Archive for Musings

Pleas and Thank Yous

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After my morning ritual of journaling the cobwebs from my head, stretching the cricks from my joints, then feeding my body tea, fruit and grain, I felt jaunty, ready to go.

As I passed my desk, I noticed a text from an inner circle friend sharing that a mutual friend had suddenly passed away.

Instinctively, I sat down.  I stared at the screen’s stark words.  I knew my friend was hurting, too, yet the words seemed so flat on the phone.  Maybe it’s not true, I begged.  I read them over and over trying out every interpretation to deny the obvious as I felt my energy sink from the top of my head into a dense lump below my stomach.

Suddenly processing another significant loss, I recalled Mother’s Day just weeks before, the first since Mom died last October.  Getting ready to drive to my hometown and join the family, something had set me off, and my ‘stuff’ had risen and roared.  I called another inner circle friend who listened, allowed me to be mad, suggested ideas, then consoled while cajoling me to a happier, healing place.  I felt better, the rolling boil reduced to a steaming simmer.  Then she gently asked, “Have you written a letter to your mother telling her how much you miss her?”

Tears welled, and I could hardly take the breath to say ‘thanks’ before hanging up.  I slumped into my desk chair and through my puddled vision, found the home keys.

“Dear Momma…”

After wrapping up the letter, I sat spent.  I rested, but soon scolded myself for being a writing coach to others, yet I hadn’t identified what I needed.  I’d journaled about Mom all week acknowledging the significance of the coming holiday, but didn’t reach the core of complete expression, much less release.  Like when I encountered a display of Mother’s Day cards at the grocery store, felt the onset of pain and quickly pushed my buggy around the glaring truth, the overture was obvious.  Still, I pleaded for the opposite, politely notating the incident in my journal without divining its essence.

Putting avoidance and perfection aside, I finally spotted the depth of my hurt, as well as the stealthy way I’d skirted around it, and then wrote and nurtured myself.  Simultaneously, I gave thanks to Mom for all the love she’d shared and lessons she’d taught, to my friend for her compassionate encouragement, and to myself for opening again to full expression and accepting guidance.

Now, in the chair with phone still in hand, I sat with my present loss.  I had lost a new friend, someone I knew for only a year, but one who expanded my heart and broadened my thinking while providing safety for me to share, ask personal questions, as well as listen to her truth.  I had bonded with her kind, unassuming spirit, a unique presence draped with honor and love.

Recently, I pondered plans to spend time deepening our friendship into the inner circle.  Unexpectedly, all that remained were memories of someone special who gave so much in such a brief time.rose.petals

So, I asked myself the question, “Can I tell her how much she meant to me and how much I will miss her?”  I put down my phone and ceremonially placed fingers on home keys.  My breathing deepened, my eyes dampened, and with courage and gratitude, I listened, and my mourning ritual began.

“Dear Shauna…”

CUT TO: Your Dream of Screenwriting

FADE IN:

INT.  AUDITORIUM

Muffled CROWD NOISE as average-looking SCREENWRITER nervously blinks and darts eyes…

PULL BACK –

…as s/he sits amongst a glamorous audience

CUT TO –

INT.  AWARDS STAGE

Stunningly gorgeous ACTRESS fondles an envelope as gorgeous ACTOR devilishly looks on.

ACTRESS

                        And the Oscar goes to…

CUT TO –

INT.  AUDITORIUM

CU, SCREENWRITER’S TENSE EYES as a single bead of sweat drips directly down nose…

screenwritingThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences place screenwriters dead last on their web listing of Oscar nominees.  After feeling a teeny bit of outrage, I realized maybe that’s because the screenplay is where the movie begins, the pages of dialogue and visuals that many other artists build upon to get the product into theaters.

Good movies have a great screenplay as solid foundation.  Whereas bad performances, production values or directing can spoil a good screenplay, I can’t think of an excellent film warranting such praise that began with poor writing.

Consider what Hollywood deemed the best of the year –

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:  Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook 

Writer David O. Russell gave actors a lot to chew on in Silver Linings Playbook by providing characters with tricky motivations for hills and values in action.  This moving depiction of mental illness, both funny and tragic, often both at the same time, remains realistic and respectful.  Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild made a strong statement of a very different world and culture not so far from home with vivid imagery and action written in language and point of view honest to a 6 year old girl.  The truth of the lead’s brilliant performance started with strong writing.  Life of Pi, written by David Magee, accomplished the feat to translate a spiritual allegory into a screenplay using strong visuals and voiceover with very little on-screen dialogue.  Before the Oscars, I plan to see Chris Terrio’s Argo and Tony Kushner’s Lincoln.

Best Original Screenplay Nominees:  Amour, Django Unchained, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty

I also have yet to see the work of Michael Haneke, Quentin Tarantino, John Gatins and Mark Boal.  However, screenwriters Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s Moonrise Kingdom was subtle and picturesque, charming and inviting, a story simple on the surface, but the threads of imagination wove the screenplay into a rich tapestry.  Totally pulled me in, made me laugh and cry.

What story would you like to write for the screen?

Write a screenplay that will capture audiences, keep their interest and move them.  Enroll in my 4-week intensive.  You’ll get the basics of style, format and structure and have the opportunity to map out your plot and write opening scenes.  Learn how to look within your vision of performance and production to discover the bones of writing a great screenplay.

Screenwriting workshop information.

Baby Present

babySo here I am…a man who never had younger siblings, a man without a child, a man who’s never changed a diaper and gets paranoid around babies…and I’m having lunch with a dear friend and meeting her five-month old son.  I said the standard things — “he’s so cute,” “what a good baby,” “are you getting any sleep?” — yet I felt my heart begin to open up to him.

As my friend and I discussed our lives over the past months beginning with the heavy adult stuff, mostly the changes, the difficulties, the newness, I kept being pulled in by the baby.  I turned back to my friend and shared about my Mom’s passing, felt heartfelt, tearful, then he would catch my eye, and I’d suddenly communicate with him in a silly voice with a rubbery facial expression somewhat surprising myself.  His whole face beamed gleefully, his delight just spilling over.  There was absolutely no way my mood could stay down for long because he kept pulling me into the magic moment alive in the present.

The world was brand new to him – the noise made when swirling a straw in a glass of water and crushed ice; the taste of the ear of the teddy bear I’d brought him, one that fit so perfectly into his teeny mouth; his soulful chocolate-colored eyes exploring my face as I explored his.

All this felt strangely familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it.  Then it hit me the next day when I was leading a writing seminar and I spoke of that moment when a writer puts her work out to a friend, a writing group or the whole wide world.  It’s like putting their infant on the table for discussion, scrutiny, perhaps ridicule.  And like a good parent, she wonders if it will be healthy.  Will it be safe?

I’ve had the honor of cradling and nurturing many writers’ cherished works, their babies, in my hands, transferring new ideas and skills as I placed the baby back into the loving arms of their birth parent.  I’ve midwifed many into creation, encouraging the writer to breathe into the process, then at the ideal moment to push.  And I’ve received the gift of witnessing as they send their completed work, grown but still their child, out into the world.  I assured them it was time for the offspring to live its own life before gently nurturing that writer back to the blank page to coax another idea into being.

As I ate and my friend fed the baby boy a bottle, I dreamed he will have a long life of interweaving plots, solid growth through manageable conflict and lessons bringing resolution while existing in safe settings and meeting vibrant characters along the way.

I am eager to be a part of this.  And the next time I see him, just like I do with my writing, I will get over my inexperience, try something brand new, and move beyond simply stroking his amazing hair while he lies in the baby seat.  I will get my hands on him and hold him, and encourage his story…and mine.

Affirm:  I see the world anew and move beyond fear into the innocent possibility of the moment.  I try something fresh.  I encourage my growth, my own story, by writing.