Day 60 of 365 Writing Challenge

Today marks the 60th day of my Write Every Day for 365 Days personal challenge. Several have asked how it has been going, so here it is – my status report. ūüôā

I am very happy to report I have not missed a single day!

I have had a few days where I wrote very little and more than a few days where I wrote very poorly.

The great thing is though, I have written.

My book is coming together quite a bit more than it was in the beginning and not just because I’ve added to the word count.

It is true that I’ve had days where I’ve sat and looked at the page with no clear idea what to write. But I have to tell you, I have been so surprised with where I ended up after just putting in some time. Having made the commitment to write, I have gotten back into this book far more than I had before, adding scenes and filling in holes. That alone has been great!

Another really wonderful and very unexpected benefit of the challenge has been this blog and joining the writing ‘Twitterverse’. I never would have imagined I’d enjoy both so thoroughly. I’ve gotten words of encouragement and some really good hints both here and on Twitter. I’ve also found great blogs to follow as a result of having my own. Shout out to Mad Genius Club blog which mixes industry insight and commentary with the occasional snarky bent. All in all, a really great blog to check out.

I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating, this challenge has gotten me back into a writer’s group, too. I have found I always get so much out of surrounding myself with other writers. One great new friend through my writers group has been Jessica Scott whose The Lover, Lunatic and Poet blog is also worth a follow. Having positive writer friends to encourage me in the whole process is such a gift.

Perhaps the best result of the first 60 days of this challenge is simply to see what can happen when I challenge myself to be better. I’ve set an expectation for myself and now I must rise to that expectation. Without having a goal to work toward, will we ever truly progress?

I remember in high school feeling a high level of frustration with a teacher who seemed to expect not the best from his students, but the worst. His comments always indicated he predicted most would fail, or for us to cause problems or for any of a number of negative outcomes. I remember writing a long letter, since writing has always helped me sort things out, detailing how our teachers should have higher expectations for us to strive towards. I remember resolving I would never do that to my students. I never actually went into teaching but I still remember the frustration and disappointment I felt over his setting the bar so low.

My hope for myself, and for you also, is to set expectations high – perhaps even higher than we truly believe we may achieve. Maybe that will help us keep reaching.

I know it has helped me.

Day 60 of 365 – a beautiful day. Much love to all.

Grammar shaming

I follow a very cool, very smart writer/actor/director on Twitter. His tweets are usually witty and fun. Today, though, he replied to someone with what I would call public grammar shaming.

Here let me say that I am constantly shocked at the things people will tweet in general but to celebrities especially. I’ve wondered if celebs read the Tweets directed to or in reply to something they Tweet. Sometimes people can be wildly inappropriate – on so many levels and not just in deplorable spelling and grammar usage.

I think this guy must read at least some of the tweets to or about him because I have seen him respond before.

Today’s reply Tweet was in response to that grammar nazi favorite ‘your/you’re’ error. I know this is a ‘fingernails on the chalkboard’ error for many of us.

Writer/Director/Actor tweeted about leaving the country. Random person who felt compelled to reply said “If your going, I’m coming with you to make sure your ok”.

Ok, so this is grammatically painful and generally awkward. I totally get that.

But Writer/Director/Actor actually replies back to her. His reply tweet is simply: “you’re”.

I know I was not the only one of his half a million followers who had to then look at the person’s tweets to see what was said.

I wondered was this a hilarious reply to a friend? An ongoing inside joke maybe?

Nope. It appeared to be just some clueless Twitter newbie with 20 some odd followers who then apologized and figuratively hung head in shame in her reply back.

The exchange made me think of the scene in the movie, Pitch Perfect where The Bellas leader, Aubrey, calls out a newly initiated member for sleeping with the rival acapella group they’ve all sworn not to be involved with. Girl getting kicked out drags her metal chair across the floor, sad screeching sound filling the otherwise silent room. Then Becca, our Too Cool For Everything heroine, says in her best indignant tone, “Was that really necessary?”

Random tweet was awkward and the grammatical errors were egregious, but, “Was that really necessary?”

When is it okay to grammar shame someone? Is it? And upon whom does this most poorly reflect? The person who made the stupid error, or the person who chooses to highlight the person’s mistake?

I think the answer is in this question: “Is it better to right or to be kind?”

Kind – always kind.

Living in Rough Draft

I love that every day it’s always possible to discover something new about yourself, if you open yourself up for that.

I love that you don’t have to see yourself, your likes and your dislikes, and even your so called ‘normal life’ as a constant, unmovable thing. I like that we can live in rough draft and always be willing to scrap a chapter or add a totally new one.

This weekend I saw a Shakespearean play on the big screen (see my previous post to share in that experience) and then did a class today where we painted the Tardis from Doctor Who. I have never thought of myself as a theatre geek and am not yet a Whovian, but I love the idea of allowing myself to check out the possibility of both. And more.

Why not look for more things to be excited about? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a Harry Potter fan, a Hunger Games fan, a Tom Hiddleston fan, and a Game of Thrones fan. It’s cool to perk up when you hear a mention of a favorite book or movie or actor. Why not add more to the mix?

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve never really been a Shakespeare fan, but I am enjoying #ShakespeareSunday on Twitter where the hosts @HollowCrownFans post a theme and people tweet their favorite Shakespeare quotes relative to the theme. It has me pouring through online texts every Sunday. I never would have imagined that for myself, but I love it.

I have also never been a poetry fan, but I have found that I absolutely love my The Love Book app I downloaded, and another by the same publisher called iF Poems. Both have a collection of poetry (and prose) that are collected in such a lovely way for you to scroll through and enjoy. But the real gift, for me at least, is the works that are read by actors and actresses adding so much more depth than I alone may get in just reading in my head. Poems I may never have otherwise noticed, or never have loved are brought to life in such a beautiful way. After listening to and reading poems on my apps, I recently picked up several poetry books at the library (Me! Poetry!) and I’ve found myself drawn to them instead of the novel I have by my bed.

Let me assure you that in no way would I have imagined that for myself a year ago. And how absolutely wonderful is that?

Where will I be and what will I love and what will I be doing a year from now?

The beautiful thing is I don’t know. I haven’t written that part of my story yet.

A Coriolanus Experience

Today I had the privilege of seeing National Theatre Live’s broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus

I will admit that the reason I even know about this Coriolanus production and NT Live’s broadcast of it is because I am a Tom Hiddleston fan. I recently stumbled into the little world, or actually, lately, not so little world, of the Hiddleston fandom. My sister has been enjoying calling me by the commonly accepted name, which I have not fully embraced, but which certainly applies, Hiddlestoner.

Tom, perhaps best known as Loki in the Thor movies and Avengers movie, stars in Coriolanus and we Hiddleston fans have been following his preparation for and participation in the production which ended February 13th.

Many fans were fortunate enough to make the journey to London to see the play in person in the small but lovely theatre, The Donmar Warehouse. I read all the details of their experiences and saw all the wonderful reviews the cast and everyone involved were receiving. I wanted very much to see it myself.

Fortunately, there was this gift of the NT Live broadcast. I did not actually get to see the truly live version, which was broadcast January 30th, but feel grateful to have had the chance to see a replay. When I heard about it, I quickly bought tickets and have been anxiously counting down the days to today when I could see it for myself.

I am not any sort of expert able to comment on the quality of the acting, though even to a casual observer like myself, the entire cast seemed to shine. Of course, I was impressed, as ever, with Tom’s talent, but every person on that stage owned my attention. Deborah Findlay as Volumnia was impressive and powerful. Mark Gatiss, who I also love from his work on Sherlock, was funny and smart and his last scene with Coriolanus was the beginning of the end of me. Hadley Fraser was another favorite for me, so much so that I will have to seek out more work of his to enjoy. And then Tom, of course Tom, but more on that later.

I was never the theatre geek like my sister, so I cannot tell you much about the excellence of the staging although I can tell you I was impressed with how such a remarkably small space felt like so much more. I saw the space in pictures before seeing it today and I saw it in the wonderful little short film they did on the Donmar and the production before the show began. I wondered how in the world they would make that space work for battles and all the scenes I knew were coming. I couldn’t say how they managed it but that small stage became a battle zone and the Capitol, all with minimal changes to the stage. It was impressive.

Also, I have never been a Shakespeare fan, not really, sorry Tom, it feels almost a blasphemous thing to say as a Hiddleston fan. I was an English major who avoided Shakespeare like the plague as much as possible while still managing to receive a degree. The language was always too foreign to me. I can never fully get past the language, even now when watching a really great performance like this one. I can say, though, that even as far from a Shakespeare scholar as I would admit to being, this was a beautiful performance of this play. It was spare, and not just in space. It was funny, much funnier than I expected. It pulled me in and did not let me go until well after I had left the theater.

I can’t say I necessarily enjoyed it though, but let me explain. The play is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies and it will break your heart. Repeatedly. Mark Gatiss’s Menenius and Coriolanus’s last scene together got me first. Gatiss was so masterful and that scene hurt. Then they bring on Volumnia and the wife and child next and that scene is so emotionally charged and powerful. Tom’s tears, oh, they will wreck you.

The play evoked many emotions though, one of which, for me, was maybe not necessarily intended, but felt nonetheless. Anger. I know the relationship is representative of a different time and a different world, but as a mother of three sons I couldn’t bear what Volumnia did to her son. She certainly influenced the man he became and controlled him in many ways and it ultimately helped lead to his destruction. And I hated her for it.

Now I’ve heard it said, and could certainly agree, that Tom seems born to do Shakespeare. He was commanding as the strong and arrogant and powerful Coriolanus. I felt his anger and his pain and hung on his words and not just because I am a (ahem) Hiddlestoner. I was emotionally exhausted by the time it was over and I can only imagine he would have to be. When it was over I was in an odd contemplative mood. I chatted briefly with my sister who I went to see it with then made my 40 minute drive home in silence. It felt wrong to put on the radio and listen to some silly song. I had to spend some time just thinking it all over. Taking it all in. Doing my best to process it.

Did I love the play? No, not really, because it hurt. But did it do its job? Oh, yes. It took me out of my world and into another. It made me feel and think and wonder.

So, would I recommend you go see it if you have the opportunity?

Absolutely.

Unequivocally, yes.

And I feel lucky to have experienced it.

The Art and the Artist

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world

is what we share with someone else

when we’re uncool.”

Phillips Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs

in Almost Famous

My Entertainment Weekly this week had Philip Seymour Hoffman on the cover, and the article, written by Owen Gleiberman, began with the line, “This one hurts.”¬† Oddly, this seemed to sum up perfectly for me my feeling about the loss of this actor,¬†though admittedly I am no film expert and have certainly not seen all of his movies.¬† I have, however seen some of them, and have enjoyed what work of his I’ve seen.¬† Even with my inexpert eye, I¬†would call him a great actor.

So I had to ask myself, why did this death of a famous actor hurt?¬† Initially I would say it was just that it is such a tragic loss of someone far too young.¬† But really it didn’t stop there.¬† That he died so needlessly perhaps was another part of why.

As I watched the aftermath though, and followed some of the comments online or in the news or in listening to friends and co-workers, I found that it seemed impossible to just mention his death and admire his work.  No, then we had to talk about needles, about a wrecked home life, and about addiction.  But most comments were not about addiction in a sense that we need to address finding a way to help those fighting similar battles.  Many of the comments seemed to dismiss the greatness of the art because of the flaws of the artist.

As someone just now beginning to explore her own art, I wonder if it is possible to separate the work of the artist from the life of the artist.  And further, should there be a separation?

I have recently joined the blogging community, and the Twitter community of writers.¬† I see that there seems to be an increasing demand on artists to promote themselves and not just their work.¬† Sure you can be one who just shills your latest release, but you don’t get the number of followers with a “Go¬†read my new book” tweet that you do with something a bit more involved.¬† ¬†Throw in some tips or some humor and you get more of a response.¬† What is too little or too much?¬† It seems many are still sorting that out.

So I ask myself, as someone just now working to acknowledge and develop the artist within, what should I expect from myself as an artist and as someone working to promote that work?  Surely I want to produce work that I can be proud of and live a life that hopefully does not detract from the work but strengthens it.  But how best to do that seems to be the biggest question.

All I can come up with is that I have to be as truthful as I know how to be.¬† I need to write¬†as much as I can and as¬†honestly as I can¬†and represent myself as best I can.¬† As I continue this challenge to write every day, I’ll be¬†looking for ways that I can grow, not just as a writer, but personally as well.¬† Then, I’ll work harder to share that here in this blog.

In the meantime, this “Moment of Zen” from a recent Daily Show spotlights beautifully the artist, not the addict, Philip Seymour Hoffman.¬† I’ll do my best to write with all my heart so that when people read what I’ve written, like having seen someone act with all their heart, they’ll remember.

Let’s get real

“Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust,

and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction.¬†

It’s not a grand enough job for you.” – Flannery O’Conner

It was a writer’s group day today.¬† I love writer’s group days.¬† Every time I go, I feel encouraged.

One of the things I loved most about today’s group was a conversation we had that began with someone telling how she had kept this part of herself that needed to write hidden for so long and was just now connecting with that part of herself.¬† It seemed that was a very common experience for all of us.¬† I imagine it’s a very common experience for everyone in one way or another, holding back part of who¬†they really are or who¬†they really want to be for all sorts of reasons.

I am on Day 39 of my daily writing challenge, and I have shared before how this commitment has helped me to stay accountable to my writer self.  I am forcing myself with this challenge to keep from shoving the writer to the back of the closet and shutting the door, which is always a temptation when the writing seems tough or feels bad.  The daily writing serves as a reminder every day to acknowledge this part of me.

One of my favorite things in this beautiful life are those moments when the everyday ho hum is scraped away and that which makes us really alive seems to shine through.  There are so many of these moments, and I think as writers we are especially aware of them, and re-create them all sorts of ways in our writing.  I am finding the more I acknowledge my own authentic moments, the better able I will be to translate that to my writing.

This week I submitted a short story to the group to workshop, and I found that I was the least nervous about sharing it than I have been with anything else I’ve shared so far.¬† I think the reason for that was that I felt it was very honest and something that felt very real to me right now.¬†The story¬†felt like¬†a good¬†reflection of who I am as a writer and what I’d like to be doing.¬† Submitting it to the group and feeling confident in the work felt great.

My new challenge this week is to work very hard to continue writing what feels really honest to me.  I want very human moments.  I want all those little details we shove aside or keep hidden.  I want to highlight all of that in my writing.  I want to see it in others.  I want to see it in myself.

And thankfully I made myself the commitment to post a blog at least every Sunday, otherwise the distraction that was the Super Bowl may have kept me from posting.¬†¬†Fortunately, I’d already seen my essential viewing from this year’s Super Bowl ahead of time on You Tube as Jaguar USA posted their #GoodToBeBad ad with the fantastic Tom Hiddleston as one of our favorite British villains.¬† Is that keeping it real?¬† I don’t know.¬† But I like it.

Have a great week, y’all.