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.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Comic Relief: Life...the stuff comedy is made of.

Holiday movies often reveal bizarre family incidents such as a turkey so dry it evaporates (Christmas Vacation, 1989), and the neighbor's hounds eating the roasted turkey (A Christmas Story, 1983) but those scenes are funny because we can relate to them.

Holiday gatherings are prime settings for quirky real life. It's the stuff comedies are made of. I bet most of us have experienced crazy incidents fit for a holiday movie.

Here's some of our Thanksgiving misadventures:
  • We were newly married and living far from family, so a co-worker insisted we come to his place to eat. As we sat on the couch, awkwardly awaiting the holiday meal, their three year old daughter pranced about, singing, "I've got diarrhea! haha Diarrhea! haha Diarrhea!"
  • One Thanksgiving Day while Kurt worked at an E.R., he removed a fork impaled in a man's hand. The guy explained, "I reached for the last drumstick and Aunt Bessie stabbed my hand because I was taking her favorite piece of meat."
  • Then there was the time we spent Thanksgiving with friends and the man-of-the-house (I won't name names) accidentally dropped the turkey into the kitchen sink... filled with soapy water.
  • Or the time I asked my husband to pour a panful of turkey drippings over the fence into our empty lot. He dumped it inside the fence, where our delighted dog rolled in it, then romped through the house, soaked in grease.
Which of your goofy Thanksgiving moments ought to be in the movies?

(We'll save the Christmas memories for next month.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Movies to spell T.H.A.N.K.S.G.I.V.I.N.G.

Just for fun... movie titles beginning with the letters of THANKSGIVING, and a memorable line from each.

Tootsie (1982): 
Look, you don't know me from Adam. But I was a better man with you, as a woman... than I ever was with a woman, as a man. You know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.
Hitch (2005):
Basic principles: no matter what, no matter when, no matter who... any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom. 
All About Steve (2009):
Mary, why do you wear those stupid red boots all the time? You wanna know why? Because it makes my toes feel like 10 friends on a camping trip, that's why. 
A toast? Yeah. To high treason. That's what these men were committing when they signed the Declaration. Had we lost the war, they would have been hanged, beheaded, drawn and quartered, and-Oh! Oh, my personal favorite-and had their entrails cut out and burned!  So... Here's to the men who did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right... 
Kung Fu Panda (2008):
 Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend. 
Splash (1984):
I don't understand. All my life I've been waiting for someone and when I find her, she's... she's a fish. 
Ghost (1990):
Innerspace (1987):
Would I be in a doctor's office if I was feeling all right? 
Vacation (1983):
Sorry folks. Park's closed. The moose out front shoulda told ya.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989):
We named the dog Indiana. 
Napoleon Dynamite (2004):
Gone with the Wind (1939):
No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Motivation: Persistance

"You don't start out writing good stuff.  You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.  That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence."  ~Octavia Butler

That's my motivation today.  I must keep going.  Persistence pays off.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Outtake: Perfect gift for a writer

Remember the post about capturing ideas, including cryptic notes in the shower? (See: Notes to Self) Well, for my birthday earlier this month, my husband gave me the handiest dandiest thing...

AQUA NOTES: No More Great Ideas Down the Drain!

Here's a link to Amazon:  Aqua Notes

Does he know the way into a writer's heart, or what?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Comic Relief: Enchanted

I wrote this essay for a Comedy Film class during the Spring Semester 2008.

Film: Enchanted  (2007)

            A “fish out of water” situation is the comic base for this film. The characters of Giselle, Prince Edward, Nathaniel, and even a chipmunk named Pip, are from a fairy tale land named Andalasia. They begin in an animated world but through the evil designs of Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), they become mortal and end up in a world of reality: New York City. The situation creates a comic climate on two levels. First, humorous situations arise from the innocence of the characters in a land so foreign to their usual existence, and second, references to animated films add amusing sparks throughout the film. 
Giselle (Amy Adams) does not understand the reputation of New York City, and her innocence creates several funny situations; for instance, when Giselle becomes mortal (through trickery of the evil queen), she frantically scampers around in a huge wedding dress, trying to make sense of her situation. Cold and afraid, she approaches a homeless old man on the sidewalk and pleads for a smile and kind word to lift her spirits. He gives a toothless grin then grabs her tiara and runs off. Later, when Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter discover Giselle, she tells them, “Nobody has been very nice to me.” Robert responds sarcastically, “Yeah, well, welcome to New York.” She brightens tremendously and answers in all sincerity, “Thank you!”
Prince Edward (James Marsden) demonstrates a “you ain’t from around here” situation when he attacks a bus, thinking a monster entrapped the people. He stabs a sword through the top of the bus (barely missing a passenger below) as he shouts, “You’ve met your match, you foul bellowing beast!” Then he tells the passengers, “The steel beast is dead peasants! I’ve set you all free!” Of course, the only real danger he needed to worry about was the irate bus driver. She was not grateful or understanding of his supposed heroic actions, and storms off the bus to confront him. Another wonderful “fish out of water” moment is when Prince Edward searches for Giselle in an apartment building, knocking on door after door. An obviously pregnant woman surrounded by small children answers a door, and seeing the "Prince Charming" attire, she sighs, "You're too late." 
Another level of comedy stems from the references, or homage, to Disney animated films. “Examples of homages in a film are the inclusion of part of an earlier film, a re-creation of parts of it, or a respectful imitation of aspects of an earlier film” (Phillips 632). For instance, consider the reference to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: when Giselle wanders the streets in her wedding gown, she approaches a corner and suddenly a disgruntled little person scrambles out from beneath her skirts muttering, “Hey!  Watch it, will ya?” Giselle, thinking he is a familiar dwarf, responds, “Grumpy!” He looks at her, “Geez, lady! Are you for real?” To which she answers, “I-I think so.” Then in a later scene she tells Robert she needs to “find a place to rest my head for the night,” like a “nearby meadow or a hollow tree.” He questions, “A hollow tree?” She answers, “Or a house full of dwarves. I hear they’re very hospitable,” giving yet another reference to Snow White.
            There are many examples of homage throughout the film. For instance, Robert lets Giselle rest on his couch. When she awakens in the morning and realizes his apartment needs tidying, she enlists the help of small creatures. She leans out the window and warbles a melody similar to Sleeping Beauty. The audience expects the typical fairy tale animals of bluebirds, squirrels, and bunnies to respond—or perhaps no response at all since she is in a mortal world—but instead, creatures of the big city come to her aid: pigeons, rats, and cockroaches. And, tipping the hat to Cinderella, the creatures help her make clothing. Of course Robert does not appreciate the huge dress-shaped hole cut out of his drapes.
            Other references to animated films are more subtle, like having Jodi Benson—the voice for Ariel in The Little Mermaid—play the part of Sam, the receptionist at Robert’s office. In addition, while Robert talks with Sam, Giselle looks at fish in an aquarium while music from The Little Mermaid plays softly in the background. Late in the film, Robert attends a ball wearing a costume similar to the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, providing another subtle reference.
            Having characters come from an animated world into the real world gives plenty of material for “fish out of water” comic scenes. Add the nods to other Disney films in the mix and Enchanted has the audience swimming in laughter.

NOTE: I have the citation references, but opted not to publish them along with this post.  If you would like to know a specific source, please ask, and I will gladly provide the information.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Motivation: Read

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”  ~Stephen King

Whew, no need to feel guilty when I take time to read!

I will be working, today and tomorrow, as an extra for a training film. Our instructions indicate "there may be a lot of waiting," and they suggest we bring something quiet to do, like read a book. Time to read, and get paid while I sit? Heaven!

Reading often ignites motivation and inspiration for me, and at the very least, it will feed my card catalog. (See: Get out of the rut, and feed the card catalog.)