When a Writer doesn’t Recognize his Script

I was at a theatre festival last night where one of my plays was being performed. I was not in any way connected to the production, so I’m always a little apprehensive when I go and see one of my pieces, not knowing what it might ultimately look like. I’ve had a variety of experiences in this regard, some great, some less than great. But I always appreciate the director’s and actors efforts.

This production took me off-guard a little bit. My personal belief is that my script was not a match for the director’s style. The director is experienced with comedic, Chinese theatre where large, farcical expressions and movement are requisite. My piece was a satire with a lot of heft to it. It was a political satire on the nature of progressivism in America. The actors clearly had trouble with the language of the piece, and so decided to ramp up the farcical aspects of the script which, frankly, weren’t there to begin with.

But part of being a drama writer is just putting your work out there and letting it be interpreted however the director sees or whatever goes with the director’s skill set.

It’s also a reminder of why I like to direct my own pieces. Call me obsessive, if you will, but I clearly have a dramatic vision of all of the pieces I write. Of course, my dramatic vision is just one of many possible ones, but I always love to finally see a work of my on stage using the original vision of the writer himself. That oftentimes only happens when I produce it myself.

I once again applaud the effort of the director and actors. Their time and effort is appreciated. I do look forward to one day putting this script on myself. Until then, it’s fascinating to see what others see in your script which you yourself do not see.

Indie Authors: Do you have True Grit?

Research has shown that those who succeed have the quality of what we would call grit – ability the shake off the negative and keep going – perseverance in the face of failure.

Do you, indie author, have it?

When you receive a bad review … do you have true grit?

When you haven’t made a sale in days … do you have true grit?

When you can’t see the path ahead that would allow you to write full time … do you have true grit?

When you stare at a blank page for an hour … do you have true grit?

When your family patronizes you with another smile concerning your writing … do you have true grit?

When every single literary agent in the world think they could get leprosy from you via email … do you have it?

When you write something that you know just isn’t very good … ?

When you simply have NO time for promotion and your wonderful new book is languishing in a marketing black-hole … do ___ ____ it?

When doubts creep in and you start to question whether you have the right stuff to make it as a writer or not, ____ you _____ true _____?

Do you have true grit?

It’s a choice. Sometimes it’s painful, hopeless, and seemingly pointless.

But you’ll never make it if you don’t keep going.

And if you love to write, what choice do you really have?


Write What’s on Your Heart

Writing is the most heart-revealing exercise I’ve ever been involved with.

The writing process bares the soul, and makes the writer ponder deep and hard about the hidden caverns which need exploring but which the writer may be too squeamish to approach.

I truly believe what my college literature professor said that a reader should not and cannot judge a writer by what he or she writes. Unless the writing is meant to be autobiographical, then one cannot assume that the point of view of a character or the voice of a poem is indeed one and the same as the writer’s.

While that may be true, I do also believe that the writing process in itself reveals the writer’s heart. And while the final result may not be autobiographical, the writing itself can not completely wriggle itself free from the desires, struggles, and feelings of the writer.

Last weekend I posted how I felt that my brain had been hi-jacked by an idea for a play that I couldn’t shake. The thoughts kept gnawing at me to the point where I could not concentrate on the story I had been working on. So I set aside novel number four and just started writing what was on my heart.

This particular topic was difficult for me to write for a variety of reasons. I didn’t really want to write this play, but again, I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t particularly like where the play was going, but again, I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t like the one character; I didn’t like the dialogue I felt was necessary for that character; I didn’t want to continue, but I keep writing every day over that weekend.

A week later, the play is out of my mind, sitting there ruminating on the pages. But I am free from it, for now.

This whole process taught me an important lesson: writers should just write what is on their hearts. For one, it can be a cathartic experience just getting your thoughts explode and explore on paper. Sometimes simple expression is all that is needed, regardless of whether the writing will or will not end up as a published work.

Secondly, writing what’s on your heart forces you to be honest with yourself. It requires a lifting of judgment or prejudice and allows freedom of expression. What’s great about writing is that there is no rule that says what you write has to be shared with anyone. Perhaps no one will ever see this play, but I’m glad I wrote it.

Lastly, the heart is often times the genesis of the process of creative discovery. I am always more passionate about topics which are close to me. The other day someone told me that I should write a YA novel. I basically responded ‘no’ and that I have no desire to do so. It’s not that I have anything against YA, it’s just that nothing has ever been impressed on my heart that would fit into that category. Why would I want to force the issue just because it’s a popular genre? I don’t think I’ll ever be that kind of writer. Above all I have to be true to myself. I think the best writer’s always are.

And as far as I know, truth is always not too far from the heart.

So if you ever get stuck and don’t know what to write next, look internally. There’s something there ready to come out.

Like my unexpected play.

Humble Thyself, Writer!

I’m the worst. Or at least I can be. 

I’m so fiercely independent that I want to do it all alone. I like to think that everything I write is the best writing in the world and that readers’ opinions are mere distractions.

But I’m learning.

Everything I write makes sense to me. I understand the context and meanings in my head which make all the connotations crystal clear to me.

But I’m beginning to understand that my opinion doesn’t mean anything if I want to reach a wide range of readers.

I so easily get defensive. If an advanced reader gives a suggestion or questions why I did this or that, I want to back it up with a long litany of reasons, which make perfect sense in my mind.

However, all of these mean nothing.

I’m learning.

However, what is it that I’m actually learning about writing?

That I’m not the only one in the world who has insight. (I know, this is such a novel concept.) Sometimes I wonder how I went from having no writing self-confidence that I wandered in the pen-less wilderness for twenty years to get to the point where I everything I write is the gospel. Such arrogance!

Haha. As if.

But I’m learning.

So here are things that I always try to keep in remember:

1) constructive criticism is not personal criticism.

2) constructive criticism is not criticism of one’s writing skills.

3) Advanced readers are HELPFUL – treat them well.

4) I may be writing because I love to write, but I do want others to read it. Therefore, take anyone’s and everyone’s insight! Learn from it and move on.

5) Criticism or not, the ultimate decision remains with the writer. Take all input, look at it objectively then make the final determination what YOU (or I) think is best for the story. Example, I had two readers of THE RECLUSE STORYTELLER have completely different opinions about certain metaphors that I used. One person pointed out how much she LOVED them! The other pointed out how she would remove them. There is no way to please everyone. Decide for yourself, and move on. But make sure to THANK both readers.

OK. I think I feel better.

And I love my advanced readers!

And one last thing: I kept the metaphors.

A hope for my missing 1000 words

I hope my missing 1000 words which were swallowed by the welfare children of technocrats will become infused into the greater world of the sub-net which rules the awakening and sleeping cadences of our lives.  I hope the electronic particles will become electro-fairy dust which will settle as a snow-dusting on my laptop keys, providing magical inspiration which will power the muse to live another day and produce yet another 1000 words which will soar beyond the pale realm of their predecessor. More glorious in height, more rousing in spirit, more all-encompassing in scope. The sacrifice of a 1000 to produce an offspring of a 100,000.

Please, come soon, fairy snow clouds. I’m drowning in gibberish.

Is it Fair to Judge a Writer?

(In my last post I picked on an old professor. That made me think of another old professor whom I’ll add to the list of blog-post inspiration. By the way, I enjoyed learning under both of them.)

One of my old professors taught me that when reading a poem, never assume that the poem’s perspective is that of the poet.

OK. Let me think about this a second. Let’s take a few lines from one of my favorite poems – “Hap” by Thomas Hardy:

IF but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”

Then would I bear, and clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased, too, that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

So according to my professor, it’s unfair to say that Thomas Hardy is angry at God or that his life is in a turmoil, and he’s looking to make sense of it of a terrible loss he experienced in his life.

Because who is the “I” that he is referring to? Himself? A friend? A relative? A completely made-up person? No one at all? Perhaps these are just the words that came to him randomly? We obviously don’t know (unless he decides to tell us).

It would be foolish to judge Thomas Hardy’s personal life based on the perspective of his poem.

Likewise, it would be rash to judge an author solely by what he/she wrote in a novel. It’s so easy to assume that the perspective, tone, or themes of a particular book permeate directly from the soul of the writer. That may be the case, but it also may be the furthest thing from the truth.

Which writer would like to be judged by the content of his/her writing? No one I know, but I fear that is a common occurrence, and naturally so. Writers certainly pull a lot of truth from their own life, twist it around, spice it up, coat it with several layers of implausibility, and slap it on the page as a new creation. The real truth of any given phrase may be very difficult to assess.

For example, in my novel “Beauty Rising”, depending on what passage one looks at, I could be accused of being a hater of Vietnamese people, a lover of Vietnamese people, a critic of the Vietnamese government, a critic of small town America, a cynic of family, a believer in faith, a denier of faith, a hopeless romantic, a lover of tragedy, etc… you get the picture. Whether these are true or not, to me, isn’t important because I just wanted to write a good story.

I suppose Thomas Hardy just wanted to write a poignant poem.

So I would say this. If you want to judge someone, judge them for what they say and how they live, but not what they write.