December 7, 2011

so sassy, so classy

Twelve Days of Writing No. 3: Persevere.

How many times have you tackled a project you thought would be easy, but it turned into something much more complicated? Did you want to quit? Did you?

I find myself in this situation constantly. I start something I hope will be fun, and I end up putting more time and energy into it and stressing out. But in the end, it is almost always worth it.

Here is a recent example of perseverance getting me through a rough patch. (Settle in, this one is a doozy.)

In September I made mushroom ravioli from Twilight for Reading in the Kitchen. In my blog post, I mentioned the wine I drank while eating it. I heard back from the wine company, who liked my description of their product, and we have maintained a casual correspondence via Twitter. I appreciated their kind feedback, but thought little more of it.

One month later, I received a Tweet from them encouraging me to enter a video contest on their website. The challenge was to create a fun and creative video in two minutes or less showing how to make a new drink recipe using their wine. The prize is a trip for two to Las Vegas, and I was sold. I forged a partnership with my sister and we were ready to go.

We expected to invest a couple of hours writing a script, storyboard, ordering costumes and shooting, editing and posting the video. We were creative and motivated enough to win this thing, so why not?

That's not how it turned out. I can't even quantify how many hours we each spent on this video, but it was not pretty. We hit frequent roadblocks, and more than once we wanted to give up. But we did not, and we overcame them.

Yes, our story board is four pages long. And yes, I know I am
an awesome artist. Thank you.
Here's what happened:
Writing the story board and script went well enough. I took crash courses in screenwriting and videography in college, so I had an idea of what directions to include to make the process easier for shooting and editing. My sister and I had a clear vision of what story we wanted to tell, and it all came together easily. I even managed to incorporate the "so sassy" and "so classy" from my original blog post, which I liked.

Then, we tried a few drink recipes. We researched what mixes and alcohols might best enhance a white Riesling. Then we went to work using our mixology skills and found one we both agreed was delicious.

So far, everything seemed easy. No wonder we thought everything else would be easy. It wasn't.

Problem No 1: Costumes
We ordered costumes, which were necessary to tell our story, about one week before our video shoot. When they arrived, my costume was fine, even if a little short, but my sister's was the wrong size. We only had a few days until the shoot and were worried a replacement might not come in time.

Solution: We immediately contacted the seller, requested they send a new one and followed up until it arrived. As a backup plan, we knew of a costume store about an hour away that might have something for her to wear. Fortunately, it made it with little time to spare.

My sister, right, and I so sassy and classy
in our video shoot costumes.
Problem No. 2: Video equipment
Fortunate as we were to have a couple of people willing to provide equipment for us to film with, we were limited with what we had. The camera we used was analog, which meant we would not be able to directly upload it to a computer. It also did not have a very good microphone, its own lighting or a tripod.

Solution: We used one of my dad's work lights for lighting, kept the camera close and spoke loudly for sound and built our own tripods using boxes and tubs. The video quality will by no means earn us an academy award for cinematography, but it got the job done.

Problem No. 3: Uploading
We had to order a special cord to upload the video to a computer. Once we received the cord, we realized it needed yet another cord. Fortunately, a local tech store carried it. Next we had trouble installing the software. Once we solved that, we discovered that the cord we purchased did not directly transfer sound. To get the audio on to the computer, we had to hold the camera up to the computer's microphone and transfer it that way. This did not help the already poor sound quality, but after hours of time already spent, we had to move on. Once we uploaded it to my sister's PC, we tried for hours to transfer it to a Mac, but gave up when it would have cost even more money to purchase the software. We realized we would have to edit on the PC and learn how to use its software.

Solution: Trial and lots of error, my friends. Trial and error.

Problem No. 4: Editing
It took us five hours to break down our multi-shot video into shorter clips, arrange them, sync them to royalty-free music and add other editing features. Once we went to export it, the computer program crashed. Because of some misunderstandings about the correct way to save the project, everything was gone. It was 1 a.m., we'd put in hours of work, and we were back at the beginning. This was the moment when we both wanted to quit more than anything else.

Solution: We pushed through it and started over. We figured out the proper way to save the project and did it frequently. The second time around went much faster, and we were happy with the final project.

Problem No. 5: Publishing
This portion involves a lot of technical things I don't pretend to understand, but in short we had to do a lot of trying and failing to find the correct way to export the video and submit it.

There were a handful of other mistakes and problems along the way, but ultimately we got there. Click here to view Sarah and I's Funf video The Deutscherpolitan. (It also would not hurt my feelings if you went ahead and gave Sarah and I a 5-star rating.)

I'd like to thank everyone who helped us with equipment (My dad and Aja), our extras (Scott and Clint), the website that provided our royalty-free music (, the Funf staff and especially my sister. She kept me sane through the insanity, and we had a heck of a ride. Even if we don't get a trip to Vegas out of the deal, my sister and I are proud of that video. It was an adventure making it and that's what matters most.

Though this lesson happened while shooting a video, it was hardly the only time I faced an issue like that this year. The same frustration and disappointment happened while writing my inaugural novel, and again while querying it to agents. Even though it remains unsold and needs work before publication, I am by no means discouraged. I continue to learn throughout this process, and my confidence grows more and more.

The most important takeaway from all of this is that you have to push through. Whether you're writing a novel, completing a project at work or trying to make a video you have to keep going. If you want something, if you want to succeed, you have to keep going no matter how hard it is.

You also have to know that as much as you want perfection, it is difficult to obtain. Sometimes, all you can do is try your hardest and do your best no matter what that yields. That is nothing to be ashamed about. It's just being honest.

Giveaway challenge: What is a creative obstacle you faced this year and how did you overcome it?

Answer in the comments below to be entered to win this week's Twelve Days of Writing drawing. Be sure to check back Friday at 2 p.m. CDT to see if you are this week's winner. Read about the contest and what prizes you can win here.

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