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

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

I’ll Read This Again: Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 10 Tips For Screenwriters

The writers of “The Lego Movie” (and others, including the upcoming “Han Solo”) gave a talk for BAFTA’s Screenwriters’ Lecture master class, which is online in its entirety.

Creative upload stage curtain theater movie lights

I’m posting this partly to bookmark it so I can watch that video when I have time and focus, but meanwhile, here is a nice list-length summary of some things to think about the next time you are writing a script or story long enough to need sharply defined characters.*

Highlights for me: Make the story your own; it’s always about relationships; get and use feedback; and after using a positive creative experience phase you should use a critical phase to vet what you have created to make sure everything has a reason to stay in the script.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 10 Tips For Screenwriters: Learn Their Tricks of the Trade

http://flip.it/4MZ5zo

(Link via Indiewire. )

—–David

* And you should always have sharply defined characters, even if the definition is that they are dull. So it’s a trick that I said it any other way.

I’ll Read This Again: Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 10 Tips For Screenwriters was originally published on Creative Uploads

Storm In A Teacup

I always liked the phrase “Storm In A Teacup.” It’s British, but the Americanized version is a “tempest in a teapot”, which aside from being alliterative would allow for a slightly larger storm, or perhaps a copy of that Shakespeare play. I don’t know why it’s changed, we have teacups, too.

In any case it’s about making a bigger deal of something than you should, but instead I imagine a tiny tornado twisting its way around the rim of the china, as if stirred by a spoon suddenly removed, the leaves at the bottom of the cup stirred up and swirling as the brewing process makes it darker and darker.

I suppose that changes the meaning. And who minds a quick storm now and then, as long as it’s small and passes quickly? It brings a little excitement, maybe makes you dizzy? creative uploads writing teacup ride carnival

If not recommended for life, use that feeling in your writing. Great for conflict and potential resolution. What’s important to one character isn’t always perceived the same as another: was the response too big, too small, pointless, funny, sympathy-inducing? Or were they just interested in some tea with sugar?

—–David

P.S. I enjoy wordplay. And I enjoy the screeching halt when you suddenly stop. Contrast is good in writing.

P.P.S.  Songwriter Stephen Bishop wrote a song using this phrase, though it’s called “Madge.”  Here’s a nice cover of it on YouTube.  Bishop is more famous for things like “On and On”, “It Might Be You” (from “Tootsie”) and “Save It for a Rainy Day.” He also wrote and sang “Animal House.” So there’s that.

Here’s his own performance of Madge even though this musical P.S. diversion has little to do with the start of this post, it’s another tangent in how to use words to tell a story, right?

Storm In A Teacup was originally published on Creative Uploads

Musing Is Its Own Muse

I haven’t written a poem in quite a while. Decided to take a nap today and while pondering a great many things, one started to come to me, and I decided to fight to a draw and write down a couple of lines then sleep while I had time, and the poem won.

Here it is. Still working on the title though, so a victory for procrastination!



When wearily I lay down to rest


When wearily I lay down to rest

The answers to the universe come to me

The secret of life just about to be revealed

A peaceful moment brings a sense of clarity 

History dwelled upon uncovers hidden truths

Like a dream everything is in my power, possible,

Has been unknowingly under my control for ages

And the instructions for the machinery are all clear

It isn’t just imagination but understanding, for I am awake

Foolish insecurities vanish into confidence

And everything is so pleasantly obvious

And comfortable 

And comforting 

And peaceful

That just as 

I am ready

To wake up,

I sleep.

—David

P.S. The spark not just of inspiration but of action here was a realization that almost the only thing that ever pulled me out of bed when I have ideas at these moments is music. I can and have written notes to myself on paper or my phone or my pad over the years, though not often enough, but when a song comes to me * and grows beyond a verse into a chorus, I’d feel like I needed to rescue that moment from oblivion; so I would arise and go to a piano or guitar or just my songbook and often end up sketching out an entire song in fifteen minutes to an hour, usually with chords included. “Who needs sleep?” but also “who can sleep?” with a song stuck on your head.

Still, why music? A simple matter of two against one (words and music vs. sleepy/lazy me). Plus I always love music, but don’t always love having songs stuck in my head.

* “A song comes to me.” What an arrogant, incomplete and inaccurate description of a multi-faceted process with its myriad of possible avenues of inspiration. Sometimes it’s a flash, from stray thought or deliberate one, and sometimes it takes years, literally, for the shape to  even start resembling a song. Yeah, but songs come to me. And being able to recognize them in all their forms is pretty great.

Also this gives me the idea for a song….

Musing Is Its Own Muse was originally published on Creative Uploads