Inner Struggles of a Writer

People, I think I’m in a writing slump. I wouldn’t say I am suffering from writer’s block because I am still writing. I say slump because I sit down to write and nothing satisfying happens. I expect some goals to be accomplished but story idea productivity has become stagnant and frustration has followed.

I know I’ve been too hard on myself. With extra time to write I expected more work and have been creating less. My goals are too ambitious. With the extra time I expected a story to bloom on a page the moment I started writing regularly again and take shape, after editing, into a beautiful completed piece of writing. It hasn’t happen that way. The stories seem to stall soon after I’ve started. I’ve been trying to outline some work but struggle. To make good use of my time and not feel like an unproductive moocher, recently I’ve been editing an old piece from college. I’m not crazy about it. I have voices in my head that tell me, something doesn’t sit right, this piece will define my writing style, and this is not the kind of work I want to be defined by.

Okay Brain, shhhhh.

It’s time to just write. Even if it’s an edit, I’m writing. Just finish the story. Finish any story! Nothing saying this narrative will ever be publish but I must keep working. Not every morsel of fiction is meant for publishing. I do believe writing more will awaken my sleepy imagination. Got to stop this head of mind from mucking up my creative process. I must focus on a small task I can accomplish and use that positive energy to push through these anxieties. I know it’s not easy. Making mistakes is a part of the writing process but giving up is the worst failure of all.

Writing slump, come at me, because I’m pushing through.

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Another Atmosphere

With the help of Google maps I found a cafe. Well, it’s a Starbucks but I can walk their, drink tea, and write. Well, I hope I can write. I’ll be by myself. I got used to the companionship of my fellow creative friends and lovely cafe people in New York. Also, sometimes people can’t help but think, “that person looks bored, typing away, let me help by being a distraction.” Happens if you read. Or wear headphones.

I guess you could say if I don’t want to be distracted I should stay home but sometimes a different atmosphere is needed and home is filled with distractions. The noise of a coffee shop is like static or rain. It can help focus. Help tune out the bullying voices in your head. And if you’re stumped there is always people watching. Need an outfit for your character? Look up and use something around you. Have trouble writing dialog? Listen. Being in a public place and just listening can help find rhythm, or accents.

Also, exercise. I like knowing there is something in walking distance. Days I feel like a lump or am having trouble breaking through the creative wall, walking  loosens my limbs and brain waves which helps writing.

But i’m getting ahead of myself. Have to get their and hang out a few times to see if this is the place for me. But there is hope. Hope and tea.

Just Maybe…

I dream up scenarios. I can’t help it! I like to live in my head and image a likely, positive (sometimes negative) direction with small life events. I guess I’m an optimism but this is why I see myself as a storyteller. I just need to fine a way to take these thoughts and put them down on paper where they can be a short story or pieces of fiction. That is the hard part.

I’ve written a few words here and there and nothing seems to come to completion. I write 500 words and the next day I realize I don’t know where I’m going with the piece but I write maybe another 200 and stop. The struggle is real and completely my fault. I don’t know if I should keep writing and see if an idea will present itself or if I should try to outline a story for more direction. Could work for the better except what is that story line. I guess until I figure it out I’ll keep tip tapping away. Who knows, a scenario can pop up and turn into something. The thing I hope to learn is, how to find a story? I keep trying, struggling, and failing.

I keep pushing myself to write everyday. I mean I know this is what other authors did but when did they realize a piece was something to work on and edit. Just have to keep writing and hope to have those answers in the future. Hopefully, sooner better than later.

The Tools Used

I usually prefer typing. I can’t explain but I seem to write more clear. Typing I’m less likely to skip words. During the last few creative groups I have been writing longhand and I think it has helped but in a different way. I feel I’ve been a bit lost with the writing direction I’m going. Longhand let’s me take my time during the session. I can let a topic flow in more detail. I still have major issues with longhand. I skip words, there are spelling mistakes, and trying to read back what I scribbled…ugh! 

So far this has been working. There is an ease to the group. We chat, laugh, and everyone does what they need. A scribbled page, a sketched panel, or reviewed research. Look at me. I hadn’t had a blog post in a few months and even when I did post it was far between. I had trouble finding the time and energy to write with the weight of my job’s increased responsibility and it’s crazy scheduling. Now, two in a short amount of time and I’m feeling good. Confident. I know I need to start rework on a story but I’m not upset because I’m writing and with every piece (Whatever the piece is) I can hear myself improving. When I’m writing and it’s all working out, it feels right. As if this is what I’m meant to do. I know the struggles of creativity. When you can’t string a sentence together and a story seems impossible. It feels like the worst job in the world. But right now it’s what I need to do. 

I worry what will happen when I don’t have this group of like minded struggling artists. Will I fall off again?  No! I have to believe that will not be the case. We hold each other accountable in a friendly/challenging sort of way. It’s not a competition. It’s team work. We encourage each other so we all produce. Whatever that should mean to each individual. For me it’s simple right now, I’m writing again! 

 

We Work

What do you do with a blank page? It is probably the hardest thing to fill. Only be creative. Right? Words form sentences that then tell a story. Finding the story is the hardest thing. Look at all those artist out there pushing their works like it’s the easiest thing in the world. But here I am typing away. Trying to find a story to make my voice heard. My voice.
The true problem, I’m unsure what to post. These posts have become too few and far between. I think I have a topic to write about, I want to post about my anxieties, but I don’t want my job to find out since some of my anxieties come from work. Also, I don’t want to sound as if I’m complaining. In the height of a moment it never sounds amusing. Humor takes work.
But I have been writing more often lately. I leave, take a bus to the train, to find encouragement from a creative group, to write. It’s fun, relaxing, and we also do work. More than I do at home. At home it’s easy to turn on the TV or search the Internet. TV is not the only problem. I don’t feel I have a space at home. My desk is a mess, my area cramped with objects, and a hole in the ceiling from a leak that gives a draft and amplifies the noise from the apartment upstairs. Upstairs the children run with heavy feet but the screeching or crying scream of a child, the yelling discipline that only seems to make more noise, and tense situations makes it impossible to concentrate. In a moment the thought hanging on the end of a sentence is gone.
A cafe is a space of noise but it’s static. Yes, people talk, and the machines make food and drinks, but it’s not familiar. There is no WiFi so my computer is only a recording machine. WiFi hasn’t been a problem outside my home. Cafe WiFi has only seems to encouraged me to write in the past. My words come faster. The conversation may be a little too long but its just the creative energy from pears with the same struggle. We all agree to work with easy and funny conversation, overcoming our insecurity whether it’s writing in public, not having a specific topic, or struggling with a piece.
We work.

New Year, Same Goals

Happy New Year! Checking in and happy to know people still follow my blog! Or at least I think you do. It could be the followers shown as following me have also disappeared from their blogs and are just a ghost of a follow, which is good too, I guess. One thing that hasn’t changed and is always a running theme, I will forever fight to post to this blog. It’s always been hard to find topics to post about. I’ve even posted when I wasn’t happy with the post but I was trying to post regularly so I would just post it. I have certainly found my theme for this blog over time, mostly writing about having trouble writing. And why not? There is a small section in bookstore with all such books.
I have big plans that will one day become a reality even if I can only seem to post here once every blue moon…or more often because blue moons happen less often then my posting. Blue Moons like my posting is not such a rare thing, just not an often thing. So, anyway, a New Year. Here we are again. Making promises we struggle to keep. So, this year, no promises other than write more. I’m pretty happy with making this the resolution of 2017 since I ended the old year on a good path of accomplishing more writing. I’m part of a creative group. It’s a writing/art group my co-workers organized. We have a few writers and drawers trying to meet once a week just to talk/do our creative thing, and encourage each other. It’s great. It’s the 1920s of Paris, France but 2016-17s (The years are not every poetic…oh well) New York/Ireland (Thanks Facebook and other internet programs).
I’ve found inspiration from author Gail Carriger. I tweeted her a writing question at the beginning of October and she answered! It was amazing for me and a big Thank you to her! Also, inspiration from Neil Gaiman, like his commencement speech and New Year posts. So, here is what I’m going to do this year…
Write more. About anything. Just create. I have a feeling it will be easier this year. More support, energy, and time. Try to stay positive through the frustration of work. Use that energy to write. If it’s exhausting don’t feel sad or mad just rest and try again tomorrow. Let’s get to work!

 

Upcoming Work

You may see an influx of book reviews. I’m on a reading kick and sometimes get Advance Reader Copies (ARC) from my job. I figure why not turn the love of reading into writing. Plus if I can support/help another author, why not?!

I’ve been struggling. Writing is always a struggle for me. I’m sure for most. And lately I’ve been frustrated with not having a point, purpose, or theme when writing. Fighting is what we writers do. Fight finding time. Finding a comfort. Fighting the mind. Negative or just no thoughts at all. I know I need to sit down at the computer and practice because with practice is improvement.

This hectic schedule I’ve been keeping up has drained me and made me anxious. I have always been one to look and plan too far ahead. That can hinder. I try to think back to Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Just take one thing at a time. This is not just with writing. I try to remember to breath. When sitting down at the computer, watching the blinking cursor is emotional. Especially when it only seems to blink. I don’t have the opportunity to write at the same time everyday and I have to fight that need. Just trying to find steps in the right direction. So, hello ARC! Let’s kick start my writing brain.

Maybe everything else weighing on my mind will also shift into place.

Spring Cleaning

Yesterday, I cleaned my desk. This was very important because it was my writing desk. I dug out all the papers and notebooks I had stuffed into every shelf and draw. It was rewarding throwing away things I don’t remember why I was keeping but a small stack of papers has found a place on the far corner of my desk. Now I have the task of what to do with all the little scribbles on tiny pieces of papers. What I thought, at the time of writing, were scraps of genus. Should I read through and transcribe them onto a computer in an archive file or should I throw them all out without ever looking? True, I don’t think I could just toss these papers without a peak. They were the sneaked writing I accomplished while at work or the quick scribble on the train. The words meant so much at the time that I had to get it down somewhere, anywhere, no matter the consequence.

The notebooks are another story. More then one story. Stories I started but never finished. One has long scenes written out. A notebook full of writing advice I found over the years and recorded to encourage, give guidance, and inspire me to write. Notebooks full of more random scratches. Pages of one line.

I have always struggled with throwing things I no longer need away. But I’ve been trashing, donating, and organizing more often. Maybe it’s the small space and the overwhelming feeling of too much. Stress, work, and planning. Even the simple pleasure of reading has become immense.

Even with what’s left of the few notebooks and scattered papers I know I already fill better about my space. I remember where I rather spend my energy. Writing.

Story from a Bookstore Employee 2

A man was using a store stool to reach the top shelf of the magazine section.

Me: “Excuse me sir, but you can not use the stool.”

Customer: *Stays on stool looking at magazines* “Why?”

Me: “It’s a safety issue. You could hurt yourself”

Customer: *Still on stool.* “Well, I can’t reach the top shelf of the magazines. I don’t understand how am I to reach them.” *Starts getting really huffy*

Me: “I can get any magazine you need but you can’t be on the stool. It does say on the stool for store use only. *I point to the sign on the stool* You will need to get down.”

Customer: *Still on stool.* “You know what this is discrimination! You’re discriminating against me because I’m short!”

Customer, realizing I’m not going away, steps off the stool and he is taller than me. He was only a few inches taller than me but it was noticeable. This is also where he won’t directly look at me any longer. It took everything I had not to say to this man, “Oh, you’re taller than me!” At least he got off the stool so I tell him he can speak to a manager if he is still upset but he says no he doesn’t want a manager. I had to get away from him. He left soon after that buying the tall people magazines.

I don’t know how much longer I can work in retail.

 

Throwback Thursday: My Interview With John Debney

When I was an intern with The Celebrity Cafe I wrote many stories. I just discovered that all those stories are no longer featured on their webpage but I have saved my work from those years ago and I can still share some of my stories. One of my favorite assignments was an interview with Academy Award-nominated composer John Debney. He is an amazing composer best known for The Passion of the Christ, Sin City, and Iron Man 2. This interview was conducted back in 2010 and he spoke to me about his recent work on the film The Stoning of Soraya M, and his other upcoming projects.

The Stoning of Soraya M is a drama set in 1986 Iran when a journalist, Sahebjam is told the unjust story of Zahra’s niece, Soraya and her tragic ending. What I remember most about this experience was how nice he was and getting a glimpse into his creative process.

Below is the interview with John Debney.

Marjorie Quinn: How did you get involved in the film “The Stoning of Soraya M?”

John Debney: It was kind of cool. I worked with the producer before on a film, “The Passion of The Christ” and his name is Steve McEvetty. And Steve is an old friend of mine and we’ve done a couple of movies together. So when he first called me about the movie he sent me a script and I read the script and I just feel in love with the script and the rest was sort of just, you know, we’ve worked together before and whatever he’s doing I try to do it if he needs me.

MQ: How long did it take you to write the score?

JD: Well, it was interesting. It was a very quick turnaround. I only had about 3 weeks to do it. So we had to put everything together really, really quickly. So I made a lot of phone calls to a lot of incredible performers that I know. People like Sussan Deyhim who is a wonderful singer. And other wonderful players and I just sort of put everybody together and they came and we sort of just started to work on the thing and it turned around very quickly. It was a quick turnaround.

MQ: So you said you were able to work with Sussan Deyhim. What was it like to work with her?

JD: Well she is, I don’t know if your familiar with her but some of your readers will be. Sussan is really a great artist in her light and has done a number of albums and has sung on a number of sound tracks and I knew imminently that I wanted to try and approach her with this because she is very socially active and politically active. She really loved the story about the two Iranian women. She just came and offered to work with me. It was fantastic. She didn’t even bat an eye. She just jumped in and did amazing work on the film.

MQ: You said this wasn’t your first time writing this kind of cultural style. What kind of process did you go through to write this kind of music?

JD:  Well, thank you for asking about that. I really did a lot of research when I did ‘The Passion’ and the Hollywood circles is sort of hearing a score that is influenced by that part of the world and by that great music in the middle east. And one of my pet peeves is hearing it when it’s done sort of not true to life as it were, and needs to be real, is what I guess I’m trying to say. So, I did a lot of research when I did the Passion, I listened and study a lot of this music. So that going back there for this filming, to do this kind of score was a joy because I love this type of music. So it was again just a nice journey for me going back and trying to do it in the most real way possible. And again I was very, very fortunate to bring in people like Sussan Deyhim and other performers to do the real thing. And they lend, I think, a credibility to the score.

MQ: Well your name is now attached to stopping the practices of stoning. How are you doing to do your part?

JD: Well, I think my little part is being involved with this film and I think it is just so very important a subject that hopefully people will see this film or if they can’t see the film there listen to the music and maybe I can help raise the awareness for this horrible barbaric practice that still incurs and we just got to stop it and meaning we as a world community. The point of women in certain parts of the world is still, unfortunately this way and not only women but men too but especially women. So I just think my being a part of a very important film about a very important subject is an honor really.

MQ: Pulling a little bit off the movie. I read that your symphony “The Passion Oratorio” will be performed in Saint Peter’s Square. Can you talk a little about that? It must be exciting.

JD:  Sure, I can. I would love to talk about that. You know, after I had done the film score, about five years ago now, wow I can’t believe it’s been that long. The idea arose that I might create a larger sort of concert work base on the music from the film and so I embarked on that journey and created this large work called “The Passion Oratorio” which we then performed one in Rome about five years ago and performed it a couple of time since for charities. When Katrina accrued we did a big concert for the Katrina victims, which was wonderful. So know we are going to perform this again this June 5th I believe is the date in Rome in Saint Peter’s Square which is completely humbling for me to have it performed there again. It will be a free concert for everyone basically who wants to donate anything it will go to the charity of Rome and for the restoration of Saint Peter’s Square. So it is for a great cause. Its going to be a wonderful, amazing concert with some of the performers of the film like Lisbeth Scott and I just couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s going to be with a huge, about 100 piece orchestra, about 200 piece choir and it’s going to be an amazing thing. There’s a wonderful woman conductor by the name of Candace Wicke. So I can just help with the planning of it and enjoy the concert that evening. So it is going to be a great world event. And it’s meant for people of all faiths, honestly, to just come and enjoy a concert under the stars in Rome with a spiritual base.

MQ: You’ve gone to and won many awards. Are there any pre-award show rituals you go through to insure a win?

JD: Oh my goodness. No. That’s very sweet of you. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a few Emmys and stuff like that. You know I really don’t. I think any kind of accolade like that is a wonderful, wonderful thing. I guess the biggest one would be the Oscar I haven’t gotten yet but have been nominated, which is wonderful.  I’m not very good preparing for those things. I honestly think the accolades are great but for me I learned it’s mostly about the journey and it sounds cliché and it’s about the work. It the work is deemed worthy then I’m delighted but I don’t really live for the awards thing. But it is an honor and it’s fun. When it happens it’s wonderful. Then it gives me the opportunity to thank those that like the work and give advice to those coming up. It’s fun. It’s a great thing but I don’t dwell on it too much.

MQ: Are there any new upcoming projects for you?

JD: There are a couple of great ones. I just finished one called “Valentine’s Day” which is a Garry Marshall film. It’s my fifth film with Garry Marshall and the cast has probably every beautiful actor and actress of Hollywood in it and it just turned out so well. It’s a great film. It’s romantic, funny. What can I say it’s Garry Marshall again at his finest. We just had a ball doing it. Just finished that. And then I’m in the middle of just finishing Iron Man 2, which is huge and fun, and lots of big loud music. And we’re going to be in London, in about 3 weeks to about a month now. So it’s busy and it’s wonderful and I couldn’t be happier working on these films.

MQ: Is it hard for you to switch styles of music between films?

JD: You know it’s actually cathartic for me. It’s actually a great thing to be able to switch gears. I’m just a pretty good multitasker and I’ve learned through the years kind of being able to switch gears is a fun thing for me. It sort of clears my head a little bit. So working on two so different projects is kind of liberating and kind of fun. I think it’s harder if I were doing a couple of one kind of thing back to back. That could be kind of hard. But this is fun. Being able to write a really romantic, pretty melody one moment and then turn around and write some kick ass “Iron Man” music. It makes it a lot of fun.

MQ: Do you know what kind of direction you will go towards when you receive a film?

JD: It’s always a lot experimentation in the beginning.  Always that way. That’s great to be able to do that if there’s time because then I can really experiment with the director and we can figure out what’s the tone of the things going to be. I don’t always have as much time as I like but when there’s a little extra time its really wonderful to do that. And with “Iron Man” and “Valentine’s Day” there was enough time for me to experiment a little bit which was fun.