March 21st, 2020 6:30pm – Instagram Live with @dnice is what I needed
As I’m writing this, I’m still listening and watching live D-Nice on Instagram. Fifty thousand people listening to this amazing talent spinning some old school music. It’s exactly what we all need… being able to connect when we can’t really be near each other. Dancing on Instagram with 50,000 new friends is really a thing!
Quarantine is also bringing out the best in all of us….
Posted this today before the house party on IG — but see, I had a vision it was going to be a dancing kind of day!
I don’t care what anyone else tells you, there are no rules to writing, except to just write.
There’s no set time you’re supposed to write. It doesn’t matter if you write all day, or just for a few minutes… You can write at 3 in the morning, or 9 O’clock at night. The TV can be on in the background or the music playing, or it could be quiet with only the ocean waves hitting against the sandy shore…
It doesn’t matter how or where you do it, at a library, at your desk, sitting in your car – truly, there are no rules to writing my friend, just one – to write.
There’s no style that’s better either – using a pen, paper, typewriter or keyboard. Maybe you’re a storyteller who needs the beginning, middle and end of every great moment. Or maybe you’re a journalist who just reports on what’s happening here? Again, it doesn’t matter. Do both or do none. Or do something in between. Seriously, I swear, write however it suits you. But write, nonetheless.
Maybe you write scripts easily or a novel just jumps out of your head. It’s true, you could also provide content on a blog or scribble profound thoughts on a napkin instead. All of it, yes all of it – makes you a writer, I swear it, my friend.
Did I just sound like Dr. Seuss? Of course, I did! But what better example of a great writer to stick in your head?
Look, there are no brownie points for how long your piece is. You can write gibberish or poetry. There really are no rules — and don’t worry, you’re not a better writer if only you’d read a bunch of books. People keep peddling that one over and over again and I know it makes you feel bad – but don’t let it! It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t read books. But does it help? Of course, it can! But there’s no correlation between how many books you read verses how great of a writer you’ll be. Trust me, there’s no rule that says you’re better at anything because you’ve read 400 books, instead. And while I’m here, blogging is surely writing. Writing articles for a paper or magazine doesn’t make you more of a writer. Content writing means you can write and seduce people to buy things or to look over here. Cool, if that’s your thing. You write scripts? Great. Good for you. Writing is what makes you a writer. Period. End stop. Don’t compare yourself to others or make excuses for what you write. You be YOU. Unapologetic-ally. And if you aspire to be better, to do better, then bravo take those steps when necessary, but stop putting yourself down and comparing yourself to others – if all it does is stop you from writing, then you’re doing it all wrong my friend. Pick up that pen and piece of paper and write, write, write!
If you wake up every morning and you believe you’re a writer – then my goodness, lucky you, guess what? You’re a writer! No one said this better than Rainer Maria Rilke, “Letters to A Young Poet”. Think about it, someone was saying this way back then, and I’m sure someone else shared it way before that too – I’m sharing the same thought by the way, right now – NO ONE can tell you, NO ONE but you!
There are so many great writers who share some real truths. And here’s my favorite one of them all – most great writers don’t spend most of their time writing! Oh my God, what? Writers think, and spend time mulling, dreaming, taking it all in! …all of these are part of the process of being an artist, of being a writer. If no one ever told you, let me say it to you now: It’s okay to do it your way! If you write every day or weekly or monthly. Be proud! If you write notes, in a journal, on a blog or for a company. If you write in English or Spanish or Korean or French. All of it is welcome. Yes, you are a writer my friend. I promise you – I promise you, you are!
We stifle so many people by telling them “rules”. And then we stifle ourselves by believing it all too. The best writers, the best artists I admire always break all the rules – ever notice that?
I’m giving you permission damn-it, the world needs MORE writers, more artists, more genius and I think we’ve done a disservice by not telling the truth – there are no rules, no secrets to writing. Just write my friend, start writing, right now if it’s true!
And once you’ve put down your words, once you’ve started down that process – everything else will start to unfold. All will reveal itself, in time…. I promise you, it’s true.
The great thing about being a writer is a writer can be so many things – A poet can write songs – tell me Freddie Mercury wasn’t just a poet with an amazing genius band? Have you heard Bohemian Rhapsody? Writers can teach and move you to believe in a better world – A writer named Aaron Sorkin comes to mind. He wrote the TV show The West Wing among others – I learned all about politics because of that show! I bet you could name great pieces of work that all started with a stroke of a pen or keys. When I think on it a bit, I think everything starts with a piece of writing…Hmmmm…There are so many uses in our world for writing… writing is not just one thing. So, I don’t know who needs to hear this again – but DO YOU. Write your booty off and don’t question it so much!
Writing is a communication. The ability to share with others. A therapy to help oneself. It comes in all forms. Once you let go and just write and you start to feel comfortable with your own process, then and only then, will it matter what comes next. Yes, you start deciding what kind of writer you’d like to be. Sometimes the kind of writer you are, just presents itself. And it’s not that rare to realize you are more than just one thing. A poet, a lyricist, a musician, for example. Maybe there’s a story you’d like to tell? A book you’d like to write, a speech you’d like to share – or a stream of consciousness, uhem, you’d like to scream… Well, surely, there are rules on how to do all of that – you’ll figure it all out when it’s time. I promise it will happen, but just start writing, start right now.
The next great something is right there within you! You are the genius we’ve been waiting for….
No rules, my friend, just write. And the rest will unfold as it should, I promise.
My head gets overwhelmed at times with too much noise when I’m writing – when that happens, I know it’s time to put down my pen – or close my laptop – and go for a walk.
About a mile in, I’ll start to exercise my writer brain by playing my “Describe the Character” game. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. What it does, is give you something else to focus on, while being a bit fun, easy – and if you’re lucky, you can actually develop the great beginnings of a character or scene out of the exercise. In my first book CANELA, this was how I figured out how to combine characters.
Here’s how to play: simply pick a random item in the area and then, without justifying or qualifying, describe it as thoroughly as possible. In this case, about a mile into my walk, I saw a shadowy figure approaching me…without staring too directly, I took in all that I could. Once I passed the person, I jotted down my thoughts in OneNote:
Tall, black running tights, white stripes, three.
Baseball cap, tight black shirt, pecs. Muscular.
Runner. Walking. Hurt. Long legs. Strong arms.
Smile, lots of teeth, white, capped. Bright blue eyes. Long lashes.
Brown hair, white, corporate, executive, Tesla.
Handsome, scruff, married, kids, forty-two.
Friendly, smirk. Head nod. Kind. Neighborly.
Deep. Fall. Cold. Confidence. Unafraid. Worthy.
Swimmer. Parent. Having a good day anyway. Nice.
When I’m having a tough time writing I see it as an opportunity to change things up a bit. As I mentioned in a past post about writer’s block, I like to think of these moments as opportunities. It’s as if the universe is conspiring to have me try something else to get a different creative result. And I have to say, after doing this, I’m hardly ever disappointed. At the very least, it always gets rid of the noise.
I sometimes practice this at my desk as well. I can’t always just go for a walk, especially if it’s the dead of night, so in this case, there are other ways to exercise the writing jewels (my brain). I’ll close my eyes, take a breath and let it out and whatever lands in my eye-line when I open them, that’s what gets described. Here’s what I wrote in OneNote about an ink cartridge:
Dirty. Complicated and expensive. Hate.
White, black, a mess of sorts.
Necessary. Important. Unavoidable, but useful.
Clear. Colorful. Toxic. Technology – Techy. Easy, home use.
Another way to do this is to put on any random song and describe how you feel immediately after listening… In this case, I listened to Lizzo’s Good As Hell.
Positive. Joyful with an attitude. Walking like a model. Freedom.
Happy. Smiling. Advising. Powerful. Elegant. Class. Proper with a touch of street smarts.
Beautiful. Fabulous. Building someone up. Feeling like you got more to do.
The point is, when you can, use tools available to exercise the creative juices. I know writers who use flash cards or just do free writing exercises. The more ways you can self-motivate your creativity and learn to “unstuck” yourself, the better! Now, with these three descriptive pieces of information, I can start writing a new scene or develop a character. At the very worst, I’ve had a little break and stopped the initial noise I had in my head. I can now get back to what I was working on. Win-win!
What tricks or tools do you use to keep yourself in that creative space?
I just feel like writing. I’m dressed to go for a run. My bed is made, I’ve had my coffee, it’s way past my “writing time” – yes, I have a “writing time” – it’s usually early in the morning between 5am and 6am. It was never a scheduled thing, it just happens that way. It’s the quietest time of the day for me. My mind is free, clear and fresh. And yet, things pop in and out like a symphony. Musicians chiming in on cue – that’s what it feels like when I write early in the morning.
But now it’s much later. My day has already begun, and this, this workout – this run – is what’s next. But I can’t. Something has pulled me back. And I never type when I write. No. I’m old school. I’m that person that has to write long-hand and then transfer it to the computer if I dare (that “symphony” of writing isn’t always a masterpiece, or even close, by the way).
Hmm. So what’s so important that I half tied the laces on my sneakers and have sat back down in front of my computer to write? Honestly I have no idea. I don’t know what’s about to come next, but I’m typing nonetheless.
Lots of things have plagued my brain lately. I refuse to let politics crowd my thinking too much so I’ve limited my time around it — but I can’t dismiss what happened yesterday. What a refreshing moment to hear President Barack Obama speak in Chicago. I turned on the TV and like a dried-up sponge needing for just a drop of water, I was quenched instantaneously. The complete feeling of security as an American came back to me – I hadn’t realized it had ever left. But yes, that stunned me a bit yesterday — the need to hear a leader of my country speak… in a rhythm. In a cadence. With elegance and intelligence. It was music to my ears, to my soul…
In lieu of dealing with the daily politics of the current foolish administration, I’ve been reading Jon Meacham’s book, The Soul of America. A reminder that we’ve been through similar moments before and prevailed. But still. I wish we weren’t here again. I wish Obama’s voice didn’t settle my soul so much – it just reminded me of how bad things really are – and although I have faith that we’ll be fine and find our way back, it’s is daunting…maddening and surreal.
But my brain has also been plagued by my recent trip back to the east coast. I got lost in my own home town of Boston – that’s how long it’d been since I’d been home – I can’t lie, I miss that beautiful town so much more than I realized. I actually missed the sky scrapers, the city lights, the hum… it’s not like New York at all, but when New Yorkers talk about New York, I get what they mean. For me, Boston has never left me. My heart. It’s part of who I am and although I never negated that, and I’ve always been a proud Bostonian, I hadn’t been home FOR REAL in a long time. Just me, visiting the city. Me, walking around – people watching. City loving. Don’t get me wrong, I’d been back in the past 24 years, but just for weddings, funerals, graduations – and only for a minute. A weekend at most – but this time, I was THERE. Away from the chores of “family” and instead with just the city. And my friends. And I miss it. I ache for my friends. And I’m a little sad to be back in Los Angeles…
I went to Vermont too – actually I was there first. I don’t miss Vermont so much (I went to school there) but I do miss sitting on Alden’s back porch for hours overlooking Lake Champlain in the distance and laughing, talking, reminiscing… That was everything. And it settled my heart. I miss the simplicity of quiet. The prettiness of tranquility. The crickets at night nearly killed me though – but I could get used to that hum again, I think, not sure – but the quiet during the day, the calm hum of life…. It really was beautiful. And yeah, I miss that now too.
I don’t know why I needed to write right now, but isn’t that the beauty of creativity? You never know when it’s going to hit – and sometimes I swear I have the best thoughts in the most inopportune moments – for me, IN THE SHOWER is a big one! I hate that! It also happens when I’m in my stride. Running so fast (for me) that I’m in that imaginary zone people talk about – if I think of it, I turn on my recorder on my cell and try to grasp that ever “clever” thought – but the moment I do all of that, I’ve stopped the creativity and most likely lost the initial “thought” anyways!!! I’m sure I’ve solved the world’s problems ten times over during those moments – I just haven’t been able to record it fast enough without losing the momentary thought! 😉
James Baldwin said, “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle; love is a war; love is a growing up.” Seriously, it’s just in my head. I have no idea why, but I wanted to mention that too. It’s part of the symphony – it all makes sense and sounds so beautiful in my head. And I’m not sure Mr. Baldwin was right. But I can’t argue it yet either – so it’s there, in the melody…
There’s a lot going on in my head – I feel blessed to be consumed by so much. Whenever I write (long hand) I tend to end with how I’m feeling. I feel good. Right now, I feel empowered and in a space of intrigue. Everything seems tangible even though I can’t really grasp it. Yes, I get how ridiculous that sounds, and yet, it’s still true. I am reevaluating everything. I’m dreaming every dream and not discounting its real life applications. Everything is in sync. It sounds beautiful. Rhythmic. In tune. I love that actually. I love that a lot.
Okay, my typing has slowed, my brain feels purged. I think the orchestra has finished. For now.
Time to lace up my sneakers, put on my headset and go for a run.