Finding The Joy Of Writing

Over recent months, I’ve found myself fighting with the first major writer’s block of my short time as a blogger. My enthusiasm for writing in itself hasn’t diminished so it’s been a very confusing time in all honesty. A number of stories still swim through my head and I hold onto them as best I can but when it comes to putting them into words the way I’m used to, something always stops me.

I’ve written about writer’s block before but this has, by far, been the most mind boggling situation to find myself in. At first, I just tried to break through it and began experimenting with methods that would take me outside of my usual routine in order to stimulate a change in my mentality. From repainting my home to spending a weekend camping alone in the middle of nowhere, I was willing to try anything to break the block. Often I would think it was working but when the time came to write, even logging my experiences felt like a struggle.

For those who don’t know, I was a full time carer for someone when I first began blogging. I spent a lot of my time housebound and in a way, writing probably saved my sanity through that period of my life. I didn’t discuss my life as a carer but it gave me a focus other than what was right in front of me. I had no expectations for myself other than to love the very process of writing. The recognition and feedback of others was surprising but gratifying and over time, I began to hope that I could make something of this. Writing has been a passion unlike any other for me so finding myself unable to write has been infuriating and at times, even depressing.

Then I stopped being a carer shortly after the block began. I got a full time job and started to wonder if writing had just been an outlet to get me through a difficult phase of my life. I wondered if I’d be happier just stopping. And for a while, I did. Not once since then have I stopped wanting to write but it’s always ended the same way – with frustration, anger and usually a hasty surrender.

This post, on the other hand – and hopefully all future posts – is different. I’ve dwelt on the reason for these difficulties constantly and asked myself time and time again “How do I beat this?” with no answer in sight… That changed when I started asking a different question.

Why Do You Want To Beat This?

A creator is someone who makes something that starts as nothing but a mere thought. Through the creator that thought takes shape and with a bit of time, commitment and sometimes a little luck, it becomes something more. The end result can be whatever the creator decides they want it to be and because of that, the possibilities are limitless. A few words can be more powerful than a thousand and there will never be too many stories or songs in the world because the process in itself can take any shape or form.

There’s a joy in that process which can’t be clearly described. That may seem pretty rich coming from someone claiming to be a writer but that’s exactly the point. Creation isn’t definable, there’s no rule book to it but more often than not, we try to write the rules. It doesn’t take muck to see from my past posts that I’ve attempted just that.

When you focus more on defining the process than just enjoying the process itself, you stop creating. My theories on writing are just theories but I began to see them differently. They became rules that I had to abide by and through sharing those rules I put pressure on myself to get it right every time which goes against the very nature of a writer. I don’t want to be right all the time, but I want to write all the time. Forgetting that is what stopped me in my tracks for this long.

I’m writing publicly today with confidence for the first time in a long time because I’ve let go of those imaginary rules. I’m not going to get it right every time and neither are you. Writing isn’t about getting it right, it’s about expressing your passion and turning your thoughts into something you can take pride and joy in. If it gives that same joy to others then it’s a bonus, nothing more.

Don’t prioritise your work succeeding over the work itself. The creative industry as a whole is an amazing industry that all creators want to be a part of, we just don’t need to be. Love the process and hope that others around will enjoy it. If you create something with true love, chances are they will.

I think this post is written with love and I know it’s been written for me. I want that to be the case with everything I post going forward.

I’ll still hope you all enjoy it though.

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Descriptive Writing: Sharing Your World.

The single most incredible thing about writing is the imagery it can produce from mere text. The power to translate the words of a story into a clearly envisioned scene within the minds of readers is, for me, a truly beautiful gift for a storyteller to have.

That being said, I’ve always hated descriptive writing.My comfort zone has always been deeply rooted in writing dialogue but when it comes to writing, – particularly in prose – descriptive text isn’t something that can be avoided. It’s an absolute essential to the creation of an engaging story yet there are so many ways it can be done wrong.

Shattering The Illusion

I wouldn’t presume that to be down to inferior writing though. Sure, some writers may simply need to refine their abilities so they can provide a clearer image of the world they’ve created with words alone but in my experience that’s rarely the real problem. The most common crime in descriptive text is actually the complete opposite.

I don’t know about you folks but for me, there is nothing more off-putting in a story than a large wall of descriptive text providing in-depth information on something that seems pretty much irrelevant to the bigger picture of the story. Entire cities and landscapes can be described with giant blocks of text when only a small portion of what’s described has any relevance to the story itself.

This is quite possibly the biggest problem for writers to watch out for, whether they be aspiring authors or professional scriptwriters. When somebody falls in love with a story, it’s because they aren’t just reading words, they’re partaking in a new journey. How many times have you been lost in the worlds created by others and imagined yourself there in that moment? Perhaps you’ve seen yourself as the protagonist who leads that journey, or maybe you believed yourself a simple spectator.

The second a story is disrupted by descriptive text that doesn’t engage you, that journey falls apart in your mind. The illusion dissolves and you find yourself once again sitting with a mere collection of words. I’m ashamed to say as a passionate reader that on more than one occasion I’ve found myself skimming through large portions of an otherwise wonderful story for that very reason but I know I’m not the only one.

So how do we stop moments like that from happening? Where is the line between fine writing and too much information?

In my opinion, the problem isn’t so much about the line as it’s about how you as a writer perceive your own story.

See The World As The Character, Not The Writer.

Writing a story you truly love is one of the most exciting things a writer can do and we feel the need to share as much of that world as possible, especially when they’re set in worlds of our own creation.We strive to be as clearly descriptive as possible so that the reader can vividly see the world in their mind and feel the same excitement and passion for it as we do.

There’s one slight hitch with that though: It’s easy to forget that the average reader isn’t interested in what YOU see in this world you’ve created.

Now I know that sounds a little strange but just hear me out! You are the author, true…but after you’ve completed your task of actually writing this unique piece of fiction, are you relevant to the story at all? Does your personal vision of this world have any importance to what takes place or to the reader?

Of course not! It doesn’t matter that you are this world’s creator! Just like your readers, you are an outsider. Even if you decided to fashion one of the characters after yourself, you are not that character! It doesn’t matter if you’re the one pulling the strings of fate in this story because in the reader’s mind, you’re not the one leading the journey. That task falls to the characters themselves.

They are the ones your readers wish to follow, to relate to and empathize with. After all, they are the ones dealing with the challenges you’ve put before them! And so, it’s up to you to look through the eyes of your characters, see the world exactly as they see it and describe their perception of things rather than your own. If you can only see the world as yourself, an outsider, then you make outsiders of your readers as well.

Relevance To The Character Is What Matters

How many characters are going to fixate on the designs of a town hall’s floor tiles, or the changing flight patterns of birds in the skies or what each individual stranger they pass is wearing? How many characters contemplate what the standard attire of winter is when the story is set in Summer? Who can give the fine details on the practices of a religious organization they have no desire to be associated with just by passing one of their churches?

That kind of descriptive text isn’t necessary unless it’s relevant to your character or your story! While I have no doubt that you’ve created a truly rich and vibrant world for this story to take place in, you can’t expect the typical reader to take interest in these walls of information! Sure, they may want to know more about your world but they don’t want it to be forced upon them when it only serves to delay the progression of the story itself!

If you entered a strange place, what would you take notice of? What would you inquire about and what would you already know of it? How do you describe your hometown to a stranger within a few minutes and what do they ask when you’re finished?

These are the questions you need to ask when writing descriptive text because the reader doesn’t want all the answers at once and the ones they do want need to be relevant! Each sentence should paint a new coat of detail on the image in the reader’s mind and every detail should be of some importance to the journey in question.

Always look through the character’s eyes, not the writer’s. Something should only be noted in descriptive text if a character notices it and a new process should only be explained if the character understands it themselves.

Be the character describing their vision of the world, not the writer who sees all. You’re writing a story, not an encyclopedia.

And if you find yourself writing those large blocks of descriptive text, just stop and ask yourself: How can your readers feel a sense of discovery if you do all the discovering for them?

Stream Of Consciousness: It’s Fun To Write Dumb

Stream of Consciousness: To say or write the first thoughts that comes into your head without hesitation, no matter how disjointed, confusing or nonsensical they may be.

In celebration of writing about one of my favorite methods of brainstorming, I am going to perform this entire post using the tactic above. The only things I will edit afterwards are any spelling or grammar errors. If anything comes to mind, I will write it but because I myself can be a little disjointed, confusing and nonsensical, I apologize in advance for whatever God awful state this post becomes. Not that all my previous posts are particularly planned out, I’m a very disorganized individual at times and I swear often too so I’ll probably delete or censor any uses of the words “****, **** or *******.” Woops.

 

Anyway, onto the point of this drivel and that is what I like to call the “Stream of Consciousness.”

I first picked up this technique when I joined a community of writers and artists online. After spending several years without writing after losing a great deal of progress on a novel due to a PC breakdown, I was rusty and had no idea where to begin writing again. Luckily, this community was very active and had a lot of writing workshops going including what they call the “Writer’s Hot Seat.”

This involved a series of challenges or tasks which all amounted to writing 1000 or more words on a daily basis. Each session would have a particular theme and each day had a new objective. These typically lasted a week each Hot Seat.

The same week that I joined this community they were beginning a Hot Seat themed “Stream of Consciousness.” The challenge began with the first day being to write whatever the hell came to mind. The first thing I wrote amounted to “What the hell am I writing, why am I writing this, I don’t understand” and so on and so on until I just decided that it was too personal to put up publicly.

It essentially provided the ultimate outburst of every insecurity I had as a writer at the time. It outlined why I had stopped writing, how I felt stupid for letting a technical failure stop my passion and how I was concerned that I could quite possibly fail. Not at becoming a writer, I was concerned that I’d fail to even properly pursue it.

I read that stream and it gave me a surprising amount of insight into myself for speaking it. I could see where I’d hesitated to write and where the borderline was crossed into the “not give a ****” territory. That realization amused me and for some reason, it felt easier knowing that I didn’t have to hold back.

So rather than posting that personal block of text to the workshop, I wrote another 1000 words, this time beginning a story. I had no idea what I was writing about, all I can say just now is that it began with something about how worlds are created. As I wrote, I expected to be coming up with some rather typical fantasy plot. Until the first few sentences were finished and the story started to take form.

The second day was the same again with the general idea being that something new would be written but I broke the rules a little. Instead I continued the story I had worked on the day before, and I did this for the entire Hot Seat. In the case of this one, it was only five days long but those five days became the first draft of “Dream Lab.”

After the Hot Seat was completed, I looked at the results and felt completely refreshed. After years of discouragement from a single incident, I felt like I was a writer again. The fact that the spelling errors I’m going to have to correct later are at a minimum here is just a bigger boost in itself: Stream Of Consciousness saves the day again!

Seriously folks, you’ve probably heard the term “just write” a few times if you’re a writer seeking advice on how to churn out a story but I don’t think many of you will fully grasp what that means.

Just write really means just write. Put your fears and hopes and dreams in the middle of an important story narrative if they come to mind. Completely switch off from the fact that you’re typing and just type while you sit there staring into space like you’re on some kind of drug that I would never recommend for the creative process.

 

The brain is always active but it’s just like a muscle you regularly use. Imagine you’re punching a punchbag, if you pull your punches you won’t hit as hard. If you swing with all your might you aren’t as precise but you pack a mean punch when it connects.

That’s what your brain is doing when you let it loose with the stream. You miss so many times with the outbursts of self-doubt or what you think you’re going to watch on Netflix later (I prefer NowTv but can’t afford it, I’m still using my ex’s Netflix, if she doesn’t say anything why should I, right? Right?) (You see what I mean?) BUT when you connect with the target you started swinging for, you hit it hard!

Ignore your hesitant thoughts and your personal speculation about whether you’re writing anything of worth. THAT’S what “just write” means. It may feel like a fool’s errand when you start off but believe me, it’s worth putting in that extra force to each punch.

Because you could potentially hit gold at any moment.

Culture Talk: Is Superhero Cinema Here To Stay?

First and foremost, there’s something I should admit: I bought my first comic ever yesterday. I’ve had a love for on-screen superheroes since the original X-Men cartoon series but when it came to comic books, I felt intimidated.

I mean X-Men alone has been around since the early 1960’s! That’s over 50 years worth of issues to get through for just one of the hundreds of beloved superhuman series out there. Some of the greats like Captain America span back as far as the 1940’s, catching up now seems like an investment of time and money that I don’t have, no matter how much I want to. Luckily, I’ve never been short on alternatives.

x-men-apocalypse-trailer-screenshot-26X-Men Apocalypse keeps the film series going strong, despite mixed general opinion. 

My superhero knowledge stemmed from typical children’s cartoons but as the years have gone by, more new superheroes have broken onto the big screen. As the times have changed, these films have catered to a larger audience and have even captured the hearts of an older generation than my own.

Comedic stars like Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito and Jim Carrey once took up the roles of some of Batman’s most well known villains (not to mention the chillingly terrible puns of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze) but today, those same roles are played with a much darker tone. A sense of grittiness and realism has come to superhero cinema that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats and has steadily dominated Hollywood. This is no longer a market just for children and in many cases, can be rated strictly for mature audiences.

109832157-bm3_316787bJim Carrey played the part of The Riddler incredibly…for it’s time at least.

It does beg the question though; is there an end in sight for this superhuman success? The old favorites are crossing over into a single cinematic universe for both Marvel and DC, the two big greats of the comic industry. Over 25 new superhero films are scheduled for release between now and the year 2020, not to mention the countless TV shows that we can expect to see more of. Even Netflix has an exclusive superhero schedule for the foreseeable future. When will we be done with superheroes?

In truth, some of us already are. There’s more than one article out there that believes that the market has been flooded with a trend of sub-standard, predictable films that are poorly written and leave an audience wondering “How many times does the world really need saved?”

The long-time fans who have spent their youth reading about these heroes are happy to see them get the publicity they deserve and will defend them against those critics to the death. They declare that the critics just don’t understand comic books and that they have no right to criticize something they’ve never tried to follow. All the while, they themselves criticize the films for not staying completely loyal to the comics.

As for me…I say “Oh, please shut up! You’re both wrong anyway!”

What I admire more than anything about the comic book industry is it’s flexibility and durability. We’re talking about an industry that has maintained itself and evolved longer than a lot of us may even live! For it to grow into what it is today isn’t just a trend, it’s been inevitable for quite some time!

Even then, the cinematic world of superheroes manages to clearly set itself apart from the comics. I’ve flipped through the pages of what spawned Captain America: Civil War and seen superheroes that haven’t yet been introduced to the cinematic universe. With that in mind, how can an audience be expected to follow groups of superheroes they’ve never met for the sake of pleasing the long-time fans?

Instead, the scriptwriters have proven their worth by giving fresh introductions to these heroes for those like myself who were previously unfamiliar with them. They’ve managed to turn these strange, superhuman individuals into characters that I genuinely care about.

Naturally, there are unfortunate exceptions. Batman vs Superman received a lot of negative criticism and I’ve yet to watch a Fantastic Four or Hulk film I enjoy but there isn’t a genre out there that gets it right all the time.

For the most part though, I’ve been blown away by the superheroes that hit the TV or big screen. I’m excited for new character debuts such as The Justice League, Luke Cage, Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Iron Fist and I remain eager for the next installments of the heroes I love such as The Avengers, Deadpool, Arrow, The Flash and The X-Men which have maintained a good track record of dramatic action epics that I’ll happily watch time and time again (except for X-Men: Origins…we don’t talk about that one).

captain-america-3-civil-war-artwork-fight.jpg-2428×1216-.pngBlack Panther’s debut in Captain America: Civil War has spurned excitement for his upcoming film.

There’s more stories written for these heroes than Hollywood may ever manage to provide us so you can be sure that superheroes aren’t going away anytime soon. I’m sure they won’t always dominate the market the way they do today but you may as well get used to their existence.

They’ve earned their place and I couldn’t be happier for them.