Sunday, February 8, 2009

With a Little Help From My...

I've been in a writing jam lately. The Epic In Progress (The E.I.P, not to be confused with E.I.N), has nagged me, even though I intentionally put the entire mess on the closet shelf. That's right. All notes, printed pages and other roughness is right there in a big red accordion file. Now that the Spring semester is in full swing, I knew I wouldn't look at the E.I.P for a bit. But, still, there it is, nag, nag, nag.

The problem started with my decision to re-write the prologue in another p.o.v. I mentioned my block in the previous blog. Two of my friends, Stevie P. and Erica O. (that sounds so diva-ish), suggested it's not me, it's the E.I.P. Erica suggested brainstorming with a friend.

Saturday, while searching for her phone number, my girlfriend Marcia Colette called me. Yes, it was a Twilight Zone moment. Oh what a relief! After we bantered about this and that, I changed conversation-gears, and said, "I know why I can't move forward with my Epic," and I proceeded to unload the reasons. Never missing a beat (she rarely misses anything) Marcia said, "You have got to put that all behind you and get on with it."

If that conversation took place face to face, her face would have been in mine. Finger jabbing my chest - I felt it over the microwave. Damn, she's one powerful babe! And as if we were face to face, we brainstormed; I laid out my thoughts for the new prologue to her; she said something like, "Yes! That'll work!" and that afternoon, I sat down and wrote it. Just like that. But...

there was a prelude to Saturday. Is it possible the Universe can read emails? I know if I speak out loud, I get results, but an email request? This past Friday I said in an email to Erica O., "Now if only I could wrap my brain around the actual writing of it... It'll come. I have faith. It'll come."

The next day, Bam! Phone call with Marcia; me sitting down and writing.

I'm a huge believer that when there's something you need, say it out loud. And now I'm thinking that writing the wish had the same impact. I told Erica, albeit in an e-mail, that I had faith. I believed it would come. It did, with a little help from Marcia.

See how the Universe is? Always there, whether you believe in it or not.

It continued to amaze me. Last night I watched an interview on 60 Minutes of Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay. He said about his group, "We rely more on enthusiasm than actual skill. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically and people will like it more." Steve Kroft, CBS correspondent conducting the interview, said that the group is "confident that they are not yet as good as they are going to be."

I can't stop thinking about Chris Martin's statement. It's had an overwhelming impact on my psyche ever since, provoking thought. Enthusiasm the higher power over skill. And I'm confident that after digging into the Epic just one more time, that I'm "...not yet as good as" I'm going be.

Always strive for greatness; do so with complete enthusiasm. "People will like it more." Could that be because true writing comes with gut gusto? I think so, and feel that the root of my recent block was forgetting to just let go. Forget about the skill, whether you're sentences are the correct structure, or if the world's going to like your work. Keep focus on what matters - the passion in you. It'll breed greatness, I believe.

And when the going gets bogged down, it's always best to reach out for a lifeline. In my case, they found me - Stevie P., Erica O. and the lovely ass-kicker, Marcia.

Do you find you're sometimes forgoing enthusiasm/passion for skill? Have you had any "Cue the Twilight Zone Music" moments you'd care to share?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Ephiphany: Not A Christmas Story

Erica Orloff is the catalyst for this blog edition. Through various emails back and forth with her recently, as well as her blog this week, I've seen my path more clearly.

I'm talking about education, enlightenment, and the fact that open minds come to those humble enough to realize that it's the only way to true self. Stagnation will set in otherwise, as it does in an old house of which its window never opened to let in light and fresh air.

Here's an admission for you. For quite a while I thought there was no reason for me to go to college, thinking that at my age what's the sense. (Backstory: I didn't attend college after high school.) In fact, I came very close to bagging this semester - I was having a "so what" moment. Other things drew my attention, such as working on my current Epic In Progress (EIP).

But the EIP is going nowhere. It still simmers in my mind, but two days ago I sat down to figure out where it was going, and I came up with nothing. Days before that it nagged the back of my mind. Not the story itself, but the fact that I just couldn't budge on it. Immediately I felt like a loser/slacker. And then, of course, ugly Inner Critic rustled his wings as he jabbed a thorny nail into my gut. Snicker, snicker. That's what I heard him say. Or maybe it was more of a snort, snort.

And then yesterday in Fiction to Film class I learned something new about adaptations. We saw a short film based on a short story by Nanci Kincaid. The discussion that followed was filled with a plethora of interpretation. Beauty filled the room, except for one opinion that was so narrow-minded I wanted to...well, let's just say it was too stupid for words, yet, it didn't ruin the experience for me.

This empowerment, did it sit me down to write brilliance in my EIP? No. But my mind widened that much more, and when that happens, thoughts abound, even if not directed to the EIP.

Those thoughts bred more. I felt so strong today. I let my mind have fun. And as it skipped barefooted through puddles of new knowledge, a couple of thoughts came forth that I'm sharing here.

Thought Numero Uno: My static EIP. Either the Universe feels now's not the time to mess with it, or I'm in need of a writer's Boot Camp. Or maybe a shock camp. Something might be necessary to kick-start the thing, but for now I'm just going to remain a faithful college student, keeping my focus on learning.

Thought Numero Duo: Critiques. Let's face it. No one loves hearing what's wrong with their story. I think where some writers feel the pinchy-ness of truth, though, might be in its delivery. Praise is a wonderful thing, but it also eclipses the "other stuff." I've been guilty of this. If I didn't like "other stuff," the non-praising words, I'd shove them aside and well, that got me nowhere. And I knew the "other stuff" was probably right, but the delivery was off. But in last years Eng. Lit. class, the professor work-shopped an essay with me. His suggestions went something like this: "This is good, but I think it would improve if you tried yada yada yada..." His delivery made all the difference. It stopped the eclipse. I wanted to improve from "good" to "better," and maybe on to "GREAT!"

Those are the thoughts I wanted to share. My mini-revelations that came bathed in bright light. The Dr. Phil "Ah-ha" moment compliments of open-mindedness.

I believe that good writing begins when the writer realizes there's always room for improvement. Whether multi-published or struggling to get a foot in an agent's door, remaining open-minded is the key to accomplishment.

I know I'm reiterating some of today's Erica Orloff blog, but in doing so I'm admitting that there was a time when I thought I knew everything I needed to know about writing, as well as other things. Maybe everything. Yet within the last year and a half I've seen personal growth, and it comes from surrounding myself with people who share knowledge kindly, like Erica Orloff for instance.

Have you had bouts of know-it-all-ness? In other words, have you ever felt you've reached the highest knowledge peak, in any aspect of your life? Any revelations you want to share?