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?

So many books, so little time

One of the maddening ironies of writing books is that it leaves so little time for reading others’. My bedside is piled with books, but it’s duty reading: books for book research, books for reviews. The ones I pine for are off on a shelf downstairs — Mary Roach

Since I was little, I have loved and enjoyed reading. Reading was never a chore especially when what you were reading was something interesting. Reading only became a chore when you had to read something for school or university and all you could see were words strung together to make a sentence but still couldn’t parse the meaning.

It was also during that time, you figured out what you liked and didn’t like to read. There have been a handful of books I couldn’t finish because they would literally put me to sleep or I would forced myself to read it but nothing stuck in my head.

I remember taking three university literature courses — 20th Century American literature, British literature and Canadian literature. Of the three, I enjoyed American literature the most. British literature was my most befuddling course. Maybe it had something to do with the professor’s delivery of the course materials. Maybe my brain wasn’t wired for the classics at the time. I still don’t think my brain is wired for the British classics. I loved Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (I read that book in junior high) but it isn’t enough to get a solid foothold on understanding and dissecting British literature.

And while I loved my 20th Century American literature course, the one book I couldn’t get into was John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog the high degree of distaste I have for that book. Couldn’t get past page 11. That was it. Threw the book away. Still passed the course, though.

So, to cleanse the sour taste of being unable to read something that is considered a classic, I would go off and read something more grounded and slightly feral. That meant reading Michel Foucault and erotica. Not together. You know what I mean. Yes, I know… odd combination. That’s how I roll.

But I was pretty picky about the erotica, too. You get that way after you read enough of them. As in any genre, not all writers are the same. You click with some writers. And the ones you don’t click with… well… you don’t have to like everyone. You just have to like a few. Some stories I favoured more than others because of their ability to hook me into the scene (notice how I didn’t say ‘story’?That’s because I don’t remember any storylines) or there was some sort of shared sensibility I had with author that shone through the writing.

Post-university, I found myself not making enough time to read, just for the share pleasure of reading. I read newspapers and magazines… easily consumable copy that didn’t require more than maybe 20 minutes out of the day. But a 150-page, 200-page or 300-page book? Nah, didn’t make much time for those despite the fact I still had a habit of walking into a bookstore and buying novels that caught my eye, thinking I would read them ‘soon’. I know… pretty funny, eh?

I’m not ashamed to say that some of those books have never had their pages experience late-night maulings from me. I still have them. Not sure when I’m going to maul them. But they’re there when I want them.

However, I’m afraid they have a bit of a wait still because I have some (what I really mean is, a lot of) books that I need to read in the name of research for my writing project. Then there are two separate piles of ‘research’ books for two separate story ideas I’d like to explore after the current writing project. THEN, there is another pile I want to read just for the shear pleasure of reading. That pile is located at my bedside. You don’t want to know where my research piles are located.

It’s all organized chaos. Although something tells me I need to do some culling of the herd. I guess that means some books may never be mauled by me. But they’ll get a chance to be mauled by someone else. And that is always a good thing for a book.

So now, I have piles of books waiting to be ravished and I have a writing project that demands my attention. Throw in life and you’ve got an interesting juggling act. I suppose this is where I apply my time management skills but I think that more for the office than for life. I manage my time but it’s not rigid. Everything is fluid. For some people, that sounds like a horrible idea. For me, I don’t think so. I prioritize. Prioritizing works with fluidity. Rigid adherence to a schedule… not so much.

Can’t really complain, though. I’m surrounded by things that want my attention, and they are things I want to give my attention to. I’ll work my way through the piles of books and still have time for my writing projects. It’s not quite bliss.

But it’s damn close.