Adios, 2016. 2017: Hello, Sweetie.

So… 2016 wasn’t the greatest year on record for me. It wasn’t awful per se, but it certainly wasn’t full of awe. Not that I expect an entire year to be rock-star amazing, mind you. 2016 was simply a challenging year for me, mostly because I relocated back to Nevada and, aside from painting and cleaning my parents’ townhome so they could sell it, I was unemployed for the last half of the year.

Ouch. Good thing I had money in my savings.

Now, my parents had planned for me and Maya to live with them for a while upon our return, but I had only planned to live with them for a couple of months. My plan did not manifest as I had expected as job prospects in this small city (aside from working in a casino, which I did not want) have been slim to say the least. I am grateful for the generosity of my parents, but as anyone who has been fiercely independent and living on their own for many years can attest, living with your parents is not the easiest situation. For all parties involved.

However, this isn’t something I wanted to blog about, thus the lack of entries. I refuse to endlessly dwell on (and submit my few readers to) all of the “poor me” moments of my life. Because really. That stuff gets old fast. And it’s never third-world country bad. So I work it out and move on.

Plus, I have this girl to keep me busy no matter what.

Now, has it all been a downward slide? Hell, no. To be honest, I had tremendous growth with my writing from October onward, more so than ever. I’ve been talking for years- and I mean YEARS– about completing my screenplay and writing novels. I would talk and “plan” and talk some more and “plan” some more and make excuses and blog about it and halfheartedly attempt to follow through, but I always gave up.

ALWAYS.

Then an internal switch flipped. I’m not 100% certain of the catalyst for the change, though I suspect the idea of being unemployed and not accomplishing any writing during this period was unimaginable, so that idea factored into the flip. And quite frankly, I’m getting older. I don’t want to go through the rest of my life wondering “what if?”

One morning  I awoke and decided enough was enough. In mid-September I began plugging away again. I took an idea and some notes I had stashed away and I developed it. Every. Single. Day. At the very beginning of October,  I finished the outline for my screenplay.

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Outline complete!

I had a minor set-back before I began actually writing the screenplay, but I worked through the mental block, gave a hearty “fuck off” to the naysayers (both real and in my mind), and on October 30, I began to write. Relentlessly. Every. Single. Day. (Again, because that’s what you do as a writer. Writers write.) Honestly, I wrote the shit out of that screenplay. On November 6, I completed the delightfully terrible 90-page first draft of Deacon.

I felt the weight of the world lift off my chest. I felt free. I felt creative. I felt driven, motivated, and light. Most of all, I felt relieved. I can do this. I mean, the screenplay needs a significant amount of revising before I allow anyone to read it, but it has solid bones, flesh-out characters, and some great scenes as it stands. Bonus: I loved writing it. It was difficult but so worth it.

The act of completing the screenplay changed my perspective on the writing process. I clearly see what is truly possible for me and what I can accomplish if I put my mind to it.

I can accomplish anything.

I think the completion of the screenplay also began a slight upward trend for me. Maybe the cooler weather played a part as well. I go outdoors more often.  I take more pictures, even if only outside of town. I try new things again, like going on a fantastic, extreme UTV adventure tour outside of St. George with Rachel’s cousin- a man I had never met until the morning he picked me up at my house for the excursion, I might add. Rachel was right though: he and I got along beautifully. It was like hanging out with an old friend. We all went hiking in Zion the day after our UTV adventure. Wandered some trails on the outskirts of Mesquite.

I also began to seek mentors. Not person-to-person, but via blogs, vlogs, email subscriptions, and books. Nearly every single day I absorb some new detail or bit of wisdom. (I’ll list a few sites at the bottom of my post.) These mentors are in the midst of indie publishing and they give solid advice.

I now have a greater feel for and trust in my own voice as I’m writing. At one time I wanted to be a literary master like Rushdie, but I’m quirky in a not-so-elegant way and not a writer of his caliber, which is fine. In fact, my attempts at writing outside my own voice and pretending to be something I’m not likely stifled my progress. As long as I can tell stories that spring forth from the bottomless well within my heart, I will thrive. I want to write stories that allow people to escape their troubles for a brief time and remind them of all the reasons they want to live vibrant, beautiful, messy lives. If I only reach a select few, then so be it. Although, let’s be honest;  I do wish that my writing eventually reaches many people. That means one thing: Write interesting, well-crafted stories.

Okay, it means other stuff as well: create a marketing and business plan; outline, write, revise (and revise and revise), and publish as often as producing excellent, creative pieces will allow; connect with and support other writers (both by purchasing their books and giving reviews online) and obtain mentors in order to expand my writing social circle; completely revamp my website and contribute worthwhile content on a regular basis; and, most importantly, live a healthy, physically/mentally/emotionally well-balanced life. OH, while I begin my new full-time job January 2- tomorrow.

Whew! How in the hell will I accomplish this?

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Columbia River Gorge, March 2016

Plan. Plan. Plan. I’ve been creating a detailed life plan for the next year and I outlined my three-year goals during the past week. I devised the most focused plan in my life. Will I meet every single goal? Probably not. But it’s far better to create a plan and meet most of your goals or even half of your goals than fail to create any sort of a plan and do nothing because the drive is absent. I chunked my long-term goals into bite-sized pieces and I am determined to meet or surpass many of them. Not one goal is unreasonable or out of reach.

I’ve started to revise “Deacon” and will continue to do so in increments as I finish outlining and writing my novel. I’m in full swing and I’m not going to stop. I created a mind-map of ideas for revamping my website. I am stoked about this process. I’m starting a new job, which means income and a sense of self-worth once again. I can finally begin to contribute to society and move into my own place.

As I reviewed my goals last night during the GoT marathon, I noticed an interesting tidbit: not one single goal I set for the next 5 years (that’s all I planned for at the moment) pertained to a romantic relationship. In fact, even as I dreamed and set my goals, not one single time did “husband” or “boyfriend” or even “partner” pass through my mind. I realized that I have absolutely zero desire for anything of the sort right now.

I want to write my novels. I want to raise my daughter to be a strong, intelligent, empathetic, independent young woman. I want to thrive financially. I want to travel, own my own home, purchase a new vehicle, and be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Could I do that with a partner? Maybe, but I don’t want the distraction. Not one single bit. I’m perfectly content by myself.

So, let’s bring on 2017 and get this show on the road.

Did you set goals? If so, do you have specific plans to meet your goals?

 

(Oh- and yes: I’m a Whovian.)

 

The following is a short list of websites I frequent. When I revamp my website, I will add links in the sidebar to additional sites as well as these.

K.M. Weiland

James Scott Bell

Roz Morris

Monica Leonelle

Joanna Penn

 

 

 

Assignment: Money Scene

I’m taking an online screenwriting course to learn more about the craft directly from a professional who has actually written screenplays, Aaron Sorkin. While student participation isn’t required, it is encouraged. I’ve always had a tendency to be the shy one, never raise my hand, decline to post online, absorb but not put myself out there. This time I’m determined to participate somehow (at least a few times), thus I completed one of the assignments and posted it onto the board for all to see. Since I’m sharing my journey, I’ll post it for you to see as well.

The assignment was to write a scene where one character is asking another for money,  but the other character won’t give them the money. It’s about determining intention and obstacle, tactics to overcome the obstacle, and how the tactics reveal character. Now, I didn’t think too much on this one, to be honest. I didn’t want to spend hours trying to devise something complex. I kind of just wanted to see how quickly I could flesh out the scene. I want to see what I’m capable of when I force myself to let go. This is what came out in about ten minutes (not properly formatted, by the way, so it doesn’t read as smoothly as it should- no time for that with WP):

 

 

 

EXT. OUTSKIRTS OF CITY – NIGHT

BEN, 30ish business man digs into suit jacket, pulls out a lighter, lights his smoke. Takes a deep drag and squints as he inspects his nails.

Ben

No more money. It doesn’t work like that, Sam.

Sam

Don’t tell me how it fucking works, man. You haven’t been there.

Ben shrugs and takes another drag.

I don’t have to.

Sam stuffs his hands into his worn jean jacket.

No. No, you have Davie and Leon sorting your shit out now.

Sam’s gaze is steady but Ben avoids making eye contact.

Sam

Looking so smart in your fake glasses and fancy suit and- what the fuck are those?

Ben drops cigarette and slowly crushes the tip with his oxford shoe.

Alligator.

Ben stares into the distance at the lights of the city.

Sam

Alligator.

(beat)

What does Elizabeth think of your transformation?

Ben finally returns Sam’s gaze.

Sam

Of little Nicole? The mounds of dirt by the bay?

Ben takes a step toward Sam, but Sam stands his ground.

Ben

Listen—

Sam

I’m not going back there again, Ben. And if this is what I gotta do to make it…

Sam shrugs and brushes invisible dirt off of Ben’s lapel.

Sam

Think of it as an investment in your future. Preservation of truth.

Sam starts to walk down the street.

Sam

In my account tomorrow morning.

Ben watches Sam disappear around a corner and pulls his phone out of his pocket. Sighs. Punches in a number.

Hey. Yeah, I know. Do it tonight.

And that’s that. My ten minute money scene. Within those ten minutes, I wrote more than I had last year. Boom.

 

 

 

Creative Purpose

Drive your day with your vision and goals.

I can’t recall where I first read that sentence, but I came across it again recently, scribbled on the back of an old screenplay scene notecard, and it struck a chord with me.

I was on a jog the other morning and noticed an ant interstate cutting through the desert scrub in an empty lot a block from my house. Endless rows of large red ants scurried to and fro on a path they created, driven by their own ant needs, and they moved with such determination that I was mesmerized and watched them for about ten minutes before going on about my merry, sweaty way.

I realized that they possessed that which I had been missing in my life for a long time: Purpose.

I needed to create clear goals and meaningful purpose for my creative life again. Strike that. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and created a solid plan for my creative endeavors. I’ve formulated plans and checklists for moving a thousand miles away, finding jobs, losing weight, and traveling, but I’ve been more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of person when it comes to creative projects. You can see how well that’s worked for me.

I’m not quite sure why I’ve had an aversion toward creative planning. I adore planning in general, so one would think I would be naturally inclined to sit down and create checklists for writing projects. Nope. Not even close. Perhaps somewhere deep down I connected creativity with spontaneity. Maybe in my younger years the creative process flowed effortlessly, thus I assumed planning would block the stream. I honestly don’t know.

However, I do now know this: creative life planning is fun. I am giddy all over the place as I sketch out mind maps for ideas. I can’t wipe the smile off my face as I sit down to create my outlines and checklists for creative projects. I don’t know exactly why and how it finally clicked for me. I’m taking an online screenwriting course, so perhaps it was a random suggestion by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin. I started writing in my Dreambook and Planner and I’ve been jotting stuff into my journal again, so I could be unearthing and releasing mental junk that’s been holding me back. I found (and subsequently read) pdf files of the books The 8-Minute Writing Habit and Write Better, Faster  by Monica Leonelle stored in a writing file on my laptop, free gifts for signing up at Goodriter quite some time ago. Excellent suggestions in both. I came across Rachel Aaron’s blog, which has a ton of great writing ideas as well. I have a writing desk and a new chair set up in my home and I love how it feels. It’s so comfortable and cozy, and I now enjoy sitting and writing.

I also decided to actually do something with my Beachbody coaching instead of just using it for my discount (which is awesome, I will admit) because health, fitness, and mental and emotional well-being are a vital part of my life. When I feel healthier, I feel happier. Stronger. I have greater drive and determination. I decided that I will start sharing my own health/fitness/well-being journey because everyone can relate to the ups and downs, especially writers who tend to isolate themselves and sit on their tushes for far too long every day.

I’m creating a vision of what I want for my creative life and I’m actively planning to make the vision my reality. Everything that could possibly help me on my journey is materializing before my eyes. Of course, most of the guides have been there all along; it’s only now I’m truly open and ready to work for the creative life, thus I see the direction. I see the paths I can take to make my dream come alive, and instead of permanently freezing due to the fear of taking the wrong path (thus doing nothing at all), I’m forging ahead. I’ll adjust my trajectory and create new plans as needed. There is always a way.

I don’t know why it’s taken half of my life for this to click for me, but the puzzle pieces are finally falling into place. I feel inspired, but most importantly I feel inspired to put a plan into place for the days when the muse fails to whisper in my ear. I’m excited to share this journey.

Let the creative life finally begin.

There is a truth and it’s on our side
Dawn is coming
Open your eyes
Look into the sun as the new days rise

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Not too shabby of a morning view in my backyard, eh? 

Do you “wing it” with your creative goals or are you a creative planner?