Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Practicing Funny

This is the week of the humor writing class in Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen.

It's kind of kicking my ass.

It's not that I didn't know that writing humor is hard; I already knew that. But trying to write to the prompts and make them funny is hard because some of the subject matter for applying humor is not naturally funny.

No, that's not explaining it well.

Okay. An example. On Tuesday we were to make two lists of things which we aren't supposed to write about or talk about for reasons which put them into those two lists. The things fell into the sacred-don't-touch column or the taboo-you're-going-to-hell column. Then we had to write.

It took me about forty-five minutes just to come up with five things in each column. And I wasn't even to the writing stage, yet.

I got there. I wrote. I wrote some funny stuff. And some not as funny stuff. It was a freewrite so it meandered a bit. Which was okay,too.

I am writing every day. And I am giving some feedback every day.

Sometimes I am surprised at what comes off my hands onto the page and it's not bad. Maybe I do still have a funny streak left. The next step will be figuring out how to integrate it into more of my writing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How to be Funny. No, How to Write Funny.

This is not going to tell you the answer.

I don't know the answer of how to include more humor in my writing. I first typed, "in your writing," but I am talking about me.

Which is why I signed up for Ariel Gore's first ever humor writing workshop. Because I realized that I don't have a lot of humor in what I write. Not usually and not in the big pieces I have in progress (or in a stalled state).

Humor can move the story along. It lightens the heavier moments. It makes us feel good or breathe or think, I can read more even though the topic is a little too close to home or heavy or something.

One of the many things I admire about Ariel is her ability to mix in levity in serious subjects. Like her most recent book, "The End of Eve." It is not a humor book and it is not a humorous story. But there are moments which she weaves together as golden threads to keep the reader right there in the whole experience of the moments about which she has written.

These are the things missing in most of my stories. When I try to write humor I feel stilted or stupid and that the writing is too self-conscious or it outright sucks. Which may be a bit over the top but it is how it feels.

Humor in the face of big topics or big emotions. To bring a smile along with the tears.

This week before the week-long intensive we were instructed to find a piece of something we find funny. Then write about why it is funny. To us. To me. And I realize that I also don't read much humor. Or I haven't for a while. So my first challenge in the workshop is to find something that is funny. There have been moments in books, but only moments. I was reminded about Marc Acito's books, which I read several years ago. If I can't come up with something more current, I will go with one of those - find a passage I like and post it, with analysis of why I find it funny.

Humor. I'm not against it. But I realize it is an important missing ingredient in a lot of what I write. I don't aspire to be a comic, just to put more light and space in my stories.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Poetry on my Mind

It is that time of year, again : Poetry Out Loud. The regional competitions were held last weekend and each region is sending the top three participants to the state finals competition next week.

So I have a lot of poems on my mind.

I have no complaints about my very busy schedule, which is filled with poetry and theater on top of the other word work I do. It is work and it is creativity and language, all rolled up together.

True, not as much of my own original writing is happening at the moment, but that will change. I am still working more at the editing and revising level of my own writing. I also wrote some ideas and a basic outline - *gasp* - of an idea for a play.

Poetry is at the top of my list right now as I am working on translations of the poems.

So I decided to share a video of one of the poems I am working on. Not all of the poems are this reality based; some of the ones we are working on are much more abstract or "poetic" with many layers of meaning. "Very Large Moth" by Craig Arnold is pretty straightforward, and it still carries a message.

No, this guy is not competing in Poetry Out Loud. But this poem will make an appearance.


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Burner is Still On

It is nice to know that even in times of high creativity in another area of my life, I am at a point in my writing that it doesn't get turned off. I may not have the time to sit down and craft a new story or even to sit and quick write an idea, but the plot pot is still boiling.

Today, while I was on a short break at a job, and I was doing some preliminary work on a script, a story idea came to me. As well as somewhere to go with a story in progress, which has been in progress for over two months, waiting for attention.

It used to be that if I was not actively writing, it slipped quietly into the background. It slipped off the radar into the depths of - I don't know what. But it took climbing out of the project and taking several deep breaths and longing to write before something even came up.

So this is good news.

My writing is here. It is in me. It is on my map even when my time is wrapped up in script preparation and financial responsibilities. The script work, the theatre, all of that is creative and it fuels similar brain cells. And writing is not being abandoned.

Nice to know.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Planning for Writing

Well, that title was what I was planning to write about. Where I started and what I'm going to end up writing are not the same.

But they are both about writing. And about making a plan. Or planning to make a plan.


I originally started with "I am still steeped in theatre." Which is a true statement. From there I went on to say more about being steeped in theatre, which I love, but which takes more output than the money coming in. Which necessitates maintaining a certain level of other paid work to meet financial responsibilities.

And that was where I found myself on the "sit and spin" cycle.

So I set off down the internet path, another place where one can lose time, in search of something to link to or quote from or to support my thoughts on writing and time. The relationship. Or lack of.

And you know how sometimes, the thing you need to read or hear is right there. The first thing in your search or on the bus or in the office when you walk through the door? That happened.


Then there was this one, which early on had the quote "Time is a level playing field" :
xxx ... this second site includes the "Top Ten Time-Wasting Strategies" - ideas to keep the creative juices flowing even when you think you can't.

So that's it.

Or to at least plan for the time when I can. That is my other strategy - look for the times when I can write more freely, flowingly, deeply. And put it in the books. Look for a time when I can take a retreat and write. At least writing is staying in the playing field and it isn't lost under the pile of scheduling and plays and work like in the past. My writing is still present.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Creativity: Sound Artist Christine Sun Kim

I was introduced to the work of this artist, Christine Sun Kim (CK), a couple of years ago. It was in a film about an earlier sound art project she was working on. I loved her exploration of her world, and the various ways she made sound visible, with speakers and paint and object and electricity.

Recently, someone else I know posted a video about this artist's work - a newer project. More work with sound and I was intrigued by the headline of the ArtBeat article about CK, how she is exploring "the social rules of sound."

Oh, did I mention that CK is Deaf?

Below are three videos of her talking about her work and showing her work. You can read the PBS/ArtBeat article by clicking the linked title, Deaf since birth, artist Christine Sun Kim explores the social rules of sound.

With the heightened activity of theatrical involvement right now, writing is riding in the back seat. It's not gone, but writing has been confined to composing work and related emails, to promoting productions I'm involved with, and so on. And to editing. It has been interesting that while my writing new material is on hold during this period, I have been able to complete a couple of major rewrites of pieces I've struggled with for a while. It makes sense. The theatrical work I've been doing is analytical and conceptual and focuses on language use at multiple levels. So it makes sense that my brain is already in that re-vision and editing mode.

That also explains why I am also looking more at general, cross mode, creativity rather than specific writing information right now. Although I have added another book to my To Be Read stack of writing books.

I enjoy CK's work, her process. And she is a great example of how we can remain creatively open, be curious, and explore the world and our creative work in our own unique way.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Julie Berstein: 4 Lessons in Creativity (TED Talks)

I was looking for something on creativity and came across this TED Talk by Julie Berstein. I like what she has to say - and I admit that I love pottery, especially raku and pit-fired pottery. I also am inspired by the beauty of impermanence and flaws and happy accidents when creating.

Nice words and images, hearing artists' stories. A good 17 minutes of time out to listen and look and take it in.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Simple Words I Needed to Hear Today

My Tuesday writing partner and I have started up our weekly meetings again. December was a tough month, with the creeping crud and both of our work obligations. Maybe we met once. I've lost track. But we promised to start up again in January.

I knew I had heavy theater requirements this month and was holding huge blocks of time available because the schedule for this theater commitment was not yet specific. I've altered my work hours and some personal commitments so I could be available for this other task I agreed to do. So we were committed to writing time but I knew I might not be able to keep it to exactly every Tuesday.

We agreed to do our best to find another time during the week if a Tuesday didn't work out.

Which it didn't this Tuesday. There was an opportunity and need to work on a scene for the play so I asked my writing partner if we could move it.

There was and we did. To Wednesday.

I showed up at our writing place and we did our check in. She asked if I'd been able to do any writing this last week and I admitted that, no, I hadn't. I didn't feel guilty about it because my week was so full of theater that I was doing my regular interpreting work and going to rehearsals for the in-depth theater project and the show I'm interpreting next week and sleeping. That was it.

But, no, I hadn't written a thing in 8 days. Since the last time we met.

"But you are here now," Rooze said - or something like that. "You showed up to write."

I felt relief from hearing those words. I wish I could remember exactly what she said, but that is close. And it was exactly what I needed to hear today.

Yes, even in this exciting and energizing and creative theatrical time, I showed up to write.

Thank you, Rooze!