I love my creative setting!

I’m in a school setting. So yes, I teach.

Whenever I’m not teaching, I write. But one of the things I love about being in a school setting is that I am given time-sensitive opportunities to write creatively, where my writing is immediately used and performed for audiences. The turnaround on feedback is amazing.

Example. Yesterday, someone at my school asked me if I might have an idea of a dramatic sketch which could be done for an Easter chapel which is coming up on March 25. I told him to give me a day or two to think about it, and I’ll see what I can do.

Well, it didn’t take a day (or two). Within  five minutes, I had an idea I already couldn’t shake. I jotted it down so I could come back to it later. Last night, I started working it up. This morning I added some more. Now, a little more than 24 hours after the request, I have a 2/3rd finished script, and I’ve already recruited the four actors I’ll need to pull it off.

Where else but in a school setting could I do this?

I’ll have the script finished in a day or two more, and then I’ll send it on to my actors. They’ll have 8-10 days to memorize it, we’ll meet a couple times to rehearse, and then they will perform live at on March 25.

It’s an amazingly fun and creative atmosphere I get to work in. I get to help others send out their desired messages through drama, I get to work with talented young actors who are eager to perform as much as possible, and I get to write. Creatively. According to my own wishes.

Very fun.

The play I’m writing is called “Dead is Dead.”

I can’t wait to see the finished product. Luckily, I won’t have to wait long.

Forget All Those Author Duties. I Just Want to Create

I am still in need of a publicist, secretary, and experienced book promoter who wants nothing in return from life except to see my books succeed.

I’ve actually gotten very few job applications to fill this vacancy.

The only one I received was from a less-than-enthusiastic candidate who is more interested in turning a clever phrase and creating new characters than putting in the long hours and dirty work necessary for an indie author to succeed. Oh, and curiously enough, this sole applicant has the same exact name as me.

Strange, isn’t it?

So yes, here I was on a free Saturday. I have so many author duties to accomplish. There is so many promotional ideas to be explored. I have giveaways to set up. Networks to be connected. Book reviewers to be contacted, but no, what did I do? I defied every single one of those “duties” and I did what a writer is supposed to do. I wrote a new play.

That’s right. I forsook promotion in order to promote my creativity because that’s what I love to do. So I spent the afternoon writing a gritty drama entitled “Alone in a Bar.” It’s a power-keg of a drama ready to explode. It’s about 10 minutes long, so I’ll probably enter it in some competitions at some point to see what I got.

So please forgive me for not getting anything done except for creativity. Isn’t that enough? Who needs to sell books anyways? I just want to write. I’ll get back to promoting another day. Creativity is always my priority over the other mundane tasks of being an author. Yes, I’ll get back to them another day, just not now. Not today when there’s a distraught man with a gun sitting at a bar with a bottle of whisky in front of him. I needed to see what he was going to do.

And so I did.

Anyone else sick of cover versions of classic tunes?

I was in the mall the other day and I saw an add for a new album by a well-known jazz artist. The only songs from the new album which were being advertised on a large cardboard cut-out were two covers of “Hotel California” and “Desperado.”  I’m sure the marketing geniuses who came up with that idea were shooting for song-name recognition as a way to get people interested in the album. I, for one, was immediately turned off, thinking, “Why would I want to hear another rendition of ‘Hotel California’?” Actually, I don’t even want to hear the original version anymore. For me, it has been overplayed and over-karaoke-ized to death that it elicits little joy within me when I hear it. Why would I want to hear another version?

Perhaps this cover is amazing (I haven’t bothered to look it up), but for me it goes back to the idea of creativity and originality. I crave both of those, and I have a hard time understanding why so many artists end up doing songs by other artists, and bragging about it to such a degree that seems to undermine the rest of the album.

I get it. Covers have always been a thing in music, but it’s a rare cover that I personally like better than the original. If I was a musician, if my cover of a song didn’t bring it to new heights, and didn’t in its own right become a respected and sought after version then why do it in the first place.

When do I not mine song covers? Christmas. Pretty much all Christmas songs are covers, and that’s fine. Tribute albums is another acceptable way to do it because it’s a way of honoring the creativity and impact of the original band or artist. But using old songs as a ploy to get listeners or as a way to fill up an album doesn’t impress me.

Dig deep. Get creative. Be original. And if you need a song writer or lyricist to help you out, then let’s talk.

 

Writers: Chip Away like a Sculptor

The story is there. Already.

It’s in the mind. It’s composed of memories and relationships, small pieces of information from earth, and deep dreams which probe the vastness of the unknown.

The story is already created.

It simply needs to be released. It needs to be formulated in a way that will make sense to everyone. It needs to be sculpted out of the mind.

Creativity is taking the building blocks of “know” and marrying them to the unknown in unique and previously not-thought-of before ways.

This is why a draft is a draft. It has yet to be refined. It has yet to be feel the full weight of the writer’s chisel.

Each character wants to run away with the story. Each character tries to assert themselves in a literary coup which will shift the story line in one’s favor.

But the writer must be steady.

Each setting wants to take up residence in the whole of the story. It want to be the all-in-all background. It wants to stake claim to the glory. It wants to be remembered.

But the writer must be patient.

Each word and phrase and paragraph wants to plant its roots deep on the page as an immovable font which becomes an indelible part of the story. Congruent or not.

But the writer must be ruthless.

The writer must reign in the characters and choose the one who honors the most favored literary path.

The writer much focus the setting which best optimizes the character and the story.

The writer must cut and chip and scourge the manuscript of the words and phrases which don’t add life – as beautiful as they may be – as poetic as they may sound. Poetry in the wrong place becomes dead prose.

A writer must be a ruthless sculptor – focused intently on the story inside.

Narrow. Tight. Pull. Twinge.

With steadiness, patience, and ruthlessness, the right story will emerge.

Creativity: the Driving Force

Someone asked me recently why I write. After I thought about it, it became increasingly clear: creativity.

I have an overwhelming drive to create. I absolutely love picking an idea out of the thin air and seeing what I can create with it.

If I could be locked away (on a beautiful tropical island) and be fed at varying intervals (thai, curry, and nyonya would be great) then I think I could go on creating for a specific indefinite amount of time. (And I definitely have no idea how specific that time would be.)

My brain is bottlenecked with ideas – novels waiting to be discovered, phrases and words ready to turn into dramatic works. melodies and lyrics ready to become the next Broadway smash.

I used to be drawn to movies and TV shows. Now I’m drawn to white screens and greasy keyboards. I’m drawn to secluded tables by the beach or little back corners of vacant cafes.

I used to drawn to sports. Now I’m drawn to musicals and live shows, theatrical productions and lighting schemes. I’m drawn to set designs and unpredictable movements.

I feel like my brain has graduated. It’s move beyond the rigid confines of stale grammar and cliched dialogues. It’s moved beyond the sitcom drivel and the banality of pop-culture which lives on the surface of society. I’ve graduated from consumption to creation. I’m compelled, coerced, and utterly vanquished to hourly solitude in front of the glowing screen, etching away at a hidden theme inside a partly hidden story.

So I wait for the next hour, the next afternoon, the next day, the next week which will whet my fingers with a stirring of ideas which will lead to entire new palate of other ideas. The building up, the networking, the cognitive hooks bound together by phrases and sentences leading into the great unknown.

That’s why I write. That’s why I have to write. If I don’t write, the buildup inside would be too great to withstand

Creativity is the necessary outlet which keeps me partially sane.

So here’s to creativity!

Ready to Move On, But Another Revision Awaits

I’m a firm believer in letting a finished work sit for a while before giving it its final revision prior to its final editing.

But there is a problem that arises as well – or at least it does for me – and that is my brain has already moved onto other interests.

What to do?

I’m referring to my fourth novel, A Love Story for a Nation, which I actually really like. It’s quite different from any novel I’ve ever written, and those of you who know me, may be stunned to find out it doesn’t even contain the world Vietnam. It doesn’t contain any reference to any country in the world. It’s unique in that way.

I finished the first draft of it in August 2014. I took the next couple of months revising it until finally in October I sent it out to some beta readers. I have since received some feedback and now am ready to put it through the grinder one more time — except for the fact that I don’t feel like it!

In all that time that has passed, I’ve moved onto other ideas. I’ve written 2/3 of my fifth novel. Just the last couple of days I’ve been struck with the idea of a new play – I came up with the premise while watching “Into the Woods” in the cinema. I’ve also started production on a musical I’m directing for May. And now out of the past, comes my 4th novel, hobbling towards me like an orphan, reaching out in anguish asking to be brought to a finish once and for all so it can be released this summer.

Hmmmph!

If only I worked as a full-time writer!

Back to reality.

The grind of authorship can take no shortcuts. It must be done. I have always told myself that I will not release a book half-heartedly.

It needs one more revision. I need to suck it up and do it. My other creative ideas will have to wait.

So here I go.

My Alexander Popish Poem & a Yearning to Create

The more and more I think about my past, the more and more I realize that I have always yearned to create. I remember when I was a sophomore in college, one of my lit courses was 18th Century English Literature.  On one of our assignments, we had to write some sort of comparative analysis concerning some of the works we read – not anything out of the ordinary. Except there was an alternative assignment which was also allowed. We could write a creative work which mimicked the style and influence of an 18th century author or poet, but put in the context of the 20th century.

I jumped on it! Actually, I was the only one in the class to attempt such an assignment. Perhaps I was crazy. Some thought so, but I felt liberated to create for a grade. What could be better than that? (Other than getting a good grade.)

So I chose Alexander Pope as my muse, and I wrote an epic satirical poem in Pope’s style about the United States. I don’t know how many lines it ended up being (I need to count them someday) but I created this rhyming and satirical monstrous poem and turned it in as my assignment.

When I got it back, I received a B+. The problem, it seems, was that the imagery and wording was a little “dense” at times, thus being too vague for even my PHD professor to be able to understand. Fair enough. I admit it. I wasn’t even sure what I meant at times, using these extremely vague ideas which just floated endlessly from stanza to stanza. But I didn’t care, I had a blast writing it.

I know now what I didn’t know then. I needed to create, and when I had the chance, I jumped at it. I actually wasn’t thrilled to be a lit major. I really wanted to be a creative writing major, though my school didn’t have that option, so I settled on the second best. Being a lit major forced me to read all the classics, which I enjoyed, except for wordy individuals like Henry James. Sorry. Not going to go there. But actually, I didn’t like reading all that much. I trudged through it, but never thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to write. I wanted to create. I wanted to be free to explore and express myself with words.

Unfortunately, after I graduated, I thought I would never be a writer and so I embarked on a twenty year, writing-less journey that brought me back to being an indie author – something I never expected, but now embrace wholeheartedly embrace.

For me, Alexander Pope is just another reminder of what I was made to do – create. Thanks, 18th century lit!