Journaling is a very important routine to me, or so I'm learning lately. When I don't put pen to paper often enough, I become an emotional wreck majority of the time. I can't keep things straight in my mind and I'm not present with people when I'm with them. My mind starts drifting this way and that, trying to cling onto an idea or a word that's been stuck in my head for however long. It's quite annoying really. It's like the words I'm refusing to write get clogged within me and form a barrier between me and everything around me.
In 2008, I was struggling quite a bit, so my playwriting professor recommended a book to me called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. If you are unfamiliar with Cameron's work, it can best be described as self-help for the soul. I've read a few of her books, most of which involve writing or creative exercises of some kind. The Artist's Way is accompanied by a journal for you to do your morning pages - three pages of longhand free form writing. The quote above is taken from my very first morning page. I just skimmed through that journal, and was amazed to see how much self-hate, self-doubt, and anger filled the pages. There was one page that was completely illegible and just consisted of several large words I believe were trying to be affirmations. I noticed how much I judged my own voice, my handwriting even - and how that even shifted depending on my mood. At first, I hated morning pages. They were like homework to me. But I kept with them for the 12 weeks Cameron asks you to stick with them. Looking back now, it's odd to see how much I resented the work but I'm aware how much it paid off to dedicate myself to writing every day.
I was reminded of all this after reading this article: "You Can Write Your Way Out of an Emotional Funk. Here’s How." by Susan David. It spoke to me on so many levels. David goes into detail of Pennebaker's Writing Rules, which are similar to the morning pages, except it's write for 20 minutes - however many pages that consists of for you. But it's still the idea of writing without judgement, which as I mentioned, is a very hard skill for me to master. Even when I first came out with this blog, I would send it to three people to read and approve it before posting the entry online. I was so worried about the tone, the language, and grammar. I was scared of failing or looking like a fool - which if you know me well, looking like a fool happens all too often. Just watch my lip-syncing music videos if you haven't already. But I've continued to live by the rule: "take your work seriously, but not yourself." And as much as I think that's true, I think I need to be more chill with my work. It's just writing after all. It's about getting the words onto the page or computer. Once I do that, then the real work begins of either letting it go or seeing where it takes me.
Even now, I know this blog entry isn't perfect. But I'm not going to let it eat away at me. I'm going to see where it takes me and post it because I think it's important to share these experiences with others. It's important to me that you know I struggle with my work as a writer. I struggle with journaling and sitting down to write every day. This past week I've done a horrible job at it, but I've been thinking about writing a piece about journaling and knew I had to just get it out there. Same as my newsletter. Because these things matter to me and I hope they provide some reassurance to you that you're not alone in your creative process.
In 2007, I became interested in a developing story surrounding Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, a 20-year-old pregnant Marine who, at the time, was allegedly killed by fellow Marine Cesar Laurean. She had filed a rape claim with the military against him seven months before he was accused of killing her. In August of 2010, Laurean was found guilty of murder, but DNA showed that he was not the father of her child. Even with that, Laurean had claimed that the two of them had consensual sex despite the fact he was the married father of a young child.
I became engrossed in the complexities of this story, and through reading more about it, I learned how much of a problem sexual assault is in the military. At the time, I was also enrolled in my first playwriting class in college, so I took this interest and wrote a 10 minute play inspired by these events. That play came to be known as Veracity. A couple semesters later, I hadn't let go of the story and came back to it, developing it into a One Act play. Throughout the past ten years, I was never really able to let the story go. This little mother had its claws in me, as Kafka would say. So now I'm developing this once 10 minute play into my first feature film.
I believe one of the reasons I've been unable to shake this story off of me is that over the years, the news headlines surrounding rape have only continued to add more fuel to the fire within me. It's important to share and hear survivor's stories. We must not silence these voices or blame them for what has happened. There's a lot more thought that goes into this for me, and I want to continue to share these thoughts and some research with others because this is such an important topic.
With that, I will be starting to produce an e-newsletter. It’s either going to be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly — depending on how well my writing is going. You can sign up for it here. It’ll be a little bit about the writing process, sharing articles and books I’m interested in, and discussing important issues such as this. And while I’ll be taking on some serious topics in the newsletter, it’s not going to be super heavy handed. After all, it’s still going to be blunt and awkward me sharing my story with you.
"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." - Pablo Picasso. The screenplay I'm currently working on began as an idea when I was in college. It started out as a 10 minute play, which grew into an one act, and is now becoming my first feature. So far the process of creating this beast has only taken me nine years (give or take), and I could look at that timeline with judgement or criticism, but I refuse to do that. Some stories take their time to come into fruition. Sometimes they're not ready to be told yet. Now, I believe, is the time for this one. The idea behind it is something that greatly matters to me, which in my experience is the best way to start writing something. Write about what matters to you and go from there. Who knows what worlds you'll get introduced to along the way.
This past week, I've been focusing a lot on mapping out the main points of the plot. I drew a storyline chart on graph paper (like a boss) and was even gifted with two amazing books, The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne and Lab by Hope Jahren, thanks to a couple of inspirational fairies. The timing couldn't have been better to receive these treats. I'm already devouring Shawn Coyne's words and feeling inspired to write a novel alongside this screenplay. And I'll admit that is one problem I have while writing. I get a lot of ideas swarming in my mind all at once and have trouble focusing on one solid plot. I want to write all the stories all the time! But right now, it's good for me to focus on one priority and map it out.
The process actually reminds me a lot of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" or "Give Yourself Goosebumps" books I used to read when I was younger. There are endless possibilities as to where the story can go. I could introduce new characters I haven't even thought of yet. I could trap a character in a corner with no way to get out except to combust. I could throw a dinosaur into the mix and really mess with the world I've created. The sky's the limit as to where I can take this and I look forward to seeing where these maps lead me.
And yes, another #cheesyending. The theme was maps. Did you get it? Now all I want to do is eat some cheese though. Shouldn't have said cheesy. Blurgh.