognizing that I was giving them an incredible gift: my conferences and retreats are inspiring, informative and an incredible value. Once I accepted that fact, it was easy to announce the promotional offer and capitalize on the excitement and motivation I had already worked so hard to create at the conference.
    And guess what? Five people signed up that day!
    This is all to say, figure out when you can maximize your efforts and don’t let any doubts get in your way.
  3. Relax and enjoy the ride
    At a certain point you have to believe that all your planning will pay off and that it’s okay to enjoy yourself. I believe one of the reasons why my events are so powerful is because I am a writer and I give other writers exactly what I would want. If I can’t enjoy my own events, why the heck am I doing it? Passion projects are going to wipe you out. They will use up every last reserve of energy and will. If you can’t stop and enjoy the moment, I promise you won’t be able to sustain the passion.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Was this helpful? Leave a comment ’cause I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in joining the next retreat, send an email to Tracy [at] writerswork [dot] org, or apply here. I am starting to plan a week-long retreat for this summer in Long Island, and it would be a huge boost to know that people are interested in it.

*** Pictures provided by Josh Conrad. Josh has a blog where he’s tackling 25 interesting dares this year. You should definitely check out his blog and see what he had to say about the retreat! ***

Stop using this word

Are your thoughts bringing you down without you even knowing it?

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I was able to run for three miles without stopping on any of the major hills. As I was running, I thought “wow, I’m really surprised I could do that.”

On this run, I was also thinking about how surprised I was to make a profit from the writing conference I’m organizing and hosting (Next Saturday!!!).

That’s when I realized how much I use the word surprised. Using that word subconsciously implies that:

1. I didn’t think I was capable of that action, i.e. reveals low self-regard.

2. That it was a miraculous occurrence that had nothing to do with hard work and dedication.

Why not use the word impressed instead?

I was impressed that I was able to run up hills without stopping. I was impressed that my conference is a financial success.

Using the word impressed celebrates the hard work and success and implies respect and admiration for yourself.

It’s a small tweak, but it’s worth the effort. Words have meanings beyond their definitions. They reveal what we actually think about ourselves and the world. If said enough, they can change how we feel. Gandhi said it best:Gandhi

Today I challenge you to really dissect your self-talk and see if there are any words that are bringing you down. I’d love to hear which words you come up with, what you realize about them, and which word you are going to replace it with.

You are the solution

Two years ago I was browsing the internet trying to find a solution. I had hit a wall with my writing. I needed to meet other writers who knew what I was going through. I needed to meet agents and editors who could help advance my career. I needed to get inspired and motivated. A writers conference was exactly what I needed.

After researching several writer’s conferences, I realized a loan was actually what I needed. Most of them were upwards of $500. Plus, when I read the reviews people complained that the conferences were too crowded and the guests left feeling overwhelmed and even more anonymous.

That’s when it hit me.

I already had a lot of connections with the publishing world and I already knew lots of writers. What was to stop me from creating the exact conference I wanted to attend? Nothing!

So often we look for solutions outside of ourselves, ignoring our own resources and abilities. We forget that everything out there, everything that is well established and perhaps intimidating, started out as some person’s crazy idea. The only difference between a crazy idea and an established event is action and time.

Cut to the present moment. I am now gearing up for my third conference for writers. It’s small-scale (under 50 people), affordable ( $115-$160), and, most importantly, inspiring. I created exactly what I needed and I’m helping other writers in the process.

I’m not going to lie it’s been extremely difficult. I spend hours contacting potential speakers, putting together the perfect schedule, researching venues, promoting the event, preparing all the materials, and hosting. I spend countless hours on each conference and I’m still not breaking even. BUT it’s worth it when I get messages like this from former guests:

IMG_3217“This was the BEST writing workshop ever! It learned so much!”
“A fabulous, relaxing, well-organized event for inspiring, connecting and educating aspiring authors.”
“A meeting of writers and aspiring writers with meaningful speakers and opportunities to mingle and network. I felt invigorated and inspired by the day.”

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is give what you need to others. Never underestimate the tools you already have!

***If you are a writer in the NYC area, I’d love to see you at my next conference on Saturday, June 27. Use this link for 10% off! Please share this with any writers you know. For more info, check out my website.***

Top 8 of 2014

I'm exhausted after this wonderful year :)

I’m exhausted after this wonderful year 🙂

I’ve never been able to keep a diary for more than a week, so I’m amazed that I’ve been able to keep up this blog for over three years. It’s easy to forget how much happens in the year, so I love reading old posts to remember all the great times and lessons. This was originally a top 10 list but I parred it down because I know you’re busy 🙂 Here are some of my favorite posts from the last year:

  • During the busy holiday season, this advice is a must read.

Here’s what to expect from the next year of the HeSo Project. I’m planning to change the look of the site, so don’t get scared if it looks different in January. I can’t wait to write about the retreat I’m organizing this February in the Catskills (there are only 3 spots left if you want to join), the reading series, and the upcoming conference! I hope to have exciting news about my novel in the new year.

I hope the next two weeks are joyous and peaceful for you. See you in 2015!

I wish I took my advice more often

What if I told you I know a trick that can help you sleep better, gain clarity, release stress, lose weight and feel happier. Would you do it? What if this trick took at least 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week?

Even though I know this trick (and you do too), I rarely do it. It’s EXERCISE!

Riding my Flying Pigeon in Astoria Park

There’s nothing like a bike ride on a sunny say.

As a writer I focus so much on my brain that it’s easy to forget that brain is housed in a body that needs care too. Our bodies are meant to move. We come from hunters and gatherers. Our ancestors were running, squatting, swimming and climbing. If you forced our ancestors to sit in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day they’d probably go insane. Exercise is in our DNA, and when we embrace it everything seems to get better.

2013-03-06 13.25.39

Look at how happy Mike looks running around the sand dunes.

The crazy thing is that the very same excuses I use to not exercise are the things that exercise alleviates. I’ll say that I’m too tired, but when I force myself to workout, I feel more energized and I sleep better. I’ll say that my muscles are sore, but when I exercise, I feel them loosening up and the pain goes away. I’ll say that I don’t have enough time, but while I’m running I have wonderful insights and I’m able to get more done when I get home. Again and again, my writing practice is improved by my exercise practice because exercise teaches me the value of discipline, and the joy of finishing something I didn’t think I could start.


The joy of spending a week walking in nature!

About a thousand times now I’ve come to the realization that exercise is the greatest thing I can do for myself. I’ve wanted to write this post so many times but whenever I’m about to I slip into lazy mode and I feel like a hypocrite for touting the benefits of exercise. But the great thing about exercise is that you ease back into it whenever you want to. There is always some form of motion that you can start doing to get back on track.

So on that note, I’m off to the gym!

Google’s not just for stalkers

When I got my first email address back in the early 90s it was considered dangerous to reference any part of your real name in the address. We all ended up with email address like or When gmail started taking over, suddenly it was considered abnormal to not include your name in the address. The days of anonymity are not only over but completely replaced with full disclosure. Everyone is expected to have a professional website along with a social media account to share every meal they’ve ever had.

Now that there’s a digital record of you out there, it’s important to monitor it. I never thought I’d say this, but you should be googling yourself. In this day in age, the first thing people do is google your name when they meet you (or even before they meet you), and it’s your job to make sure you’re presenting your best self in the search results. To do this, you must make sure that the results are accurate, and, as it was in my case, they’re actually you and not some girl in West Virginia with the same name. Here’s how:

  1. Update your google+ account. google+While I loath the idea of adding another time-sucking social media site into my repertoire, especially one as seemingly useless as google+, the fact is google has the market on search engines, therefore they are going to give priority to their social media outlet over all others. Take a little time to post a good picture of yourself, and make sure there’s no embarrassing info on your board.
  2. Figure out what your public image is.
    I am a writer, and I host conferences. That means that my profile on my blog, on twitter, on LinkedIn and whatnot, needs to say those things. Be consistent. Even though I’m a goofball in person, I want people’s first online impression of me to be professional, so in all those platforms I use images of me during the conference. Make sure that your social media is presenting the person who you are and want to be. Don’t forget that if you don’t update your facebook privacy settings, anyone can see those embarrassing spring break photos.
  3. Keep everything up to date.
    After getting married, I changed my last name on my passport, social security card, drivers license, bank accounts, and library cards and just when I thought I was done I realized that I hadn’t changed my name on most of my online platforms. My YouTube page, blog and google+ pages were still under Tracy Young. Make sure you update name changes, job status, and interests. Also, if you’re using a picture of yourself that doesn’t still look like you, get rid of it. I remember meeting someone in person, looking them up online a few days later, and then thinking that I got their name wrong because the picture on their profile was about twenty years younger than the person I met.
  4. Make sure you include your name.
    If you want your website or blog, or twitter account to show up when people search your name, you need to include your entire name in the profile. It will also help to list your name in the tags for the post.  Nowadays when you type someone’s name into google, an image search appears as well. Make sure you include your full name in the image description.

If you have any other good ideas for amping up your online presence, please share them in a comment!