Today’s column will cover the Time Travel tasks from Week One. Next week, we’ll move on to Week Two. You can find the full schedule for the rest of the year at the bottom of this post!
I decided to pull out the Time Travel tasks (Tasks 3-7, so most of them) from Week One in their own post for a couple of reasons. One was to be able to ease in, pacing-wise, by spreading Week One out over two weeks here.
Sometimes starting (or restarting) The Artist’s Way can feel a bit like thawing out something frozen, and there’s something painful and scary about that. It can be like melting something that solidified inside you. And it’s not easy.
To me, these Time Travel tasks feel like the first steps in that process. And they can be hard. Last time through, in March, I skipped most of them and only half-heartedly and incompletely did the ones I didn’t skip.
I thought they deserved extra attention in their own post as an acknowledgement that they’re hard, and a way of tackling them together.
Last year, I placed second in the Kay Snow Writing Contest in the category for graduate-level students. I’d previously placed third in Kay Snow nonfiction back in 2013 for an essay. This was the first time I entered since. You do have to wait a couple years to be eligible again (I think two or three) and I gave it six.
It was also the chapter I read, so long ago, at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC as part of The Best Memoirists’ Pageant Ever in 2007, which I apparently never posted about back in the day, though I was sure I had (couldn’t find anything in my drafts either). The picture on my bio page comes from that event.
One of these days, I’d love to get published AND paid for a piece of writing. It’s always been one or the other, never both. This was a cash prize, of $100. Plus a free day at the Willamette Writers conference.
I had plans for that. The timing was perfect for the conference last summer. It fell towards the end of an Enrichment Week at medical school, meaning we had to sign up for activities but most of the week was totally open. Meaning that I could go. Meaning that my writing life and my medical student life were brilliantly coalescing for the second time that year. Back in March, the yearly AWP conference had been here, in Portland, on my bus line, perfectly overlapped with my Spring Break. It was all so charmed.
Almost two months ago, I finished revising a feature-length screenplay. It’s something that’s been on my back burner for a long time (six years) and I finally had the time to look at it again. One of the most interesting and challenging things about revising it was updating it to current day.
For a little background, I’ve been working on a lot of writing projects since early on in quarantine.
Even then, I often still feel like I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be–I don’t work on my writing every day, some weeks have more off than on days, and some have no on days at all–but even so, it’s the most consistent, longest stretch I’ve had of working on my writing in…at least a decade? Maybe more.
Here it is, the final installment in this trilogy of posts about a recent crazy creative journey (Read Part 1 – The High and Part 2 – Coming Down here) of writing a crazy screenplay called (for now anyway) Sweet Acid. Not that the journey of writing this screenplay is over–I still have tons of editing to do, and then need to figure out what I want to do with it–but that the crazy emotional creativity roller coaster has subsided.
And as for what got me back to normal? It’s nothing shocking. I think just about every working writer or artist or creative person in any field has said this. The cure for all that insane intensity–the good, the bad, the swinging between the extremes–is to keep doing the work.
And in a certain way, it’s still there. I’m still excited about the project and had a great time talking about it yesterday with the friend who my character Lenne is based on. But I also experienced the other side of the creative process, the doubt and self-loathing, the coming down off the drug-like high of creating.
The crash came along with writing the end of the first draft of the screenplay. Maybe it was just the fact that the initial mad dash creative side of the project was over. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel excited about this project so much as terrified.
Holy fucking roller coaster, Batman. And the ride isn’t over.
The last two weeks have been a completely new kind of writing experience for me. It feels a little weird to be able to say that at 33 years old, especially considering I was writing little stories since, like, first grade. But it’s true.
It was so intense. It felt kinda like how I imagine being manic might feel. It felt like being in love. It felt like being on reeeeeeeally good drugs. It was all rushing and inspiration and not being able to sleep and waking up early with ideas and thoughts of how to work parts of it together. And it was a lot, lot, lot of writing.
Here’s what happened. For my university, there is a requirement called a senior capstone. I’ve resisted it as long as I could, putting it off term after term, imagining the anonymous diatribes I wanted to write against the requirement in the school paper as if that could somehow exempt me from having to take a capstone class. But this winter, I had to sign up, so I picked Research Experience for Science Majors, hoping to, you know, get some research experience.
I just got home from AWP in Seattle. For those who haven’t heard of it, AWP is this massively huge swarm of writers that descends on a different city each year. This year, AWP took over the Washington State Convention Center, an Annex and the Seattle Sheraton. Someone told me that the total number of people registered was 14,000. Unless you count music festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella, I’ve never been around that many people in such a concentrated space.
There are oodles of writing-related panels. In fact, for every time slot, there are, oh, I don’t know, twenty or more different offerings. And then there are outside events, readings, contest winner announcements, drinking with some vague literary theme in mind, and then more panels. There’s also a bookfair, which is huge. This one was split into two separate rooms, that’s how huge it was. Booths everywhere. Books everywhere. Writers milling around booths and looking at books everywhere.
I was a total AWP virgin, open to all kinds of impression and experience.
So, here are some things I learned over the last three days:
As I’m sure is glaringly obvious, I watch a lot of TV. But somehow, despite all the time I spend watching Netflix, it’s almost always TV episodes. I don’t make as much time for movies as I used to. And even when I used to watch move movies, it always seemed there were so many good ones I hadn’t seen for any number of reasons.
I want to do more screenwriting, and as with any form of writing, getting better at it means immersing yourself in that form and medium of storytelling. Or I’m just giving myself an excuse to start getting DVDs in the mail from Netflix again (the streaming movie selections are a bit limited) and spend more time watching movies. Either way, I would love some suggestions.
So give me your top five to ten movies (or more!) you think I should see. They can be your favorites, or great examples of a particular genre, or even movies you hate (as a writer, it can be good to familiarize yourself with the not-so-great examples too, and who knows, tastes differ. Or you can have no particular theme or reason at all. Just give me some suggestions, and some descriptions of why if you want, and I’ll start compiling an epic film educational queue.
I’m not saying much about what movies I already love (or hate) b/c I want to be open to all suggestions, but if you’re really curious, I have a faves list on my FB. But since I’m looking to branch out, I just don’t want to limit anything to similar titles or anything like that. Really, all suggestions welcome!
For anyone who writes stories, makes music or does any sort of creative art, this has to be one of the most common questions you are asked, and one of the most common questions you want to ask others.
It’s a mysterious thing. I think so many people are curious about it, even people who themselves are involved in the creative arts, because it’s not always concrete and logical (those aspects do come into play, of course). Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where that first seed or flash or image or idea originated.
Sometimes you know. The idea for Total Eclipse of the Heart, which I wrote originally as a short story and am now having fun working into a screenplay, came to me pretty much fully-formed in a dream, including some of the dialogue. Actually in the dream I was taking a screenwriting class (which at that point in time I had never done in real life) and struggling with writers block, then came up with this idea for the story and in the dream I was reworking it and molding it. There were so many details, so many subplots and so much complexity for a story that came from a dream.
That has never happened before or since but it was pretty cool when it did. It kinda made me feel like I had to write the story.