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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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arts

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about chances…..

…….and its cousins, opportunities and risks.

We go through life making choices that present us with one or all three.  It’s up to us to decide whether or not the outcome is worth it.

There’s a lot of fear that goes into making that choice and that’s okay.  Fear of the unknown is what helps us be alert to red flags or, in extreme situations, keep us from harm.  And fear is a good survival instinct.  It lets us know that maybe there’s a situation out there that’s too much or too dangerous for us to handle.

But you can’t let fear be the ruling factor in your life.  Stopping before you even start or because of thoughts of failing is fear.  You can’t let the possible negative outcomes determine your choices.

If you have a dream to write a novel, go write it.  Don’t let your real-life responsibilities slide, but do make the time to write every day, even if it’s 20 minutes.  Set a time and just do it.  Same thing goes for any other creative form.  Or if you want to add to your skill set in your field, if it’s medicine or law or cooking.  Add to those skills.  Make the time.

You have a dream.  Accept that there’s fear in making that first step and push through it.  There will be failures and false starts and rejection and obstacles.  Stick with it.  The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

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So, I’m developing a Patreon page…..

……which will feature my creative work. Meaning, excerpts from my stories will be found on my Patreon page.

In fact, I’m working on a serial novel, where the readers will be given a determined number of choices (four) and whichever choice has the most votes, will be the next chapter.

Whether that will end up as an actual, hand-held paperback, I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m inclined to think that it will depend on the number of chapters this experiment will inspire and if it will even see a satisfactory conclusion.

There will be some other posts, as well, but I’m excited to see how this will work out. I love writing, I love seeing how people respond to what I write.

And now it’s time to make my words pay for themselves. When I’ve got it set up and running, with some posts behind it and the beginnings of the serial novel, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, keep writing, keep singing, keep dancing, keep drawing, keep being creative.

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So, I’m just gonna keep this post short…..

…….because I’m in a mood. The things I want to discuss are being difficult. Not in writing it down, but writing it in such a way that the salient points get across. There’s no absolute guarantee, of course, but my goal in writing about heavy, serious subjects is to make sure understanding can take place.

I mean, that’s the whole point of writing, right? And the arts, in general? To create a space where understanding happens, whether it’s from as far back as millions of years ago, or as recently as this morning.

Even if it’s wrapped up in bubble gum and a bow. Because sometimes sugar does help the medicine go down, to paraphrase that venerable movie nanny, Mary Poppins.

Gene Roddenberry knew that, which is how he was able to talk politics and social issues in Star Trek. It went by the execs’ heads, but the fans picked up on it and some found a calling in the sciences or other fields.

I could go on, I’m feeling that rambly, but I’m gonna leave it here for now. I’m still moody. And those subjects still need more citing and arranging before I let them go out into the wide world of the interwebs.

Have a good night, everyone. Read a good book, watch a favorite movie, listen to some music that fills your heart.

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So, I’m in another play…..

……a one-act, more specifically, which lasts about 15 to 20 minutes. There are four other one-acts in this production, thus it’s referred to as the one-act festival. It’s held every year and seems to have a fairly good turn-out.

Which makes the time frame about the length of a two act play (two hours).

This is actually a nifty idea, because you can get maybe four or five playwrights’ work staged and exposed to a receptive audience, instead of just one. It enables unknown playwrights especially, since you could also mix them in with well-known playwrights, whose work has been established.

The stage where the one-acts will be performed, but not with this backdrop.
The stage where the one-acts will be performed, but not with this backdrop.

I’m having a lot of fun with finding my moments within my character’s speeches and today, I made my director cry. Which I suppose was the point – my character is blind, and is writing an email home, feeling very insecure about what may occur upon her arrival. So there’s a lot of emotion and empathy coming out.

That’s part of an actor’s job – to make you feel what the characters feel. Same thing with a writer. Or songwriter.

The arts are about creating empathy between you and the subject. It can be uncomfortable, it can make you mad or upset or happy or melancholy. No two people will have the same kind of experience, even if they see or read the same things.

In a play, there is a symbiotic relationship between the actors on-stage and the audience that is watching them. My job, as an actor, is to make you feel what I’m feeling. If my character, in the moment, is feeling something so powerful, that you start to cry, then I’ve done my job.

Even if it’s a tiny sniffle, I will consider that I did my job and transported you to another plane of emotional existence.

It’s an experience that’s harder to pull off via film or TV – not impossible, just harder.

Go see live theater, even if it’s a musical you grew up loving as a kid. It’s an experience that is always good to share with friends and family.

 

“The stage is set, the curtain rises. We are ready to begin.”
Sherlock Holmes, The Abominable Bride (2015)

So, part of my goals for 2017……

…….is to write one blog post per day, with a minimum of five per week. In a previous post about this subject, I’d indicated that I wasn’t counting the first week, as I was considering it more of a dry run. After some thinking and mulling over, I’m going to alter that thought.

It takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to create a new habit. The best way to start is to go small – remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This makes the new habit easier to keep and when you’ve succeeded at establishing and keeping that new habit, you can build on it. Whether it’s becoming more physically active or learning a new language or even cutting out or reducing certain elements from your diet, taking small steps is better than not taking any at all.

To that end, my goal is to develop a habit of writing a blog post every day. It could be long, it could be short. Topics could range from something I’d been thinking about for years or just stumbled upon that day. Historical or current, books or films – if something about the subject resonates or is off-putting, I will find a way to put it down in words.

Hopefully, this will be helpful to you, that you find something in what I write inspiring or amusing or motivating. This is my opinion only, but artists of all backgrounds and disciplines want us to experience their work, be affected by it and come away with a new thought.

That can only happen if the artist puts in the time and effort to better themselves at their chose craft.

My decision to write a blog post every day is part of my effort in that discipline. This post is the seventh one I’ve written since January 1st. I suppose, technically, I could take a couple days off and still meet my quota, but that’s not how to create a new habit.

So – my goal is one post every day, no weekly minimum. There may be more than one per day, which is just fine with me.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t start on the first day of the year. The important thing is to find a goal you want to make for yourself, pick a date and start. Hold yourself accountable, find a support group, remind yourself why you are doing this and go for it.

You can do it. I believe in you.

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Recommended*:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

*To be updated as I find more relevant suggestions. JJB

So, this is post Number 3…….

…….on this second day of January. I’ve been thinking about those New Year resolutions that seem to fall by the wayside, even with the best of intentions. I don’t like making promises I don’t know if I can keep, so I rarely make them (which means, if I do make a promise, you can bet your last dollar it will be kept). This goes for resolutions, which, to me, seems like glorified promises to oneself.

So, I’ve decided to make goals. Easier to break down and manage.

One of those goals is to write a post on this blog once a day and no less than five posts in one week. So far, I seem to be meeting that goal. But this week won’t count – I’m calling it a dry run on an experiment. The less pressure I put on myself to produce any kind of writing, the less inclined I will be to stress out and ultimately quit (which I don’t like doing – it ranks right up there with promises. See above).

Part of this is to challenge myself as a writer (always something one should strive to do, in any of the arts). Part of it is to develop better writing habits (if I do it every day, the better my writing and creative muscles will grow).

I’ve been reading a lot, both fiction and non-fiction, but that’s only half the equation. The other half is the act of writing itself.

Writing one post a day will be a challenge, as I’ve mentioned, but it’s a goal I’m determined to keep. I’ll probably panic (what topic do I write about today? Do I wing it? Do I plan it? Ack!!), which is normal, but I know I’ll come up with something.

It wasn’t that long ago that I could write for six hours solid in a day, work on a play and be gainfully employed. If I’ve done it before, I can do it again. It’s just a matter of setting a goal, managing my time and applying discipline (which I think I’ve mentioned somewhere else on this blog).

I know I can do this.

What creative goals do you have for yourself for 2017?

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So, it’s Day 2 of 2017……..

……..and so far, so good. I’m alive, I have a place to live, I’ve got clothes to wear and food to eat. I have friends who funny and witty and supportive. There’s not a lot more to ask for, when those are very real and very priceless things to have in life.

Of course, as good as it is, I want to expand and improve on it, to strengthen what I’ve got and work on what’s weak. You could call it self-improvement, I suppose, and that’s all right with me, as I’m always striving to be my best, most authentic and truest self. Goals are helpful in this regard – they serve as motivation to achieve a specific result and as markers to show how much further you might have to go.

My goals for this year are varied. Some are practical (because being practical is a good thing, even for a creative person), some are whimsical and some are just explorations of what looks like fun.

This year, I am determined to learn how to tap dance. I don’t expect to get on a level of Gene Kelly’s caliber or even Debbie Reynolds (who learned for Singin’ In The Rain in just 90 days what Kelly had done for years). What I expect to get out of it is some exercise, some fun and a new skill that may carry over into something else. You never know until you do it where it will end up leading you.

I’m also equally determined to learn how to play my violin. I can hear the notes and pluck the correct strings with my fingers and get a (somewhat) accurate recreation of what I had just heard. The actual playing of it with the bow, however, is slightly problematic – my fingers don’t like the placement when holding the violin itself.

How do I correct this, in order to play the violin as it is meant to be played? How do I learn to dance with my tap shoes in a graceful pattern?

Three words – practice, practice, practice.

How do I manage to find the time to practice? Self-discipline.

As with anything else in the arts, you become skilled with practice and you are always learning, but it is the self-discipline that separates the wannabes from the achievers.

Still waiting patiently, the violin waits.
Patiently, the violin waits.

So, I went back to my speakeasy tale…..

………and I’m really glad about that. I had put it aside over a year and a half ago because I just wasn’t feeling connected to it anymore. Four days ago, I picked it up again and began writing, adding nearly thirty pages to it. I missed these characters and the 1920s time period they live in and the slang they sometimes speak.

I missed the boldness of the heroine, even as she was uncertain about her feelings for the man who taught her to work in the speakeasy hidden in the basement of a rundown hotel. I missed watching these two characters discover something vulnerable with each other. I missed scaring myself as I wrote this, with words, with thoughts, with feelings.

That’s what writing is supposed to do – it’s supposed to push you beyond your comfort zone, with the things that scare you. Whatever the topic, if it scares you, writing or painting or music or any other kind of art is the best way to explore it.

In the meantime, I’m going to relish taking on my fears and discomforts with my speakeasy tale. It’s long past time. And I’m having a damn good time doing it.

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So, I think my passion went on hiatus……

…….because I am feeling less and less sure of what I want to do. Or where I want to go. It’s an overwhelming weight on my chest, trying to sort out what to do, let alone even coming close to knowing what to do.

I’m pretty sure this is a rut. Why? Because I still want to write. Writing is what I do best. I love sinking into that world I’ve created, taking on multiple characters and locations and basically playing god (or goddess) to make the story come to life.

I also love painting and drawing and acting and theater. I love being around creative people – they are the most exciting, challenging and invigorating people I know. It’s like being on some kind of drug, except instead of destroying your life and the lives around you, the creative energy enriches you, fulfills you, makes life brighter. You are lifted up, not dragged down. Your brain sizzles with ideas that inspires you.

That rut I mentioned? That’s the low – it’s all those doubts and negative thoughts that tell you to not keep going, to just quit while you’re ahead and go do something practical. To hell with the practical – do the art. The practical is only good for one thing – paying bills, building a nest egg for emergencies or that maybe-someday trip.

The art is what makes life magical. It pushes through that dull, gray rut and into to the sparkle and energizes your heart chakra.

Whether it’s art or photography or acting or writing or any creative style I haven’t mentioned, it’s like being around an electrical surge that won’t stop.

Keep doing that art that makes you happy. Even when it feels like the passion packed up and left.

Which reminds me.

I have a violin that I need to learn to play. I have to learn it, even if I suck at it. I’ve had this dream since I was twelve years old. Or maybe I was six, when I discovered Sherlock Holmes. Just the idea of learning the violin makes me happy.

My violin, waiting patiently.
My violin, waiting patiently.

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