No one has ever pulled a writing hamstring

track-441242_1920

Or have they….?

I often liken athlete warm ups to writer warm ups. Because a lot of writers like to dive into the deep end of the pool without any preparation. And when they get that inevitable cramp, they get writers block, they attribute it to the fact that obviously they can’t write.

When the truth is, maybe they just needed to warm up.

The successful athlete never just performs. They have to warm up in order to perform at their best. There is no 100 meter runner who jumps out of bed and is ready to win their race.

The same is true of the writer.

Many writers just assume their writing difficulties are due to a lack of talent or dedication. But honestly, we have a lot going on in our brains these days. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s no wonder people get writers block when constant information is demanding so much brain space.

The brain turns like the Titanic, it takes a lot of time to get that beast to realize it’s time to write. You have to prepare the brain. Once you get your brain on the same page, when it is ready to write, then you’re golden.

So before you start to write with purpose, do a couple of warm ups. You don’t want to pull a brain muscle do you?

Writing makes me…

typewriter-472850_1920

Finish that sentence in the subject line.

Writing makes me……

What does writing do for you? Does it make you happy? Does it frustrate you? Does it make you realize something?

Define what writing does for you. Because maybe that’s where your inspiration lies. In the traditional sense, to be inspired is get that jump start, that battery boost, to run to the page and keep going.

If you can find inspiration in your work, instead of an external force, then that inspiration will never run dry. If you need to be inspired to write and you can find it in yourself – now that’s a win-win situation.

Here’s how I finish the sentence.

Writing makes me realize I do have something to say and a way to say it.

I get really tongue tied when I speak. And I’m painfully shy when it comes to small talk conversations. But when I write all that is gone because I can craft my words to an exact meaning. That feels pretty good. And it makes me want to keep writing.

What does writing do for you?

Stop waiting for inspiration

Abstract Colorful Lights Vector Art

Let’s talk inspiration. Every once in awhile I’ll have that magic moment where the clouds open and the angels sing and a voice from somewhere beyond bestows upon me the best idea ever for a play.

That doesn’t happen very often.

More often than not I’m stumping to my laptop, grumbling as I turn it on and banging the keys as hard as I can. But I do it. And I keep doing it. And after awhile I’m glad I made the choice to stump and grumble and bang. I’m always glad.

Because if I waited around for the inspiration fairy to sprinkle me with dust I would be waiting forever.

Do you believe in inspiration? Is it important to your process?

Exercise

If you like waiting for inspiration and those visits are far and few between, get proactive. Create an inspiration file where you collect anything that gives you inspiration. Pictures, headlines, articles, lyrics, poems, scraps of paper you’ve written overheard lines on. Gather everything in one place.

This can be an actual physical object (an accordian file or scrap book) or something digital like Evernote. You could just collect pictures on your phone with Instagram. Whatever works for you. If you need to be inspired to write, start gathering inspiration so that you never have to wait to write again.

Another thing you can use for inspiration is yourself. But instead of write what you know, hone in on your point of view, your opinion, your take on issues, ideas and topics. Use these sentence starters to get the ball rolling:

  • I firmly believe that….
  • I wish that I would….
  • I never have….
  • I always…
  • The thing that makes me the most angry is…
  • The thing that makes me the most sad is….
  • The thing that makes me the happiest is…
  • My opinion on the environment is…
  • My opinion on religion is….
  • My opinion on politics is…
  • My opinion on education is…

If you can articulate your opinion, you can form the opinions for your characters. Take a character who belives as you do, create a character with an opposing view, lock the two in a room and you’ve got a play.

 

Writers don’t need rubber gloves

clean-571679_1920

Spring Cleaning

You don’t have to strap on a pair of rubber gloves or pick up a duster to do some Writer Spring Cleaning. Consider this while you wait for the thaw.

Organize your desk

If you have a specific work area, clean it up. Get rid of those piles sitting on your desk, put any books back on the shelf. Your area doesn’t have to be pristine but it has to be effective. And if you have a “virtual” desk, read on.

Archive your work

Do you keep scraps of old drafts around, or is your hard drive littered with multiple copies? Archive anything you’re not actively working on. Use a program like Evernote if you want to keep files on your computer. If you haven’t looked at a particular play for six months to a year, it’s time to make some decisions. Don’t leave it on your desktop, deal with it. Maybe it needs to go away for good.

Go through your Inbox

Are there emails in your inbox that have been sitting there for over a month? Deal with them. Either write that email or the time has past and delete it. Make it a project to not let your inbox fill up so that you don’t have to make those decisions. For me, when my inbox any more than 10 emails I schedule time to go through them.

Reflect on your Writing Goals

Did you make any writing resolutions at the beginning of the year? Reflect on where you are. If you’re moving forward, revise your goals. Has anything changed? Are you happy with your path? If you’re stuck reflect on why that is. What stops you? What action can you take to get un-stuck?

 

What does Failure look like?

signs-416444

Failure. It’s the fear of something that hasn’t happened yet. For me it’s a big black pit in my stomach that calls out What if this happens …. What if that happens ….

The fear of failure holds back many a writer. What if they don’t like my work? What if it’s never produced? What if…. Fear of failure can lead to writers stall, writers block, to writers never picking up the pen again.

What do you do to fight the fear? I want to know. We all want to know how others do it.

Exercise

Personify failure. Create a picture of what failure looks like to you. Give it a name, a look, a way of standing. Turn failure into a character. And then write a scene where you talk to you failure. What would you say to this thing if you had it right in front of you? Make yourself the super hero super shipper of work and take failure down!

If it helps, print the scene up and tear the paper into little bits afterwards. Or maybe develop it further. There’s nothing more theatrical than taking something that isn’t human and put it on the stage.

If a fear of failure is holding you back, don’t stare at a blank page. Write down all your fears. Never leave a fear in your head. What’s the one thing you fear that hasn’t happened yet with the piece you’re working on? What are five steps you could take to combat this fear?

What’s in your bag?

handbag-152158

The most interesting characters come alive in the smallest details: a favourite food, a favourite type of music, a fear of spiders, an allergy to plums, a scar from a fall at two years of age, a love of reality television. These details are what makes a character three dimensional and human.

They may seem mundane, but think about what defines you as a person. Is it the grand events in your life, or the day to day? These details of the small add a layered richness beyond the world of the story. The more you know about your characters, the deeper the well you have to draw from, the more specifically you can write for them.

This character development exercise will allow you to create the details of the small for your characters.

What’s In Your Bag?

Empty out the bag you use most regularly, whatever you take with you when you go out. If you don’t carry a bag, think about how you carry what’s necessary to get through the day – what’s in your pockets?

Look at the bag itself. Why did you choose it? How long have you had it? Do you need a new one?

Write out in a point form list each item in that bag. And then answer the following questions:

  • Why do you carry each item?
  • What purpose does it hold in your life?
  • Is there anything emotional in your bag?
  • Is everything in your bag strictly functional?
  • Is there anything in your bag that shouldn’t be?

Once you’ve answered all the questions, look back at what you’ve written. What does your bag say about you? What is expected about your answers? Was there anything unexpected?

Now, apply these steps to the main character in whatever project you are working on. Give this character a bag.

  • What does the bag look like?
  • Why does the character carry this bag?
  • If the character wouldn’t carry a bag, create the reason why.
  • How do they carry what’s necessary for their day?
  • Is this character the type of person who can’t leave the house without a huge bag?
  • Is there a job related to the bag?
  •  What does this bag tell you about this character?

Once you’ve established the bag itself, make a point for list of the items in the bag. And then answer the following:

  • What do the items in the bag help the character to do? 
  • Based on what you know of the character, what items in the bag are expected?
  • Put one thing in the bag which is unexpected.
  • What does that unexpected item say about the character?

If you want to go further, write a scene involving this character and their bag.

Exploring the world of the small in your characters is always going to give you a wealth of material to work with.

Ch – Ch – Changes

pencils-447481_1920

Have you had someone impose on your work? Suggest changes? Make changes on their own behest? 

We own the copyright on our writing. The instant we put pen to page. You can do the fancy register process, but legally it’s not necessary. You can’t copyright an idea or a title but you can copyright the execution of that idea. Copyright laws very much favour the creator.

That doesn’t seem to stop people from thinking it’s okay to change a play. Make it better. Make it cleaner. And no one seems to be immune. 

I had a director tell me (the day before rehearsals started) that my play wasn’t good enough and that she was taking on the rewrites herself. [Insert heart attack and lawyers here.]

It’s a hard thing to deal with because a production is often on the line. If you want this, you need to let us do that.  It’s easy to say, well I do want this so maybe it’s okay if I let them do that.

And of course we’re not talking about constructive criticism that helps your work grow. We’re talking about individuals who think they know better than you.

It’s your play. And that means you can do whatever you want with it. You can accept that changes will be made and not feel guilty. With my high school work, sometimes I do just that. I know that the process of that play is more important than the product.

You can also stand up and say no changes, which may mean – no production, and not feel guilty. I do this all the time. There is no discussion. Do the play as is or don’t do it at all.

But always take charge of the situation. You’re the one who knows better. It’s your work. It’s your baby. You decide. You decide how your baby is going to be presented to the world.

 

Your First Draft Is Your Best Draft?

One of the things that causes writer’s block, that can plague writers to death, that can make a writer stick their work in a drawer never to be seen again is this belief:

Your first draft is your best draft.

No, no, no. Again no. A thousand times no. 

When you think you have to do your best writing all the time, that’s a lot of pressure. If every time you sit down to write your first thought is this has to be perfect, what happens when the writing is not perfect?

Do you stop writing? Do you give up? Do you decide you’re a horrible writer?

creative_color_pencil_02_hd_picture

As you work on that first draft, problems are going to crop up. It’s inevitable because you won’t have the story fully mapped out from the very beginning. You won’t fully know your characters. Questions will occur. So what do you do when you encounter a snag with the story?

Do you stop writing? Do you give up? Do you decide you’re a horrible writer?

I hope the answer is no for both situations. You have to keep going, keep writing and accept at times that the writing is not what you want it to be. That you don’t have all the answers. 

That your first draft is not your best.

And the only way to solve that problem is to keep writing.

The first draft is merely that number. The first. With more to come. That can be overwhelming for some writers – What do you mean I have to keep writing. I got to the end. I’m done.

The first draft provides the frame. It’s the hanger you’re going to put the clothes on. It’s the room painted white. The first draft will give you the bones. It’s the work you do after the first draft that really counts. That’s where you make it pretty and shiny and vivid. And that’s why we need a first draft. But it’s only the beginning.

 

What do you want your plays to do?

thoughts-551263_1920

It’s easy to get caught up in with writing. Does this ever happen you?

It happens to writers whether they’ve been putting words on the page for a few days or many years. We get so excited that we Just! Want! To! Write! We dive into the deep end of the pool and want to get swimming.

Who has time to prepare? Who has time to wait two hours after eating?

Diving into the deep end with writing is one of the fastest routes to writers’ block. There’s one simple question that every writer needs to ask and answer at the beginning of their process.

Ask this of whatever you’re working on right now:

What do I want my play to do?