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Writer Wednesdays on a Monday: Turning Things Around

8 May

It’s like hearing that song on the radio and you just stop because you feeeeeeeeeel the lyric.  You feel George Harrison. You feel Mavis Staples. You feel Springsteen. You feel Hall and Oates. You feel Phil Collins. You feel Chris Stapleton. You feel Juan Gabriel. You feel Ana Gabriel. You feel Katrina and The Waves.

It is in you. You feel like it was written just for you, and you sit there in your car at the stop light listening.

Them words.

You think to yourself, maaaaaaaan. They got this one right. The lyric, combined with the music. They got this one.

Then you go back to your keyboard, inspired, hoping that you can put something like that on the page. You want to make someone laugh, smile, feel your heart through your characters. And sometimes it happens … other times … you fail miserably because you just can’t get it. It’s not there. You thought you had it with all that inspiration jazzing you up, but then you lost it because of a phone call, bad memory, or wasted time. Lack of discipline attacks you on Wednesday after you had the umph to get you through Monday and Tuesday.

Burn.

I hate it when that happens.

So how is it that I try to turn things around? Especially on a Monday?

I try to remember that waking up wasn’t an accident. It was on purpose, for something bigger than just fixing lunches, dropping off kids, and racing through traffic. There has to be more that I leave my kids than memories.

Pieces of me in my writing out there for them to read and get. Whether on my laptop, in my notebooks, posts, or published writings. Something of me is out there for them to see, to get, that I’m on the star map chasing the Milky Way and hoping I land.

So when I feel like dropping it because I’ve dropped the ball as a writer and haven’t found the nooks and crannies of time to write every day, I remember not everybody is on the same ride. I’ve got all kinds of detours and stops on mine. It may take a little longer, but I’ll get there. As long as I don’t give up.

So I don’t.

I get the Andre Agassi in me … ready to make a comeback.

It’s bigger than me. That’s what I think … I can’t walk around six months from now and still be in the same spot, because it’s bigger than me. I’ve got my Zen back and it took me a loooooooooooonnnnnng time to rework my magic with this crazy environment and lack of support, with the failing of my awesome play earlier this year. I thought things would spark after that. It took a while to find my center … a lot of podcasts.

But I found it.

I woke up and remembered … waking up was not an accident. Turn the corner.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grabbing The Mic

22 Mar

It involved getting bailed out of county jail, stepping in a pool of vomit on the subway, riding in the trunk of a car in a zebra bathing suit, playing with a lighter and can of hair spray, and a dead cat in the wall of an apartment.

It was only an hour, but it was the most inspirational sixty minutes of the week.

Hanging out with a bunch of storytellers and a glass of wine proved to be a memorable evening. I came away feeling motivated to finish my own stories after hearing about these adventures. Something about hanging out with a bunch of creatives and listening to them craft their epic misfortunes into Silver Lining Playbook stories centered on friendship was contagious.

I came home ready to dig deep, although with my life I didn’t have to go far to capture moments. Although the one thing about these artists was that the stories were free flowing. No script. They had it in their head. They performed their stories. They were animated and I felt like I was part of the circle. I was there when he was making the call from county jail and no one came to bail him out. I was there watching the woman slip in a pool of vomit on her way to steal the elderly woman’s seat on the subway. I was there when the zebra bathing suit got pulled over by the CHP. I was there when the curtains caught on fire from the can of hairspray. And I was there when the girl had to break her lease because she kept getting fleas from a dead cat in the wall.

The stories came to life. These storytellers were the writers, actors, and directors themselves. They placed full confidence in their stories and their ability to tell it. They stepped on stage, grabbed the microphone, and began. Fear or no fear. They grabbed the mic.

Microphone-Whealans1

I left away with that feeling … the one with butterflies. They took creative control of their story and it was empowering to see. No one changed their timeline. No one added unnecessary  dialog. No one changed the integrity of their characters. No one changed their soundtrack. No one changed their stories.

It was great to see how their bravery helped maintain their creative control.

I watched. I listened. I learned.

I might be grabbing the mic soon myself, as I was invited to come back “try it out”.

And I just might.

After my experience with the play director, creative control seemed to matter more in my next endeavor. But I’m not rigid, I welcome constructive criticism, and collaborations. I like input that makes the story better. With every creative, story and characters matter. Every writer has this intention.

But not every project ends that way.

So my lesson learned during this inspirational outing?

Be brave enough to grab the mic and hold onto your creative control, but be willing to work with others, just choose people you trust when sharing your visions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer Wednesdays … Fan Battles, BS-Ometers, and Nooks & Crannies

1 Feb

When you decided to pursue your passion a twist came at the end of it … Along the journey and after all the obstacles, you ended up seeing what was behind the giant curtain.

Through the discovery, some of the mystery disappeared.

How is the doctor different when she’s a patient? How is the lawyer different when she’s a client? How is the teacher different when he’s the student? How is the pitcher different when he is the batter? How is the writer different when she is the reader?

Yup. Perspectives change when you’re on the other side.

As a writer this question has been posed to me before.

Like the doctor, lawyer, pitcher, and teacher, the writer becomes more aware of the approach and of the details. We  give our fellow writer the benefit of the doubt, but don’t walk blindly into the story.

We just pay attention more. We can smell the BS when it surfaces and tries to camouflage itself as substance. I feel like my BS-ometer has gotten better throughout the years. You notice things that others might not, even with the most avid readers, you still have an edge because you’ve been behind the scenes.

But aside from having a finely tuned BS-ometer,  I get into the nitty-gritty of it with characters. I’m in the nooks and crannies. Characters are big for me, whether it’s from a book or on a television show. Characters are what make it happen for me. Story and plot are intriguing, they peak my interest, but characters are what make me stay all the way to the end. I pay attention to how the character mattered to this writer and how they developed. I’m constantly on the look-out for that A-HA! moment and see how the character responds. Is it the way I thought she would?

When the character becomes so amazingly great that it changes me from a writer into a fan, that’s a job well done by the creator. It’s hard for me to watch series finales sometimes because the fan in me battles the writer in me. Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, LOST, 24, The Closer … all of these had me on the edge of my seat for the series finales and as a writer, I battled with the fan inside of me.

The fan roots for the underdog and the happy ending, but sometimes as a writer you just know … you know that can’t happen because it’ll betray the story and the character’s intention.

Being a writer, enhanced the reading and watching experiences for me. I see the strings being pulled and think wow how amazingly awesome that they pulled this off, or when I’m disappointed I think, man there could have been a better way. The fan and writer constantly battle each other when the stories are good.

Some people may think it works against them to know what’s coming, to know how the pieces are being moved. I just think it makes you pay attention more, makes you look at the decisions being made and if you end up becoming a fan … well then, once a fan, always a fan maybe even a die-hard fan.

 

 

Happy Wednesday

 

 

Getting Through The Twilight Zone

6 Jan

A night of smiles, laughter, celebration, and pride. A night of feel-good feelings to be remembered all year long never happened.

I turned to Plan B ready to find the silver lining, to have a good night despite the bad taste in my mouth. A quiet night of resurgence that included a comeback story waiting to happen was foiled by a bad conversation that exhausted my being. The DMV-clerk-type-of encounter … that kind of exhausting.

Bad conversation people you just need to stop.

I mean do you hear yourselves when you talk? I feel like I’m trapped in the Twilight Zone, the Pig Nose episode where nothing makes sense. This circular logic of bad conversations does nothing for my sanity, it makes me sigh louder and rub my face harder.

So I zoned out. The rest of the words, I chose not to hear them, I just let them think what they wanted to think. I let them have the last word because that’s what mattered to people like this … having the last word. It’s a power thing I guess.

I had given up the possibility of a rational conversation when I came to the conclusion that I could not say anything to make this person see the light and change their mind. Normal people might say … hey why don’t you say how they make you feel, even though you tried and tried and tried different approaches, why don’t you try again until they hear you?

To which my reply would be … there are no hearing aids sophisticated enough to improve these listening skills.

Some people are just permanent residents of the Twilight Zone.

So after a couple pieces of chocolate failed to remove the funk hanging over me I closed my eyes for  a bit and imagined that the A-Team was really real. I tried to think of a way to contact them, but remembered newspaper circulation is down.

And so I closed my eyes and thought of Plan C to help turn things around and during this meditative state, I remembered a moment in the day. I saw the sun hitting the outdoor skating rink and my orange skates cutting through the ice. I swayed from side to side and found the magic. I remembered Bruno Mars and Andy Grammer blasting through the outdoor speakers.

I closed my eyes and remembered that.

I was grateful for it. I thought I felt that magic today despite knowing what the night was supposed to be. Then after a bad conversation … I was still able to close my eyes and see the smile on my face while a zig-zagged on the ice. I had one moment today … today when I thought I would not have any … I had at least one and it carried me through the Twilight Zone.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

My Inner Liam Neeson

4 Jan

Dear Fool Who Stole My Credit Card And Decided to Get An Erotic Massage at The Geisha Spa House in Paris,

You suck.

I mean when I decided to go to the science museum and expand the minds of my kids with the interactive exhibits exploring planetary research stations, Eco Challenges, and the science behind sports I had no idea you were lurking in the shadows of their computer system ready to steal my credit card number.

I’m all for random acts of kindness and picking up the tab every once in a while but I think you’ve misunderstood what generosity means. I totally could have bought you an eclair … a chocolate one at that. But you decided to push the boundaries a little.

I mean someone handling the knots in your deep tissue with elbows and hot stones sounds awesome. I love hot stones but I kind of wanted throw one at your face followed by an elbow. A Muay Thai elbow. That would have been really relaxing for me, actually.

I mean to spend $550 on a massage sounds a little excessive, I mean for fifty bucks you could have gone downtown and had Bertha work the kinks out. But no … you decided to go all out this year. I mean you could have even given a nice tip. But I guess your generosity stopped you there. Didn’t want to steal anymore for a tip, huh? Or perhaps the tip was included. I don’t know. I just know you were really living it up before the New Year got started. I mean it’s 2017 why not go all out, right?

Yeah … you still suck.

And the thing is before I decided to take up meditation and lead a life of Zen and finding happy moments I probably would have gotten all Liam Neeson on you and been like …

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want … other than dirty massages … but what I do know is that I have is a particular set of skills … I will look for you. I will find you and I will kill you.

neeson

Yeah … my inner Liam Neeson would have gotten crazy on you. But the funny thing was I didn’t get crazy. I didn’t freak out about losing all that money. I didn’t curl up in the corner and cry. The credit card people flagged you before you could do any more escargot damage and I imagine the shady places you visit don’t take to kindly to red flags when paying bills. I mean there might be a bruise on your face the size of a hot stone already. A couple stones actually. Who knows?

But having heard this news to start off the New Year could have really sucked for me but it didn’t.  I just shook my head at the thought of you and wished you a painful death as you fell off the Eiffel Tower. I shook my head in disbelief. I shook my head at the inconvenience of your existence.

I shook my head thinking … you suck.

And then I went for a run.

When I came back I thought, this wasn’t a bad experience, this was just good writing material, a story waiting to happen.

Thanks for story. But don’t get too crazy … my inner Liam Neeson isn’t that understanding.

Sincerely,

The Guat.

 

 

Writer Wednesday’s

5 Oct

So how do you know when it’s over?

Like any relationship … you know, because there’s that tiny quivering feeling in the pit of your stomach letting you in on the secret, letting you know that the end is near.

After weeks of sleepless nights and Costco-sweat-wearing days, there’s a big exhale when I type THE END. It takes me a longgggggggg time to get there and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever see the finish line.

Doubt. Anxiety. Insecurity. They all creep up on me during the entire process. Never sure if it’s going to be good enough. Never sure if people are going to relate. Never sure if people are going to laugh. Never sure if people are going to keep reading. Never sure whether to send it out. Never sure if it’s going to pay off. Never sure if the daydreaming I’m doing today is gonna pan out in the story tomorrow. Never sure of a lot of things, but once I get past all these inner voices (as well as the outer voices who think I should just get a “real” job) and I get to the end, I know.

I do, because I feeeeeeeeeeeeeel it. Definitely.

There’s closure.

Stuff that’s necessarily missing from my current existence, I find in my made up world. My character, dead or alive, has come full circle. A messy and dramatic one, with multiple post visits to a shrink included, but never the less an adventure that has come to an end. It isn’t to say that another adventure isn’t waiting for them tomorrow, it’s just that the adventure they started with me, the day I was day-dreaming it up has finished.

So I put on a new pair of Costco sweatpants, and dig into my messy life archives and see if there’s another story that’s ready for the page.

Not everybody feels it, not everybody goes through the Costco sweatpants phase, everyone has a different journey. Difficult and emotionally exhausting, but we all get there in the end and high fives are a requirement.

 

 

Unbalanced …

3 Feb

Two days … I think it was my record.

I’d never been sucked into such a drama before and been so upset after watching it. I couldn’t believe it.

I. Couldn’t. Eeeeeeeeeven.

Dude … if you haven’t seen it, you probably should. Although I wouldn’t recommend the up-until-2 a.m.-binge-watching session. Take it easy if you can, but I doubt that you will because you look at the level of shady people handling the situation and you’re like no way, no way.

No way this still happens.

You think to yourself that common sense and justice would prevail but you’re left wondering, what the hell?

Yeah … in case you haven’t figured it out I’m talking about the Netflix Documentary Series Making A Murder.

making-a-murderer

I don’t want to spoil the drama for you, but all I can say is that it’s gonna blow your mind and you’ll end up with all these twists and turns wondering what happened? I mean are you freakin’ kidding me? What is going on down in Wisconsin?

All I will tell you is that it’s the story of Steven Avery, a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit. After he’s exonerated he is then accused of another crime two years later … when he’s in the middle of suing the county for millions. The series covers the arrest, prosecution, and trial.

And it blows your mind.

But apparently I couldn’t get enough of this Whodunnit? type of series where searching for the truth was as complicated as working on The X-Files. Although if people had common sense … dude the truth would surface a lot faster.

But the binge didn’t stop there … I discovered a podcast … Serial. It uncovers the story behind what happens during a murder trial … the day, the process, the witnesses of one case … piece by piece.

These stories had me so intrigued and so vested that it only took me two days and major lack of sleep to discover the facts and the end. And I wasn’t interested for gossip’s sake or sensationalism, it was more the story and the people. The truth! I wanted to know the truth, I wanted to know for sure. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to be done with all these shades of gray. I wanted answers for this, just as much as the people involved did. But nothing is ever easy.

The this-can-happen-to-you situation, that’s what really got me. I mean probably not, really. But you never know, wrong place, wrong time and you could find yourself on the other side of that table in Interview Room 1.

These real life stories, man they left me speechless. Frustrated and speechless, which was why I had to take a couple of days before writing about it. But I felt the need to share these stories so that you could hear about them and just decide for yourselves.

Does the system still work? I know it’s flawed, but it’s not supposed to be this flawed, right? Reasonable doubt. Innocence. Guilt. There’s supposed to be some balance. But there’s still supposed to be truth, but you realize a lot of people lie.

I don’t know, man. I don’t know. But I’m feeling pretty unbalanced now, unbalanced and wondering how the truth can get so buried.

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George and JJ And Their Dream Factories

23 Dec

Even though it was right in front of me I hadn’t seen it.

But after watching the most recent chapter on the Big Screen with my son and daughter I knew exactly what to say.

And don’t worry there are no spoilers, just some insights.

Now after all the craziness of opening week you’re either a fan or not. But either way you cannot help but appreciate the freakin depths of the imagination in which this world was created. George Lucas was amazing and JJ Abrams continued that awesomeness with the latest installment of The Star Wars saga.

As I was discussing the amazing film with my son, he just had this look of wow on his face, the same look he had when he watched Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope a while back. So I stopped.

What’s wrong?

Nothing. That movie was awesome! Awesome! How did they know that stuff was gonna happen?

What do you mean?

Like where they’d read it?

They didn’t. They created it. They made this whole world up in their imagination, The Force, light sabers, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Jedis, Princess Leia, and The Dark Side. He didn’t read it anywhere he made it up in his head. If it weren’t for Lucas Star Wars wouldn’t exist, and if it weren’t for JJ this movie wouldn’t have been so great. That’s what writers do, they create these things, these stories, they have dream factories inside their heads.

That’s. Amazing.

And all he could do after that was smile.

And me too.

star-wars-the-force-awakens-wide-poster

Star Wars The Force Awakens

So after our conversation I just got to thinking about these dream factories that writers have in their heads, thinking of the worlds and characters they create and how if it weren’t for Lucas my son would have never known about The Force or light sabers or The Millennium Falcon.

Then it hit me … I have a dream factory. I’ve got ideas that no one else has or thinks about. I got something in me. It may not have Luke Skywalker in it but it does have some pretty interesting characters.

That little Star Wars magic created by Lucas and then amazingly told by JJ Abrams inspired me to get back on the computer and continue creating my little world, funny, sad, exciting, and triumphant with faults and all. I got it in me. I just got to continue getting it on the page.

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I’m All About Closure

20 May

I guess I was in a state of … this is it? And it took me about 48 hours to adjust to that reality with plenty of chocolate to assist in the matter.

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Image via AMC.com

Image via AMC.com

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And it wasn’t a bad kind of reality, but a dude-it’s-over-kind-of-a-way reality. You’ve invested eight years in this dude and you want to be able to see him through this, to be able to part ways and feel like everything will be all right.

I couldn’t believe it had finished because it was such a big part of my Sunday evenings, and I was hoping for an amazing ending, for closure, for an awesome Breaking-Bad-Sons-of-Anarchy-The-Wire kind of ending without deaths. But things tend to be more subtle in Don Draper’s world.

The future was left in the hands of a Coke commercial with plenty of room for interpretation, Sopranos-style if you will. Although the lives of some characters were wrapped up nicely. Pete’s growth throughout the series culminates with a happily ever after, while Joan once again suffers a breakup, but it doesn’t break her. She makes it on her own by creating Holloway & Harris, the best of both her worlds.

But the ending that surprised me was Peggy’s, I didn’t think the creators would give her love. But she found both love and career, and for some reason that revelation made me giddy.

All these character endings made me think of my own writing, and the type of endings I write for my stories and for the characters that live there. I realized, I’m not big on leaving things up for interpretation. I like to leave lives wrapped up with a strong indication of what the future holds. Uncertainty doesn’t sit well with me in series finales, movies, or books. I want to feel like I know, or even have an inkling, as to how things are going to go for my character. I don’t like leaving things up in the air.

Life is up in the air.

I’d like my stories to be better than that.

I’m all about closure. It helps me sleep better, especially when I’ve connected to the character and feel like a part of me, is like a part of him or her. The connection is what drives me as a fan, and a writer. So if I had to pick sides I guess I’d be all about closure. It sits well with me, feels right to know.

What about you? What’s your side?

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