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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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creative

So, every story I write has its own journal…..

……where I can jot down every idea and thought related to it.  That journal goes with me as I go about my day – you never know when that illuminating idea will strike.  And I enjoy this process because it allows me to keep everything in one place and readily accessible.  I’ve got at least three journals for Novel Now Finished and I expect that it will be the same for the sequel.  Most of my novels (in progress or finished) have more than one journal to document my journey, from inception to completion.

Photo credit: Unknown. But I need this mug.

Writers a funny breed – we observe, we document, we report on our findings, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.  I even keep a story idea box, which has become the repository of random items I find in my daily travels.  And I keep everything – from scraps of old news clippings to a broken pair of glasses, that box is chock full of potential stories.

The more I write and read, the more I’ve learned to discern the voices of other writers.  What does that mean?  Well, if I listen to particular composer’s music often enough, I can find his (or her) musical signature in other compositions.  Same with a particular writer – their ‘voice’ and writing patterns become familiar and within a few seconds of reading, I’ll know who penned that particular piece of writing.

This is all a part of my education as a writer – the more I read, the more I enrich my writing.  And the more I journal the process, the better chance I have of either skipping a step that didn’t work previously or taking it in a new direction.

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So, I’m plugging along on my Ancient Greek Comedy….

……and I can feel the tangents wanting to take off and create something new.  This is exciting to me, because it means that this play has a lot to say, that there’s more depth to it than I had originally anticipated.  But because these tangents are too nebulous and without form, I’m making them wait until this revision is finished.

I know, I know, I’m being terribly mean to these tangents.  I mean, they only want to help my Ancient Greek comedy become something truly magnificent.

And I can’t argue with that, because I want the same thing.  Still, this revision has to happen first and then the tangents can come in and do as they please.  If it makes anyone feel any better about it, I write these tangents down to remember them.  That is, if there’s something solid enough to write down.

In any case, I’m delighted to see characters that I’d written out make their way back in,  One character has regained his speech after I took it away from him.  Issues that I have strong ideas and feelings about are working their way in, which is only right.  Theater, and the arts in general, are about exploring ideas (good, bad, ugly) and politics and feelings.  The arts are here to make us think, not just make us feel.  There is something at work within the confines of this play that I can’t readily identify, but it’s exciting to me.

And that’s a very good thing.

Title and cast list of Hotel Mt. Olympus.

So, Novel in Progress is coming along……

……and I’m really excited about it.  I haven’t been this excited about a writing project in a really long time, so I’m doubly happy.

So far, it’s clocking in at just over 94,000 words, but the actual number is in doubt, since I’ve got a couple of scenes to write, as well as the ending. The word count is also fluctuating because words are being added or sacrificed – they’re definitely getting moved around – and, since that’s how a writer pens, it’s all good.

What projects are you working on?

So, my little challenge in January…….

…….of writing a post every day, proved to be a valuable exercise.  I’m writing more, I’m feeling energized about it and I look forward to it (sometimes).  I’ve always been chewing over ideas and plots and writing them down in my journal, but now I’m looking for the bigger picture that’s framing the story.

All writing is good – whether it’s jotting down notes for your character or plot or shaping a poem out of a couple of key images, you’re working the writing muscle.  My challenge in January was like an exercise regimen, shaping and refining the muscle that was beginning to lose some of its shape.  I’ve still got some work to do, but I’m encouraged.

Like in my tap dance lessons, I’m gaining confidence.  Keep writing, keep doing your creative and artistic thing, make that muscle strong.

So, I’m dabbling in art again……

……..which is something I did all the time as a kid and teenager. It’s a lot of fun, a feeling that I’d almost forgotten about. Over the years, my art output went from fully realized drawings and paintings to sketches to just random bits on scraps of paper.

I’m re-discovering the joys of allowing it to spread out all over the canvas (which is a new medium for me) and focusing on getting the picture out. If it’s not as detailed and precisely as I envision it, then I certainly work in the impression of what I want.

Go forth and find your creative spirit. Dive into the first artistic expression you can think of and move from there. Embrace all of it.

More importantly, have fun.

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So, this would be the third post…..

……that I’ve been working on under the wire. Depending on how tomorrow works out, there may be another under-the-wire post.
It would appear I didn’t quite plan this out well. Still, I’m putting in the time and committing to getting it out there, so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself.

The upside is that I think this exercise of writing a blog post every day had been beneficial to my other writing. I’ve edited a total of six chapters on my novel, which is great. I’ve got two more to go on the original notes, then I need to go back with the new notes and revise again to get it smoother, more active.

I’m feeling more energized about writing than I have been in a long while.

There’s hope.

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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.

So, there’s this writing page I follow…..

……..and someone was griping about the exercises being posted every day, saying that if he had the time to do the exercises (which are, in some cases, pretty detailed), then he would have the time to actually write, which is what he would rather do (the implication being that he did not have such time).

This is why it’s called ‘discipline’. You write whenever you can, wherever you are because you can’t NOT write. If you need huge chunks of time and no distractions in order to write, then you’re enamored of the idea of being a writer, with no intention of actually doing the hard work it entails. This applies to every artistic and creative pursuit, not just writing. Heck, it applies to just about anything that tickles your interest.

Stephen King and JK Rowling (to name the most obvious) wrote while struggling financially at menial, hard-labor jobs or while trying to find steady employment and surviving on assistance.

The point is, if you want to write, then write. Outlining your need for the perfect time and quantity of time is just a way to avoid committing to an indeterminate amount of time to create a world within a story.

And that’s the fear – commitment and looking inside yourself to see what monsters or angels lurk there.

So, every time I write a book……

……..I go through the same process – I have an amazingly brilliant vision of the whole story (as seen from a distance); I start to put it down on paper and it dissolves like cotton candy on the tongue; I freak out and feel insecure about the tripe I’m writing; I console myself with multiple cups of coffee and tell myself not to worry about it; by the time I get 65 to 75 thousand words in, I wonder where the hell I’m going to pull another 20 to 30 thousand from; by the time I’m at 80 to 90 thousand words, I’m metaphorically pulling my hair out by the roots, feeling like Elsa Lanchester from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935); when I finally crack and/or surpass the 90,000 words mark, I feel like I went through a triatholon – three times.

I tend to do the same thing when I’m developing my character in whatever play I happen to be performing in at the time. Or the painting and sketch classes I’m taking. And it’s a process that I will endure when I finally focus on learning how to play the violin. I’m also currently at the Elsa Lanchester stage of my current novel in progress. It’s not pretty. If you have a creative person in your life, chocolate is a good choice in keeping the peace. Or hot cocoa.
What this means for me is that I’m wrestling past the obvious and mundane and aiming for the truth of the character, the story or the subject. So if you find yourself feeling frustrated with an art piece or a story or music, try not sweat it too much. What’s happening is that the goal you have in mind has a path far different than the one you had planned. That creative instinct we all have inside us is also the instinct that will push us further than we think possible. Trusting it is trusting yourself.

Creating, my friends, is not easy, nor is it for the faint of heart. But it’s a heck of a ride and a ton of fun to do. I can’t not write – for me, it’s another way of breathing. As Anais Nin once said, “Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

Recommended Reading:
Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
Henry Miller on Writing – Henry Miller
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life – Sharon Louden

 

Editor’s Note – this blog post is con-currently published on Citizens Journal Ventura County.

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