Tag Archives: The Way We Write

Resistance or Sometimes it feels better to do nothing

22 Jun

The week before last I was in retreat, working on my solo show (which is the main reason I’ve neglected to post here.) It was heavenly: I spent 9 hours/day working directly on the show, and the rest of the time relaxing by watching performers I admire. Spending so much concentrated time on my creative work was a gift.

Then this past week happened. As the Greek poets might say, it sucked donkey balls.

I knew it was going to be a let down, as I’d only have 2-3 hour/day to work on the show, but in the end I didn’t even manage that. A combination of work, classes, and travel, slowed me down mightily and I’ve fallen behind where I want to be.

And here’s the insidious thing: Now that I have the time to the work, I don’t want to. Even though (or especially because?) I have a class tonight in which the teacher is expecting to see progress and I want to make a good impression.

Fortunately, I’ve been around the creative block long enough to recognize this as Resistance. The idea of facing my failure to work on the show and the challenge of picking up where I left off (which seems like eons ago) is unpleasant. Worse still is facing my let-down expectations. Whenever I think about getting up on my feet, working a character or story, I immediately get a foghorn blast of “You’re nowhere near where you should be, you complete and comprehensive failure!” or some equally pleasant variation.

I’d rather do something else, like watch the World Cup, or read other blogs, or gouge out my eyes then actually doing the hard work of getting started again and accepting the piece and my progress as it is. But fortunately, I know the best solution in this situation is to take my cue from Nike and just do it. To get up, take action, and let it suck.

So that’s what I’m off to do. But I don’t like it.

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Wild Mind: The First Rule of Writing Practice

28 May

Every weekday morning, I practice writing for one hour.  It’s a lot more fun than the scales Mrs C- had me practice on the piano when I was 5, and the aim is the same: I’m rehearsing the fundamentals.  Writing practice is my trip to the word gym, the way I keep fighting (or writing?) fit and work on my technique.

But how does one practice writing? As posted earlier, I follow the 7 rules outlined by Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.  They work for me.  There are probably as many different answers to this question as there are writers, considering those who don’t intentionally practice.  Yet I suspect Ms Goldberg’s first, most fundamental rule is a necessary one for any successful practice, and that rule is,

Keep your hand moving.

Why is this important? Continue reading

Writing Mindfully or Writing Entranced?

16 May

I do an hour of writing practice each day, following these guidelines.

One of my goals of late has been to focus on mindfulness while writing. Simple, in theory: Make writing into a meditative practice that builds awareness. At the end of it, I feel clear-headed, more stable and focused, a clarity that shows up in my writing. But I’m not sure it results in my best writing.

Today, I wrote a passage about my first kiss. I was totally lost in it. The memories flashed up in front of my eyes one after the other, and I grasped onto what I could, pulling them down from the mental ether, and stitching them to page with the black thread of letters. It was easily one of the more evocative pieces I’ve written, recently.

In your opinion: Does writing require an altered state of mind, a writing trance? Or is getting clear mentally the best way to get your thoughts out on to the page?

Words, Words, Words: Good Quotes…On Story

21 Apr

“Ideas are never the problem. [The process is] looking for the stories I want to tell. I know that they’re there and that they are hiding somewhere. And it’s a question of finding out where they are.”

Simon McBurney

McBurney is a director, writer, actor, and founder of my favorite theater company, Complicite. Rather than write shows, they devise them.  One of their most recent shows, “A Disappearing Number” changed my life, artistically and personally. See their shows if you can.

The Academy Award Winning Trailer (and what it says about Story Fatigue)

15 Apr

In his book Story, Robert McKee exhorts his readers to write stories, because the world needs storytelling and there is greater demand than ever before.

For me, McKee’s evangelical fervor vacillates between inspiring and eye-rolling, but I do agree with most of what he is saying here: Human beings need stories–individually and collectively–and due to a growing number of entertainment pathways (as more TV channels means more shows and movies-of-the-week, as the intarwebz finds its place, as the gaming business outstrips them all) there is increased need for storytellers and different types of storytelling.

I suspect there’s a flip side of this for viewers: story fatigue. By way of explanation, check out this hilarious parody trailer for an imaginary Academy Award-winning film.

Continue reading

Me vs The Flying Poo Monkeys of Distraction

10 Mar

I’ve got three big story development goals for next Monday. Last Friday, I accomplished one of my intermediary goals: to produce a draft of a 10-minute one-person show. It’s rough and it’s clunky, but seeing as I usually won’t let people see my stuff until its perfect (i.e. never) hitting send with the attachment was a big enough step in its own right. And, heckfire, it was readable, which was the goal: to cut through all the stalling and other mental crap and knock something out I could get into someone’s hands other than my own, and clearly enough written that they could give me feedback.

Me: 1
The flying poo monkeys of distraction: 0

The past two days have not been so productive. I have been working on two freelance projects and have done nothing else. Well, I managed writing practice each day. And I’m glad I at least got to that because it’s kept me (mostly) sane. However, for dos dias running, I’ve gotten no story development work done. With a (self-imposed) 15 March looming like a manic weaver, hulking like an incredibly green and muscled man, and bearing down on me like a grizzly, I’m feeling a wee bit antsy. Or at least, I feel antsy when I’m not busy trying to kick my own ass for failing to stay on track.

Me: 1
Flying poo monkeys of distraction: 2

It’s easy to fall of the wagon at this point. Or to reduce my goals and tell myself I was being unreasonable. The best way I’ve found to move on is to just move on. Fortunately, if my ADDish tendencies allow me anything, they allow me this. In a couple second I’ll be all “Ooh shiny!” and forget about my right foot’s attempt to kick my shapely rear end. Which is good, because otherwise I might strain something. All this sitting in a chair is cramping my quadriceps. Oh, yes, I am feeling —

Ooh, shiny!

Five Reminders That Help Keep Me Focused & Stare Down Doubt

4 Mar

I work hard, but not always smart. My mind does not move in particularly linear ways and I’ve had to learn how to ask the right questions to keep working effectively, or even just to keep working. Combine this lateral thinking with a systemic way of learning and a pefectionist’s eye for detail and you get someone who can waste a lot of time on unrelated or nonessential parts of a project.

Having clear, concise goals goes along way to keeping me focused. But that’s not enough: in order to keep myself on task, I have to deal with those voices that question what I’m doing.  This is especially important if I my goal is an exploratory one, where I have a general direction but not a crystal clear picture of where I’m headed.

A lot of these demons have come up recently, and I was forced to address them. I did this by creating a list of reminders for myself. They are answers and rebuttals to the most common arguments those neurotic little critters in my head throw at me to knock me off track.

The following five reminders give me a weapon with which to fight back, whether I need a swatter to knock out the flies of doubt, or a canon to blast the flying bullshit monkeys out of the sky. Continue reading