Discard What You Don’t Need.

This is an easy piece of advice to agree with.

Until we open a drawer, or look in a cupboard, or try and find a file on our computers.

There are lots of reasons and theories about how and why we accumulate so much stuff and our parents, spouses or partners, and professionals, telling us to cut down or not buy more to begin with.

The same can be said about our creativity.

We accumulate.

We accumulate attitudes, ideas, ways of doing, which over time can leave us in a mess.

Every now and then we may have a tidy up but how many times do we discard.

The writer Stephen King was stern in his advice to ‘kill your darlings’ – those characters, paragraphs, ideas, which are you need to discard.

It is difficult to determine what we don’t need.

Creatively, surely the more skills and techniques we have the better we become?

Yes and no.

The more skills we have the more versatile we can be, but they can also lock us into a particular way of doing things which maybe limiting.

In art, think of how differing brush strokes created whole new movements such as the Impressionists

In music, think of how discarding notes from a chord helped to produce the deeper and heavier tones of Rock/Metal.

But what do we discard?

Discard whatever is holding you back.

Creatively experiment by removing things.

If, as a writer, you spend ages writing descriptive passages because you find them difficult, then discard them. Be simple and straight to the point. Your reader will help by filling in the gaps.

If, as an artist, you struggle to draw faces then don’t draw them. Most fashion designers don’t. Go further and don’t draw the bodies either.

Discarding isn’t always about getting rid of something.

It is about making space where you can choose to bring something new in.

Replace lines for dots, chords for individual notes. A human character for a non-human character.

And remember you can discard your thoughts.

You don’t need to remind yourself of what you can’t do.

Discard.

Remind yourself of what you can do.

Discard.

Having expectations and an overall aim are widely believed to be useful for success.

Some suggest that to be truly successful you have to break everything down into stages and specific blocks of thought and action.

Many people do achieve what they set out to using this style of methodology.

Sometimes, however, we are not clear or honest enough in our criteria.

I want to paint a cathedral is perhaps only part of our thinking, and maybe it should read I want to paint a cathedral just like Monet did.

When the image doesn’t look like we wanted it to, then we feel a sense of disappointment and doubt our abilities as a creative.

This type of thinking can affect every creative no matter what the medium.

So what can we do?

Discard.

Search through those drawers and cupboards of expectations, find them out hidden at the very back, and recycle them, or if they are plain broken then take a trip to the skip.

Discard what is not useful or helpful, no matter how long we have held onto it.

When we approach any creative endeavour we need to know the direction of our journey, but let go of the way markers we think we must count before arriving at the destination.

Like a pilgrimage, the Way should alter us.

The experience, spiritual and physical, of the journey will effect and influence us, and this will be seen in our creativity.

Monet was changed by the light. He realised that it couldn’t be captured in one painting, so he chased it. across a number of canvases, switching from one to another as the light moved.

Monet started out painting a cathedral. He finished painting light, which happened to have a cathedral in it.

Imagine if the French painter had only produced one canvas of the building in the way he thought it should look originally?

Discard your assumptions and expectations, and learn from the process, tools, and the materials you are using, how the image should finally look.

Like home and business experts advise us, take time each month to declutter and discard (or recycle) our things and our environment.

As a creative person, a major part of this should be our expectations in the realising of our final pieces.

I’ve Been Kondo’d!

Studying martial arts from a young age taught me not underestimate the small person – for most of the time I was that small person. 

Lifestyle, tidying, de-cluttering guru, Marie Kondo is definitely one of those opponents you should be wary of. I was gentlemanly and didn’t look up her personal information but from watching just one of her tv episodes she seems tiny!

I will confess that I had read one of her books before – and that I acted upon none of it.

I read and understood the principles, I could visualise the end result, but the anxiety of being in the process left everything the way it was with just the occasional ‘putting away’ more effectively of too much stuff.

Switching study’s with my wife brought me back around to tackling clothes and other paraphernalia which needed sifting. 

Surprisingly, after the main furniture move between the two rooms, I was taking a break and looking for something to mindlessly watch for half an hour with a cup of coffee, and a well known online tv supplier highlighted Kondo’s tv series to me.

I watched. The methods detailed in her book were refreshed in my mind. I was convinced sufficiently this time to give it a go.

What did I have to lose, I already had more stuff out of the wardrobe than in it now, so I couldn’t close the doors and pretend everything was fine.

I’m not sure that I selected clothes on whether they gave me joy – except all of my rugby jerseys, of course! – but I was far more realistic, or ruthless, in getting rid of items I really hadn’t worn for a good length of time.

Then came the folding!

If it was a competition I wouldn’t have won on either speed or consistency, but the satisfaction of being able to see all of my clothes and, therefore, not just pulling out what ever was on the top was greater than I expected. Shirts on hangers, suits and dress coats in one half of the wardrobe, general outdoor jackets and gillets on the other side. I even had space left to put hats, scarves, and gloves inside, instead of in another storage unit.

Books I had already sorted, but there are items I will thin out further, just from glancing across the shelves.

Pens, pencils, cables, notebooks, paperwork, all sifted and thinned.

The numerous ‘miscellaneous’ drawers and boxes quickly became the throwaway/recycle drawers and boxes.

The final result?

The admission that I should have done all of this when I read Marie Kondo’s book to begin with!

Once the trauma of dealing with everything you have drawn into your home has been overcome, the product of less but more effective ‘stuff’ in your life is like a weight being lifted.

Once you engage with the process the ease with which you can maintain the system makes you wonder why you didn’t do this years ago.

One of the biggest lessons is the realisation that you are actually creating a system which then needs maintaining. 

It’s a flow-system like any other.

Maintain the system and enjoy the flow.

It has been a couple of months now but all is ‘flow’ still.

Plus, I am discovering the mindset is seeping in to other areas of my life.

My phone now has less apps – a lot less. I am even looking at it less. Use, as well as functionality, is a key driver now.

If there was a sticker out there declaring ‘I’ve been Kondo’d’ I would gladly display it!

Tips for Screenwriters from a Professional Story Analyst – Coverfly

Tips for Screenwriters from a Professional Story Analyst – Coverfly
— Read on www.coverfly.com/tips-for-writers-from-a-professional-story-analyst/

Great pointers from story analyst , Micah Goldman.

‘Your voice is the soul of the screenplay.’

So what is your voice and how can you show that on the screen or the page?

Writing A Character Series.

Check out this excellent Guardian newspaper article interviewing a host of essential authors writing in the detective genre.

Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Val McDermaid, Ann Cleeves, and others talk about how they came to write their series and the impact of doing so.

www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/27/me-and-my-detective-by-lee-child-attica-locke-sara-paretsky-jo-nesb-and-more

The 12 Stages of the Screenwriter’s Journey – ScreenCraft

Applying the twelve stages of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey to The Screenwriter’s Journey.

Source: The 12 Stages of the Screenwriter’s Journey – ScreenCraft

This a great article from Ken Miyamoto – no attempt to summarise this – you have to read the whole thing for yourselves.

I hope you get as much from it as me – remember ‘screen writer’ can be shortened to simply ‘writer’!

Embracing the Void.

Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash

This is another post from the Archive. I’ve hit a point in my current working project where I’ve had to take stock of what is there and what isn’t there in the story so far. This post came to mind as a guide for me as I am reviewing the almost 80,000 words I’ve already written.

I’ve just read a great article by Gwenna Laithland advising writers to use ‘white noise’.

Basically, white noise is the void – the bits you leave out which the reader then projects their own thoughts and imagination onto.

Laithland uses the example of a Harry Potter stage show casting Hermione Grainger with a black actress. J.K. Rowling admits that she never specified her heroine’s skin colour.

I often get caught up in feeling the need to give more detail in description and narration – partly because I write dialogue much more easily and my pages can quickly resemble a play script.

I like writers at both ends of the spectrum. The very precise and detailed, and the void.

So which is best?

I suppose the answer is write with detail when you need to manouveur the reader into a specific place and embrace the void where it really doesn’t matter.

I am still working on this.

I’ve come to realise that the Void can also be used in the plotting of a story also.

What you need to reveal to the reader and what they can deduce for themselves.

The trick seems to be letting go of your own imagined, or fixed, view of the story and allowing the reader the space to become properly involved themselves.

The void allows them to bring their imagination to the story, even if you plot line turns out not to be what they imagined – Jack Reacher creator Lee Child is very good at this, giving you lots of room to try and work out what the ‘bad guys’ are really up to.

So good luck with Embracing the Void!

Chase Jarvis – Creative Calling – Pt.1

You know who Chase Jarvis is right? You’ve heard of CreativeLive?

No? Then hit the links before reading any further.

It’s okay. I’ll wait for you.

Sorted? Great!

Now we all are familiar with Chase and his amazing team in CreativeLive, then let’s get into his book Creative Calling.

This book is his blueprint and experience of living a full life of creativity and harnessing the energy of your talents to live the life you truly want.

It covers all types of creative impulses and outlets.

Chase puts out a massive amount of free content in personal sharings, interviews with the top creatives and entrepreneurs in the game. There is a mass of free content on the CreativeLive site as well.

The latest offering from Chase is the Creative Calling Book Club.

This is a free 6-weekly class where you are tutored and taken through the key elements of the book with Chase Jarvis himself, for about an hour. There is usually a long Q&A session at the end as well. It takes place live each Saturday – 6pm UK time – but the content is then up on webpage shortly after.

In this post I want to share the main takeaways from Week 1.

The first takeaway is in essence a daily mantra for creatives:

  • We are all Creative!
  • Believe Creativity is a muscle!
  • Do small Creative acts in daily ways.

You don’t need to see a painter cut off his ear to know that being creative is just as much an emotional/passionate state of being as it is a job of work like any other, needing continual inspiration and daily input.

We are all Creative – most of us need to use it – that part of us – more regularly.

In fact Chase has a saying which puts this the best: Do the verb to be the noun.

You have probably heard of writer’s block? I’m not sure if there is an equivalent in other artists’ endeavours? Painter’s Block . . . Embroiderer’s Block . . . Musician’s Block . . ?

Creativity is a muscle. So what’s your daily work out and is it in your calendar alongside your physical workout?

You’ve not got either? Then that’s a whole different blog post!

Athletes don’t just train a couple of times a week. Most will train everyday, but they vary what they do and tailor workouts to specific skills in their disciplines or areas of their bodies.

Small Creative acts in daily ways. If I focus on writing, which is my predominant creative sphere, then I need to write everyday on my main project. I also need to do research. I need to read other writer’s words and see how they do their thing. I need to play around with words – use them, flip them around, drop them into different orders, see what happens and what they can do.

How do these three elements fit into you creative sphere?

The next big takeaway is IDEA.

  • I – Imagine what you want
  • D – Design a system to do it!
  • E – Execute the plan!
  • A – Amplify

What do you want from your creativity? Is it a full time career? Is it the ‘me’ time you rarely get? Is it to create art for your family and friends? The what is a value set against a graph it is the sum of your desire for your creativity.

Once you’ve decided (and it is okay to change your mind!) what you want then you need to design a system to accomplish that want. There are plenty of generic systems out there but you need to design one which fits your current life and circumstances. How much time can you put aside each day? When? What sequence do you need to create in? Get your system!

Now you have the want and the system, you’ve got to execute! Start creating and keep doing it, in line with your system, every day, or the days you’ve allocated to being creative. This is down to you. You may have the support of family and friends to help and encourage you, but ultimately it is you in the cockpit – fly the plane!

To finish with you need to amplify. Take your system and improve it, build upon it, make it slicker or bigger. Develop your want and alter it, enlarge it. Increase the time you spend on your creative endeavour. Change the days you do each element on. Switch to every other day but increase the time in one go. The choices are yours to make.

Chase Jarvis and CreativeLive – they’ve made a huge difference to my creative attitude and output. See what they can do for you.

(And no, I’m not being paid my them – they don’t even know I’m here!)

From the Archives – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

I was looking back through some of the older posts and I thought that this one was worthy of dusting off. I’ve altered a few little bits to update it, but it is mostly what I originally wrote. I hope you enjoy it.

Recently I revisited one of my favourite Ray Bradbury novels in Fahrenheit 451, with a great audio version narrated by Tim Robbins.

One of the many things which struck me this time around was just how quickly Bradbury gets the story moving.

After a quick page or so of describing the Fireman Guy Montag doing his job and returning to the Fire Station we – along with the protagonist – are confronted with young woman Clarisse McClellan.

I wondered if this was where Thomas Harris got his inspiration for Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.

I also couldn’t shift the image of Julie Christie as Clarisse in Truffaut’s cinematic version from 1966.

But back to the novel and Clarisse starts to question Guy Montag about his profession as a Fireman, musing on the possibility that Firemen used to put out fires not start them.

Bradbury moves so fast here.

How did she pick him out? Was she waiting for him? What made her think that he was different?

The strong opening imagery of Montag and his profession are now confronted with an alternative possibility in only six pages.

Montag returns home to find his wife has attempted suicide and we become aware that his life, and the life of the society we have been dropped into, is not positive or healthy.

Like Hamlet we realise that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Is Montag mad?

Suffering from a disease spread by the very things he burns?

Or like Hamlet, is he the only sane person in a cast of the mad or those who do not even realise they are just as trapped as he is?

Within fourteen pages, pretty much everything is set for the rest of the story.

Within a further nine pages we have met the Mechanical Hound, which Montag is convinced doesn’t like him. We meet his boss, Captain Beatty, who explains that the Hound is a machine. It doesn’t doesn’t think anything that ‘they’ don’t want it too.

Apart from a bookish mentor later on in the story, we have the cast of characters and the conflict which we will see play out.

We learn more about this futuristic society as we turn through the pages, but it is often only like the passing of the countryside looked at from the window of a car. If you concentrate on the outside though, there is plenty to see and learn from.

Genius.

Farenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes are the two novels I read over and over again in my teens. I have read each over a hundred times.

Part of Bradbury’s short story genius comes through both of these novels. You don’t need lots of exposition to get a story going. Plunge your reader straight into the action and blend in more necessary information as we follow the characters through their conflict.

Lessons from Celine Sciamma’s Writing Process.

This talk by French Screenwriter and Film Maker, Celine Sciamma, has challenged me in two ways.

  1. It has challenged my already challenged mind regarding the received ‘this is the way you plot a story’.
  2. It has challenged me to think even more deeply about what the focus of my stories are.

For Sciamma there is a three stage process for her writing. She may not title them exactly as I am about to list them, but this is my translation of them:

  1. Identify your Global Desires for the film/story
  2. Place the Local Scenes
  3. Return to the Global View and ensure that each of the Local Scenes are in keeping with your Global Desires.

Your Global Desires for your story encompasses the whole form and key elements of your narrative. There may be a number: It is a love story; it has a non-typical viewpoint; its is artistically driven and not obstacle driven in plot.

Your Local Scenes are the actual scenes in the story and should be split into two lists:

1.The Desired List – This is the parts of scenes, the snatches of dialogue, the setting of the story, random ideas of plot; in fact they are anything which inspired you in the idea of the story to begin with.

2.The Needed List – These are the scenes you need to have in your story in order to tell it. It is the plot, the characters, the action, etc.

The aim here is to take all of the items in your second list and work them into the first list. All that should remain is your list of Desired scenes.

Focus on what is important in each scene. Is it the dialogue? Is it the detail of setting? Is it character? Is it the action between characters?

Your final Global View for your story now checks that your Desired list of scenes is telling the elements you specified in the original Global Desires list.

What isn’t necessary needs to be cut or altered so it is necessary.

  • You may not need lots of background detail in your narrative.
  • You may not need to follow the conventions of your time period or the genre of your story.

Conflict and Obstacles – the usual cornerstones of plotting – may not have to be the focus of your story telling.

If you are telling a love story your key characters may not have to have large obstacles or have conflict in their relationship. If your Global Desire is to tell of the love between two characters then focus on the love.

Take a story you are currently working on, or a new idea you have and apply Sciamma’s three stages of planning/plotting to it.

I expect your view of your story to change. Mine has.