Monday, December 31, 2012

Motivation: Use creativity.

Let me sum up what I've learned about creativity from the world of Wholehearted living and loving:
  1. "I'm not very creative" doesn't work. There's no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don't. Unused creativity doesn't just disappear. It lives within us until it's expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.
  2. The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.
  3. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing--it doesn't matter. As long as we're creating, we're cultivating meaning.

It's New Year's Eve. While planning and looking ahead to the coming year, consider:

Unused creativity doesn't just disappear. Find it. Use it. Cultivate it.

These ideas are remarkably expressed in the following short video. I posted it a couple years ago, but it's worth sharing the inspirational message again. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spiritual Side: The Great Author

As promised in Thursday's post (see: Reflection: Character Flaws), here is another concept I've been chewing on since taking the class, "Creating Characters."

Screenwriting is a microcosm of the Plan of Life. The character knows (or think he knows) what he wants but the writer knows what he needs, and puts the character in situations that will cause growth or learning so the character can become what he needs to become. 

Life is like that. We know what we want, but God knows what we need. He allows us the experiences we need for growth, learning, and to become who we need to become. When tough situations make us cry out, “Why me?" or "Why is this happening?” remember that He wants us to grow and learn and change. He is the screenwriter of our life story, so to speak. Our Creator. He knows the beginning, the middle, and the end. He is the Great Author. Trust Him.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reflection: Character Flaws

A few weeks ago I attended a screenwriting class titled, "Creating Character." I studied screenwriting for three years, and I've read many books about the craft, but I learned new things in that class...things I'm still thinking about. Much of what the instructor, Nathan Lee, taught can be applied to life. I want to share part of that on today's post, and another part this coming Sunday.

In screenwriting and storytelling, the main characters need flaws. A character without flaws is, of course, "too perfect," flat, one-dimensional. The audience cannot relate to a perfect character, because in reality, we are imperfect beings. We usually connect to the character more through his flaws than his strengths, and relate to the mistakes or weaknesses. Oh yeah, I feel your pain.  Been there, done that.  It makes the character more believable and human.

I already knew that. The characters in my screenplays definitely have weaknesses. But now I see more clearly how this applies to ME as a person, not as a writer.

I spend my time creating flawed characters, so why in real life, do I spend so much time trying to hide my flaws and imperfections? Why do I fear that others won’t love me if they know my weaknesses? In reality, they might relate to me better. Those imperfections make me human and lovable. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Spiritual Side: What Shall We Give?

This video stirs my soul.  It combines beautiful music, engaging images, and deep meaning.  No matter what religion, or belief, I hope you can appreciate this powerful message.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Comic Relief: "No Trailer"

I usually prefer to use clips of specific scenes rather than film trailers, but as I searched for comedic clips from my favorite Christmas movie, The Bishop's Wife (1947), I found the unusual and clever, um, "No trailer."  Humorous!

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Block" Buster: Allow abundance.

I recently read Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown. In chapter 5: "the opposite of play is not work" he writes about corporate brainstorming, and how innovative ideas need protected, supported, and nurtured.

Then he writes, "On an individual level, your creativity also needs to be protected, not only from outside critics, but also from your own internal critic. Allow yourself to be abundant in your creativity, at first not making judgments about what you think, feel, or do. Simply play with your ideas, with how you do things. When you are stuck, try imagining fifty "impossible" solutions and then let yourself throw out forty-five. One particularly famous scientist I know told me that the secret to his brilliant ideas is that he has a really big wastebasket. He let himself enjoy thinking up and throwing out one hundred bad ideas before finding the single good one."

I need to allow abundance in my ideas. I want to write a short screenplay for a contest (due the end of January) but ideas escape me for two reasons...
  1. I haven't allowed time to brainstorm, so when ideas came, I pushed them aside because I didn't have time to mull them over.
  2. I've allowed my internal critic to slam all my ideas.  
I'm challenging myself to write down at least 50 script choices (five ideas for each of the ten storyline suggestions listed for the contest). Think of the abundant possibilities.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Comic Relief: Life.

Yesterday I felt like I was starring in my own comedy of errors. Through a miscalculation on my part, I was scrambling to get to an important function on time: the annual Utah Film Commission luncheon.

As I hurried down the steps of our condo, I realized my blouse did not match my sweater in natural light as it had in my bedroom lighting. Oh well. No time to change.

No time to drive through the car wash, either, to rid my vehicle of accumulated grime and humongous bird droppings spattered across the windshield (I have no idea what size bird bombed our car the day before, but it had to be huge... or sick).

And no time to turn around to retrieve my cell phone left at home.

Thankfully, I arrived on time, and found what I thought was the perfect parking lot near the Hilton where the luncheon would take place. It was pre-paid parking, but the machine did not print out a receipt. I hurriedly wrote a note to display on my dash in place of the required ticket, and as I walked out of the parking area, I announced to a driver entering the lot, "The machine isn't working properly... it won't print the receipt." To which he held up the receipt it had given him.

As I walked to the luncheon, I realized the parking lot was much farther from the hotel than I thought. Instead of one block, I walked 3.5 blocks, in heels. The big toes of both feet worked their way through my brand new nylons (yes, I wear nylons... I need the control top, okay?).

I entertained myself while walking, with thoughts about the Montana Film Office (MFO) and the Utah Film Commission (UFC). Good thing they are not the Utah Film Office... UFO.

Finally. I arrived. Checked in at the registration table, where I was offered parking validation... but not for where I parked... of course.

Time to mingle. Made a new friend; hugged old friends. Then I saw someone from the "who's who" of the Utah film industry. As I approached to ask a question about an upcoming event, he called me by name, "Hi, Trudy!"

Oh my goodness! He knew my name! We've talked briefly at previous functions this year, but wow, what a memory. He made my day by remembering my name.

Then I sat down, straightened my mismatched shirt, and got a glimpse of my name tag displayed across my chest. Oh yeah.

And that, folks, is how my day continued. What have I said before? Life, it's what comedy is made of.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Motivation: Come alive!

"Don't ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~ Howard Thurman

Friday, December 7, 2012

Comic Relief: Humor Notebook

As mentioned in my post Action: Writing and more writing, when I have a good belly laugh, I record it in my Humor Notebook. I selected two samples related to movies:

September 12, 2008

Kurt told me to go into Blockbuster and select three movies while he went next door to Albertson's, then he would come in and choose which of the three movies we would rent. I asked, "Why do you get to select the final one?" He responded, "Because you get to select the three."

So... I tricked him. I selected two movies I knew he would absolutely NOT want to watch (South Park: Christmas and Surf's Up) and selected the one I wanted. When he came in the store and looked at my selections, he laughed and laughed, "You got me!"

November 30, 2012

Last night I viewed several clips from The Producers (1967), and this morning I had the song "Springtime for Hitler and Germany" running through my head.  I kept singing it as I prepared breakfast. Kurt questioned my sanity, but after a short time he started singing it too.

He has a habit of humming while he works, and as I took him to the TRAX station, he was going nuts trying to get that song out of his head. So, I dramatically belted out another show tune, ♬Getting to know you, getting to know allllll about youuuuuuu....♪♪

He started to sing along, then realized, "Oh no!  What if I start humming THAT song while doing a pap smear?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Action!: My memoirs.

Last week I shared excerpts from my Morning Pages (see: Action!: Morning Pages). Referring again to my post Writing and more writingtoday I am sharing an entry from my memoirs. I selected a memory quite fitting for this time of year...

The Christmas during my first-grade year was magical. It started with our Christmas tree... a sagebrush  flocked with fake snow and decorated simply with blue bulbs. A rotating tri-colored light shone on the tree from the floor. I think it was the most beautiful memorable tree we ever had. (One year my dad found branches of a silver tinsel tree at the dump. He drilled holes into a broomstick and poked those hideous branches in. That tree was memorable too, but not beautiful.)

For this, my first-grade Christmas, I told Santa I wanted a toy piano. I envisioned the small kind, that sat almost flat on the floor with a few little plastic keys to go "plink, plink, plink" but still... it was a piano, and I wanted one.  

When Christmas Eve arrived, all eight of us children tried to sleep in the large bedroom at the opposite end of the apartment from the living room where Santa would place our gifts. My twelve-year-old brother, Jay, asked me what I hoped Santa would bring for me and I responded, "A toy piano." And he asked, "A grand piano?" I didn't understand what he meant, so he explained by outlining the shape of a grand piano in the air, his finger tracing the design in the moonlight coming through the window.

I recognized the shape, and realized that would be the most wonderful piano in the world! A grand piano! But I was deeply saddened... I had not asked Santa for a specific piano. Simply a piano. And now it was too late to clarify. I fell asleep both anxious and mournful.

Christmas morning I hurried into the living room, and there, across from the snow flocked sagebrush and next to my stocking bulging with an orange in the toe, was a black lacquer child-sized grand piano. It stood off the floor, with a matching bench for me to sit on. The back lifted up, just like a real grand piano, and I could play songs on it, not just tap a few little plastic keys.  

It was magic. Somehow Santa (and my brother) knew I really wanted the most wonderful piano of all.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Motivation: You got a dream? Go get it.

“Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they’re gonna tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.”  
~Chris Gardner (Will SmithThe Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Action!: Morning Pages

In an earlier post, I mentioned a variety of writing I do, and thought about sharing excerpts. (See:  Action!: Writing and more writing.) I'll start with Morning Pages, because, well, that's how I start my days.

I learned about Morning Pages when I read The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. That book was a balm to my writer's soul, and if I ever meet Julia, I will hug the stuffings out of her.

The Artist's Way is another favorite book of Julia's. Here's what she writes about Morning Pages:

"In order to retrieve your creativity, you need to find it. I ask you to do this by an apparently pointless process I call the morning pages. You will do the pages daily...

"What are morning pages? Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consiousness... They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.

"There is no wrong way to do morning pages. ...Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind."

She insists that even if a person can't think of anything to write, then simply write that sentence, "I can't think of anything to write." over and over until the three pages are filled. Write whatever pours off the top of your head, and don't read your Morning Pages for at least 8 weeks.

Here are two excerpts from my Morning Pages, Volume One.

April 12, 2005
I see a lipstick case that is off by itself. The cat probably batted it away from the pile it once sat near. It's a pile of items I pulled out of my briefcase when I was preparing for a trip.

I have lots of lipstick. A majority was free from Clinique... part of my bonus gifts. My sister uses lipstick as a "pick-me-up" -- don't feel well? Put on some lipstick. Down in the dumps? Put on some lipstick. No time for make-up? Apply lipstick and people will think you have your whole face done. Magic. Magic in a tube.

I wonder who gets the privilege of naming the lipstick. "Pink Beach" "A Different Grape" "Guava Stain" are some of my colors.

(Hmm...Maybe I could research that.)

I wonder how I would do at naming the lipstick shades, but I don't think I would be as creative. "Pale Pink" "Bright Pink" "Red." Nope. I don't think my ideas would be on the cutting edge. I would have to train my mind to think outside the box.

Do people just "land" in those jobs? Or is there a young girl somewhere, coloring in her Barbie coloring book, thinking, "When I grow up I want to be a lipstick namer person!"

April 22, 2005
The last few days I have been carrying a pocket full of notes. One list had reminders of things I wanted to tell Leanna next time we spoke. Another list had items I need to look for when I am out and about. There's even a few reminders of situations to ponder or pray about. My mind won't hold it all but my pocket will.

Fast forward to Morning Pages, Volume Three. At this point I had graduated with my degree in film, took a couple months to get caught up on things, and set a date to embark on my career. Here's what I wrote:

Friday, February 25, 2011
Last week someone asked me a question about where I work or what kind of work I do or something. I can't remember the question, I just remember my response: "I'm a writer. I work at home." It felt so empowering to say it out loud. I am a writer. 

Writing is one of the few careers that others have a hard time accepting as a career unless the person is "published." It's as though you are not a "real" writer unless published... if you are not writing published works, then it must be a hobby. For that reason I used to feel hesitant to call myself a writer. I would say, "I like to write" or "I enjoy writing" even though in reality I am a published author! I treated it more like a hobby or interest -- I felt like I had to be validated or something because others seemed to expect validation. The fact that I really was a published author seemed irrelevant because it was in 1983 so surely that supposed validation was expired.

Deep breath. Ready or not here I come. I am a writer and starting on Monday I will be a working writer... a working, unpaid, writer.  

(Unpaid for now.)

My Morning Pages are often dribble, and sometimes (especially in the earlier volumes) there are large gaps between entries, but they are a valuable tool. Most mornings I awake eager to write my pages... eager to drain my brain. 

I highly recommend this type of writing, even to non-writers.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Block" Buster: The element of surprise.

H. G. Wells on writer's block:

"Try the element of surprise, attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it."

Hmmm... the ol' sneak attack ploy.  I like it.  I will give it a try.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spiritual Side: Where are the inspired artists today?

George Frederick Handel
By Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) (Unknown) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Last Sunday I attended a Messiah Sing-along presentation. For me, many (maybe most) parts of the Messiah are an acquired taste, which I have yet to acquire. A friend invited me to go, and I went to keep her company. She used to sing with a famous choir, maybe you've heard of them... The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I felt intimidated by her vocal training (soprano) but I figured she wouldn't invite me to tag along if my untrained alto voice irritated her.

We managed to find seats in the crowd, and as we looked around, it seemed we were the only ones who brought music. That's right. I have my own copy--the complete vocal score. I've sung parts of the Messiah with not-so-famous choirs, and even sang a solo: No. 9 -- Air for Alto. Catchy title, huh? Maybe better known as: "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion."

Although I have listened to and sung parts of the Messiah, I have yet to fully appreciate the entire oratorio, not because it's weird or strange, but because I have not immersed myself in it enough to absorb it. I do, however, appreciate the history of its inspired composition.

George Frederick Handel had five failed operas in a row, then decided to use the Bible for his next work. Biblical characters could not be portrayed on stage--it was forbidden--so he composed the oratorio for performance without acting.

On the back of the sing-along program was this information: Handel wanted to compose music for the middle classes, but it was difficult to gain their enthusiasm for this serious music. He once told an aristocratic admirer, "I should be sorry if I only entertained them: I wish to make them better."

Handel composed the Messiah in twenty-four days. Astounding. He secluded himself in a small room of his London residence and composed day and night, often skipping meals. He later said, "Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote, I know not." A visitor reported to have found the trembling composer sobbing with intense emotion, and after the "Hallelujah Chorus" his servant is said to have seen tears streaming from Handel's eyes. "I think I did see all Heaven before me," Handel later confessed, "and the great God Himself."

At the sing-along, as the orchestra played the opening overture, I closed my eyes and listened to the uplifting music and wondered, where are the inspired artists now? Where are the heavenly inspired composers, painters, filmmakers?

I know the heavens are not closed. God loves all His children, not just those of days gone by. I've reflected on this over the past week, since listening to such exquisite music, and I think the key is that many of the artistic masters we admire were not creating for a profit. They were not creating to please the market. They were not composing, sculpting, or painting for the big bucks. They created for their Creator, and they sought to use their God-given gifts to improve mankind.

Inspired artists surely exist today. But we won't find them producing for and to the mass market. And we won't find them pushing the envelope of crudeness, vulgarity, and immorality. Like Handel, such inspired artists, I'm certain, are not creating to entertain, but to make us better.