One thing that I've done that has helped my writing immensely is to take risks. I think being uncomfortable is an important facet to being a good writer (hey man, I'm kind of uncomfortable right now writing this blog!). Risk taking of course sometimes takes the form of an action, like jumping out of an airplane which I'm never doing because i want to live, but it's a good example. I do remember though traveling to Europe by myself when I was 20 or 21. I didn't want anyone to know but I was terrified.
Terrified is good.
Writing about something you're scared to write about or that isn't a guaranteed hit, is the ultimate goal. Revealing a hidden or anonymous truth about yourself or relationship to the world is brave, real, and authentic.
Because if you've read this blog at all, I'm all about you and I as writers getting to the truth. The truth of our voice comes through and always wins out over trying to impress or fit in with what we think would sell. And often, it's the risk of being honest that makes something more attractive to the world - in terms of buying it.
I was reminded of this reading an article in the LA Times by a former client. www.latimes.com/style/laaffairs/la-hm-la-affairs-rebecca-cullen-20180224-story.html. As I told Rebecca, I can't imagine writing about my sexcapades. Very bold and my hat is off to her.
Different things I've done to sort of encourage my own truth-telling and risk-taking include creating a podcast, doing I think like 3 blogs before this one, and shooting an online commercial. All of these things were risky. The podcast was because I had no idea what I was doing and felt nervous every time. It was my voice and our literal voice does not lie. I was shaky-mcshakerson at times, trust me. But I learned to use that nervous energy to hopefully sound enthusiastic. In fact, I learned a lot doing that podcast. The blogs? I love writing so that might not seem like a big deal but I wasn't writing about writing I was writing about LA and hidden treasures I loved. I didn't really know what I was doing. Who cared what I thought? But I did it anyway. What the hell, right? http://opinela.blogspot.com.
And the commercial, which I created, co-produced and directed - I mean that was A BLAST! But again, I was scared. I wanted to do a good job. The buck stopped at me. And it was for a sex product. I mean talk about embarrassing convos with my elders and some of the more conservative Hollywood peeps I know. In addition, this was only the second time I would be directing something. Could I do it? That certainly was something I wondered. Something I prayed for. I really wanted it to be fantastic for everyone - the client, my talent, crew, and me - so you know, no pressure. Despite my fears, I think we did pretty well and it did open some doors for me, doors I didn't even know were there:
So it doesn't have to be every day but I implore you to stretch. Look outside of your comfort zone creatively. And not quietly. It builds a far bigger wrinkle in your brain to just, as they say, put it all out there. Imperfection gives us the strength to, when say we're doing our chosen art (the screenplay, the TV spec, the novel) operate that muscle of courage we need to write more truthfully and to represent our finished pieces more effectively. We're able to go where we haven't gone before. You know, we grow a pair.
Because otherwise, you're small, you're writing and creating for an audience of one, and if that's what you want to do, fabulous! But if you're reading this blog, I don't think that's the case.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.” — T.S. Eliot
I've been writing these short stories that have proven really helpful to me in terms of learning about my characters. I love them and feel for them - the characters, not the stories. I hope my stories are good. Who knows? But you know, that's the thing, sometimes I'm writing and I'm not sure what it is. Like why am I writing these people or this thing? Is it going to be something? Will this end up in something larger?
Or is this an exercise that will be chalked up to part of the process or "my process" or whatever process? Process. Such an annoying word. Like if I write something and it's a failure I know it's a part of my process but it bugs me. Feels like a waste of time until you know, I'm away from it and into the script that's actually really super duper working. Now. And I know I KNOW I couldn't have gotten there without my stutter step. Yep, a part of the process.
Also a part of my "process" (God, just writing the word is annoying) is distraction. So like while writing these stories I picked up a book as I tend to do. Gotta get my mind off the thing I'm doing. So this book-- I bought it for my husband when we were in Boston, not knowing he had already read it as most well-read people had.
Leading me to now reveal: I never read Joan Didion before. There. Boom. It's over. It's out. I just never did! I'm sorry! I remember hanging out with my super well-read friend, Alice, one day who was describing her influences and she said, "Don Delillo" (Me: nope, never read him), "Joan Didion of course..." and when she said "of course" I said, "Yeah, well, yeah." I mean just lied. Out right lied. Like I was Joan Didion's best friend or something.
As a result, I became positive I wouldn't like her. Like as if lying about reading her made her toxic for me. I think the "of course" made me think, Oh, she's really going to be complicated and I'll feel pressure to feel a lot of things I won't feel or I'm not smart enough to know why people think she's so good and will realize it and then I'll feel down. Yeah, fuck that.
But because I know I need distraction when I'm writing and have convinced myself I cannot be entertained by any film or television and because the collection was fresh and new, a never-been-touched-hot-out-of-the-Trident-Bookstore-shelves-new, I picked up Slouching Towards Bethlehem hoping for the best.
Well, I fucking LOVE JOAN DIDION! Doesn't mean I'm smart or anything I just do. I love reading about California then and the beauty and the history and the weirdness. It's just the right ounce of escape from my own writing. I'm able to be entertained with moments with Joan and they're just that, moments. Though they are stimulating. I am engaged. Not like the lackadaisical experience of watching another bad TV show or a movie that's supposed to be good while my butt is slouching towards numbness. Yeah, I like my moments with Joan and somehow they feel like she's in this moment in time, mine, a part of my... process. (what a weird fucking morning talk show would that be? MOMENTS WITH JOAN. Me and Joan Didion and coffee and stuff? On like The Sundance Channel or something).
Anyway, I hope at the end of whatever this period of time is with my stories and Joan, I'll be closer to creating something great, something entertaining, the entertainment I so badly crave!
And I mean a person who says this is my kind of person:
I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. - Joan Didion
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.