BLOG*October 13, 2010

Photo by Spalenka

I met Ric Meyers at the San Diego Comic Con two years ago where he hosts the annual Superhero Kung-Fu Extravaganza. Here you see, learn about the art and history of Kung-Fu through dozens of film excerpts. Ric was the first non-martial artist to be inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

He is a talented, sweet natured intellectual with a large heart. I had an opportunity this last week to spend a few days with him in his Southport, Connecticut home and was able to dive into some philosophical questions about life and the artist path. I feel Ric represents strong Artist As Brand principles in that he is his own artist, and goes his own way.

Ric Meyers started his career assistant-editing four magazines and twenty-one comic books. He continued by writing a dozen non-fiction books about television and movies, as well as several dozen science-fiction, mystery, war, horror, fantasy, and thriller novels (under his own name and several pseudonyms). He eventually started working for television networks and channels, including CBS, ABC, A&E, Bravo, Discovery, Cablevision, and Starz Encore. That led to DVDs, for which he’s supplied more than four hundred international audio commentaries, interviews, liner notes, and/or cover copy.

Throughout the decades he’s taught at Brigham Young University, City College of New York, and the University of Bridgeport, while presenting seminars at movie studios and pop culture conventions in both America and Asia. Most recently, he has scripted a new film documentary “Films of Fury” set to premiere in 2011 (along with the book), and is completing two new non-fiction books and a graphic novel … among other things.

Greg: You have traveled the world learning from Masters of Tai Chi, Kung Fu, and other Asian practices of self-empowerment. What did you learn from these Masters about empowerment?

Ric: Well, first I learned that it’s not self-empowerment, it’s self-improvement. They taught me that the desire for power, self or otherwise, runs counter to inner health and balance. They taught me to organically unleash the energy (which could, I suppose, be translated as “power”) that we all already possess – which I was previously blocking or polluting in various ways, physically and mentally.

G: I define empowerment not as an egotistical desire but as a confidence in an individual’s ability to accomplish goals. Utilizing this energy as you say can allow for infinite possibilities to manifest. How do you define artistic empowerment?

R: When you stop getting in your own way. The difference between successful and unsuccessful artists, I’ve found, is that the successful artists think practically and realistically about the work they are doing – not the work they hope for or dream about or plan on doing. They love the art they are working on, not the thought of the riches or fame it may elicit.

G: Beauty is in the doing! We are very much in agreement with that. You are very much respected as a writer, having had both professional and critical success. How do you define success?

R: Success is two-fold: first, creating a work – be it book, article, graphic novel, audio commentary, performance, class, seminar, TV show, radio show, film, DVD, or whatever – that I enjoy and that communicates the thoughts and feelings I hoped to convey … then, making a living so I can continue to create.

G: Your skills as an educator are appreciated in scholarly (colleges) and professional (publishing, film, entertainment industries) arenas. What do you enjoy most about teaching, and what has teaching taught you?

R: As I tell my students in every endeavor – whether I’m teaching martial arts, film, or literature – is that it’s not about winning or losing, right or wrong, it’s about learn or not learn. Since my goal is always to make whatever I work on as good as it can be, I’ve always loved finding someone with enough knowledge, experience, and honesty to teach me more, so I can make my work better. So, as a staunch believer in the golden rule, I try to pass that on. As my first novel editor told me way back when, “The difference between you and me, kid, is that I know the names of the problems.” He was great and kind enough to tell me — and I was smart enough to listen, not blindly or foolishly defend my “work”!

G: We have had some interesting conversations about living from your heart. What does this mean for you?

R: Well, mostly that I don’t do it enough! Just as “kung fu” means “hard work” (not “martial arts,” as many seem to think), “tai chi” means “balance,” which I strive for in my life, and therefore in my work. But the heart is a powerful thing, and, given my “difficult” childhood, I have to be cautious not to let my heart overwhelm my mind with emotional hysteria. I’m more partial to “living from your soul” – that is, understanding that money is something we created to distract ourselves from a more fulfilling life’s work, which is the inner journey, learning, improving, creating, helping, sharing, etc.

G: I love “living from your soul”! That is beautiful. Self-motivation is key to independence. 
What has been your experience of this?

R: At a recent pop culture convention, I had occasion to co-chair a panel about “Breaking the Ice with the Opposite Sex.” In other words, nerds getting the courage to talk to geeks, or vice versa. I suggested a mantra along the lines of “Remember, I’m gonna die someday.” Those who manage to get over that paralyzing thought will hopefully then face their fear of success or failure (about anything from talking to a guy/gal to starting to write/paint or whatever) with a jaunty “Hey, why not?” Since the age of twelve, I’ve trained myself in what I’m calling “mental martial arts,” where the moment I start fighting myself, I become my own referee and trainer.

G: Living a freelance existence takes courage and tenacity. What are your thoughts on surviving and thriving as an independent artist?

R: As I tell my students, “Do what you have to do to finance your dreams.” But to a writer, everything is research, so if I have to waiter, barista, greet at a Walmart, whatever, to keep food in my mouth, clothes on my body, and a roof over my head, that’s what I’ll do.

G: How would you describe artist sustainability?

R: I wouldn’t, really. I keep shifting from genre to genre and medium to medium as they change or interest me.

G: Shifting genres and mediums is a valid form of artist sustainability, but how do you handle fluctuating economic factors in the professional corporate world?

R: Personally, I diversify. Many of my literary friends who concentrated on one genre are no longer writing for a living. I’ve done science-fiction, mystery, horror, thrillers, non-fiction books, magazine editing, article writing, radio, TV, video, internet, consulting, performing, etc…. not because I had to, but because I wanted to. My goal is to communicate, and it doesn’t matter to me what the medium is.

G: I believe you have created a brand around who you are and what you love. What other creative talents have created a profound impact on you or the world?

R: My editors and mentors: Jeff Rovin, Warren Murphy, Donald E. Westlake, Jim Frost, Brian Thomsen, William L. DeAndrea, Christopher K. Browne, Steven Hartov, Donald Maass, Al Zuckerman, Stephen Watson, and Kate Liba. Then there’s Adam Carolla, who said “If it doesn’t make you happy or make you money, don’t do it.” Not to mention Kurt Russell, who told Craig Ferguson that “What’s on the other side of your fear is you.” And, of course, my father, Stanley Meyers, who taught me in word and deed that “Hey, why not?”

G: Any last pearls of wisdom?

Understand that, given the way your eyes are set, the world literally revolves around you, but also keep in mind that you will never see your own face. You can’t read others’ minds, but you can read your own; therefore, spend as much time as possible doing just that.

• Don’t ask yourself questions you can’t answer.

• Don’t ask others questions that you don’t want answered.

• Don’t ask babies any questions. They can’t answer and it’s frustrating for them.

• Don’t force things and don’t fight things. Remember that water doesn’t choose its path down a mountain.

• Stay strong, smart, and serene.

• See every so-called setback as an opportunity to learn and improve.

• Work doesn’t have to be “work.” It can be “fun effort.”

• Be honest with yourself — if you aren’t, who will be? — but don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on with style.

• Balance, balance, balance.

• Always go home with someone you love (even if you’re going home alone).

• Understand that life’s journey is making yourself the best “you” you can be … and that is neither automatic nor immediate. So, if you haven’t already, get started.

• Enjoy everything. That’s living life to the fullest.

Thank you Ric for your vital art spirit and wisdom!

To everyone’s “self improvement!”