Inspiration For Writers

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Life and Art; One and the Same.

Tori here.

I’ve been offline since late-May. Offline in that I haven’t posted here, nor have I done any writing – save for most recently.

I’ve often iterated that in order to be great at writing you also have to be great at living; that it’s necessary to take time off here and there to break from writing and find your inspiration.

In May I took up a job working at a poultry plant, and through the summer was swamped with full-time work and the fatigue that accompanied it. I wanted to write through all this, but in the end I had zero motivation coming home at the end of a long work day, and when the weekend came along I wanted to take advantage of the time by having a social life. Time was of the essence and writing wasn’t, I’m shamed to say, but that might’ve been on account that I knew it wasn’t going to be like that forever.

I’m back in classes now, and only work one day out of the week. Back in the environment of academics, I have more time for reading and, of course, writing.

Needless to say, my writing these past couple weeks has been nothing short of phenomenal. Not only because I’ve had such an enormous break from the routine, but also because I’ve taken a different direction with my writing. Instead of writing fiction/fantasy, I’m writing (more or less) non-fiction – a memoir. (I say more or less, because it could very well change before the end). What I find so captivating about writing in this style is how real it all is, and it confirms something I realized way back at the start of work: “I have some serious material here.”

The characters (people) I write about, the experiences I share – they’re filled with so much depth and passion, and I find it to be one of the most fun things I’ve ever written. Recounting moments in my life both recent and old and sticking them together with a literary flare is both rewarding with regards to my craft, but also to my optimism on life. There’s nothing more satisfying than realizing you’ve been living a story like the ones you read about (and now write about).

So my lesson for you today is this:

Don’t feel bummed if you’ve lost interest in writing, or don’t have much time for it. Allow yourself to be free of it. Go about and live your life however it may be, and when you find time for writing again and finally sit down to do it, you’ll be loaded with so much ammo that you’ll riddle a blank paperback with bullet holes.

Stigmata Script Prompt: Write Your Back Story

gandalf

This is a helpful exercise that I learned in university from one of my old professors. Our assignment was to choose our favourite movie and write out a 3 page summary of the story before the film. What did those characters do before the opening credits? What kind of past did they have?

Perhaps you could try writing some character biographies (if you haven’t already). I find this helps me flesh out the kind of people my characters are and allows me to get inside their head a bit more. Writing out their past dictates some actions and choices they might make that I wouldn’t have previously thought of.

Really make a point of fleshing out the world of your story before you begin writing it. This is just good practice for any writer’s craft. Another great idea is one my friend Dan had, which is, to create a online database page for your story. Using WIKIA he designed a world history for his web series. Whenever a new idea comes to his mind he adds it to the page, giving depth and substance to his fictional universe. Basically this is your chance to play God, so why not take advantage of it?

.:: TASK ::.

In 3 to 5 pages, write out a brief summery of the events that took place before your story begins.

AND

If you haven’t done it already, you should also write out biographies for each of the lead characters in your narrative.

Writing for Social Change | Trouble in Ferguson

The day I realized I wanted to be a writer, was the day I learned that literature can have a large impact on society for a greater good. It started by studying Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin during my career in university. What struck me about this important play, was it’s impact on the nation in raising awareness about the horrors of slavery, in effect, playing a small role in Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Obviously there was lot more was involved in the freedom of slaves, however, one cannot argue that Stowe’s work was trending at a time when civil rights were at their peek (or so we thought).

Uncle_Tom_Poster

What does that have to do with Ferguson, Missouri?

Troubled by the recent events in Ferguson, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share with you one of my mantras as an aspiring writer; writing for social change. When reports of the media being arrested for their ongoing coverage on the riots and police militarization, it’s hard to argue the parallel’s with the civil rights movements in the sixties. What disgusts me about this, is the desire to silence the truth about what black families are dealing with in Missouri (or anywhere else in the USA for that matter). I’m instantly reminded of the movie V for Vendetta. A curfew is being implemented, a corrupt government rules over it’s citizens with an iron fist and we are left to stand idle as the police brutalize their citizens, silencing freedom of speech.

Journalism, true journalism is about speaking truth to power. You’re obligated as a reporter to find the truth and present it to the public in an objective fashion. Do I believe this happens today? Very rarely. However, given the circumstances in Ferguson, it’s hard to argue that commentaries on the USA’s current police militarization haven’t found their way into the literature of our day. If you don’t believe me just watch Marvel’s Captain America: Winter Soldier.

ferguson

What is social change about really?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that once I knew how Uncle Tom’s Cabin questioned white supremacy, I realized that there was an entire underbelly to literature that questions unethical or immoral world views. In a way, all literature is a form of expressing the challenges our society deals with, but my favourites are the ones that empower people to do something about it. The list really goes on and on. From V for Vendetta, to George Orwell’s 1984, to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, even that crappy movie Lady in the Water by M. Night Shyamalan (I say crappy, but I love it.) Writing for social change is about showcasing through literature areas of improvement we can make as a culture.

Where am I going with this?

I don’t want to be silenced like the media in Ferguson. I want to have a voice. I want to inspire people. I want help people feel hope where there is none. I want people to see how certain world views are causing us all grief. I want to influence people for the greater good. I want to call to question corruption, injustice, and immoral behaviour. Whether it be speaking up through social media, writing a news report, or finishing up a distopian novel, I want to showcase the demons of man, helping us to (hopefully) understand a path to a better tomorrow. That is why I want to write. I want to give a voice to people who have none.

V-FX-0009

If I can give hope, inspire, help, or improve the life of just ONE person through my writing, I’ll have done my job. If I forget or struggle with what I’m doing, I look back and remember this promise I’ve made to myself.


What makes you want to be a writer?
Why do you want to write?
Do you have a mantra that inspires your own work?


3 Online Resources That Writers Need To Check Out


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Lately, I’ve been hard at work trying to tackle a new script and I’ve found that I needed a little extra push this time around. To get myself back on the horse, I’ve been using these resources every week. I hope they prove as useful to you as they have been to me. If you use these things already, then bravo! You’re awesome like I am! ;P

3. The Self Control App

selfcontrol

Assuming that you’re an aspiring writer reading this blogpost, I’m also going to go ahead and assume you’re a pretentious Mac user (like myself). I think using apple products is just par for the course for most creative people. If so, you should download this app, NOW. If you aren’t a mac user, here is a link to other useful time management applications: View List

I only just discovered this application two days ago and already it’s changing my life. There are lots of useful blocking apps out there, but I’ve found that a number of them involve shutting off, or blocking your internet router entirely. Sometimes I need to use the internet to get some research done, but as someone who is easily distracted from his work, research leads to endless hours wasted on youtube or pinterest. This app let’s you choose which websites you wish to temporarily block. (IE: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Etc) any website that distracts you. You choose the duration of the block yourself and not even shutting off/restarting your computer can stop it! … and best of all? IT’S FREE!

2. Reddit.com

redditwriting

If you aren’t already familiar with Reddit, I’m warning you, it’s an extremely addictive and distracting website. It can however, be a great resource for your craft. It’s an open-source website with forum style discussions and threads. Users can upvote and downvote posts that are posted. The upvoted posts make their way to the front page, often including AMAs (Ask Me Anything) with celebrities or people of interest. Particularly, I’ve found that the “/r/writing” and “/r/screenwriting” subreddits are jam-packed with resources. From infographics, to charts, to links to great websites, this is one website that’s hard to pass up. You can even post a writing question and online users will answer you in real time. Occasionally you get a real douchebag-troll who will give you a bad answer, but this is the internet we’re talking about. There’s trolls everywhere. I’ve found that everyone who posts in these subreddits are always willing to help and understand the frustrations of this business being aspiring writers themselves.

1. Podcasts

podcasts

They’re amazing,
there’s lots to choose from,
and most importantly… they’re free!
(most of them, anyway)

The one I listen to most often is Scriptnotes hosted by screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin. Most podcasts feature very talented artists, interviewing authors on their craft and habits. They offer the kind of tangible advice you can’t get from a book or workshop. Here, you’re tapping directly from the source. There’s a wide variety of podcasts that span a wide variety of topics. Other notable writing podcasts I frequent are the Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith, The Nerdist Writers Panel, and Writing Excuses with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler. Even if writing isn’t your thing, podcasts are a great way to educate and entertain yourself. I usually listen to them while doing my chores or when I’m travelling. I don’t like wasting any time, and I’ve found that this is my favourite way to cram some inspiration in when I’m not at my blank page.

There you have it.
Happy writing, folks!

~ The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People ~

Podio released an interesting info-graphic, outlining the routines of some really impressive creative people. From Picasso to Freud, to Dickens and Mozart, this chart provides some really nifty insight into the habits of these great thinkers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Although, I don’t think I’ll ever be a morning person like some of these writers!

habitsoffamousthinkers

Stigmata Script Writer’s Prompt: Don’t forget about the Short Story!

Short stories are a great way to get back on track if your writing hasn’t been up to par lately. In some ways they can be more challenging than a long piece of work, as you have to work hard to constrain your ideas into a smaller space. In other ways, writing a good short story or script can give you the confidence you need to tackle that larger piece.

Whenever my productivity starts to falter, I crack the spine of my Idea Journal and sift the pages until I find something that sparks my interest. This is something I’ve picked up again after avoiding my work for the umpteenth time. Whether you’re a writer of prose, non-fiction, or enjoy the craft of screenwriting like I do, this is an awesome trick to get some quick experience under your belt.

.:: TASK ::.

Write a short story in 2500 words or less.

OR

Write a short film script in 3-5 pages or less.

If you’re not sure where to start or need some motivation, pick up a book of short stories, anthologies or watch some short films to get the feel of what you want to say.

When you’ve completed your task, repeat if necessary until you feel confident enough to tackle that larger project you might be avoiding. I promise, after knocking off a few short stories or scripts, you’ll feel like you just drank an energy drink for your craft. It’s an awesome short term confidence boost, amazing practice and a fantastic way to keep up on your skills as a writer. It forces you to be cutthroat with your words, telling the best story within your limitations. In the long run, it will genuinely aid in your editing skills, making that passion project of yours a great piece of art.

Once upon a Time

The War of Art – by Steven Pressfield

“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” – Steven Pressfield

TheWarofArt

This book has changed my life.

From the author of the Legend of Bagger Vance, Steven Pressfield wrote this book as a series of short essays in three major parts. The first third of the book has had the largest impact on my life. For years now I’ve struggled to understand the reason why getting to the blank page has always been so difficult. Finding the motivation to work seems to be the biggest struggle every writer faces. The reason?

Resistance.

What Pressfield gives us in this book, is a path to combat the unseen force that keeps all creative people from reaching their goals. The first portion, Resistance – Defining the Enemy hits very close to home for me. Especially the chapters that deal with procrastination and self doubt. Here is a short excerpt:

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.” – The War of Art | Pressfield | 23

This guy just gets it. If I was rich, I’d buy every creative person I know a copy of this book and force them to read it. The second I finished, I realized how profoundly resistance had a grip on my life. It takes the form of everything. My inability to say no to junk food. My inability to exercise. My seeking advice from peers in an effort to jumpstart my motivation. Who I have who thank for this, is my old colleague Gavin; who happened to see right through my problem by recommending this book.

The other sections Combating Resistance – Turning Pro, and Beyond Resistance – The Higher Realm are equally as telling about the problems of the creative process. I especially love the ease of his writing style and how matter-of-fact he is with his advice.. Pressfield covers almost every creative problem in this book from diet, sociology, religion, economical issues, climate, and even sex. It’s doubtful that I will suffer from a bout of ‘significant’ writers block again after reading this text.

Writers, do yourselves a favour and buy this book. Do the author a favour and order it online, directly from his website. http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/


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