Thursday, May 31, 2012

Exercising creative muscles.

Bear with me.  I feel an analogy coming on...

I injured my right ankle months ago, and every time it was almost healed, I re-injured it.  I had constant deep pain, but no limp.  My husband insisted that I go to a physical therapist, and I insisted I not.

Finally he took matters in his own hands and contacted a physical therapy clinic.  They called me to make an appointment.  I went, dragging my feet (so to speak). I was certain the therapist would recommend I wear a boot to protect the ankle from further injury as it healed.  Surely the only way for it to improve was to pamper it and not put weight on it, right?  I didn't want the inconvenience.

But nooooooo!  That's not the way it turned out.  Instead, the therapist manipulated my ankle.  (Feel free to imagine me on the exam table with her standing over me, twisting my foot this way and that, while laughing maniacally.)  There was popping and crunching and stretching, and then she turned me over to her assistant who made me do a variety of exercises.  After that, I was sent home with instructions for more torture to inflict upon myself.

That ritual repeated itself twice a week for about three weeks.  And now the ankle pain is gone.

As I reflected on the experience, I related it to creativity.

Sometimes I falter.  What I'm trying to create doesn't turn out the way I'd like.  It falls flat.  It stinks.  It's broken.  Then I beat myself up (I'm really, really good at that) and injure myself with thoughts such as who do you think you are?  You can't do this.

I re-injure my ego and continue to hurt.

Then I think the best thing to do -- the only way to heal -- is to leave it alone.  Stop creating until it feels better.

But that's not the case.  Instead, I need to work it, twist it, turn it, and stretch it.  My creativity only improves when I use it.  I need to exercise my creative muscles.  And then it gets better.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Action!: Creative Work First

What I'm reading:   There's No Business Like Soul Business by Derek Rydall.

One way to "romance the muse" is to "Pay yourself first -- creatively speaking."  

The author explains: This is based on the financial concept of investing a portion of every dollar you make in your savings and retirement -- otherwise the pressure of everyday expenses will rob you of your financial freedom.  The same is true creatively. If you work a "regular job," or are a "hired gun" as a writer, actor, director, etc., you need to make sure you're investing time and energy in authentic creative expression. Every day if possible.  Every week at the very least.   And he goes on to explain the need to put creative projects before other stuff.

I certainly needed reminded of that, since it's been a major struggle of mine.  Often I fall victim to thinking I will "just do this one small task" before I write.  Then another "small task" follows on it's heels and before I know it... time escapes me... or something else interferes... and I never get to writing.

One morning last week I was called to work (driving cars), but I finished earlier than usual.  As I hopped in my car to head home, I wondered how I should spend the afternoon (which items on my to-do list needed attention) and considered getting the groceries -- a sorely neglected task. It made sense to go to the store while I was already out and about, and then go home.

However, I remembered what I had read, and realized I needed to put my writing projects before the other stuff.  I came home and worked on a screenplay, then wrote a blog post.  

I felt rejuvenated and exhilarated.  What's more, I felt somewhat excited to get groceries afterward -- one of my least favorite things to do!   Paying myself first -- creatively -- really paid off!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Take 1: The Three Stooges

(First, a disclaimer: I was not a fan of the original Three Stooges, so when I first heard about the recent remake, I didn't plan to watch... then I saw the trailer.  I figured any movie that had me in stitches just during the trailer deserved a chance!)

For years comedy films have stunk up the joint with their foul body humor and sleezy sex jokes, so to me The Three Stooges (2012) was like a breath of fresh air.  I loved the physical and slapstick humor. I loved the word plays...

(A bell falls from the tower and knocks a nun unconscious.)
Moe: Hey, was that Sister Mary-Mengele?
Curly: I don't know but the face rings a bell.


I wasn't sure how I felt about Moe ending up on a popular reality show, but then realized his physical abuse of the contestants mirrored their verbal abuse.  Most of us would never poke someone in the eye, yet have no qualms about verbally lashing out to sucker punch those who cross our path.


The choreography and timing of their jabs, pokes, and jokes was an art form in itself. The actors did a superb job in imitating (and maybe surpassing) the originals.

Also, the film had a heartwarming story as the stooges tried their befuddled best to save the orphanage... and never gave up on the hope for adoption.  Did the original Stooges have warm-fuzzy plots?  I don't know...I need to give them another chance.

In the meantime, I await the DVD release of The Three Stooges.  I plan to purchase a copy, and that speaks volumes (see post).

What worked: Physical comedy, clever dialogue, and rapid choreography

What didn't work: The filmmakers (at the end) explaining that the mallets were made of rubber, and the characters really didn't poke each other in the eye.  So.... why don't filmmakers put disclaimers at the end of action thrillers?  "Okay kids.  These are rubber guns, and cardboard knives."

Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Motivation: Pay the Price

"I have no shrewd advice to offer developing writers about this business of snatching time and space to work.  I do not have anything profound to offer mother-writers or worker-writers except to say that it will cost you something.  Anything of value is going to cost you something."  (Toni Cade Bambara)

Anything of value is going to cost you something.  As I've contemplated that phrase I've come to realize that everything comes with a price whether it's of value or not.  I can choose to pay the price for writing time (neglected chores, lack of social time, loss of sleep) or I can choose to pay the price for not making time to write (frustration, resentment, loss of dreams).

Whether I write or not, I will pay a price.

What price are you willing to pay to follow your dream?  What price will you pay if you don't?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Comic Relief: ¡Three Amigos!

The first time I viewed ¡Three Amigos! I hardly cracked a smile.  I was alone.  Kids were tucked into bed, and my husband was out to sea.  Ready for relaxation, I popped the rented VHS tape into the player and watched ¡Three Amigos!  Later, as the ending credits rolled, I felt like I had wasted my time and money on the dumbest movie ever.

But, when my husband returned from sea, he told me about seeing "the funniest movie" while on the submarine: ¡Three Amigos!

Funniest movie?  Are you kidding me?  He persuaded me to give it another try, so we watched it together and he was right... it was hilarious!

Here's just one of the numerous amusing scenes:

Lucky Day (Steve Martin), Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase) and Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) are silent movie stars called Three Amigos.   Recently fired by the motion picture studio, and stripped of the clothing purchased with studio funds, they need to sneak into the warehouse to steal their Amigo costumes, in order to go to Mexico and entertain (so they think) the infamous ("That means even MORE famous") El Guapo.

Click here to watch Lucky Day attempt to discreetly get the attention of Ned and Dusty as they prepare for the heist.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Self-reflection: Passion for Work

While I was in school I felt focused and driven.  Sure, I was stressed out most of the time, but happy.  Then I graduated.  The assignments and deadlines ceased, and I floundered.

I had two feature-length screenplays written, ready to polish and market; however, along the way, I got sidetracked trying to find my "passion."  I came across books, articles, and blog posts that emphasized the importance of finding our passion and making a career of it.  We should be soooo passionate about our work that we would do it whether or not we received pay; and we should want to do it even in our free time.

This trend of thinking got me sidetracked.  I thought I was passionate about writing, and I would certainly do it (and have done it for years) without pay, but writing is not something I dash to the minute I find a free moment.  It's not something I turn to for fun and relaxation.  In fact, I experienced literal anxiety attacks just over the thought of working on my screenplays.

I began to doubt my chosen studies and career path, and spent most of last year searching for my "passion."  Slowly, I began to realize that I am compelled to write.  I need to write.  I want to write. Just because I don't rush to my pages when free-time surfaces, doesn't mean I'm not passionate about it.

And I learned I'm not alone in this.  In fact, I'm in good company... E.B. White (Charlotte's Web) said writing was, "hard work for me and usually not attended with any joy.  It has its satisfactions but the act of writing is often a pure headache.... When I want some fun, I don't write, I go sailing." (E.B. White: Some Writer! by Beverly Gherman, p.3)

In her book Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers, Susan Shaughnessy describes, "Most days, I drag myself down to where I write.  I stare at the computer screen with a sinking and skeptical heart.  Then I put my fingers on the keys. ...

"You will find your own rhythms as a writer.  But unless you are one of the very few, you'll face resistance every day.  Why?  Nobody really knows.  It seems to be an integral part of the drive to write--a shadow you can never shake" (p.2).

"It is a dreadful fact that writing is like any other work.  Having written is another matter.  It is a joy; it is fulfillment. ... But writing itself, writing every day, is work.  Rare is the writer who, like the late Isaac Asimov, finds writing his greatest relaxation and is eager to start and reluctant to stop" (p.26).

During my "passionate" quest, I came across numerous quotes about the difficulty in writing.  This explains why, when I sit down to write, I have the sudden urge to wax the shower curtain rod.

So...psssh.  Passion-shmashion.  I'm a writer.  And I'm happy with that.  



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reel Focus: Overview

Ta dah!  (Okay... I just needed that moment.)  I still have the same background (for now) but here's the scoop...

As I followed a few popular blogs over the past year, I noticed some of my favorites had different themes for various days of the week.  I wondered if I would enjoy that type of posting, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I became.

There are certain important elements that help me with my screenwriting journey...
  • Breaking through creative blocks, feeling inspired and motivated
  • Analyzing movies and screenplays
    • what works
    • what doesn't
  • Writing, reading about writing, and working towards my goals
  • Observations
    •  living life and applying it to writing and creativity
    •  learning from others on their own creative path
  • Humor 
And the most essential element to me is...
  • Spirituality.  God can make more of my life and my talents than I can, so I rely on His guidance and help.
I want to focus on those elements on certain days of the week (starting this Thursday morning, May 24th).  Although, to preserve my sanity, as well as make sure I have time for my screenwriting, I've given myself permission to skip a day or two each week, as needed.

So here's the overview...

On Mondays, to start the work week, I will share inspirational or motivational quotes; thoughts; or ideas on getting past pesky blocks to creativity. I don't know about you, but I often need a swift kick to the creative gears.  ("Block" Busters, or perhaps "What's My Motivation?")

Tuesdays I will post my "take" (opinion, observations) on films I've viewed or screenplays I've read. This will cover a wide variety of films ranging from oldies, to new release, to foreign.  Bear with me on this...I'm still in the habit of watching movies for entertainment, but I hope to focus on what works so I can incorporate it into my own screenplays.  (Take 1; Take 2...) 

Wednesday's posts will be dedicated to what I've written, what I'm reading, what I'm working on.

Thursday posts will have a variety of topics since I will relate what's on my mind, or what I've observed in life.  I also hope to have some guest writers (hint, hint) share their creative experiences and insights.   

By the end of the week, I need to unwind.  I want Friday posts to focus on humor.  I love comedy.  I had to include a day for favorite funny lines, humorous scenes, or examples of comedy styles. (Comic Relief)

If I post on Saturdays it will be for "Outtakes" -- stuff that doesn't quite fit in the other categories (and might not really fit with film or writing).

Sometimes I will write about spiritual insights or life lessons gleaned from various films, which I will schedule to post on Sundays.

That's the Grand Plan.  I'll tweak things as I go.  But for now...

INT. HOME OFFICE - NIGHT


Leaning back in a vintage wooden desk chair, Trudy stares at the computer screen.  
TRUDY
Here goes.

Fingers rest on the mouse...waiting.

CLICK

Her blog post launches into cyberspace.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Teaser

I'm almost ready to launch!

In the meantime... I'M DRIVING MYSELF CRAZY!  I keep over-analyzing and over-thinking everything.

Have you ever seen the movie The Four Seasons (1981) with Alan Alda, and Carol Burnett?  They vacation with two other couples during each season of the year.  Early in the film, their friend Nick (Len Cariou) complains about his wife, Anne (Sandy Dennis), because she obsesses over her photography...of vegetables.  She photographs single vegetables and it takes her forever to figure out her subject.  Nick gripes, "For a year and a half, all we talked about was zucchini.  Then for another year it was green peppers -- that was a nice change."

In a following scene Anne tells her friends how she's considering photographing a combination of two vegetables (gasp!  daring!)...  but she's uncertain if she should.

I'm relating too much to Anne right now.

Ultimately I would love to have everything "just so" before the "premiere," but I've realized this blog will continue to evolve, and I need to let go of the idea of a grand unveiling, or "Tah Dah" moment.  I need to (in my husband's words), "Kick this pig and make it run!"

So stay tuned....


Monday, May 7, 2012

Ideas and construction.

I named this blog Reel Focus, yet it's bugged me that my posts felt anything but focused -- like random whims -- written only when an idea stuck in my head (or my craw).  In a post written over a year ago I called this Reel Dabbling.  But... (insert drum roll)... I finally have ideas for this blog's focus and I'm very excited.

Once I get it rolling, there will be near daily posts (five to six a week).  It's difficult for me to write and post in real time, so I need a pool of blog entries in the wings before I launch.  This will take me a week or so to get everything situated, and to construct a fresh look for the blog to celebrate the transition, so please keep checking in.

In the meantime... dance of joy!  ♫ I'm so excited and I just can't hide it.... ♩