Brian Answers Listener Questions – The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Key Takeaways

  • A metric for deciding when to quit a creative project:
    • As long as the work is making you feel more (as opposed to less) alive during the day, inspiring you, and making you kinder to those you live with (because you’re engaged in something that matters to you), then keep going!
  • Try writing “morning pages” – what are they?
    • At the start of every (EVERY) day, you write down everything on your mind – it’s essentially a huge brain dump (fears, worries, thoughts, anxieties, ideas…everything)
      • By doing this, you free yourself from the perfectionism and the fears that hinder your creativity
  • Make time to do the creative work you want to do
    • Even if you can only set aside a half-hour a day, it adds up over time

Books Mentioned

Intro

How do you know if your work is creatively good enough? How do you know when to quit?

  • A question likes this has as much to do with the way you were raised, and the way your parents did/didn’t express love, as it does with the fact of whether or not you’re a good artist
  • Ask yourself: “Do I still get something out of doing the creative work?”
    • As long as it’s making you feel more (as opposed to less) alive during the day, inspiring you, and making you kinder to those you live with (because you’re engaged in something that matters to you), then keep doing it!
    • If instead, the work is pulling you down, think about quitting
    • “Continue as long as the work is fulfilling. Continue as long as, when you get up in the morning, that’s the thing you want to do.”Brian Koppelman 
    • If the work is additive to your existence, keep going

The Reality of Creative Professions

  • “The line between being a successful artist and delusional is very thin”Brian Koppelman
  • “We’re in the terrain of creating stuff, we’re in the terrain of changing things… By definition, we’re in some scary terrain.” – Brian Koppelman
    • If you’re a creative professional, embrace this!

On Letting Your Creativity Flourish

  • “Blocked people become toxic. They come toxic to themselves and the people around them.” – Brian Koppelman
  • Here’s what changed things for Brian:
    • After reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Brian developed the practice of writing “morning pages” at the start of every day
      • What are morning pages?
        • At the start of every (EVERY) day, you write down everything on your mind – it’s essentially a huge brain dump (fears, worries, thoughts, anxieties, ideas…everything)
          • Brian aims for ~3 pages
      • Brian adds: “If you read the book and do the exercises, you WILL be presented with the opportunity to get past your blocks and create the work you want to create. I can’t say that strongly enough – the power of three longhand pages every morning. It gets your subconscious out onto the page, gets you past the perfectionism, and gets you past the guilt.”
    • Reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
    • Doing a little bit of creative work… EVERY day
      • Writing 1 page a day equates to 365 pages a year – that’s a whole novel!
      • All you need is 30 minutes – Skip out on TV, wake up a little earlier, do what you have to do

How does Brian, as a middle-aged man, find the gas needed for his creative work?

  • “The key to this is to say “no” to all the inessential things” Brian Koppelman
    • And this is HARD (because everything seems essential)
  • Brian does 45 minutes of cardio 5-6 days a week
    • “That has made me feel SO much better. It gives me tons more energy.” – Brian Koppelman

It Isn’t Rocket Science

  • Every day, put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving – that’s how every great piece of art is created
  • And realize: Your past doesn’t matter
    • “What matters is the next song, the next performance, the next verse” – Brian Koppelman

How does Brian instill creativity in his kids?

  • Both of them are writers
    • His son’s first book is coming out in November
  • Brian’s wife is a filmmaker and novelist
  • “What we did was just live a life by example” – Brian Koppelman
    • Brian and his wife made sure to allot time every day to work on their passions – their kids internalized this
    • “We stress the importance of setting aside time to work on something that contributes to the world, and also makes you feel alive”
  • “I don’t think parenting is a science; it’s an art form. It’s about connecting with your kids and listening to the best of your ability.”Brian Koppelman

How does Brian audition his ideas for projects? What makes an idea graduate from the notes folder on his phone to something more substantial?

  • It mostly comes down to feel, and those ideas he’s unable to let go of
    • “It’s obsession… If something takes hold of my imagination, stays there, and starts to grow… it’s like I feel myself becoming a flame about it. That’s when I know I should work on it.” – Brian Koppelman

Additional Notes

  • Brian started his podcast in 2013
  • “Feeling like a failure is a fairly common theme in a creative life, but you have to try to find your way through them”Brian Koppelman
  • Season 5 of Billions Begins shooting November 6th
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