Inspiration For Writers

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Writers! A few questions to ask yourself…

Tori here.

I thought this time I’d go for something a bit more direct, perhaps basic, but good all the same.

DO YOU WANT TO WRITE?

This is a simple question. If ‘Yes’, then continue on. If ‘No’, then I’m surprised you’re still here.

WHY DO YOU WANT TO WRITE?

There is no wrong answer here. Whether it’s because you want to share a story, an idea, or make a little cash, it’s best to be honest. It’s okay to want to turn a profit from your craft, especially when it’s all you want to do. The point is to know WHY. What is your purpose?

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO WRITE?

Again – no wrong answers. It’s pretty straight-forward stuff.

HOW WILL YOU WRITE?

Laptop? Type-writer? Scrap paper?

WHERE WILL YOU WRITE?

Home? Park? Library? Cafe?

DO YOU HAVE TIME TO WRITE?

TRICK QUESTION. There is always time to write.

DO YOU ENJOY WRITING?

This is a big one…

You may have noticed that only the first and last question here are a yes or no question. There’s also a marriage between the two. It’s possible that you WANT to write, but DON’T enjoy it. It’s also possible that you DO enjoy writing, but DON’T want to do it.

If this is the problem that you’ve run in to, then you need to rethink your answers for the rest of the questions.

Here’s an example:

You’re living by yourself. You’re hungry. You might enjoy a good bowl of pasta, but don’t want one tonight, because maybe you yourself aren’t good at cooking one up. How do you fix this? You open up a cookbook, perform trial and error, and you might end up resolving the issue with relative ease.

If you want to write, but don’t enjoy it, find ways to spice it up. Try writing in a new atmosphere/location, and start off with a new type of story you’ve never delved in before.

Trial and error is the name of the game.

Practice makes perfect.

Spring Cleaning for Writers!

With the promise of warm weather finally ahead of us, now comes that time of year when we, as writers, need to look at what areas of our lives could do with a bit of tidying.

Esteemed author Agatha Christie once remarked that, “the best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” With a bit of a cleanliness is close to godliness attitude, here are 4 activities you can do that should help spark up your creativity and de-clutter your brain!

4) Find and sort your past work

This is probably one of my favourite activities to do. If you’re a note-taking hoarder like myself, this is a great way to free up some space. Take an hour or longer to sit down and find every last scrap of personal writing material you can find. I usually make three piles, one to KEEP, one to TOSS and one to REVIEW. The REVIEW pile is reserved for things I find that I’ve forgotten about and might provide new inspiration to start a project. When I’m done with these materials, I’ll put them where they belong in the keep pile. When I’m finished making my three piles, I’ll find a nice file folder or a binder to put the “keep files” in, so I can find them quickly in the future.

3) Clean anything around the house you’ve been neglecting.

Some might remember a post from a while back about keeping a tidy workspace, and I firmly stand by this statement. Nothing feels better than a freshly clean area to work in. I think this should be extended to anything else you’ve been neglecting like, washing the bedsheets, organizing a large closet, cleaning out your car, picking up sticks in the garden, or even removing/organizing the files from your computer. I personally struggle from this bizarre distraction that when I should be concentrating on my story, instead I’m feeling guilty for not cleaning up the giant pile of clothes on my floor for the upteenth time. Without the distractions, I find that I can look forward to my writing, rather than dread coming back to a sink full of dirty dishes. Oh God… I think I’m becoming my mother.

2) De-clutter your mind with a reflection essay.

If you’re a regular journal or diary keeper, this practice might seem redundant but it’s not. Every few months I need to refocus my mindset beyond the regular griping or writing I do in my journal. What’s usually involved is an attempt at shifting the negativity I’m feeling to a more optimistic approach. Instead of saying to myself “ugh, I HAVE to write 5 pages” or “I have to go to the doctor” or “I have to find a way to make some money,” I should be changing what I say to something like, “I GET to write 5 pages”,”I GET to go to the doctor” and “I GET to find a way to make some money.”

I get to as opposed to I have to is a powerful shift in thinking. Instead of antagonizing every possible obligation in our lives, we should be seeing things as opportunities.

Take an hour to write out a short essay with the intention of seeing the positive things in your life. This will help you de-clutter all of your worries and free up your mind for critical thinking about your future.

1) Clear your senses with some fresh air!

Nothing can be more inspiring than a walk through fresh spring. There is no doubt that this has been one of the cruellest, most oppressive winters in decades. Eager to get outside and take advantage of the first warm weather we’ve had in months, I spent the afternoon walking around our garden to see if anything was in bloom. Sure enough the tulips are poking their heads out of the ground. I was reminded of Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden when she discovers the magic of spring. I felt renewed as the warm breeze and sun on my face replaced the dark cloud of winter I’d been living in. Get outside and enjoy. Your creative muse will thank you for it.

Happy Writing~

- Daniel

the secret garden

A Matter of Perspective

Despite what some people may tell you, writing is exceptionally difficult and requires a great deal of arduous work with no guarantee of success. Many writers including myself, struggle to understand that the only road to success is one paved with hard work. Frankly, anyone who says that it’s a walk in the park is probably lying.

And yet… I can’t help but believe that everyone else struggles with this far less than I do.

Why the hell is that?

perspective2

Personally, I’ve never understood how some authors do it. I seem to have this bizarre inner monologue that deems myself a failure at a moment’s notice. I’ll watch an author interview, listen to a podcast, or hear a writing friend tell me about their recent successes and I instantly feel like throwing up all over the place. This incredible guilt rises up within me, and I am under the impression I’m not working hard enough. It feels as though every moment I spend without my nose to the blank page, is another moment I’ve poured into an overflowing pool of regret.

We all strive to be as good if not better than our creative idols, but when we fail to reach these ridiculously high expectations, we beat ourselves up.
There is one thing we all need to remember…

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Today I was sitting and writing in a coffee shop as I usually do, and in common self-pillory fashion, was writing a journal entry about my so-called extreme creative failures. Then I overhear two customers talking to each other about writing a book. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop (because I’m a creep like that). One man turns to the other and says “Your problem is that you complain about writing too much. Look over there! That guy’s a REAL writer,” pointing at my piles of crumpled papers strewn on the table.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the incredible irony of it all.
Here I am beating myself up about how I’m not good enough, and a stranger is pointing at me as if I was J.D. Salinger.

The point I’m trying to make here, is that other artists will always seem like they’re better off than we are. We don’t see their problems, we only see their fortunes.
Just as you can’t have light without the dark, real writers can’t have success without struggle.

Take a moment today to change your perspective in your own creative life. Know that you aren’t alone and a great deal of other writers suffer from the same maladies as you do.

perspective

What Happened Yesterday?

Tori here.

A struggle we face as writers is finding out who our characters are. We all know about the “one hundred question” exercises and all that jazz, but I’ve never been one for that. Really, I’ve always been repelled by “getting to know you” games. Such as the ones you play when you go to a new school or start a new class and we all have to go around the circle stating our favorite colors and movies and greatest fears and are expected to be long-time friends at the end of it. That’s not how you get to know someone, I mean REALLY get to know someone. There’s something so robotic about that.

I’ve tried doing the hundred question exercise before, and as far as I remember from the one time I did it I couldn’t get past five questions. It’s boring and monotonous. The way I see it, as writers, you should know everything there is to know about your characters. If you’re having trouble giving them purpose or personality, then they’re fake. You need to drop them fast. You’re a writer. You’re a God of the blank page. What you say goes. What you know is. What you don’t isn’t.

Having said that, how do we get to know our characters? I’ve a very simple answer.

You could be starting a story, introducing your main protagonist and you’re laying out all the details the reader needs to have to get along. A reason you might run into trouble in this case is because it’s too much of a stage. You’re putting too much effort into having the character look good for one particular moment so we can hopefully find some common ground. It’s sort of like the “getting to know you” games. You put on a face and state the basic facts so everybody knows the necessary details to get by when school gets going.

Getting to know you: “Oh, my favorite color is red. I’m an only child. I hate sports. Be my friend.”

Character intro: “Todd’s favorite color is red. He’s an only child with no friends, and he hates sports.”

That’s not how I got to know my best friends. With friends it’s a sort of “learn as you go” way of living, and so it should be the same with characters in a story.

It’s more interesting to catch characters on the fly – in the middle of the act. Maybe we meet them the day before anything interesting happens, when they’re exposed and vulnerable to the narrative, and not making a presentation of themselves. Maybe then we have something more like:

“Todd sat alone on the seesaw. He was wearing a red t-shirt that day, but then most of his shirts were red. He looked over at the soccer field where a group of kids were playing. He only felt empty, and maybe a little contempt.”

One of the greatest lessons I learned from an English teacher of mine was “show, don’t tell.” Side with description rather than detail. In this case I say take it a step further: side with the prior rather than the present. Don’t tell me why a character is a certain way, show it, and moreover show it in a random act divert from the story. It’s a little more genuine that way.

The Second Draft – Another Lesson in Patience

Tori here.

A great issue I’ve run into several times in writing is tackling a second draft. In terms of short stories or poetry it’s a very easy thing. There’s typically not too much on the plate for me in those cases and I can devour them with ease. What I find trouble with is rewrites when it comes to novels.

The usual factor is I try too hard. At the most random moments, almost daily, I’ll sit down deciding that I’m going to start my rewrite right then and there. Often I just feel unproductive and disinterested, but I’ve come to gather yet another epiphany after a little bit of writing I’ve just done.

Rewrite what you know best, rather rewrite what’s fermented the most in your head. I focus so much on immediate problems, such as a most recent chapter that just doesn’t flow or comes across useless. For those I try too hard to abolish what came before and only end up making something worse. Therefore I’m getting nowhere real fast.

Today I’ve rewritten one of my earlier chapters. One that I’ve reread several times and have come to know and love in my mind. Surprisingly I found it one of the easiest pieces of writing I’ve done in a while. It was like retreading familiar ground, but with a new perspective.

Writing a novel isn’t an easy job, and I’ve always detested the thought of going way back in my work after coming so far, but what I’ve learned is that going back isn’t so difficult at all, if you know it well enough.

I’ve been working on this book for well over a year now, and am nowhere near completing it, but what I know is that when I have finished it, it’ll be something that feels at home, that has gone the mile, and is straight from the heart and soul. If you try too hard to spit something out, it’ll only be words and routine. If you allow it all to sizzle in your veins and take care to review your work, really it should be no less than magical.

As always, it’s just a matter of patience.

The Power of Handwriting

In an interview with the 1957 spring-summer publication of the Paris Review, famed author Truman Capote made an interesting statement about his craft that may prove useful to budding writers:

“No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand. Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsessions of this sort, and the time I take over them, irritate me beyond endurance.”

In my growing effort to unplug from the distractions of technology, lately I’ve found that handwriting everything first is a great way to ensure the completion of my work. Writing with just a pen and paper, I find that there is this visceral relationship that materializes between me and my story that otherwise wouldn’t have happened if I was working on a computer.

Having the paper in front of me and all gadgets stored away from my desk, I quickly lose track of the world around me, often working for hours at a time. Normally, if I tried doing this on my computer, I would not be able to resist temptation in checking my dumb email or Facebook every 5 minutes. Even if I manage to fight the urge to click the Facebook URL, the distraction alone kills me creatively. I don’t like that I have to stop thinking for a moment to tell myself, “Daniel, don’t be dumb. You’re writing right now, social media can wait.”

and no… turning off my wifi doesn’t help me either.

What I would recommend is getting a nice clean notepad and some fantastic pens. Make it a point to handwrite instead of typing. Yes, it might seem tedious and frustrating at first, but the absence of distraction alone is worth it. You might find that you can’t write fast enough or your wrist starts cramping. That’s fine. With practice you’ll get better and your endurance will grow stronger. This has been a practice of mine for the last 2 months and I don’t intend to drop it anytime soon. Also, without autocorrections turned on, don’t worry about how bad your spelling or grammar becomes until you’ve finished your work.

As Hemingway once put it, “the first draft of anything is shit,” anyway.

StephenKingHandwriting

Excerpt from Stephen King’s manuscript for Bag of Bones.

Truman Capote, The Art of Fiction No. 17:
Article by Patti Hill, Paris Review, 1957

Nashville Film Festival – Screenwriting Competition Deadline

If you’ve got a spare screenplay or two kicking around, it isn’t too late to submit to the Nashville Screenwriting Competition. Here are the details if anyone is interested:

NaFF-LOGO-OFFICIAL


FINAL DEADLINE: MIDNIGHT FEB. 3RD / 2014

25 Categories:

  • TV Comedy Pilot
  • TV Drama Pilot
  • Young Screenwriter

Film Feature and Short

  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Music-inspired
  • Tennessee Screenwriter
  • Family
  • Historical
  • Inspirational
  • Animation
  • Thriller/Horror
  • Science Fiction
  • Action/Adventure

Over $55,000 in cash & prizes are available and the winning scripts will be read by industry professionals. To submit your scripts and learn more about the competition, visit their website at:
www.nashvillefilmfestival.org/screenwriting-competition


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