Writing Inspiration: Ask an Expert

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A while back I was fortunate enough to attend a local nerd convention. It featured a panel discussion of one of my favorite movies, The NeverEnding Story. Noah Hathaway (Atreyu) and Alan Oppenheimer (Falkor, G’mork, Rockbiter) were in attendance. Noah Hathaway mentioned that he had recently written a few scripts. So, during Q&A, I mustered up the courage to talk to my childhood crush, and asked him where he got his inspiration from.

He said that a friend recommended a book, Save the Cat!, which Noah read, then re-read, and re-read a few more times. Then he started writing.

Talking about the author’s method of using index cards to organize: “And he just took all the psychological mumbo-jumbo and he just made it like Cliff Notes, man, like it was awesome. And in two weeks I had my first screen play written. And for months I had been sitting staring at a f-ing computer.”

He keeps a pad by his bed to make notes for thoughts he has in the middle of the night. He will often write down things as they occur to him.

“Get out and do stuff; inspiration hits you wherever you’re at. If you sit and wait for it, it probably ain’t gonna come.”

So there you have it. Research and then do. Just write.

Bonus answer from the great Alan Oppenheimer, “I had a pad by my bed and I wrote down, ‘great idea.’ In the morning I couldn’t remember what the great idea was.”

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Writing: Inspiration Part I

I’ve been contemplating and researching where inspiration comes from. This will be a sort of mini-series in my blog right now. This was not going to be my original post, but it kind of asked to be done.

So I’m watching The Fault in Our Stars and the cancer-ridden protagonist visits her favorite writer in Amsterdam.   He is, predictably, an alcoholic recluse with no social skills and a lot of unopened mail. Is this what we are fated to become as writers? Why are we depicted as this archetype of the unapproachable and uncaring hermit?

Is it Hemingway and Bukowski who have done this to our image? Or do we really have to be complete social miscreants in order to be bold and raw and creative? Do we get our inspiration from our lonely life or does our success drive us to this unyielding loneliness?

I’ve struggled a lot with various mental… idiosyncrasies. And I’ve often felt that I have to live some sort of tortured existence in order to produce art. But what if that’s not true? I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing and his thought is, well, no. Just write. Like all the time, whenever you can. And live your life.

(And ok, yeah, King wrote a lot while on a lot of drugs. But he’s been sober for a lot of years too.)

And why would you be an asshole to your fans? I like to think I’d be humble and grateful. Also, I follow JK Rowling on Twitter and she just seems lovely.

Side note on this movie: who the fuck makes out in Anne Frank’s attic? And why did people cheer? Because the chick looked sick? Just because someone carries oxygen doesn’t mean they aren’t DTF.

Side note about this side note: full disclosure, I did write the first draft of this entry after drinking two glasses of wine. So maybe I should evaluate my life…

Side side side note: this movie did NOT make me cry. You can’t prove shit.

Creative Writing 101

This was a project for my Gotham writing class. The assignment was a non-fiction piece about being personally affected by a newsworthy event. (Fun fact – I found the pictures only after I had written the story.)

I was awake, but still in bed. The house was quiet; my mom was at work already. The yard outside was unkempt and neglected. Ivy crawled up the sides of the house. A bush curled around the mailbox. The yard had probably been mowed within the last five months, but I couldn’t remember when.

The only thing that was taken care of was my car. We had to give Daddy’s back to the bank after he died, so I had my mom co-sign on a ’99 Hyundai for me. I washed it obsessively. Inside, on the visor, was a picture of dad with his car, an economical red Ford Escort. He was proud to finally be able to afford a car, so I was proud of my car too.

As I lay in bed, I could hear the phone ringing. I knew something was wrong. The phone never rang so much. And it was late, about 9:00 in the morning. I usually got up earlier. Today I just didn’t want to. Today I could tell something was wrong. I could hear my boyfriend on the answering machine, “They’re blowing up your city.”

My dad grew up in Brooklyn. When I was eight we went to the Statue of Liberty and looked through those binocular machines that cost a quarter. We looked at the twin towers together. We thought they were beautiful.

It seemed so weird that the world continues after someone so important dies. That this sort of thing could happen without him here. I wondered what he would think about this.   He would probably cry. Maybe he would write a poem about it. I wondered how much loss he would feel. I wondered what he would do or say.

He would get this look in his eyes when he talked about World War II. His older brother died while serving. My father was just a kid. I grew up in a house filled with books and films and art and an emptiness about the war. Dad wrote poetry about the war. I think today would have shocked him nearly as much as the day his family received the news about Uncle Paul. And he would have that look in his eyes, like he was focused on something far away and painful.

I feel like his feelings would have been hurt. It’s hard to explain, but I think he would have taken that morning’s events as somehow personal. He treasured being an American. I was raised to be politically minded and to vote in every election, even the local ones. And he enjoyed being from New York. He still had an accent that I couldn’t hear, but that everyone insisted was there. He just sounded like Daddy to me. But this day would have been an affront to him.

My classes were cancelled, but I got called into work at the TV station because someone’s kid was sick and I needed to fill in. Life kept going on. That’s what stunned me the most that day. That life was still just going on.

viewfinder twin towers

Writing Wrong

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So my plan of regular blog posting has clearly gone awry. During the time since my last post I’ve began an on-line creative writing class, completed and on-line animal psychology certificate course (because, why not?), and had a procedure performed on my neck. Also, I may have gotten lazy, but we’ll go with all those other reasons instead.

My big living-my-dreams endeavor right now is the writing class. I’m taking it through the Gotham school in New York. The class is wonderful. It’s small, only sixteen students, and our instructor is very attentive. He called my first writing assignment (write about a window) “sly.” This made me happy.

I just now opened his critique of my last piece. It wasn’t my best effort and I was nervous about it, but he gave good feedback. We were supposed to write about something we loved or something we hated. I wrote about how I hate being called shy. I’m not shy. I’m introverted. But here is an example, from the middle of my rant, of how I’m learning to write more effectively.

Based on his suggestions, my paragraph went from this:

I am an INTJ Briggs Myers personality. Introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. Only 1% of women are INTJs. That’s right, motherfucker, I’m a damn unicorn personality and I’m not speaking because I’m scared, I’m not talking because I’m thinking and judging you.

To this:

I am an INTJ Briggs Myers personality. Introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. Only 1% of women are INTJs. That’s right, motherfucker, I’m a damn unicorn personality and I’m not silent because I’m scared, I’m silent because I’m thinking and judging.

Less verbose and a corrected confusing negative. Good stuff.

Thanks for sticking with my blog. See you in a week. And sorry about the punny title. I thought of it while drifting off to sleep and it struck me as the most brilliant thing in the universe.

Watsky

watskyA while back I saw the performer Watsky on his “All You Can Do” tour. That night was the closest thing to church I had experienced in probably 17 years. It was empowering and uplifting and I felt like I was part of something important.

C’est la vie. Better pay my fee.

Watsky is a rap artist with a background in spoken word poetry. He is from San Francisco. He has tremendous energy and travels/performs with an amazing group of guys.

I’m picking apart the muscle when I’m thinking about the hustle but I’m nice. Nice!

The moment that stood out to me most was his performance of “Whoa Whoa Whoa” from his latest album, All You Can Do. According to its Wikipedia page, the song is about people who don’t feel like they are getting enough respect and are trying to prove their doubters wrong.

I’ll jump the freeway median, I’m savage
‘Cause my mode is that I’m meaner than the average.

During the performance of this song, Watsky instructed the audience to, during the chorus, put up both middle fingers and sing along. We were to direct our gestures and sounds at those who underestimate us or who do not treat us fairly, be it people at work, at school, or in our family. So there we all were, this big group, simultaneously flipping off our haters while singing/screaming, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what do you take us for?”

Like my teacher taught me when I heard the crowd applaud,
I thought I was an atheist until I realized I’m a God.

Not only was it amazing to feel a part of this, but it was incredibly cathartic for me. I had been feeling like I’d been struggling against certain people (even against myself). I believe that this event actually changed me. It changed my thinking about what I could do and it changed my outlook on life and on the future. And now whenever I feel let down or overwhelmed or not good enough, I just put this song on and sing my lungs out.

And if you really wonder what I think about the competition, they were not not not tight.
I been reading my scripture.

Watsky has other inspiring songs on this and other albums. I encourage you to check his work out, even if you aren’t particularly into rap music. He’s really a poet and that comes through his lyrics. He has been, and continues to be, a positive influence in my life. He is part of why I am able to write this blog and take improv and writing classes and chase my dreams.

(Lyrics are from “Whoa Whoa Whoa” by George Watsky)

Video:  http://smarturl.it/Watsky.AYCD

P.S. I’ve also been studying my scripture…

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Weekend at the Improv

TheaterA few weeks ago I caught the local improvisational comedy troupe. Their performance was tight and hilarious. There was a good crowd at the theater. I went to see them because I’ve always loved improv and had heard great things about their shows. I took an improvisation class in college and ever since then I’ve jumped at any chance I can to speak spur-of-the-moment in front of groups of people. I love to make people laugh and I’m usually willing to go to great lengths to do so.

As my husband and I walked up the theater steps that night, we were surrounded by people. I thought, “I want these people to come see me.”

The following night I went to an improv workshop. Improv workshops basically work like this: you pay someone money so you can make a complete ass out of yourself and have that person critique (i.e., tell the hardcore truth) your performance in front of a group of strangers.

We played various improv games in pairs and in groups. At one point I was a prisoner squatting in the corner of my cell and peeing on the ground. I was also a school teacher. And the mother of a small child.

Though they are called “games,” the improv exercises can be very intense. There is no time to think; just act and react. I was exhausted and embarrassed by the end of the evening. We had worked for over two hours.

I’m totally doing it again this month.