Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Screenwriting as Meditation

What is meditation? From what I've gathered over several years of study and practice, meditation is the ability to sit quietly as one observes one's own mind, body and emotions.

What is my process? Start in a seated position, close the eyes, focus on inhaling and exhaling deep breaths. If using art or writing as a meditation, do the same but after the breaths,  open the eyes and begin making marks or words with the hands. 

Monoprint by Levonne Gaddy

Then listen for all that is there to be heard, inside and out. Feel whatever external conditions are there to be felt. Feel whatever internal conditions call the attention. See whatever pops into the mind as a vision, a memory, a picture. Smell whatever is there to discern. Taste what is there to be tasted.  Just be, non-judgmentally, in that space with self, with body, with mind, and emotions, surrounded by the world.

The external world tells a story in sounds and sensations. The mind tells stories sparked by those external triggers. Which is which? I have a very critical mind. A suspicious mind. My mind can conjure all kinds of stories - all of them just that. Stories.

Today's lessons from my meditation:
I often see myself as a victim in the world. I don't like being so,  but that is my story. My story distresses me.

In the observing space, I become aware that I am not alone. My God Self is there too. I have been a victim of my own neglect. Again.

Just be myself, in the world. Pay attention. Observe.

But what channel do I want to tune in to? There are thousands to choose from. Food, travel, friends, music, art, the dogs, my husband, chores, family, money?

I must feed and prime myself for what I want in my life. Focus and study, outside of meditation, in order to be able to sense my channel.

Study screenwriting, in order to grow the craft consciously. Then when I meditate, or when I write, I may recognize what my God Self has to say about this particular endeavor. I may discover the treasures that are always there, to be sensed by me.

Meditation helps me listen, to myself, and to the world around me without getting swept away.

Writing can only be a "meditation" as long as I have awareness of what is happening with me as I do the creative work. Beyond being aware, I must be able to bear what is going on inside me as I practice the art.  I'm hoping that the process of blogging further develops my awareness and acceptance.

When I'm writing down thoughts, feeling the associated feelings, I don't have to be swept away. I can just let it all be.

(This post inspired by conversations with my friend, June, who has meditated faithfully for over thirty years and who is also an artist.)

My report on last week's training to grow as a screenwriter:   

  • worked with my teacher, Anne Jordan, on my TV pilot script,
  • attended Northern California Screenwriters group and had ten pages table read, 
  • submitted a six-page short to a competition, 
  • went to de Young Museum (San Francisco) with friends to feed my artist's soul.

 My favorites from the de Young Museum trip below:

Amedeo Modigliani painting.

Edmund Tarbell, The Blue Veil

Thank you sincerely for joining me on my journey. Does any of this make sense?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Is blogging a distraction?

After reading my first post last week, my friend Frieda asked whether blogging about screenwriting might be a distraction from actually working on a script.

My answer is that it can definitely become a distraction. But, what I'm attempting is to put my writing "eggs" in more than one basket. When I have only one writing project going for weeks or months, it becomes too important. Too big. I fret over it. I begin to fear messing it up. Inevitably, I get stuck.

When I get stuck in self-doubt, I become so unproductive.

When my husband and I made a great leap into a nomadic lifestyle eight years ago, I knew I had the potential to become overly anxious, and potentially very unhappy. My solution was to blog (to journal publicly). That way, I looked forward to whatever I would feel the most about in a week. That thing that I felt the most about each week, became the blog post of the week.

Several years later,  those travel journal posts became a book: "This Restless Life, A Dream Chased Through California Parks in an RV".  Not only did blogging save me emotionally, it enriched the experience.

"About the Journey," is my attempt to enrich my screenwriting experience. Something about last week's blog process freed me to write a "short" (five-page screenplay). It freed me to ask for help from a mentor on my TV pilot.  I'm not stuck. I feel productive. But mostly, I'm enjoying the process.

My blog is akin to a well-maintained road. It's the path that supports me in getting to where I want to go. Thoughts and feelings are the road signs that can either help me get there, if I keep an eye on them and use them, or can get me lost if I ignore them.

Happy travels to you...
Signed: "forever trying to raise my awareness"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

You're crazy! Aren't you?

I'm thinking that being crazy (at least the delusional part) is required, if you set out to be a successful female screenwriter at sixty. Successful in this instance means that someone actually pays me for a  script that I write.

Over the past several years, I wrote two feature-length spec screenplays. I'm currently trying to finish a TV pilot script.

To extricate myself from the "self-criticism, hopeless hole" I'd buried myself in this past week, I turned to YouTube videos on screenwriting. Well-known teacher John Truby hit the nail on the head within the first seconds of the video clip "Why Most People Fail at Screenwriting".

John said people fail at screenwriting because it is the "most difficult craft in the world."  He went on to say that the hundreds of techniques associated with story telling takes a lifetime commitment to master.

Next, I listened to Richard Walter, head of UCLA's graduate screenwriting program. When asked about today's young screenwriters' urge to "hack it" or jump over learning the craft, Richard said "All writers want to jump over everything, always." Boy could I relate to that statement big time. At least I'm normal in that regard, I thought. He said that you can't skip learning.

To Richard's statement "Art wants your life," I asked myself how much of the time I have left on this earth, can I, and do I, want to give to art. Give to screenwriting.

When Richard said that "It never gets easier. It gets harder," I then understood why I have been so frustrated of late. I have fostered the belief that it will get easier as I write more, but the reality is that it has only gotten tougher. Of course,  the better I get, the higher I set the bar. The less I knew, the more carefree and careless I could be.

Both men said that to stick it out as a writer, a professional approach to continuing education is essential. So where does that leave me?

Even though the messages in the videos were validating, they also left me feeling regret for not giving my life completely to art earlier. So back to the internet I went. This time to find out the ages of today's successful screenwriters. On Stephen Follow's blog, I found this graph.

So, although it may take a lifetime to master the screenwriting craft, it can take as little as four years of adult life to write a top grossing film. It seems that about half the people represented on this graph needed twenty years or less of adult living to write a top grossing film.

The graph tells me that lots of time remains for me to "get there". If I commit myself to learning the craft and if I continue to write regularly, lot's could happen over a ten to twenty-year time span. I like that.  Maybe I don't need to be crazy to believe in myself after all!