Are stories really everywhere?

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
Marilyn Monroe

As a wannabe writer I’m always on the hunt for a good story. And I’ve found that observing the human race interacting, provides ample creative fuel for someone prowling for a new character or plot line. However, today, a stunning Sunday bought me to one of my favourite lunch hang outs. Not only does the place have fabulous food, but the dim lighting, dark chocolate furnishings and floor-to-ceiling book shelves brimming with aging books, forces my creative juices and curiosity into a tail spin. There I am sitting across from my mother sharing a chatty lunch, when a semi-herd of young women flood in. The oldest maybe forty-five, the youngest maybe twentyish. As I always do, immediately, one by one, I take a second to subtly glance at facial expressions to assess state-of-mind, check out clothing choices to assess personalities, and of course watch and listen to interactions. All this happens with quick glances. Yes, we writers are creepy people, even the wannabes, but we do this as part of our craft. At least this is how I justify my observations and ponderings. And usually, if someone strikes me as interesting, a personal history hatches and I start to track nuances and traits. Anything useful gets logged in my writing journal, and these little bits and pieces come out later on in a new story or short film or some other unexpected place. Real lives become my art.

Today as the semi-herd of women flooded in, I was struck by something confounding. There seemed to be no story here! None of these women stood out as being subject matter. The dress code seemed to be smart casual, but non-eventful. No individuals here. I’m not suggesting for a second that I’m assessing price tags. In fact, something completely different. The way we dress is the first way we show our personality to those around us. There were no favourite pairs of earrings snazzing up lobes, no colourful neck scarves, no beaded bracelets, and a lot of pastel and earth tones. I’m not a pastel or earth tone hater, I promise. Please don’t misunderstand me. I myself wore a mushroom/beige jumper today.

It’s just that, usually in every group there’s at least one group hippy; the out going type that dresses like a chameleon swapped outfits with them, and they are loud and boisterous, but greatly loved. Perhaps, also there’s an emo-type with black and pink hair who is actually a delight to be around. Or the shy type who gets lots of hugs and is clearly adored by a group. But this group of women, all of them, confounded my expectations.

At first, these pastel-clad, women gave me no story. I couldn’t even suss out what was it that bought these chics together. Not a mother’s group. Not a book club. Not a work get together. I had nothing, and this of course made my curiosity fire even more. Their slow and quiet conversation gave me only that, maybe these women were not overly familiar with each other.

I was about to conclude that perhaps these women might just be low-key, sweethearts and that digging for a story here was not worth my eavesdropping. BUT…it’s not within my nature to give up. I just had to dig deeper.

This is where my observations stopped and my creativity kicked in. Suddenly their stories were my stories to write. Why were they here? Who are they? What makes them tick? If I wanted to, I could fill in the blanks however I pleased. Art could imitate life, or life could imitate my art! If I wanted to, I could rewrite the lives of these women. What power!

So perhaps there are stories everywhere, perhaps they’re just not always as obvious as we’d like. Digging is sometimes required.

Keep Smiling
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Detach…

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Napoleon Bonaparte

Ideally, I’d find myself a fabulous mentor to help me to improve my writing. Easier said than done. I know people who know some of the ‘right’ industry people, but I’m discovering that it is not easy to put yourself out there. Not when your sense of creativity and competence at your craft, are being evaluated. The reality is, hearing any negative feedback would be like being directly dubbed ‘butt ugly’. No one wants to be insufficient.

Bottom line… I find it hard to hand over a piece of writing I’m passionate about so someone can critique it. It’s like being back at University. It feels like there are only two grades, pass and fail. It is particularly hard to hand over something I’ve slogged over when I know that my ‘reader’ will do their job and rake over my words with the savviest of eyes and point out not only any strengths, but every flaw, too.

Who wants to hear this kind of feedback? No one, but I need to learn this skill. I’m trying to improve my writing instincts, and part of this process is trying to detach and not take any critical feedback to heart. “It’s not about me. It’s about the writing”. And if what I’ve put together doesn’t make sense yet or doesn’t seem plausible yet, I’m just going to have to stop being a princess about it. If the feedback’s there, I have to embrace it and learn from it.

Picture a whopping fly buzzing above a golden puddle of honey. It wants nothing more than to tap dance in the sweetness of the honey puddle, but knows the outcome won’t be only sweet, delicious honey. For the humble fly and for me, not embracing the challenge would mean forfeiting any positive gains because ‘something bad might happen’. I want the sweetness of positive feedback, and if I have to feel a little challenged to get it, then that’s what I will have to do. But for me, humbly floating an idea about a short film or character or sub-plot, to someone, will always be terrifying.

I have to remind myself, just breathe and detach…
Keep smiling
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I was unlucky, once

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/writing-challenges/

i was unlucky, once
I was unlucky, once. Maybe I still will be, but today, I’m safe. My mummy, she has brought me here, because she loves me. It’s so sweet when she smiles at me. But I don’t feel much like playing. My legs are sore because we’ve walked a long way. Mummy’s looking for daddy. He was wearing a blue shirt when they came for him and pulled him into the truck. Mummy said daddy was going to be a soldier now. I hope he doesn’t need to hold a gun. Guns scare me.
Mummy just smiled again. Only half of her face can smile since someone made my mummy’s face look like paint dribbling. I don’t see the scars anymore. They are ugly and hide my mummy’s face, so I hate them. When I was smaller I couldn’t touch her. I thought she might melt more, and I didn’t want her face to change again. I wanted her to face to stop being different.

Mummy, wants to know why I’m not playing. I look at my feet and dance my legs together like they are riding a swing. I did that once. Just for a short time. I flew up and down, and it made my mummy and daddy and little brother giggle. My little brother’s giggle was sweet, too. I feel tired and lost and I wish I could play on the swing. I can’t tell Mummy why I’m not playing. I miss daddy, but I don’t want to walk anymore either. I want the other soldiers to bring him home, and I want to curl up with my mummy and her silky, green dress. Today, she looks the way I remember her. Sunny.

Mummy found a rock. It’s sharp and black with little cuts of grey through it. She crouches in the dirt and bricks, and her green stretches out like a blanket below her. There’s almost no noise now as I watch her scratching my name over the bricks. There’s always noise, but not now. Just mummy’s breath and her black rock drawing snakes she calls letters.

She’s trying to get me to sit beside her. She’s drawing swirls that zoom from her to me and touch the tips of my toes. She tickles my ankles and a small smile squeezes out and becomes a girlish titter. My body hardens. It doesn’t feel right to giggle with daddy and the baby gone.

Mummy’s eyes become huge and I am mesmerised by her sunniness. I don’t see her face scars anymore. I don’t notice her runny face skin and half-smile. Because I know my mummy is in there, and she’s just like she was before. But sometimes her whole face looks scarred. Not today, but usually. I know she wants daddy back and she’s still sad about the baby. But today she’s hiding it. She lifts me from under my arms and my legs swing out from under me, and suddenly I’m so high. It’s like being on the swing. I close my eyes and I feel the swoosh through my insides; a chill and heat at the same time. I squeal and let my babyish youth shoot out like silvery missile tails. But, instantly, mummy plants my feet. Her finger is across her lips.

“Baby girl,” she says. “We must play quietly, here.”
Her head tips to one side, and her eyes beam like two gigantic suns that overshadow her half-smile and her ugly runny skin.
Then there’s a noise. Loud grunting and mumbling. Like the men that dragged daddy into the truck. My mummy tucks my head down and capes me in her green. I don’t want to be still. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to walk anymore. I want to play on the funny little characters. I want to run around and be loud. I want to swing into the sky and back down again. And I don’t want Mummy to be scared anymore. Does what I want even matter?

I remember that day, so clearly. I was so small, but so filled with grown up problems. I still miss my father and the baby. And as my mother sips her herbal tea through the left corner of her supple mouth, and as her blindness means her hand taps about for the plate of shortbread in front of her, I remember how unlucky I was, once. But not now. Today I’m safe. Today my mother’s sweet smile consumes her face, and small or grown, this is enough.

Humbly written by
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Teen Drama…what a drama?

There is so much on the web for budding writers. I had no idea! It’s a minefield and just a little bit dazzling, particularly for someone like me who hasn’t ever really tried to be part of the writer’s community. Where do I start? I’ve recently explored attending a few Writer’s Workshops. At the moment I’m particularly interested in writing for TV. As well as other genres, I’ve always been drawn to teen fiction. The genre opens doors to a gritty, nonsensical and wild sense of liberalism that can journey anywhere a playwright dares to explore. To be cliché, I love the drama of the drama…

I’m working on a Teen Drama TV serial and am ‘loving every second’, even those moments in the small, chilly hours of an evening or early morning when hunched over my laptop in dim lamp-light, I just can’t get my protagonist and antagonist to properly show themselves with ‘just the right dialogue’ and ‘just the right action’. ‘To kiss’ OR ‘not to kiss’? Allow a visible display of affection OR let the emotion smoulder away like a simmering volcano? Conundrum!

I’ve made progress with my learning. Two days ago I downloaded ‘free’ Australian, Industry Standard scriptwriting software, Celtx, and now can’t believe I didn’t know about the program years ago. The program allows a novice to script like a pro, and for me, this notion is more satisfying than demolishing a whole block of Top Deck chocolate in one sitting. And anyone who knows me, knows that I am a shameless chocoholic and that Top Deck is my block of choice. Perfect mix of creamy milk chocolate and sugary white chocolate sweetness. Also, I downloaded the iBook, ‘Script Doctor’s 100 Writing Tips for TV and Film’ by Si Spencer. It cost me under $5.00 and I have learned plenty from the first 29 pages I’ve read.

Keep smiling
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The Journey Begins

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” Nelson Mandela

Ever feel grossly out of your comfort zone, like you’re trying to breathe with a mouth full of cotton wool? Yes. That was me, recently. My world fell apart. Here I was thinking, ‘great…my life is on track’. I have a house to raise my daughter in, I’ve got a regular, high-flying and ‘permanent’ income trickling in. I could finally stand back and say, “I’m in a good place. I’ve done well, here.”

Not so! Nothing is permanent, so it seems. About a millisecond after my ‘happy’ and ‘contented’ thoughts started taking up residence in the shadowy and quite recesses of my brain, everything fell apart. Boom…just like that, I have no job. And for me, my job anchored any feelings of success. A little bit of wisdom I learned the hard way, ‘take nothing for granted’. I know, so cliché. But what I didn’t expect, was that, you can be an expendable element in the employment food chain, even if you are brilliant at your job. Anyone can be ‘surplus to requirement’ at any time.

A dim thought, I know, but this realisation bought me to another. I had no back-up plan. For a mum, this is unacceptable. I hadn’t actively cultivated the fullest life for myself. My career and mothering was everything to me. But when my job fell through, for a while I felt that I had failed in all areas of my life. My hair started falling out or breaking off in little brittle tufts, my finger nails and toenails hardened and began chipping and bleeding. I started having blood-ridden, traumatic dreams that had me tossing and turning or unable to sleep, one of which involved all my teeth falling out whilst my gums gushed with neon red blood. Fairly gruesome. Paranoia, anxiety, anger, frustration, and bouts of depression and feelings of utter helplessness set it, and for a long time I was useless and nothing could redirect my downward spiral.

Even though I’m still not who I was before all this, I’m able to look back. I was lucky. I had one stable thing to grasp; my family and my family-like friends. Without them surrounding me, building a mini-metaphorical fortress between me and the flood of trauma, I’d undoubtedly have lost my mind permanently, and not very gracefully, I dare say. A new friend, but a good friend, urged me to write in a journal each day. She said, “Just get it all out, spill all that f###### stuff out on a page, and say screw it”. She is a very unique character my friend M, and she was right on the money. At first the journal didn’t help. I was too devastated and teary to write, but then I started finding new ways to fill in my sudden surplus of time. I wrote my journal entries, most of which are unashamedly unsophisticated and foul, but are true and accurate accounts of how I was feeling and how unjust I felt the circumstances were.

The journal became necessary for the survival of my mental health. But I also picked up old, dusty writing projects I never had the time to finish. I just started writing. Play scripts and TV series pilots, the beginnings of a teen novel, song lyrics. Anything. I even explored Microsoft Movie Maker to see how easy turning a static piece of prose into film, would be. My mind started to run wild in a way I hadn’t experienced since university. New characters and concepts were suddenly forcing themselves upon me, and I had to listen. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And after finding it so hard to muster even a small smile, for such a long time, my body and mind were finally starting to loosen up and relax. Because of my beautiful family and friends, and because of my writing, I rediscovered my smile and along with it, a new sense of appreciation for being playful, relaxing and for loving and appreciating myself.

So this is how I rediscovered myself through my writing. Writing gave me hope. Writing was something I had always loved, and I had been told that I was good at. I even studied creative writing at university, but then pursued a profoundly different career. This whole mess, helped me realise that I can’t be true to myself and to the ‘me’ that I want to be, if I’m not embracing my need to write. I realised that I needed to show more respect this side of myself, instead of forcing such a significant part of myself, aside, like it never matter. Hopefully, embracing ‘all’ of me, not just the career-orientated and mothering me, becomes a recipe for happiness that will lead to a broad sense of self-fulfilment.

I have much to learn about the craft, but it’s time to get serious about my writing.
Let the journey begin,
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