How to be Creative in 2021!

We are creative beings. I’m convinced of it. I’ve been watching my grandson play over the past couple of weeks and he just naturally creatives narratives about firemen, emergencies, ice cream stands, railroads, excavators, dump trucks and just about everything. He oozes creativity and it’s marvelous. By the way, he’s two years old.

What will we do (I do) in 2021 to allow the muses to penetrate and invite the dark hushes of night to open avenues previously unseen? Here’s a couple ideas:

Play. I recommend blocks. Yes, I’m back to my grandson for a moment. There’s something magnificently simple about playing with blocks, but it’s also freeing and … yes … creative. I’ve been taken away in my mind more than once when constructing a block zoo or a block gas station or whatever. Seeing the patterns, the possibilities, the endless little tweaks which can shape and reshape what is being formed. Playing with blocks allows one to be creative, but there are many varieties to play. Find one that suits you.

Passion. I have two passions which fuel my creativity: writing and cooking. They are a great counterbalance to each other because they are not related in any way, but they each, in their own way, allow me to experiment and control the ideas of my mind. They also both need source material whether a recipe for cooking or a news article for creative writing, they allow me to use what I have and what I am currently processing in order to form something new. Guitar is another creative avenue for me. It’s not one of my passions, per se, and I’m not a great guitarist, but it’s another method of getting me to think creative about my writing since I like to compose lyrics and songs and musical theatre related stuff. We all have a creative passion. I’m sure of it.

Get Away from Clutter. I think this is also an important way to allow yourself to be creative. We are bombarded with media and technology every moment of every day, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m terrible at putting my phone down. What do you do to cleanse yourself from the daily clutter of your life and allow yourself to think, listen, see, feel, and just breathe? When I’m in my typical routine, that time for me is when I’m walking. I might be listening to music at the same time, but it allows me to think and ponder. Is it any wonder that a lot of my writing ideas come to me when I’m walking?

So if you want to be a more creative person this year; play, follow your passions, and secure time away from your cluttered life. We are meant to be creative. What’s holding you back?

Those are my suggestions. What are yours?

Let your light shine through in 2021. (Photo by mws, Rome 2018)

Writing Tips: How to Write a Novel.

This post is not about how to write a novel because there’s only one way to write a novel and that’s by stringing together more than 50,000 words into a coherent story. That’s it. You need more words. Get to it. Connect them. Yeah, you wrote a novel.

I realize that the above description may not be helpful to aspiring writers out there even though you cannot refute it’s basic essence. So let me expound a little bit. How writers go about putting those words together is a completely different process for each individual writer. What I do won’t work for you. What she does won’t work for me. But as I’ve complete six novels at this point, I do have a few suggestions, or perhaps even personal observations about the process which may or may not be helpful.

So here we go:

  1. First draft – focus on story. When I’m writing the story for the first time, I do not allow myself to get bogged down in word choice and grammar. I focus on the story and the characters. The story must make sense. It needs to be logical, believable, engaging. The characters need to tell their story, their backstory, their aspirations. Write, write, write and push the STORY forward until you have a coherent, fun, engaging story line.
  2. Second draft – focus on language – I’m currently writing the second draft of my 6th novel. As I’m going back through the story, so of which I haven’t even read in months, I focus mainly on language usage. I look at each sentence and ask myself if I phrased it well. Can it be improved? Is there a better word choice? Does the paragraph flow? Do I repeat words? Is the structure boring? This is a slow, methodical process, but my goal, by the time I’m finished with the second draft, I have the first glimpse of the what my final product will look like. Once the second draft is complete, I’ll elicit feedback from some beta readers to better understand how well I’ve done my job.
  3. Third draft – I incorporate feedback from my beta readers and I begin to analyze how I can improve the flow of the story. I also pay closer attention to grammatical details and try to produce a clean copy for my editor who will receive it at this point.
  4. Fourth draft – I clean up the manuscript according to my editor’s advice, correcting all those commas and small minutia.
  5. Multiple read-throughs. I read it again and again. I read it out loud. I listen to the language. I try to catch any remaining mistakes. (There will be some. Editors are not wizards. I am responsible for the final product, so I have to take charge.)
  6. Finally, when I make it to this stage, when I have exhausted all effort on this manuscript and I’m happy with what I got, I move it into the publication phase.

That’s how I write a novel. How do you do it differently?

A Writer’s Problem? Diverted attention

Here’s the problem: I have so many writing interests that I jump around to all kinds of writing projects at the same time.

I should be working on my novel right now. I’m almost done with the first draft, but here’s where my rabbit-hold-kind-of-brain has been at this week. Two days ago, I got an idea for some song lyrics that I wrote. It was completely random, but I guess it’s good to rhyme every once in a while. I had fun writing them and I put them on this blog two days ago. Right about that same time, I had the genesis of a new play, just a title and a very rough scenario which might work. After that had been marinating in my brain for a day or two, I went to see a production of The Glass Menagerie last night. It was a great show, so as I was thinking through Williams’ writing and what it means to me, I got re-inspired to start that play. I decided to zoom in, and like Tennessee Williams, have a static set with only four characters. I’ve written elaborate plays before with many characters, those are especially good for high school productions, I’m attracted to the idea of a character-driven play where I can really focus and develop on just a handful of characters. So this afternoon, I’ve been writing it, my new play, forsaking my novel once again.

I also have another play I’m writing with some students. We ┬áhave a mid-October deadline. Plenty of time to procrastinate.

I also re-wrote one of the short plays I’m producing for December.

So, yeah, I’m all over the place. But I think that’s the way I work best. Let the cross-genres and overlapping ideas help each other. I’ll eventually get everything done.

The creative writing process is such a fascinating phenomenon. One word or phrase can turn my head and get my undivided attention. I never know what’s coming next. And that’s actually kind of fun.

Reflections on Writing: Are they good enough?

I’ve just finished writing a collection of short dramatic sketches which will be performed as my new Christmas show, “MORE Tales of Wonder: Another RLT Christmas,” this December.

My immediate reaction to the pieces is rather muted. I don’t know what to think about them, and I’m sure I don’t really know what I got in these pieces.

When I compare them to last year’s “Tales of Wonder,” they don’t seem to be as good. But I have to remind myself that my opinion of those is tainted by their live performances which were exceptionally well received last year. The real question is: what did I think about last year’s pieces before we produced them?

This is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process, knowing what you have after you’ve finished. Of course, different people will assess them in different ways, so I’m mainly writing at the wind here, trying to understand a process which is mainly incomprehensible.

I’ve found that most writing consists more of a workman effort rather than heavenly inspiration. There were very few “ah-hah” moments in writing these, most of them being slowly whittled away with version after version until the storylines and characters become more visible. This is probably one of the reasons why I feel nervous about these. If they lack inspiration, will they not be inspirational?

That’s not the way it typically works. Writing is about plowing a the field, planting the seeds, and slowly cultivating the crops; hoping that the mature plant will produce a strong yield. But there are no guarantees in writing (as in farming). You just have to do the work, put in the effort, stick with what has worked in the past, and then leave the results for others to assess.

Do I think we’ll have a good Christmas show this December? Based on track record, yes. Based on these rough scripts I’ve been writing in July? I don’t know.

Are they good enough? They are never good enough. But you still have to stop and move on to something else. That’s what writers do.


My brain was hijacked by an annoying full-length play

Did you ever get something in your head that you can’t shake?

I become useless when it happens to be a writing idea.

Here’s what happened to me this weekend. I was minding my own business, sitting down to work on my fourth novel – which, by the way, is about 75% complete – when out of no where an idea hits me.

When creativity springs forth over top of creativity, what is one to do?

I first told myself, balderdash, I’m going to finish my novel. So I sat down and stared at the last few lines I had written, but I couldn’t get my mind off that darn play, which seemingly wanted to write itself.

I write a lot of short plays. I’ve only written one full-length play on my own. The others I have written were collaborations with my students. But here, banging loudly at my doorstep was another play begging me to take her in and tell her story.

So on Friday night, I put down my novel and started on this play that is incredibly different from anything I have ever written. It is very much an adult oriented play which focuses on some societal issues which are clearly hot-button controversial at the moment. My first play which is not suitable to be performed at the high school level. Sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? I am not at liberty to say what the play is about, but it has pretty much annoyingly consumed all my writing time this weekend.

When I closed the laptop this afternoon after sitting by the beach for a couple hours pecking away at this annoying writer’s itch, I realized that I was close to finishing the first draft already.

It really did write itself. It was so incredibly easy. Of course, it still has some work to be done on it but the entire frame is there and I honestly don’t know what to make of it.

But I will tell you this, it is meant to be performed. I will not publish it. I want it performed by a professional troupe and I’ll keep it bound and out of sight until someone agrees to produce it.

And if is never produced, at least I finally got it off my brain so I can get back to finishing my fourth novel.

Ideas sometimes can be so incredibly annoying.