Sunday, November 27, 2016

Things Writers Do, Part 4: Write Now

"One of these days, I'll write."

"I can't write in these conditions."

"I wish I had more time to write."

"I need to be in the right mood to write."

"How can I write with a full-time job and a family?'

"My partner doesn't give me the chance to write."

Writers do not have the luxury of saying such things. They do not make excuses. They just write. It really is that simple. They write now, always, because writing is what they do, like birds fly, fish swim, and cheetahs run. Like putting one foot in front of another when walking, they write one word after another. After a day, they have a couple hundred words, after a week, a short story or essay, after a month the beginnings of a collection, after a quarter a short book, and after a half-yea a full-length book. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Things Writers Do, Part 3: See Connections

As creative people, writers see connections among apparently disparate persons, places, and things that most other people don't. Put together women's rights, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, secret lovers, and the Queen of England, and you have Shakespeare in Love. Combine postwar Italy, the work of a projectionist, the puritan Catholic Church, unrequited love, the protective guidance of a father figure, and youthful ambition, and Cinema Paradiso comes to life. Mix the wiretapping surveillance of the Iron Curtain, the redemptive universality of music, the desperation of drug abuse, and the steely resolve of an unconquered soul to make The Lives of Others. The examples are endless.

The next time you see something radiant, frightening, or reassuring, or you meet someone intriguing, abhorrent, or refreshing, try connecting them to your script to solve the problem of a weak character, disjointed plot line, or garbled passage. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Things Writers Do, Part 2: Read

Writers read in at least seven ways:

  • Regularly They beg, borrow, and steal time to read. They love waiting for their doctor's appointment, standing in line at the bank, commuting on trains and buses, and finding themselves suddenly alone, because they use those moments as opportunities to read.
  • Plentifully — Writers can sit still for hours and days getting caught up in narrative turns, poetic leaps, and dramatic flairs of the essays, fiction, poems, or scripts they are reading. They see these long stretches as writing-training sessions.
  • Expertly — Writers read with a depth that enables them reach the level of expertise of specialists in a given field. Thus, the medical writer does not need to be doctor but had better know as much to write with authority on the subject. 
  • Eclectically — Even though writers are specialists when composing on a specific topic, they do not read in only one field. Rather, the science writer might read westerns, the romance writer military history, and the travel writer social science. They do so to expand their vocabulary and learn different styles.
  • Purposefully — Writers read with an agenda. They read to capture key content, to unmask another writer's style, to unravel a puzzle challenging their intellect, to complete a chapter in their book. 
  • Critically — Writers are skeptical. They make certain that what they read is reliable. They ensure that it applies to what they themselves are writing about. And when they see the veracity of an opposing viewpoint, they adjust their own paradigm accordingly because they are reporters first, judges second.
  • Socially — Writers talk up what they have learned through their reading with fellow writers, authorities, and friends. In this way, they discover alternative viewpoints and new sources for additional reading material.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Things Writers Do, Part 1: Write What They Know

"Write about what you know," said one of my college professors.

What was that supposed to mean? I admitted only to my 20-year-old self that I didn't know much at the time. So what can I write about? That advice was not much of a help for someone who wanted to be a writer.

It turns out I knew more than I thought, and so does anyone who has lived to age 20 and reflected on the comings and goings in their life: the mild trauma of a sudden argument between our parents, siblings, or friends; our helplessness in an unexpected confrontation with a police officer, principal, or little league coach, principal, or police officer; an embarrassing realization that we never had thought of the proper name of a tree, flower, or plant we see everyday; our overwhelming sense of impotence when standing on a mountaintop and encountering what a tiny part of the universe we are; the inexplicable rapture that overcomes us when breathing the ocean air; the oneness with humanity that pervades our being when gazing at a crowded terminal, park, or stadium; the fear we felt of a neighborhood bully, or the shame when recalling we ourselves were bullying; the abject despair of losing a dying family member or of saying goodbye to a beloved friend who will leave us for a long while; our laser-like focus on the ceiling tiles to forget the dentist's drilling of our tooth. 

We have plenty to write about because we know a lot.