Years back when I was regularly doing acting on the stage and in films (small, small roles mainly), I knew an actress by the name of Ivy Bethune. (Her daughter Zina Bethune became a pretty famous actress due to the popularity of a TV show she starred in called THE NURSES.) Ivy was down to earth in just about everything she did. I can’t say she was a sweety-sweety type person. She just faced life head on every day I knew her. She seemed to have a different expression to cover most situations in life.
Don’t chase the Chinaman! Let the Chinaman chase you! This was her way of saying not to do all the chasing in life. Let life chase you a bit. I asked her for clarification. She said that if I were a gambler playing Roulette and I spread my bets randomly all over the board each time I played, the chances are I would lose my money for sure but much faster. However, if I stayed on number 23 and let luck chase me, 23 was bound to come up. In other words, it’s better to do one thing and do it well than flitting after a dozen things at the same time.
I realized what she was saying. Don’t chase your dreams so hard or you’ll end up with your tongue hanging out and getting nowhere—except tired, down and out, disappointed and sad.
At times in those days I would frantically send out hundreds of query letters trying to get acting and writing jobs. I got neither for the most part. I was chasing too hard. Ivy told me instead to be in a play, do the best job I could and hope the Chinaman would come to the theater, see what I could do and then offer me work. So, over time I became a big Ivy adherent and, in the process, became a full-fledged realist. I run from using the word “cynic” even though I agree with George Bernard Shaw the famous playwright when he said, “ The power of accurate observation is currently called cynicism by those who have not got it.”
Don’t try to sit on two stools at the same time. Ivy meant of course that it’s impossible to do a good job of having two answers to the same problem. This we face all the time in our daily lives. It’s called illogical thinking. You can’t do a good job of making a problem bi-polar. Try only one solution to any problem and you’ll do a good job of solving the difficulty.
Her BIGGEST maxim, as far as I was concerned, declared, “People many times are given the choice between a diamond and a piece of coal, and they’ll take the piece of coal every time.” I asked her why she thought that was and she replied, “Because people think the piece of coal is bigger and in ten-million years it will be a diamond.”
This saying of Ivy’s also turned my world around. In fact, it provided me with the theme for several of my screenplays, stage plays and at least two of my novels. Once I got to thinking over her statement, I found that so many times we are given choices in life. We then choose the least advantageous due to hype or faulty thinking.
I want you to realize how important her statement is when you look at what’s going on around you in your personal life. Over and over, I see examples of Ivy’s dictum in real life—not just fiction. Actually I think this type of decision happens more in real life than fiction.
My last blog was entitled THE DREAM SELLERS. I wrote about the people who were making money off the dreams of others. I then stated that blogs seeking to separate people from their money seemed infinitely more popular than those which in no way, shape or form tried to extract money from anyone in a real or even a clandestine way.
People are being given a choice. They can read blogs about writing and screenwriting in which someone professing great authority is trying to sell the reader editing sessions, reading fees, writing lessons, introductions and you name it. Or there are some blogs like this one that is operating as a public service and not attempting to generate money.
My blog in no way has any form of commercial undertones. I have over 35 years of experience in writing screenplays, stage plays and novels. I am merely telling some of the hard-to-take truths that I have discovered along the way. The only possible hint of my trying to obtain money from anyone is perhaps encouraging them to buy one of my books or see one of my plays or films. (If you buy a used copy, I get no royalty at all. So absolutely zero comes into my pocket.) Otherwise, all the information in my blog is FREE, FREE, FREE.
Your choice is between a giant piece of coal (a blog based on seeking fees of some sort) versus a diamond (know-how absolutely free with no obligation.)
Which blog do you think most people will want to read or believe or feel comfortable with? You guessed it. The Piece of coal. Why? Because for some reason toro poo poo always sounds easier to believe. Many people had rather pay for a quick fix to a dream than work hard to make their dream come true themselves. I know one psychic who charges $125 per half hour to help the dreamer visualize success with his or her screenplay. This soothsayer teaches her adherents that if you can properly visualize something, it will come true. Surprising how many clients she has.
This sort of choice isn’t just with blogs. We are given such options daily in every avenue of our lives. We have to stop choosing the coal each time just because it sounds more comfy. The truth hurts but that’s what makes a diamond a diamond.
I know in one of my stage plays HOTEL VIRGINIA (which became the film EDICT OF TERROR), I certainly put Ivy’s philosophy to work. Eight tourists are in Guatemala and are captured by terrorists. They do not realize they have been captured. They have been out for a day’s tour of ruins with their lovable guide Raul, who at the end of the day tells them that they will not be able to return to the capital that evening. He informs them the roads are washed out and they will have to stay overnight in a small, dismal bordello of a hotel called HOTEL VIRGINIA located a hundred miles or so from the capital. What they don’t know is that Raul is the major terrorist and he has given the US government until midnight to keep out of their revolution or he will kill all his hostages. The tourists are unaware of their plight and fuss among themselves over mundane things. When it finally comes to light to one of their number who Raul is, that person tries to convince the others that they must escape. Thus they have a diamond and piece of coal situation: To listen to one person (the cynic among them) or blithely to trust Raul (the large chunk of coal). Guess what they do? You’re right. They don’t listen to the cynic and they all get shot.
Thanks, Ivy, for sorting a lot of life out for me. So, maybe you, my readers, too would like to join the diamonds over coal coalition. I think you should.