Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Word, A Thought, And Kicking Resolutions to the Curb

         Believe me, I understand the overwhelming urge to sit down and do the only unscripted writing, maybe for the first time this year, on the day before the New Year rings in for 2014. Unfortunately, resolutions serve as a written failure for so many creatives (not just writers) throughout the year

        Sure, you could lose 50 pounds, gain back 20; write a 1,000 words a day, a month, or in your dreams only; you could sign up for classes; or you could be nicer to yourself, your family, or your friends. Instead, consider how you could spend that hour writing something that brings you joy.

        Also consider the minutes or hours throughout the coming year when you decide that mentally beating yourself up is justified. What we don't see in the ups and downs of each day throughout the year may reign at these minutes.

       So on the last day of 2013, I suggest a few tricks for acknowledging what we do accomplish or can accomplish in the seconds, minutes, and even days between the self-doubts.
  1. Write a word, a sentence, or even a paragraph when you first wake up in the morning.
  2. Carry a pencil or pen with you everywhere you go and slip a pad or piece of paper into your pocket or purse. (Electronic means can help, but connecting to the paper through a pencil/pen or paintbrush tends to encourage creativity for many people.)
  3. For writers, visual artists, and even coders: steal moments for yourself each day. What do you hear, see, smell, or touch that grabs you? Put down just enough on paper to keep it going and to fuel your imagination.
  4. Acknowledge each week the words, visions, or coding you created. Depend more on the vision than the count, please. [This is qualitative (rich experience) rather than  quantitative (based on numbers or a misplaced ROI-return on investment strategy.]
  5. Take a moment or two each month just to feel good about what you are building, creating, experiencing as real in your creativity.
        Time is an illusion, although survival is based on the concept. But as we go toward the arbitrary beginning of the new year, please understand the freedom that writing brings to each of us. Embrace the small steps that lead to revelations.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Falling for the Myths & Tripping On Our Truths

        After seeing "The Book Thief," as a movie, it struck me that we sometimes live the myths more than our truths in attempting to write. In the movie, Liesl is taught to write through describing the outdoors to Max, as narrated by Death. We see the falling snow in the beginning, are with Liesel as she steals her first book and buries her brother, but don't experience all the pain, betrayal and heartbreak that made Markus Zusak's book a must read.

        Although movies allow us the illusion of immediacy, it's in writing, painting, creating animated features, and other forms of creation that we give birth to our truths. I have a friend who can write his life, but stops short of encouraging others to experience it by trumpeting that he got a gritty short story in a recent anthology.

        One of the books I'm working on tackles both my childhood and ovarian cancer, and it makes me cry. That won't guarantee that anyone else will share that gut-wrenching visceral experience. But without the emotion that underlies good writing on all levels, the words lose their meaning.

        Getting back to the myths, although this may be a repeat of past posts, we need to understand the mechanics to ensure we don't stand in the way of finding a way to explore in words what we cannot allow our brains to process.

  •  Myth: Only write what you know, can touch, see, or taste. 
  •  Truth: Everything we write comes from how we perceive reality. One person's golden sun is another person's skin cancer demon. Many of the great books also owe a great deal to imagination and research.

  •  Myth: Youth is an advantage.
  • Truth: Age means little to nothing in writing. What matters more is knowing your audience and understanding enough about your language to break the rules when necessary to express yourself. 

  •  Myth: A mentor is necessary to write effectively and publish.
  •  Truth: For most writers, teachers and others can serve as muses or dictators. The Internet is a cornucopia of tutorials, publishing alternatives (including the more visual mediums), and communities of writers and artists as support groups. My only advice is write first, ask questions later.
         As always, this blog is about possibilities. It's up to each writer to determine for her or himself which myths keep them from a full writing life and what truths could let the writing flow.