Taking risks

Creative risk taking is essential to success in any goal where the stakes are high. Thoughtless risks are destructive, of course, but perhaps even more wasteful is thoughtless caution which prompts inaction and promotes failure to seize opportunity — Gary Ryan Blair

As an artist — be it writer, painter, musician — creative risk taking is essential if you want to grow regardless of how high the stakes may or may not be. Figuring out how to do something is one thing. Taking what you’ve learned and throwing yourself into something that allows you to use that skill set in something you haven’t experienced before, is altogether exciting and terrifying.

In my own little way, I’ve always been a risk taker. Not the kind that puts you in mortal danger, unless you consider horseback riding life-threatening. I’m referring to the kind that takes you out of your comfort zone, where you discover something new about yourself.

Someone once joyfully (and I mean that in the most positive way) described me as having a reckless confidence. Reckless, not thoughtless. There’s a difference. In all my time here on this blue planet, no one had ever described me that way. I can be a lot of things. And I know I have been described as a lot of things. And I own all of it. And I really love owning reckless confidence.

Anyway, the risk taker in me has always been there. It only shows up when an opportunity or idea (good and bad) seizes my attention. I’d like to think these days that the opportunities or ideas are more good than bad. I’ve had my share of bad ideas when I was younger.

Without a doubt, my risk taking has unnerved some family members and friends. But only because they’re looking out for me. More often than not, my risk taking is a source of entertainment for these folks (my friends, in particular)… once I get around to informing them about what I’ve done.

Writing has allowed me, and is allowing me, to creatively take risks. Writing has opened doors to opportunities and interesting ideas that would have never appeared if I was doing something else.

The latest risk (it’s more of a challenge, quite honestly) which is to try screenwriting has me excited. I’ve been reading up on the subject, doing a little research and finding valuable resources before I start barreling into it, before I have to figure out how to juggle two writing projects. This isn’t a case of finish one and start on the other. Something tells me I need to work on both of them concurrently.

As I do the research, I sincerely believe working on the screenplay will only enhance my work as a novelist. That is exciting to me. I live for this kind of shit. I can’t wait to go through the process. Could be one helluva ride. It will definitely add to, and sharpen my skill set. It will make me a better writer, a better storyteller.

Start up the rollercoaster. Let’s go!

The future is now

I like to begin every screenplay with a burst of delusional self-confidence. It tends to fade pretty quickly, but (for me, at least) there doesn’t seem to be any other way to start writing a script — Michael Arndt

What have I gotten myself into?

Just when I thought I could get back to working on my writing project and get back to my two lead characters (the ‘boys’) after completing a non-related commitment, I find myself with another writing project.

This one is courtesy of the monthly-ish writing group get-together that was held on Saturday. Everyone in the group has been instructed to work on something of their choice, something short — it could be a short story, short non-fiction, short genre-of-your-choice — whatever you want as long as it’s short. This is a project we will be working on over the next five or six (or is it four or five?) workshops. The aim is to have something publishable at the end, or at least be on your way to creating something you can publish.

Everyone has been given their marching orders. Each project is as different and varied as the individuals in the group.

So, what’s my marching order? Develop a screenplay for a short film. Yeah, you read that correctly. A screenplay for a short film. And maybe get it produced.

What have I gotten myself into?

My mentor had the screenplay idea pop up in his head last week. He thought it was something I could sink my teeth into, given my skill set and my tendency to think cinematically when I write.

Truthfully, I’m not going into this kicking and screaming. It’s always been something I knew I would eventually tackle. And before my mentor mentioned that I should try writing a screenplay, the idea had been running around in my mind more often than it should have in recent weeks. It’s something I honestly believe will play a role in what I do in the future.

Apparently, the future is now. Man, it sneaks up on you like a little bratty shit.

I have research to do for the screenplay which is on top of the research I’m already doing for my main writing project. I’m not sure if there are enough hours in the day to do what I need to do.

Two words come to mind. Time management.

I do have an idea for the screenplay. It’s only been shared with the writing group as a one sentence description followed by an explanation of the idea’s origin. In the 48 hours since the workshop, it has evolved with more details. I still need to flush it out further before I can start writing. So now, the writing group is in the dark about how the idea they heard at the workshop will turn into a screenplay. Nobody knows what the story will be except for my best friend. I haven’t told her what it will be but she’ll find out soon enough.

I admit that I’m a little stumped as to how I can juggle two writing projects at the same time. They are two different styles of writing, two different ways of thinking although I think they compliment each other. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to stretch my creative brain and imagination in this way. I do believe my fiction writing projects will benefit in the long run with the introduction of screenwriting. How could it not?

So now, I have a novel and the makings of a screenplay staring at me. Splitting time between the two is going to be interesting. As it stands, the boys from the novel are a little miffed at the thought of having to share me with the three characters from the screenplay. Well… they might be more than a little miffed. After all, it had been just me and the boys. They’ve enjoyed monopolizing my attention. Maybe a little too much.

Now it seems they are a tad jealous and worried about losing my attention. I get the feeling there might be a donnybrook in the near future between my boys and the screenplay characters. I can tell you the two females from the screenplay can handle themselves and are quite capable of playing dirty when necessary. They are very aware the boys play rough. They’re evenly matched but I have a funny feeling the boys would win with only the skin of their teeth.

Regardless, the donnybrook cannot happen. I have to figure out how to keep everyone — and that includes me — happy.

Oh man, it looks like I’ll be busy for the rest of the year with the two writing projects. This is going to be crazy. But I have a funny feeling I’m going to love it because that’s how I roll.

What have I gotten myself into?

All lit up

The one thing emphasized in any creative writing course is ‘write what you know,’ and that automatically drives a wooden stake through the heart of imagination. If they really understood the mysterious process of creating fiction, they would, ‘You can write about anything you can imagine’ — Tom Robbins

If I consistently followed the mantra ‘write what you know,’ I’d be pretty fucking boring as a storyteller. The mantra is without a doubt, a good place to start when figuring out what it is that you want to write. And it is a great place start if you want to figure out the process of writing and to just start writing.

The phrase popped up ten months ago while having drinks with my best friend and a mutual acquaintance of ours. The acquaintance was curious about my writing so I explained what the first book was about in a rough-and-tumble kind of way. Then I gave him a quick and dirty pitch describing what my next writing project would be about. At the time, it was roughed out in my mind but I gave him the gist of it. He responded by asking me if I was supposed to write what I know, not what I just told him. His initial assessment of me never prepared him for what came out of my mouth. He was utterly befuddled much to my best friend’s delight and amusement.

I have never taken a creative writing course. I don’t think my lack of being formally educated in the art of storytelling via a college course or some sort of university degree makes me less skilled at it. Wait, does double majoring in English and Political Studies count for something? Maybe not.

To be honest, I’ve seen some of the requirements needed to enter master programs for creative writing. No, thanks. Never mind the ‘write what you know’ mantra driving a stake through the heart of imagination, those masters programs will do it for you… well, me for sure. It would have just filled me with self-doubt while I despised my perceived inadequacies as a writer. I know how much angst I can handle. I don’t need anybody deciding for me what I can or can’t handle. Or what I can or cannot write.

I’ve UN-intentionally avoided pursuing a diploma or a degree in creative writing because it was never the path I needed to get where I am right now. Where I’m at right now, is at the cusp of something amazing, creatively and personally. It’s something that been gestating for a long time. It started before I gave writing a go. It picked up a little steam when I wrote my first book. It started accelerating with the two characters (affectionately referred to as ‘my boys’) I’m working with now. I can’t remember the precise moment when they came roaring into my life, upending a previous story idea and planting themselves firmly in front of me so I couldn’t see anything else but them.

That upended story idea hasn’t been tossed aside. It is something I will return to explore. There is a reason for the switch-off. I think I know what it is. When the timing is right, I will revisit those characters and explore them again.

And as if my boys weren’t pesky enough with their poking me and wanting to play in the now-too-small sandbox of imagination (they now live in a hut with a fire pit by a beach), my field trip back in late October turned up the heat a little more. The boys were excited as hell by the research. I could feel their energy thrumming.

You know that carnival/exhibition ride operator who asks you if you want the ride to go faster? It seems I have been saying ‘HELL YA!’ a lot along with my two boys in the last couple of months or so. I must be some sort of closeted adrenaline junkie. I don’t get my kicks in the most obvious ways. The boys make it known that they’re in my head 24/7. When I’m not paying attention to them, they’re always there. Oddly enough, they’re not annoying. I enjoy their company regardless of the shenanigans they insist on exposing me, too. They’re quite shameless when it comes to grabbing my attention. I find it impossible to hate them. They love being around me. Te amo y más. That phrase pops into my head a lot. Some could argue that they love being around me too much.

While I might be a closet (maybe ‘latent’ is a better description) adrenaline junkie, I do think something is awakening in me that has long been dormant. Things have become clearer with regards to who I am, who I need to be. I’m sure how it ended up being dormant. Maybe, I just needed to get to a point in my life where it was the right time to come out of its slumber.I attribute a part of the awakening to the political disaster unfolding in America, one which threatens what stability there may be in the rest of the world. A tangible sense of activism has been awakened. And I’m figuring out how to express it. The expression isn’t looking to be deafeningly loud. It’s just looking to be duly noted along with all the other voices out there.

Being just a drop in the sea of humanity, I do have a sense of what I can do. I can’t explain it right now. It’s something I feel. And it’s taking me somewhere I need to go. It starts with the personal choices I make in how I live my life and who I want in my life. And it also starts with the stories I want to tell.

The stories I want to tell will represent who I am. I don’t think I’m a writer whose subject matter necessarily appeals to the masses. Being something to everyone is a straight jacket I don’t care to slip into.

Last Wednesday, I came across something that piqued my curiosity and now, it has me excited because it’s a story idea (in its most fundamental elements) I want to explore after my boys and I are done playing together. Although, I don’t think the three of us will ever leave each other. Will this new story idea become a novel? Probably, considering long-form writing seems to be my jam. I haven’t put a ton of thought to it yet. But it’s an idea I find fascinating. But I don’t want to create any characters for it until I do little more research on it.

And speaking of research, I’m hoping to do more field research in the near future with someone I consider a really good friend. The biggest obstacle will be finding time from our busy schedules to get this research done. Yes, I’m being vague again. Mainly because what I want to do, might raise a few eyebrows except for the ones who really know me. They’ll just think to themselves ‘why am I not surprised she’s going there?’ As for the others who don’t know me all that well… let’s just say they may have reason to be a bit wary around me. I say that with a semi-evil grin.

I have been fortunate enough in the last few months to find, encounter and be surrounded by individuals who inspire me just by being themselves, who accept me and my foibles. And in that time, I’ve also been lucky to discover things that have set my imagination on fire. Not the kind of fire that burns hot, blindingly bright and quickly dies. It’s the kind of fire that burns slow with a hotter-than-warm glow and doesn’t seem it will ever fade away.

Comforting yet energizing. Perfect and seductive, especially at night.