Writing Tip (Almost Tuesday) #4

I recently met a young man who wants to be a screenwriter. I was delighted to meet someone with whom I might be able to talk “shop” and bounce ideas around with, potentially.

I was surprised to learn he doesn’t write, let alone read.

I was confused. And slightly disappointed.

“How do you know you want to be a screenwriter?” I questioned with a raised quizzical eyebrow.

“I have an idea that I think would make a cool tv show. Do you have any advice on how to begin?”

Uhh, yeah. “Start writing. Anything.”

And then I wondered at what else a young, hopeful writer should know.

The writing bit seemed fairly obvious as one needs to find their voice, so I encouraged him to try his hand at a variety of styles.

The second piece of advice I gave him was to read. A lot. I recently discovered the unique writing of Ursula K. Le Guin via her novel, The Wizard of Earthsea. She has her own way, and I’m kind of sad I only just found her because I’ve had her books on my shelf for years and she’s different from anything else I’ve read.

I suggested that he could start doing research on the topic and that it could lead him to have a better understanding of the story he wants to tell. So far it was just a specific time period because, I think, he likes the idea of the set dressing.

Finally I advised watching shows that are thematically or genre specifically similar to his so that he knows what’s out there. There’s this idea among new writers that they might be unduly influenced, but any professional will tell them that in order to market their own material, they must be familiar with the competition.

I definitely wanted to encourage the spark of creativity to grow, but I had that sense, the one so many of us, as writers, have encountered before – he’s just another random person with “an idea”.

You know the one.

But he is still young, although if you don’t read or write, how do you decide that this is the path you wish to follow?

It’s like…I don’t know…wanting to be a chef because you watch cooking shows even though you don’t cook.

I want to believe that this could be the beginning of his journey, and like I said, I wanted to encourage him, so I asked questions to get him thinking in greater detail of the overall story he may want to tell, and offered other tips, but what it comes down to, and this is the scary side of becoming a writer, is that it is truly about finding your own way.

I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age. It’s just taken me a long, and rather winding path to finally get here. Maybe this spark of an idea is enough to propel him forward into becoming a writer, himself. Either way, we all find our calling in different ways, and it’s up to us to pursue it.

I didn’t tell him about the struggles we face, there’s no reason to scare him off in the early days. I’ll leave that for him to discover in his own time, like we all did 😉 because when I think back on all I’ve learned and experienced – the years of research, the articles and books read, the years of tv and movie watching, the sleepless nights when I was on a roll (or when I wasn’t), the writing droughts, the rejections, the few and far between hints of encouragement, finding inspiration in the waking moments and when you’re drifting off to sleep, the trying to stay positive, and taking dead-end jobs (too often) to keep the dream alive – goodness, that’s probably best kept to myself.

Such is our life.

So on that note, fellow writers, what other advice would you give a newbie?

Quote Monday

A few weeks ago, I mentioned how I had felt this mental shift towards my writing. I suddenly felt this desperate need to get my work out into the world. Maybe it’s because I’m in a terribly monotonous, uninspiring kind of job, and at my age, I thought I’d be in a different place on so many levels. Maybe it’s because I feel another birthday looming on the horizon, and again, I thought my life would be different at this point.

I have long struggled to maintain focus and momentum where my writing has been concerned. I think this was a byproduct of my youth – thinking I had time. Another one – believing I had to be inspired to write.

I’ve always been a late bloomer, doing things in my own time. That’s why, after so many years of aimlessness, I think it finally clicked. I had to get here to know it’s not where I want to be.

I feel it. It’s different now. I’m different now.

After I pulled myself out of the mild depression I was experiencing from finishing one of my stories, I turned my attention to the troublesome 3rd Act of one of my screenplays that I have labored with many, many times. This is the act I didn’t know how to finish, for some reason have never known how to finish, but came to me during the quiet, meditative state I was in during one of my yoga practices recently.

It’s flowing, and I’m feeling satisfied with it, for the first time. Now that’s a feeling to relish.

So many things had to happen for this to come about. I had to meet a certain writer at AFF who gave me sound advice. But I had to be at a particular point in my life to be able to attend. And he had to be standing in front of me while waiting for our coffees so that I could be bold enough to speak with him – something I may not have been brave enough to do had I not taken the soul-sucking job that helped me develop certain skills.

I had to experience more of life because this isn’t a story I could have told in my twenties.

I had to realize that saying I’m a writer doesn’t mean as much as being a writer because it was just lip service for a long time because I was embarrassed about whatever job I had and it was a way of making myself sound better.

Some of this is for one particular story, but it all boils down to this:

I had to finally decide that my writing matters.

You don’t have to wait until you’re in your forties to come to this realization, but as I mentioned, I’m a late bloomer. This is my journey, and goodness, has it been a long, rough ride at times. I think, for those of us who struggle, we just have to come to this conclusion for ourselves, and I believe much of this comes down to timing. No matter how many quotes your read or pin to your wall, or how many experts tell you the same thing, we have to make the decision, when we’re ready.

It’s a state of mind. It’s perspective.

Some people are fortunate to follow their path without much hesitation, while others have to find themselves in a low place, maybe even a place of desperation to discover if their passion, their art matters. However you come to the conclusion, I hope you grab it with both hands and run wild!

Best of Luck! And Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

Yoga. It’s one of the things I wish I had discovered years ago. It’s one of the things I wish my friend, Jill had forcefully dragged me off to when she was going to classes in our 20s because now that I’m in my 40s, it has become one of my favorite things, and I feel like I wasted a lot of time not doing yoga.

You may be wondering why a writing blog is talking about yoga. First of all, I never thought I’d be “that” person, you know the one, the one who tells you that you should be doing yoga, but in the first year of practicing, I discovered a few things.

Last year, in what will be immortalized as “the year that was 2020”, my stress and anxiety were at an all time high. The Sis and I received a trial of an online service, and we tried a variety of classes – dance, HIIT, sculpt, strength – but it was yoga that really stuck. It calmed me down and helped to put things into perspective.

I’ve never enjoyed going to the gym. Even taking a 30 minute HIIT class was a chore. But when you’re out of work and a writer, you do a lot of sitting around, and all the “experts” tell you that you should do some form of exercise everyday, even just a walk around the block, so I knew I needed to do something, but it needed to be the right something.

I’ve been hard on my body all these years, and yoga is easy on me. Obviously there are some difficult poses, and I often sweat, but I’m not asking my body to bear the brunt of impact as I jump and work to get my blood pumping. There have been physical side effects, because it is still exercise, but what impressed me more were the mental ones. In some breath work and even some poses, I have found emotional release. In the stillness I have discovered how to fix story problems, and I’ve had new ideas spring up.

Yoga is a form of meditation. You focus on your breath and in being in the present moment. Your mind will drift, and mine usually does, but you clear your mind and come back to the breath. It grounds you. It was a saving grace in troubled times, and it left me with a feeling I hadn’t found in other workouts – feeling better for having done it. What I also didn’t expect were the enlightening moments that came in the quiet.

I am working on an older story that desperately needs a third act rewrite, and for about a week, I’ve been in research mode, wondering how to get back into it, how to finish it, and then literally, within the first two minutes of getting grounded in my yoga practice the other day, it came to me. I had to put the video on pause and write it down before it escaped me.

Writers have a lot on their minds. If we’re not writing, we’re thinking about writing. Every. Possible. Aspect. Of. Writing. And not only do we have all this going on, there is regular life stuff too. There is so much around us to distract, that a little quiet time is often the best solution, but in that silence, we are usually still quite active. If we sit at our desk in the wee hours of the morning before everyone else is awake, or at night when the world is finally quiet, we are still deafened by all the noise in our heads.

So yes, this writing blog is encouraging you to try yoga. To give yourself an opportunity to still your mind. To give yourself an actual break from all the thoughts and just breathe.

Don’t worry about not having all the props necessary. There are ways around them. Don’t worry about service fees. There are free online classes on multiple platforms. You don’t have the time? If you’re already working out, just swap activities for a bit. If you’re not, try. There are even 15 minute classes available, and we all have 15 minutes somewhere in our day.

I’m in no way an expert, but I’m happy to try to answer any questions you may have. If I hadn’t found these moments of clarity, I wouldn’t be trying to peddle yoga, but I have, and it has been enormously beneficial on my peace of mind. And we all deserve a little bit of that.

Happy Writing! And Namaste!

Another Year Already?!

About nine years ago, I had been out of work for a year, had applied for probably 75 jobs or more (I used to remember the exact number) to which I only received two responses, and found myself terribly depressed (and not writing).

Finally The Sis encouraged me to just focus on my writing and build up my career, she would take care of the rest. It was a hard pill to swallow, letting my much younger sister carry the burden of our expenses, but I was no closer to getting a job, and at least I could write.

I had been reading articles for years, knew what I needed to have in my portfolio, and so basically, I started from square one. I wanted to create a pseudonym, create a new identity for the writer side of me, and actually started creating social media handles and a blog under the name Caedan Marek. I liked the name (and spelling of) Aedan, but so did everyone else, and cadence is the flow of sounds, and I’m a writer, hence the combination and eventual conclusion to the first name.

After some time, I realized it didn’t work. At least not for me at that moment. I didn’t want to be in meetings or what-have-you and not hear my given name. My real name is Rachael. Hi! But I would keep the last name. It held special meaning to me and I had decided upon it pretty quickly. I took it from a character in Michael Crichton’s book, Timeline. When I read it, I sort of fell in love with him, Andre Marek. I identified with him. And then stole his name.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know how I’ve struggled from time to time with my writing here and for the career I desire. Life often gets in the way of the pursuit of a dream only we can see.

So it’s now been 8 years. 8 years?! ((sigh)) I’m not sure if I should be proud or you know, not.

Reflecting on all these years of blogging, my first full year, 2014 was my most productive and most interacted with year. 2015 and 2016 were also pretty good, but then I took a sharp decline in 2017. That’s when I started working at the country club, and I was generally exhausted all the time. 2018 was worse, and then got slightly better in 2019. All while still at the club. Ugh. That place was like an energy sucking vampire. We all know what 2020 was like, and I’m already doing better this year, so there’s that.

Pinterest is my biggest referrer. Ah, thanks Pinterest! You know I love you too! And the writing prompts are my most often viewed posts. I’m glad they’re making themselves useful.

There have been a lot of things I’ve learned and discovered since I started blogging, and I have to thank The Sis for her encouragement and support all these years. We all need someone in our corner, and it is because of her that I will succeed. I felt this shift in my mentality recently. I must be more dedicated to my career goal, as it would basically be an insult to her belief in me otherwise.

So, Happy Anniversary to A Writer’s Discrepant Memoirs & Other Tales! And a big ‘Thank You’ to all of you for your continued support! This has been a place of refuge, where I can geek out, and keep track of my progress, and hopefully, in the very near future, it will be a place I will share the highs and lows on the actual journey to reaching my big dream. Wish me luck! 😉

xx, Rach

A Reason to Celebrate

I feel like I’m in mourning.

Honestly. I feel this sense of sadness at the completion of the first draft of the story I’ve been working on. While I continued to make comments that I was excited to be nearing the end, so I could work on other projects, when I finished writing a few days ago, I didn’t feel that moment of bliss at its conclusion – you know the one – instead, I felt sad.

I’ve been lethargic and had this sort of blah feeling ever since.

I could feel myself dragging my feet a bit a couple of weeks ago, my pace slowing as I knew the end was nigh. It meant I would have to leave the comfort of that world I was so thoroughly enjoying, and I would have to dive into something different and acclimate to the change.

Yes, there are still a few scenes to be fleshed out, and of course, a rewrite or two, but that first draft is you telling yourself the story. You use your heart and feel the emotions, you let the characters be who they want to be. It’s play time. The subsequent work is much different. You use your head and logic, and have to be merciless in cutting away the fluff.

Art in any form is a strange endeavor. We get emotionally tied to our work and then have to look at it as though it’s some sort of creature to be wary of. It’s taken on a life of its own and it’s up to us to rear it. We have to split our creative personality to achieve a better end result. It’s like tough love.

So I’m a mixture of emotion at the moment. I do feel the pride that comes with finishing something, it truly is a reason to celebrate, and I will, in maybe another day or two. This was advice I came upon years ago. When you complete a goal, do something to mark the occasion. Have a celebratory drink, splurge a little, give yourself a pat on the back in whatever form that may take.

And if you’re sad about its end, feel that too.

Writing is one of those outlets that so many people think they can do. How many of us have heard people say that they “have a great story idea” or that they “want to try their hand at it”? As if it were so easy because they can string two words together. Now how many people actually do it?

Be proud of your accomplishments. We’re doing something that makes us happy, often times at the expense of sleep or some other enjoyable thing, and while sometimes maddening, I know that most writers wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s why we keep at it. We can’t help it. It’s who we are. And I know for myself, it was what made me excited to get up in the morning these last few months. Something I never thought to say.

So, it’s decided. Today will be my last day of wallowing. It’s literally time to turn the page on a new adventure.

How do you mark the end of a project? Do you celebrate or mourn? A little bit of both? Commiserate with me. And Happy Writing! 😉

Quote Monday

Art First

That’s it. That’s the quote.

For many of you, you know how I love my routine. I’ve talked about it a lot. It has to be tweaked every so often, given the circumstances, but with the current job, I’ve found a routine I enjoy, one that makes me feel productive and satisfied with my day.

I now wake up early to write. I know. I used to be the late night/middle of the night writer. I now wake up, make my cuppa and write for about an hour before doing yoga and heading off to work.

I even stick to the routine on my days off, and I’ll tell you why.

When you know you have time, you put it off. On your days off you think, “I should clean this or that first.” or “I’ve put this off all week so that should be the priority.” or ” I just want to sleep in and binge the new season of (insert title), then I’ll write.”

Nope.

The day gets away from you. There will always be a house project that needs doing. Bills to be paid. Shows to be watched. Books to be read.

Art first.

Last week, I planned on writing a blog before working on my story and I ended up spending the day scrolling through Pinterest. Like the whole day. In part because I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to post, so I went into seek-out-content-idea mode. The other part, I didn’t feel good, so it was easy to sit on the couch, snuggled with my pups, and aimlessly scroll, but I didn’t work on my story, and I didn’t post anything. The day escaped me.

I’ve always read about these authors who would wake up early to write and I thought, “Well, that’s not going to happen. I’m not a morning person.” And now here I am. Offering the same advice.

Be creative first. Get it out of the way, so to speak, and start your day off knowing you’ve already done the one thing you wanted to do. Many of us have to endure day jobs that leave us uninspired, so feel better about your day knowing you began it by working toward your goal.

Obviously, find a routine that works for you. If your work hours don’t offer you such freedom, or your kids schedules conflict, etc. it’s not always easy to work around, but give yourself permission to be creative, to do something for yourself, even if it’s only ten minutes a day. It adds up, and you’ll feel a bit better knowing that you did.

Happy Writing!

Writing Tip Tuesday #3

There are a lot of reasons a writer’s life is frustrating. I think we can all agree that one of the more disheartening moments for us is when the muse has shown up, we’re writing tenaciously, and then suddenly, our mind goes blank in regards to what should happen next.

The mind becomes a barren wasteland of inspiration. The fingers hover over the keys. The eyes stare off into the distance in vain hope that the answer will reveal itself. A minute passes. Dread sets in. Self-doubt creeps up our spine. Frustration grows until we finally give up.

What a delightful path we’ve chosen.

The other day I was on a roll with my story when I suddenly got caught up in a moment and didn’t know how to proceed. I knew the scene I wanted to go to next, so instead of stopping the flow, I made a note of what I wanted to happen and continued on.

I don’t know where I learned this, but it’s one of those tricks I’ve picked up along the way, sometimes fail to remember its use, but appreciate when I do, so I thought I’d share.

If you don’t want to lose your momentum, but are stalling because of a scene, or dialogue, or what-have-you simply do something like this:

[fight sequence]

* bittersweet farewell

(convo about the past and sudden realization)

I often color code text that needs to be revisited. I’ve even written short paragraphs so I don’t lose the idea or feeling I want to impart. It’s like a sticky note, and it’s a simple trick, one I wish I had learned about years ago – this has been a more recent discovery – because I have wasted a lot of time staring in vain.

Watching that little blinking cursor remind you that it’s waiting can genuinely ruin your productivity, so when you have more time to sit with the difficult, time consuming passage, you’ll have a clue as to what you wanted to write about without having lost your rhythm.

Because if the faucet is on, let it flow.

I hope you find this useful. Feel free to share any tricks of the trade you’ve picked up along the way.

Happy Writing!

Writing Tip Tuesday #2

I write sci-fi and fantasy. I remember hearing people say that there wasn’t any “truth” to be found in such genres. This always confused me, and I presumed it was said by people who didn’t enjoy those types of stories. They are among my favorites which is why, after some time, I embraced it.

When I was younger and first starting out, I was drawn to historical romance because in an effort to get me back into reading, my mother introduced me to the genre. Somewhere between middle school and junior high, the forced reading assignments had turned me off. So at fourteen, fifteen years old, I’m reading these sweeping, epic romances and falling in love with these fictional men, to whom no real man could ever compare, and I thought, “That’s what I want to write.”

Ridiculous, I know.

My circle consisted of high school boys and they were no inspiration.

And back then, I didn’t discover any hidden “truths” in such stories, and so it became this sort of elusive idea. What books consisted of it? How would I know when I found it? Until I wrote my own story, and then, not until years later, was I able to see that my tale of a woman kidnapped by pirates was really an allegory of my secret hope – that one day, my “real” father would come rescue me.

It’s easy to glorify the idea of someone you don’t know.

I never finished the story. Sometimes I think it would be fun to revisit it now that my writing has changed. And that’s because as we continue to evolve and experience new things, experiment with our creativity, that we discover our voice, our truth.

I don’t know who said this quote that I have above my desk, but it changed a lot for me when I first discovered it.

Fantasy insists that the writer address the cultural, societal, and political times in which they live.

It took some time to understand that I could incorporate all the things I loved – period pieces, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, art, music – into my writing while subtly using it as a vehicle to explore deeper meaning. I could include my concerns about the environment in a story about fairies. I could blame the state of the world on the past mistakes of the Greek gods. I could use a spy story as a way to convey worry over the machinations of men and technology.

I still wonder sometimes what the “truth” is that those people thought I wouldn’t share by writing in magical worlds. All writing is magic. We create people and places from our imagination. We share in their triumphs and their losses. We cheer them on. We love to hate them. If that isn’t some sort of truth…

So I suppose the tip I wanted to convey today is…write what you want. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s supposed to be this way or that. Writing is a freedom and you don’t have to conform to anyone’s ideas of what it should be like. Let it be a mashup. Let it be weird. Let it be whatever you want it to be. It’s your story.

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

I’m currently reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Stranger than Fiction and I came across this text in one of his nonfiction essays. Among stories about public sex acts and learning not to care what people think of you while dressed as a dog, I discovered this nugget that, truthfully, was the most startling thing I’ve read so far.

The worst part of writing fiction is the fear of wasting your life behind a keyboard. The idea that, dying, you’ll realize you only ever lived on paper. Your only adventures were make believe, and while the world fought and kissed, you sat in some dark room, masturbating and making money.

Chuck Palahniuk

Why did this unsettle me, you ask? Because until he said it, until I read it, I didn’t know this was something to worry about.

And then my mind spiraled.

I am a homebody, an introvert, a writer of sci-fi and fantasy. I know as a writer I have to get out and experience the world in order to have those things stored in the “bank of creative tidbits”, but honestly, sometimes I’d prefer not to make the effort, and I know that’s a shortcoming. I have plenty of interests to keep me occupied but if I only ever run in the same circle, I’ll never learn and grow, experience awe or displeasure. I’ll never be exposed to new ideas and new things by experiencing them firsthand.

It wasn’t until I read these words that I started to wonder about the subjects I’m drawn to and the stories that resonate with me – they’re lives I’ll never lead.

I’ll never be a woman with a mythological god as a best friend. I’ll never be the woman traipsing across the stars in an alien space ship in search of her sister. I’ll never be a spy. I’ll never save the world.

These are adventures I can only have on the page. They are unlikely, imaginary scenarios, and that’s why I write them, so I must be content with those adventures that are available to me, and as writers, we can’t forget that. We need to get out, we need to observe and feel so that we not only live, but can also create.

And maybe not worry that we’re living vicariously through our characters.

I may not be as daring as Chuck Palahniuk, willing to put myself at physical risk or in compromising situations to experience all the different facets of humanity, but I can make more of an effort to have a wider understanding of the world around me. We may not learn, see, and do everything we want – there’s so much more to explore than once person could ever do in a lifetime – but there’s no harm in at least attempting it.

That was my takeaway, at least – be more willing to get out (of the house).

Happy Writing!