I Don’t Have Writer’s Block, You Have Writer’s Block

No really, I don’t get writer’s block. There’s always another idea.

Oh, you want a specific idea in a narrow set of parameters, like a blog post maybe, that provides some sort of example or instruction with a smidge of encouragement and a pinch of humor?

Sure. In the meantime, here’s an unrelated picture I took on a trip. Not a metaphor.

Brick wall building creative uploads

Nice, huh? Wait, seriously, you don’t think that’s a brick wall, do you? I mean there are windows and a door — clearly you could get through it unless the windows are closed and the place is locked.

Or you could break a window, pick the lock, and tear down that wall, Mr. Gorbachev.

I really don’t get writer’s block, and neither do you. So don’t embrace the delusion that you do. That freezes you in a giant bear hug that keeps you from moving any direction.

Some things I embrace instead:

  • Procrastination
  • Depression *
  • Television
  • Anything Amusing
  • Laundry
  • Long Naps

My point is if you need to “not do,” try that out for a little bit. You don’t have to put a timer on it, but be reasonable and then start doing again. I don’t think I get “writers block,” because I could write whatever it is I need to, if I just started doing it, at least a first draft.

Like today: I wasn’t writing a post because I didn’t start thinking about a post because I wanted to do something else. I had stepped outside the process flow.

And then I wrote a post, because I started writing the post.

Now the simple fact that the draft probably needed editing and cuts, like chopping off the first paragraph or so to get to the point quicker — even if I threw everything out and started over again — that’s not writer’s block, that’s editing, and editing is part of the process of writing.

Calling it “writer’s block” is making an excuse for not doing something because you feel like doing something else instead.

In the same way, writing is an excuse for not screwing around. (Or when you are really good, an excuse for not doing housework!)

What do you love more at this moment? Do that thing. Then switch. But switch soon-ish, especially if you have a deadline.

—–David

P.S. I call this methodology “proactive procrastination.” Yeah, I may put off a priority but if I get something else out of the way , it won’t interrupt me or be an excuse later.

* Depression can be a small dip or a giant cliff, either way it’s a speed bump even if it’s not “clinical” depression. It’s a lower energy that doesn’t feed you.

I enjoy it as a break because it’s never felt permanent for me, but — and I’m not a qualified source here — if it’s not “temporary” for you, seek help from someone who can guide you to a shovel or sherpa and climb out of it at least once in a while. Even night gives way to day with persistence (and yes, vice versa) and with regularity.

P.P.S. A slightly related musing from the archives, and this watch again post on procrastination.

I Don’t Have Writer’s Block, You Have Writer’s Block was originally published on Creative Uploads

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Morning People Are Cheaters

Yeah, I said it. Oh, must not be a morning person… well, duh!

Maybe I’m a morning person on the wrong side of the planet? How about that?

Maybe I’m a night person who just realized that morning people slept in from yesterday afternoon. It would certainly explain why they are so peppy and excited to start the day. They’re several hours behind everyone already, why wouldn’t they enjoy that, as they pull one over on the rest of us?

Maybe these dawn-conscious non-zombies aren’t morning people at all, but rather coffee-buzzed caffeine-dependent addicts looking for their next hit, eager and ingratiating only because their barista “dealers” demand obedience and graciousness?

Or robots. Yeah, is robots is a possibility.

I think it’s one or all of these, but I am still investigating. Good night for now. *

—-David

P.S. This picture was taken exactly as I found it, it’s gotta mean something.

P.S.S. And I’m just having a little fun. I do not consider myself a morning person, not because I am a cranky monster at dawn, but because I am clearly, biologically, a “night loving person.” I often stay awake long past midnight without getting particularly tired, regardless of when I got up that day, and I love to sleep in when my schedule permits.

Although for the last few months (and going back to when I was a paperboy) I was quite capable of getting up ridiculously early, like 5 o’clock in the morning, and functioning quite well without ever drinking coffee. It’s just not my preferred method of operation, and it’s often a grind after four days in a row since I don’t usually go to sleep early to make up for it! But it requires a task to call me out of bed, whether I love the task or not.

* As I write this everybody else in the house is going to bed and I will still be up for several hours, because I just don’t tend to fall sleep easily. I used to think that made me an insomniac, but I can sleep once I get there. Here’s one tip: I stopped beating myself up for laying in bed awake, and just enjoy the random pre-dream state. When that doesn’t work, I get up and briefly do something interesting and creative that takes little energy and try again later. I know for those of you whose tight schedules don’t permit, that’s unfair advice, but at least don’t beat yourself up for not falling asleep Enjoy your unique ability to experience a different state of consciousness, kind of like the preshow of dreaming.

Morning People Are Cheaters was originally published on Creative Uploads

Mighty Words Don’t Rhyme With Swords?

I have always been a pretty good speller, and I have a love for words. No surprise for someone with a blog.

I am also fascinated with how we each come to understand our chosen language and recreate it in our own image. That’s the source for Spanglish, for example, a mix of English and Spanish, which is delightful and practical. It stems from a desire to communicate, and that’s a pure motive, so I appreciate it. (I mean it’s one thing to learn to speak two languages but, hey, to speak two languages at once with no training? ¡Wow!)

We also sometimes get stuck in a repeating grammar error (either for fun or from stubborn ignorance), or digging in as a form of pride and self-protection. Some examples:

  • Ax (not ask)
  • Pasghetti (spaghetti)
  • Literally not using figuratively when it’s literally the right word

I have both stepped into mispronunciations and been the correcting grammar nerd (I really dislike “ax.”) But in the end, that’s just me having fun with language. And like language, my understanding is flexible and can grow.

I learned the word “infrared” reading a book at a young age, knew it described a wavelength of light invisible to the naked eye without a filter, but thought, for years, it would rhyme with “repaired,” until a James Bond book spelled it “infra-red” and my eyes were opened to a deeper understanding of the red wavelength.

Not so lucky with the pronunciation distinction between “virile” and “viral,” which I discovered while reading out loud in high school to the delight of some classmates. Vee-rel is strong, for the record, not infectious. Still think the other pronunciation sounds like it’s stronger.

And “Entrance,” the noun which for everybody else on the planet means “come in here” (me too) is inspirational to me, because every time I see it, in my head I also hear the verb “Entrance!”

That’s a verbal joke, not a written one, let’s try again.

I hear the word with this definition: captivate, hypnotize

It’s a literal call to action, and it’s everywhere! Fantastic!

This may explain why I talk to complete strangers in lines and restaurants….

—–David

P.S. Synonyms: bewitch, fascinate, enthrall, mesmerize, enrapture, enchant, rejoice, ravish, please, delight, charm, gladden, spellbind, attract, transport, anesthetize, put in a trance

Get out there and Entrance! I mean, get in there!

Mighty Words Don’t Rhyme With Swords? was originally published on Creative Uploads

Solo Work Gets A Gold Star

Saw this recently in a teacher lounge. It gave me A New Hope.

Han Solo Star Wars pun creative uploads

And a bad pun.

What inspires you to make things, even silly ones? Does it come naturally or do you cultivate opportunities to improve your productivity?

I used to have some concerns with that, perhaps thinking if it wasn’t organic it might not be pure enough to reach artistic heights.

That’s crap. Improvisation, serendipity, structure, craven commercialism, planning, editing, incremental steps: they all have a place in creation and can bring us to an artistic result.

Or not.

But that’s for the audience to judge. And you can’t be the audience in the middle of creation; you’re too close in space and time to get the full picture.

First, make something. Then step back and let somebody else look at it.

Who cares what they think? That’s a different story.

—–David

P.S. I like a lot of stuff I put together; some people hate their own stuff. But I enjoy the process and that’s enough to get to the next thing. Which is sometimes the salve on the wounds from the previous experience.

Solo Work Gets A Gold Star was originally published on Creative Uploads

About That Caution: Just Drive!

One more thing on that last post about caution and special events, this was on my Tumblr the other day.

Keep left! Or don’t, I mean, just barrel straight through if that’s what you want….

http://megawatson.tumblr.com/post/171568663575/keep-left-or-dont-i-mean-just-barrel-straight

https://assets.tumblr.com/post.js

Now there’s some useful advice for creativity and production!

I either think too much while I am driving, or drive too much and don’t have time to think.

—–David

P.S. I do not think there is such a thing as “thinking too much”, but “overthinking” is a road hazard when you are trying to get someplace.

P.P.S. I love this Paul Simon song so much: Think Too Much (a)  “The fact is, you don’t think as much as you should.”

 

About That Caution: Just Drive! was originally published on Creative Uploads

Why Is Special Event A Caution Sign?

I didn’t mean for a metaphor to hit me over the head while I was just driving down the street, but seriously. Stop Special Event Ahead Caution! Creaive Uploads

 

As creative types, we will often take any excuse to detour around things, just dropping our good habits for a few minutes or hours or days. The delighted and self-destructive among us love when special events intrude on our schedule and we can throw everything out the window. We also hate that, because it means that we ‘ll need to make a new schedule at some point, and right now maybe stop thinking about our vague current idea or whatever we had planned.

That sure sounds like it calls for caution. I mean you’re on this road to get somewhere, right? And you’re being forced to change your route or get stuck in “traffic” that will slow you down.

But special events are special – it’s literally in the name. And if you want to be artistic or just enjoy yourself, special events are often an event worth the experience. Even if they totally suck by the end of it, you have a story — at least in your head or for the next party, or maybe even for a song or a film or a collection of pages.

So no, I don’t know that special events need caution. Feed your stuff, by feeding yourself.

And certainly understand the limitations and obstacles that they may present. But as someone who doesn’t mind being social yet still will try to avoid an event because it doesn’t seem “important enough,” or sometimes feels like it’s an excuse to not do the work you promised yourself you were going to do that day, or it costs money and you think you can save yourself into prosperity… Well honestly, those are all pretty good reasons/excuses.

But not all the time. Too many excuses gets you too good at excuses.

Too many special events makes them less special.

Strike a balance, and use caution, but don’t just stop.

—–David

P.S. I still remember seeing author Fran Leibovitz on David Letterman talking about how she was at a party that she don’t want to be at because she would literally take any excuse to avoid writing. I thought it was hilarious and honest and I took it as advice. And it is some of the worst advice for a writer I have ever heard. (Not that she intended it to be advice.)

Things I ignored:

  • She’d actually already written something and been published before that, so perhaps she was entitled to relax on occasion.
  • She ended up with a story that she could tell on a TV show, so she wasn’t entirely wasting her time.
  • I have no idea what she wrote and was plugging, and
  • I do not own any of her books

But I love her. https://www.facebook.com/franlebowitz/

https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fran_Lebowitz

Why Is Special Event A Caution Sign? was originally published on Creative Uploads

I Will Read (Watch) This Again: Michael Caine on Acting For Film, plus Beating Creative Blocks

Came across a blog post today from Stage 32 featuring a couple of videos that might be of interest to creative types that might want to download them into their brain (see what I did there? A truly terrible attempt at a joke. That’s what you call a first draft, and would cut in editing.)

The first video is a unicorn for me, something I knew existed but has been hard to find. I’ve only ever seen ten minutes of it and was amazed by it: Michael Caine on Acting For Film. THE Michael Caine, teaching actors film techniques, filmed for a British production quite a few years ago. Caught part of it on PBS when I was younger, and even though I am not focused on the acting field, the techniques he displays and his passion for the work are inspiring.

PLUS: It’s easily adapted to directing tips, to screenwriting and storytelling. It would even help you if you are just taking a meeting. Caine advises you to “pick an eye”, and shows why.

CAINE
But if I’m talking to you, and I don’t blink,
and I just keep on going, and I don’t blink….

He goes into methods for holding focus, grabbing attention, and simple tricks to hit your mark, demonstrating everything. Filmmakers: send this link to your actors. He’s not teaching for stage, but he makes comparisons and you can see those differences yourself and find things that would help whatever your venue, like being smaller or bigger with your performance without upstaging.

I’m not going to delve too far into it, because there’s so much here you will find different things than I do.

The second video is from Actualized.org, covering techniques on How To Overcome Creative Blocks and Writer’s Block. Even if you have writer’s block and you watch it and it doesn’t help you, you can tell yourself you were trying to be productive for thirty minutes and feel better about yourself, right? (I guarantee that’s not in the video, nor is it the best tip ever. But we all do it!)

This clip is a little more valuable than that, though. (Spoiler alert: it starts with commitment.)

Click here for the Stage 32 blog post with the videos

Just do it. No apologies to Nike. Why would you steal such a powerful statement and apply it only to shoes?

—–David

P.S. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Michael Caine:


https://youtu.be/bZPLVDwEr7Y

Overcoming Creative Blocks is here:
https://youtu.be/OwgD1vmAawo

P.P.S.  I successfully broke my writing addiction when I was younger (don’t do it!) but I still write (just a little less obsessively). Which was probably a mistake. I’ll talk about that another time.

But I always said I never got writer’s block. This is true in one common perception of the term: I don’t run out of ideas. But I do block myself from writing when I should, and that’s an even more insidious issue that I will be addressing with help from sources like this one.

I Will Read (Watch) This Again: Michael Caine on Acting For Film, plus Beating Creative Blocks was originally published on Creative Uploads

Capture Creativity Quick

So one of the difference between successful people and — let’s say less successful people? — isn’t the ideas. It’s sharing them. It takes a lot of work, but we can take the first step very easily.

If your goal is producing creative content, jokes, stories, music, art, whatever…. the trick is to capture the inspiration when you have it even if you can’t devote time to it when it first arrives. It doesn’t have to be finished; you are writing a note to your future self. It can be a sketch or fragment, it just needs to last long enough that you can work on it more, or remember enough to build on it, even years later!

I’m going to talk about musical creativity, but this works for all sorts of inspirations. ’80s pop star John (Cougar) Mellencamp wrote the lyrics to one of his hit songs on the shower door with soap. Who knows how many books and businesses have been built on the backs of bar napkins? I’ve chanted things to myself all day while avoiding just writing them down, kept a notepad by my bed — though now I’ll actually write notes to myself on my phone with a stylus –- which may or may not be better than my previous habit of just getting up for an hour in the middle of the night to write whatever song started when my head hit the pillow.

Countless songwriters have sung into tape recorders over the ages or scribbled down notes . With my first camera capable phone, I would record one-handed the melody that had come to me in 15 second video clips. Sometimes, like this example, I angle my iPad on my music stand so that I can see where my fingers were later.

The improvement on this is that now as soon as I’ve come up with the fragment of a song on any instrument, I turn on the electric piano and record the phrase and following improvisation via MIDI direct into a computer. (GarageBand on iPad works pretty good too in a pinch.) Not only does this give me the exact notes I played in the very improvisation I am building on, but it means that I can edit them, fixing glitches in my spontaneous phrasing, or creating a complete arrangement on top of the original sketch and eventually moving the first take out of the mix completely.

So much easier than my early attempts with cassette tapes. Heck, I once spoke the first chapter or so of a book I never wrote into a cassette recorder while hiking, that’s hilarious to listen to. (You don’t know if I’m pausing because I needed to breathe or I didn’t know what to say next.)

Anyway, my point is this applies to anything that you want to capture organically and move into the future as a more polished product. You don’t need to rely on your memory, and you certainly don’t need the conceit that if you forget it later, it wasn’t that good an idea. Don’t be a baby: write it down or capture it, and let your future self figure out that sometimes it’s crap and sometimes it’s not.

And if you end up with too many fragments of stuff to get to, oh darn why is that a problem? Learn to filter through it and work on your favorite thing until you have something done, then climb back on the pile and see what’s next.

—–David

P.S. For the record I often use S-Note on my aging Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for writing things down, and I love Evernote but now that it is free for only two devices at a time, I am trying desperately to use Microsoft OneNote which I find much more cumbersome and harder to search. It seems like OneNote wants you to have everything local before you can search, where Evernote searches in the cloud so you can pull down what you are looking for.

I really wish there was a reasonably priced plan for Evernote that gave me more devices but the tiny amount of monthly bandwidth that I really use. The upgraded plans are still too much of a stretch for the mostly casual user.

Capture Creativity Quick was originally published on Creative Uploads

Fake It Until You Make It Is Terrible Advice For Artists

What does it even mean? Try hard until you succeed? No, that would be fine. Is it some perverse sexual wordplay? Well, art is art, but no.

So, pretend that you can do something until you do?

That’s great if you’re in an 80’s movie*, but really, if you are trying to make something….

Wait for it.

Please wait, or please do something

MAKE SOMETHING.

It won’t be good. It might be okay. Odds are it will totally suck. Privately, even you might realize it’s crap, or you might think it’s the best thing ever (and that’s great, but honestly this often happens because we are so happy we actually made something! But really we tend to give ourselves extra credit for understanding our artistic process and the subtext.)

So it’s made, but it’s bad. So what? And, so what now?

Simple: Don’t pretend it’s good and stop. Repeat the process. Make something else. Again and again. Again.

Hey wait, that time it was okay. Maybe it even shows a glimmer of something shinier than the sum of its parts. Maybe someone else gets a glimpse of your subtext this time, as you refine your ability to communicate it.

Because we get better with practice, but in the creative field, practice is actually fun. Oh, and hard work at times, but fun.

Faking it doesn’t make anything.

Make it until you don’t feel like you’re faking it. Or until enough others feel that way, depending on how deep you like to breed your artistic angst.

—–David

P.S. “In the creative field, practice is actually fun” does not only apply to textbook definitions of creative endeavors. You can draw on creativity, inspiration, delightful random chance, discovery, and whimsy in any situation with excellent results.

Part of that trick is sometimes using creativity more for creation and less for expression (And not with numbers. Don’t get creative with the numbers!). Technique and presentation can come from opposite corners.

I mean, I don’t know what Newton was doing under that apple tree, but an apple fell on his head and he decided to define gravity mathematically. You can’t tell me that’s not creative as hell. And pie. Who came up with apple pie?

And even longer ago:

Do or do not. There is no try.

Or so I have heard.

* I’m thinking Michael J. Fox in “The Secret of My Success” here, not Michael J. Fox in “Bright Lights, Big City,” one of which is funnier (not saying which) but both involve faking it and making it in business, though not in the creative field.

Fake It Until You Make It Is Terrible Advice For Artists was originally published on Creative Uploads

Not Dried Up

I know there’s been a drought of posts, but the site’s just been resting while other projects demand to be watered. Researched an idea to move hosts and now planning on taking everything with and not starting with a new blank page. Whether I have the time to post a lot or not, this will be sticking around for a while. I have a plan. And a hosting plan. The broadcast stays on air.

I also wasn’t sure for a little while if I was going to stick with a self-hosted version or just maintain the perfectly adequate and free WordPress.com mirror, and didn’t want to keep it all shiny to have it disappear shortly.* You do want to spend time creating, but not a disproportionate amount creating something that evaporates.

It’s hard to strike a balance. I have that conversation with my theater-loving performing child who rehearses for weeks and only gets to put on the show a few times, versus me wanting her to be on video or do a film project with me, which could last for ages and find a wider ranging audience..

But the camaraderie, process and applause are a siren call, aren’t they? For all of us, in our own way.

—–David

* Reference: borderline hoarding but also the economy of efficiency.

Not Dried Up was originally published on Creative Uploads