My Favorite Creativity Gurus

Brenda Ueland wrote the book IF YOU WANT TO WRITE: A BOOK ABOUT ART, INDEPENDENCE AND SPIRIT, one of the best works on creative process. I love her book, STRENGTH TO YOUR SWORD ARM, a collection of her astute, funny, short, packed articles from a newspaper column she wrote in her hometown. And I love her biography, ME, a title she used well before Katharine Hepburn did.

Natalie Goldberg wrote WRITING DOWN THE BONES and other great books on writing process and life and creativity.

Jessica Abel is a comics artist and storyteller who is helping lots of folks go down the creative path. Her website is here. Check it out.

Chapter After Chapter

A couple of days ago I mentioned Heather Sellers’ book, CHAPTER AFTER CHAPTER: DISCOVER THE DEDICATION & FOCUS YOU NEED TO WRITE THE BOOK OF YOUR DREAMS.
This book is inspiring, fun, and easy to use. I’ve read so many good books on the writing process. At some point I had to stop reading and just write. I know how to write, I’m inspired, I have good habits.
When John Truby’s audio class, STORY FOR NOVELISTS, inspired me to write a novel, I felt lost at first. Truby’s class made me know I could do it (it’s a fantastic amazing class!), but what an undertaking. Where do I begin? How do I begin?
I don’t even remember how I found Sellers’ book, but it was and is the perfect guide for me. All the chapters help me move forward with the writing, but the one called “Wise Guides” is my current favorite. It helped me know I can use other novels and writing books for help. But, Sellers says, pick only six: three novels and three writing guides.
This works for me. Setting limits on creative projects moves them forward. Setting limits enhances creativity.
Plus, it makes it fun. I chose my “wise guides,” and they are serving me well. I go deep into the six books without being distracted by every single novel or writing book I’ve ever loved. These six books are down inside my psyche. I don’t even need to reread them for the choice to help me. I keep the titles on an index card as Sellers suggests.
Recently I reread one of my three novel wise guides, SAINT MAYBE by Anne Tyler. I enjoyed the heck out of it as I do every time I read it. Writing while reading also went well. I was able to let the structure of that novel inform the structure of my novel. I was able to more deeply understand the flaw and need of the main character. I was able to see all the elements of the novel without losing the joy of reading it. I was able to pick and choose which parts were good models for my novel and which parts were not. Clarity of purpose. That’s what that little “Wise Guides” chapter helped me do. I know what I want to write and I know how to proceed.
Thanks, Heather Sellers, for writing CHAPTER AFTER CHAPTER.

Slogging Through With Story Structure & Scenes

When the weather is wet, the ground saturated, the air moldy, and life’s latest transition is taking not three months but three years, I rely on structure and scene to move me forward in the writing process. I slog through almost without thought, because story structure is embedded in my brain from years of study and practice, back during the drought, the crispy brown ten-year drought. Hours slide by as I type handwritten notes into screenwriting software. Print. Read. Make notes. Type into the file. Round and round. On and on. For a little excitement I slip over to the novel files and brainstorm a present time scene that can jump start or enliven the writing for any given chapter. Open file. Pick one. Observe image coming to mind. Write it. Creative spurt spent, draped here on the bed where I write, I sense I’m creeping on slippery, mossy rocks in drizzly rain, all day green-filtered light fading imperceptibly. It’s dark now. I can stop. Or start again. It really doesn’t matter.

Wise Guides

My “wise guides” for writing my novel are:

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockton

OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout

SAINT MAYBE by Anne Tyler

and

John Truby’s audio class called STORY FOR NOVELISTS,

as well as his book, THE ANATOMY OF STORY: 22 STEPS TO BECOMING A MASTER STORYTELLER,

and Heather Sellers’ book called CHAPTER AFTER CHAPTER: DISCOVER THE DEDICATION & FOCUS YOU NEED TO WRITE THE BOOK OF YOUR DREAMS.

“Wise Guides” is a concept by Heather Sellers, and I will elaborate in the next post.

If I Laugh

IF I LAUGH is the working title of my novel.

The premise: A young single mom and failed hippie returns from a midwifery-farm collective in the 1970’s to her suburban family home and forms the first all-ladies comedy club in her parents’ garage.

Designing Principle: Force a suburb-hating idealistic young earth mama in the 1970’s to confront the lack of equality inside her cherished community on a farm collective.

I’m finished with the outline and starting the first chapter and one of the other chapters.

I’m enjoying the process of writing more than I usually do, because I’m letting my creative urge lead the way. I love writing three different stories in three different forms (screenplay, novel, graphic story) that spring from the same story world and character web.

How is your creative flow going?

Here’s what I’m working on:

It’s been a long day and I’m just now about to get some writing done. Here’s what I’m working on:

Screenplay: CARY RIVERS

Premise: Two junior high girls in the seventies think the messiah for the New Age of Aquarius is a stand-up comic.

Designing Principle: Force a cultural critic (1970’s new rock star style comedian) to live and work inside the institutions he criticizes.

What are you working on?

I’m Back

Hey y’all, I’m opening up the old Life & Writing Blog, so that I can continue posting about such things. I have changed the title to my name, so it will be the same across multiple platforms. I’ll be going back over old posts and cleaning up broken links, but for now, some links in older posts may not be functional. I’ll be writing a daily post about creative process here, on Medium and on my facebook page. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Embark

Hey guys and dolls.

This is my creative process blog.

Want to play along?

All you artists on Medium and my Facebook list, friends and family, acquaintances and clients, writers group buddies, painters, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers, writers, comics artists, collage artists, and you who want to make a daily appointment with your creativity:

You may check in here in the comments. Report what you’re working on and how it’s going. Ask or answer questions. Post an excerpt or synopsis. Or just read along while you do your work.

A while back I started a process blog for drawing, but I wasn’t able to keep it up at the time. Now, I believe I can start today, June 1st, and work on my writing and other creative endeavors at least a little bit every day from now on. For me, that’s huge. I intend to make the most of this opportunity by keeping a daily creative appointment with myself. I always did better making it down to the Town Lake trail to walk when I scheduled it with one of my neat lady bodyworker walking buddies, Cameron, Liz, Kim, or Cheryl. So, I’m inviting others along here, too.

Maybe start your own process blog on Medium or Facebook or other platform and let’s follow each other and link to each other.

I’m working on one screenplay, one novel, and one graphic story. I’d like to focus on these three, create a timeline, and systematically work toward finishing them. They’re interrelated. Each one helps me write the others.[This little paragraph is an example of a possible post, or the beginning of one.]

I imagine the daily posts will be short sometimes and take any number of forms:

“Aha” moments about personal creative process and how to proceed.

An excerpt from the work of the day.

A mini-report on the work of the day.

A drawing or doodle.

A question to readers about your own creative process.

A question to myself about a creative problem.

But I’m open to seeing where the blog wants to go.

Please play along in any way you like.

MY MARINA Makes Quarterfinals in Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competition

screenplays being sold on the street
screenplays being sold on the street (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

Hi everyone! I want to announce here on my blog that my feature-length screenplay made the quarterfinals in the Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competition. Ah! Feels good!

Here’s some info about the contest.

I’ll keep you posted about it.

Agent and producer folks, please let me know if you want to read the script. My logline is here. I’d be happy to send you a synopsis if you prefer to read that first.

My latest venture is in comics. I’ll post some here very soon!

Thanks to my writers group and my sisters, especially Kim Atkins, for ongoing, invaluable critique.

…in between…

Beautiful sunny cool day in Austin. Inspiring “bro-client” Erik Conn, drummer extraordinaire, swung by the house in a pick-up truck rerouted by the marathon. Called across my big green backyard to say hey as I hung laundry (muddy dog beds, rugs, towels, and sheets). Though I was ensconced in slobarific writer sweats, and hadn’t had a shower yet, I took a brief break to chat.

I was glad to see him. You ever have one of those friends that gets right to what’s real? The day, the weather, his blues and joys, tacos, house-sitting, fans, concerts, art, music, the zone, discussions of ego and other psychological structures and their relationship to the soul. Such was our conversation, as always. Not to mention bro hand-clasping through the wire fence (tall because of escape artist dogs) and words in parting that leave me feeling loved and supported. More than a few times he’s called me one of his favorite Jedi Knights.

Inspired by the familiar discussion with Erik, his dedication to creating art that pays off huge in joy and beauty but not so much in moola, and how difficult that can be, here’s where I am right now on the zig-zag creative path:

  • Motivated.
  • Practicing life-long writing habit.
  • Know what I want to say and saying it.
  • Putting “it” in the work (all angst, problems, arguments go into the writing, not the air).
  • Dividing writing time fairly well between the creative and editing sides.
  • Spending an equal amount of time learning the business, making contacts, and marketing as I do creating the work.
  • Operating as if writing is my main job now.
  • Always have a great guide or teacher (right now, it’s Truby).
  • Not thrown off course by creative peaks and valleys.
  • No writers block, though I do swim through mud often on the business side of things.
  • Setting boundaries, ie, I say no to 90 percent of gatherings, arts, shows, holiday visits, travel, even relationships.
  • Maneuvering through the minefields of life and day job and just keep writing.
And it’s all worth it.

Here’s a shout out to Erik and all the other struggling artists, who’ve dedicated to their art and craft and are still in the in-between world of the day job that pays the bills (which could last forever as far as anyone knows) and are still driven to create. Here’s to you, creators!

As Erik said today, “The sun is on my face. I’m glad to be alive!”

Where are you in your process? Feel free to give a shout out in the comments to the dedicated creator in your life, especially if it’s you! Post links if you feel it.

I got the photos above off Erik’s facebook page, where you, too, can check out Erik’s wonderful way with words. I’ve been known to re-post his status updates.

For now, here are some links to great photos of Erik. Ciao.

One

Two

Three

Related article featuring Erik Conn