- Aaron Nelson (cinematographer, editor)
- Rosalind Malin (producer/writer/director)
- Mark Lysgaard (writer/director/actor)
- Audi Bixel (assistant director)
- John Gamboa (actor)
- Colin Keating (actor)
- Peter Field (actor)
- Diane Kay (actor)
- Mitch Rofsky (actor)
- Nancy MacLaren (actor)
- CT Pantugo (art department)
- Margo Logan (associate producer)
- Alarie Lopez (boom boy)
“Get out of your clever place.” – Alan Arkin, actor
When it comes to books on creative writing, three inspirational examples stand out: Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.
Although those books are by no means new (The Artist’s Way was first published in 1992, Bird by Bird in 1994 and Writing Down the Bones in 1986), they’re still helping writers today. Just recently, a student of mine mentioned that Bird by Bird helps him deal with the anxiety that can be brought on by writing.
Each of the books is different yet the same. The Artist’s Way is formatted like a work book. Bird by Bird is part memoir, part writing tips. Writing Down the Bones includes writing prompts. All of them focus on the psychological and emotional aspects of writing rather than on craft. All leave the reader knowing it’s possible and normal and worthwhile to write.
The Artist’s Way, first self-published as Healing the Writer Within by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan, is a work book meant to be completed in twelve weeks. Designed not just for writers but for anyone who wants to unleash their creativity, the book reveals Cameron’s belief that expressing one’s creativity connects us to the divine in each of us. Whether or not you agree with Cameron’s spiritual beliefs, her book presents two writing tools worth trying:
- Morning pages: Three pages of longhand, free-association writing. The purpose is to focus on the process rather than on the product of writing and to establish a writing habit.
- The artist date: An appointment you make with yourself to spend time alone doing something nurturing, whether it’s a walk in a park or a trip to a craft store. The artist’s date will make it easier to make creativity a priority in your life.
The rest of the chapters in The Artist’s Way explain how to overcome limiting emotions such as fear and jealousy.
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird reveals her trademark honesty and quickness. She’s known for explaining the importance of writing the “shitty first draft” and for encouraging writers to break large projects into small pieces, what she refers to as writing “bird by bird.”
In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg uses a Zen-like approach. She encourages writers to practice their writing and to remember the importance of details. She suggests trying timed writings. The rules of timed writing are to keep your hand moving; don’t cross out; don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar; lose control; don’t think; don’t get logical and go for the jugular.
In this New York Times article about the death of poet Ruth Stone, she is quoted as having said that poetry is “emotional opinion” and that, to her, poetry “just talked to me, and I wrote it down. So I can’t even take much credit for it.” Here’s one of Stone’s poems posted on poets.org:
Always on the Train
by Ruth Stone
Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.
But consider the railroad’s edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.
Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic–windows on a house of air.
Below the weedy edge in last year’s mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.
(The poets.org website includes forums on everything from how to write poetry to the difference between voice and style.)
In this article posted on http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com, the author provides tips on how to come up with an idea for a screenplay. The suggestions could help with most any writing project. For instance:
- Set limits on your project. Know exactly what it is you want to write.
- Read newspapers to get ideas.
- Watch documentaries.
- Take a drive in your car.
- Go for a walk.
- Take the day off and visit garage sales.
- Learn a new sport.
- Ask yourself what’s troubling you.
I just finished reading Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets, a funny novel about a father who gets himself into trouble trying to support his family during a tough economic time. Much of the humor comes from the author’s comments on the sorry state of the United States.
Walters also wrote The Zero (a finalist for the National Book Award), Citizen Vince, Land of the Blind, Over Tumbled Graves and Ruby Ridge. He lives in Spokane, Washington. For more information: www.jesswalter.com
In the August 21, 2011 issue of the Oregonian, singer Wynonna Judd is quoted as saying “…pick two or three things per day that are a priority. You don’t prioritize your schedule; you schedule your priorities — and whatever those are, you make those happen.”
When it comes to your writing, what are your priorities?
How can you not like a book of poetry that includes “Ode to Hardware Stores” by Barbara Hamby; “John Green Takes His Warner, New Hampshire, Neighbor to a Red Sox Game” by Maxine Kumin; and “Bronco Busting, Event #1” by May Swenson?
There’s something so down-to-earth about Good Poems: American Places, a poetry-doesn’t-have-to-be-a-big-deal compilation. No surprise that it’s edited by Garrison Keillor, an American storyteller known for honoring America and its inhabitants.
A tidbit from the collection:
The Junior High School Band Concert
When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We’d rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed through our crossfire.
I played cornet, seventh chair,
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window-slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.
Each straight-faced mother and father
Retested his moral fiber
Against our traps and slurs
And the inadvertent whickers
Paradiddled by our snares,
And when the brass bulled forth
A blare fit to horn over
Jericho two bars sooner
Than Joshua’s harsh measures,
They still had the nerve to stare.
By the last lost chord, our director
Looked older and soberer.
No doubt, in his mind’s ear
Some band somewhere
In some music of some Sphere
Was striking a note as pure
As the wishes of Franz Schubert,
But meanwhile here we were:
A lesson in everything minor,
Decomposing our first composer.
My favorite books are Shipping News by Annie Proulx, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg, and Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor. My favorite movies are It’s a Wonderful Life,
So what, you say?
Well, our favorite books, movies and ice cream (well, maybe not ice cream) hint at what direction our writing could take. As you can tell from my lists, I like funny stories about small towns and the quirky people who live in them. What are your favorite books and movies? What themes, genres and voices do they reveal? Have you ever written about those themes in those genres, using that voice? If not, why don’t you start?