So many tabs open…the script in progress…
Big reveal: I struggle regularly with intense mood swings surrounding whatever I’m making. Try to contain your shock.
So as I grapple with this script I’m on right now, I find myself leaning back on a smattering of advice I’ve gathered over the years.
This is the kind of thing I would have rolled my eyes and snorted at ten years ago, but I don’t care. Results are more important than looking cool. Making art is more important than anything.
Things that help meeee with creativity:
- Time. There’s no way around it, you need time to mess around and daydream and be distracted and stare at the ceiling, and yes, it looks like you’re wasting your hours, but ideas don’t drift in if you’re constantly working and stimulated by social media (/politics….). I do my best writing when I have about three hours of “writing time.” Too large a portion of which is me goofing off on Pinterest or reading articles that pertain to my script (and some that don’t). But that’s when real ideas happen. It’s not all a romantic fever dream of writing. Now, sometimes it is, but I need an outline before that kind of writing happens. And for the outline…I need time. (ps – along with the outline I’m also writing the script. I’m 50 pages in to the script while still massaging the outline. It’s a back and forth process.) Time!
- Cleaning up. If Chris reads this he will probably laugh heartily because I’m a rather cluttery human, but I always think much clearer when I have more space to work. Something inside the mind opens. And sometimes it’s just the physical act of cleaning. Just last night I had three solid ideas while cleaning the bathroom and had to run to my computer fast so I wouldn’t forget (because I always, always forget! Even when I think I won’t. I already forgot that horrible nightmare last night that was super Silence of the Lambs-y even though I told myself at 2am that there was no possible way I’d forget….Most of it’s gone now.)
- Exercise. Well, this helps everything. But going running or hiking especially are great for clearing cobwebs and anxiety out of your brain. As someone who too regularly wanders around the apartment thinking the world is about to end and then changes her mind ten minutes after being outside, trust me. I just wish I could remember that the world isn’t about to end, despite what Facebook tells me. It’s a life lesson I’m learning over and over again.
- Go adventuring. I need to do new things and wake up my brain on a regular basis. Even a new coffee shop is helpful. Definitely a road trip, even just for a day (we’re going hiking a ways away today in search of greenery after all the rain in LA). A movie can help, but sometimes that isn’t enough of an escape for me lately – and in fact, sometimes it can make me feel a lot worse (note: La La Land sent me into a depression. Ugh. Curious if this happened to other actors and folks who actually live in LA…Btw, this made me laugh…).
- Music. Sometimes it gets in the way, but I’ve found it to be crazy helpful for once I already know the gist of the script I’m working on. I’ve always seen music in pictures, so new scenes come to me all the time when I’m listening to the right music. The right music for this script is Whiskeytown and Gregory Alan Isakov. It’s a misty movie I’m working on.
- The general realization that you can make bad art and live and in fact it might be the only way to the good stuff. Be uncomfortable and keep writing. Be uncomfortable and walk away and then come back. Be uncomfortable and complain about it in a blog post. Be uncomfortable and feel like a failure and complain to anyone who will listen until they just walk away from you. But go back and keep working. (Or give up! No one cares but you! And that’s true- no one will ever care as much as you do. So if you’re doing it for yourself, hopefully you’ll keep going and rise and fall with your own self-confidence/drive. If you’re doing it for someone else, well, that’s a job and sometimes you have to do that too. But the stuff that really matters to you I hope you stick with. It’s worth it.)
Creative books/people I’ve found helpful:
–Anything by Natalie Goldberg. She’s famous for Writing Down the Bones, but I’m also a fan of Wild Mind. Zen + writing. She tricks herself into writing by promising herself chocolate chip cookies. I use coffee (mostly) but sometimes beer or wine. Anyway, I love her, she’s based on New Mexico, and she’s just a cool lady with a great sensibility. It’s been a while since I’ve read her stuff…and I should pick up Thunder and Lightning because it’s staring at me on my bookshelf right now…
–I really like Danielle LaPorte, who’s kind of a spiritual entrepreneurial type, but, whatever, she’s awesome. I found her through Kris Carr’s website a long time ago. If you don’t know about Kris Carr, she made a documentary years ago called Crazy Sexy Cancer which I found while my dad was sick. Anyway, Danielle LaPorte is one of my internet guides and has been so helpful in dealing with the stresses of running the production of June and in being a boss and in dealing with the pressures of all that.
These books by Heather Sellers look super corny on their covers, but I found them immensely helpful right after I graduated from college and was trying to figure out how to become a writer (I thought I’d be a playwright for a while, then a novelist…). I spent an awful lot of time those first several years just learning how to create the habit of regular writing, how to live with my own criticism, and how to keep writing through discomfort. Sounds corny, but if you want to write anything, you have to deal with this stuff. So let go of your pride and figure it out. These books are also incredibly reassuring in terms of the amount of time it really takes to click in as a writer. Hint: be patient, but do the work or it’s never going to happen.
I’m actually going through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron again right now. It’s my third time and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever finished. Maybe it’s the woo-woo language of the Great Creator and your Artist Child, but I tend to get annoyed and then leave. But the process of dealing with doubts and blocks and getting back into artist dates has always been helpful, and I really felt stuck about a month ago, so I checked it out from the library a couple weeks ago. We’ll see.
Top of the Lake (whoa, so good, so crazy)
Big Little Lies
The American President (I made Chris watch this on Valentine’s Day – Michael Douglas for president?? Anyone??)
Friday Night Lights (movie)