April 10, 2010

Tell Your Story - Week Two

Welcome back, darling writers, to week two of Tell Your Story. I hope everyone had a fabulous, adult-beverage-riddled, perv-tastic New Year’s, and that you’re here, ready to go.

Get your notebook, your pen, your thinking hat (mine happens to dispense my liquor into handy little straws, thankyouverymuch), and lose the inhibitions… today, we’re gonna light up.

Why Should I Write When I Know I Suck?
Ok, ok. I know those of us who have attempted to write before this have had this thought at least once in our short-lived writing fantasy (can we call it a career yet? Really?), and that’s pretty much what drove the last nail into our proverbial coffins. We suck. No one is gonna like this. It makes no sense, it’s garbage, itsbullshitandImnotgoingtobeabletogetanyonetoeventakealongenoughlookandImalmostthirtyitsgettingtobetoolateandandandandand….

Fuck that. Seriously.

Here’s the deal. We all come from varying backgrounds, different circumstances, and there’s not ONE of us out there that’s directly identical to the other (not even identical twins, and screw you if you think you can tell me otherwise. I KNOW these people. They’re NOTHING alike). And correct me if I’m wrong, but we all read because we want to experience things that we don’t see and do in everyday life. Right? Right. So, beyond all the rambling, my point is that you can’t let what you think other people think/want/need hold you back. I have fucktons of stuff I’ve started, little bits and pieces that I’ll do a chapter’s worth of, and then just forget about it because beyond that, I get stunted by the Haterade Fairy. She’s all up in here, splashing her teensy little Haterade wand in my head saying “This is by FAR the dumbest shit you’ve ever put down in print.” And that’s beyond ridiculous. We shouldn’t let self-doubt hold us back – it’s probably the one roadblock in our writing careers that we have total and complete control over.

Now, keep in mind we’re still following along with the writer’s guide ‘Pen on Fire’, by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett (see last week’s post if you haven’t read it yet). Ms Barrett tells us (without language half as interesting as my own) that we need to ‘hang the partition’ – that is, we need to separate ourselves from the Haterade Fairy and all her little negative friends, and write for the one person who matters at this point – ourselves.

Because, seriously, if you’re not doing this for you, then you should just quit reading now. I’ll give you the number of a good therapist in Cincinnati and set you up, because there’s really no other reason for it at this point.

At any rate, back to that partition (perhaps this is why I have so much trouble finishing anything… I get so off track, it’s beyond fucking ridiculous). We need to make one. Ms Barrett tells us to set our little timers (you got it, right?) to fifteen minutes and take the time to write down what it looks like. This would be a good way to break in your little notebook.

What does your Curtain of Containment look like? Is it more like an office cubicle? Is Dwight hiding on the other side, waiting to pelt you with the M&Ms of doubt and tempt you with take-out Benihana like the slick bastard he is? Or does it look more like an old lady’s floral curtain, shielding you from your grandma and her never-ending ‘clean-your-plate-there-are-starving-kids-in-China’ spiel? Whatever it is, write it down in minute detail, then make that fucker bullet-proof.

When you’re done with that, you need to make your mission statement, of sorts. Mine is written in Sharpie on a labeling sticker, stuck above the screen on my miniscule laptop:

own that shit.

That’s right. Rule #76. And if that doesn’t work for you, feel free to use whatever motivates you.

As for the other part of that little mental rant I had earlier (the Imalmostthirty part), that means nothing.

Really, it doesn’t. Age has nothing to do with this, so don’t even let that thought take root. We’ll make a potato gun, shove that shit down there with a couple apples, and let it rip. Not only will we have applesauce, you’ll immediately feel like a seventeen year old again.

I happen to know a guy that could hook us up.

The other huge obstacle to writing is something we already covered a little bit last week, and that’s the issue of time. I mentioned that buying a timer and setting it in your family’s faces is a good way to get them used to the idea that you are going to have ‘me’ time, and I am still 100% sold on that technique. However, I am a wife, and a mother, and a student, and a therapist, and a million other things, probably nothing that can be mentioned here, and I realize that it’s not always rational to sit down at seven thirty every weeknight, and have a 15-30 minute span of time that is completely uninterrupted for writing. Especially if the younger set (and sometimes the older one, too) is still awake. So this is where we have to get Sneaky and Devious by finding little pockets of time.

This is where that teeny tiny little notebook comes in handy. Trust.

The trick is that you have to keep your eyes open for any opportunity that presents itself to you to write. If you’re up to it, that is. I’m one of those people who are never home, especially during football and baseball season. The Notebook is a lifesaver. I’ve written lines of dialogue in the following places (and no, I’m not ashamed to own this list):

- Football practice, of the pee-wee variety.
- Class.
- Student Union.
- Bathroom in the Student Union (so sue me, there was a fucking line).
- Car/Truck.
- At the hospital, between patients.
- At the office, between patients.
- Grocery store (specifically, in the line at the deli).

The list is expansive, and I don’t want to bore you, so I’ll leave it at that. But you get the idea. If you’ve got three minutes of free time between feeding your kids and naptime, use it to jot down whatever is floating around in your head. If it’s something specific, great. If it’s not, that’s ok, too. Ms Barrett talks about her cat waking her up at an ungodly hour if she leaves her bedroom door open, and she’ll get up, feed the thing and then write for a while until she needs to start getting ready for her day. Personally, I like to write after everyone has gone to bed and I can be assured that I will have at least an hour uninterrupted, probably. Maybe. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take advantage of those pockets, too.

So are you sitting here, scratching your head, thinking ‘Ok, she told us we were going to get started today on actually writing…’ And we are. But you’re not going to crank out chapter one, or anything spectacular like that. No, we’re gonna play. It’s called Freewriting. Embrace it, become one with it, learn to love it.

If you’re OCD, it’s gonna suck hardcore balls for a bit, but you’ll get over it.

The idea behind freewriting is that you’re going to write. And write, and write, and write, for however long you set your little timer, or as long as you can stay awake, or until the kids wake up, depending on what time you choose to sit down with this. For some, it’ll be easy-peasy, since you don’t have to worry about grammar or punctuation or proper formation of sentence structure and all that shit. For the rest (and this includes my obsessive-compulsive ass), it’s gonna be difficult to not run back over the text every six lines and fix what we see is wrong. But this is a time were we’re gonna focus on what is the most important – getting the idea down.

yes. yes it does.

So, with all this babble behind us, here’s your homework for this week. Get ready…

1) Use the first fifteen minutes you have available to write out the details for your Fortress of Solitude. If you’ve already done it, take five minutes to reinforce it. Draw it out if you like. That might be fun, actually *mental note to self – draw FoS*

2) Make a mission statement, and stick it where you’ll see it when you write. Do it now.

3) Freewrite. Go, grab a magazine out of that ridiculous pile that you haven’t sorted through in more than a year, and flip it open. Take the first ad you see, and write about it. What are the people in the ad doing? Is there a conversation happening? Where are they? Look at all the aspects of the ad and use them to write a short little story about the picture you see.

Next week, we’ll talk about the stories we wrote, and we’ll take a little look at our verbage.

Get out your word-a-day calendars, folks. You’re gonna need it.


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