The Actress Who Would Make A Good Mouse

I worked with an older man a long time ago on a student project. The entire scenario was a mess; he wanted to produce a classical piece, had neither the chutzpah nor the balls to make the attempt, and reverted to a weird blend of neo-dadaism and theatrical posturing to avoid the question.

In plainer language, he really thought that he ought to play Hamlet, couldn’t talk anyone into using him for a real production, and so wrote a very strange half-experimental mish-mash of soap opera nonsense and called the main character Hamlet.

He played the main character.

Anyway, I dropped out of the project partway through for fairly obvious reasons (namely that he was a mess, the project was a mess, and it was a big visual accident waiting to happen), but the guy had the very rare ability to talk coherently about script construction, so I worked with him for a while on doctoring his (very strange) script.

I should explain, I was in the project at first as an actor. This guy was weird.

The reason I’m writing this now is that I’m thinking about something that happened in auditions and then callbacks for the project.

This guy wanted to use a redhead I knew as the Ophelia character. His reason for choosing her?

“You look like a little mouse, cowering into the corner.”

When being yelled at, she cowered in a way he liked, and he felt this was an appropriate flavor for Ophelia.

Yeah, he was an awful man, and I stopped talking to him after a little while, but the actress was flummoxed by his attitude.

This guy, like a lot of male and female directors I worked with over the years, observed female-presenting actors as mere props to be used in shows for the reactive emotions they could display.

Like being a mouse cowering, or having a good and dignified ‘classical’ face.

I pondered this phenomenon for some time, being in the very odd position of a bio-girl taught to act like a boy and present as a trans-male. My life was complicated. Anyway. I thought about this a lot, and I had grown adept, over the years, at mimicking and creating convincing reproductions of a variety of gendered behaviors.

Because of my background, I approached theatre production with an idea that I could use the leftover actors, the actors that no one else knew how to use or was willing to use.

I picked up the scraps and started to teach them things that I knew how to do.

Off-topic: Here’s a practice sketch for motion.

dressage

The reason I’m thinking about this today is that I’ve come, more and more over the years, to see writing as belonging to two general camps: 1. Writing produced by abusers and 2. Writing produced by good people.

Note: Many people who have been abused (and that’s everyone) reproduce abusive attitudes in their writing without at all meaning to; these people are not abusers, and the abuse floats within the writing and is easily fixed.

There are tells everywhere in a genuinely abusive person’s work. The way they strip volition or dignity from some characters while building up the import or abilities of others; the tone they take in describing locales or emotional events; and last but certainly not least, the attitude conveyed by the narrative tone when it comes to disaster.

I’m not going to talk about any of those things right now because reasons, but what I am going to talk about for two more seconds is how to discern whether you are, unwittingly or not, writing abuse into your novel.

Big question, right? Seems like a sweeping overgeneralization, yes? Probably bit off more than I can chew with the proposition, hm?

Well, here’s how to tell, and it’s super easy, and it takes about four seconds.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

See, that’s how long it would take to know if you’re writing abusive prose or not.

Curious?

Here you go, and once you know the procedure, it’s simple and straightforward.

First, you fix your mind on the main character. If you write omni-POV or something, focus your thoughts on the central crew whose thoughts the reader inhabits, or whose actions form the primary connection to the reader’s experience.

Once you have a good emotional hold on the feel of the character or characters, close your eyes and thrust the heat of your heart forward in time, towards the end goal.

Every story has an end goal. Every single one has a purpose, an emotional state that is the finishing picture of the words. Even something vague and fantastical, experimental and seemingly structurally formless, has a distinct and meditative emotional state as the clear end goal.

There is an emotional goal of communication you are attempting to achieve in the reader by writing down words.

If you learn to do this for yourself, you can also apply the trick to any story you pick up or absorb through any means; look for the ending, the panache of “I am complete!” within the progression of the words and doings of the main character or group of characters.

Once you have focused your mind on the main movers, and cast your heart-energy forward into the future, towards the ending and coalescence of the emotion conveyed within the work, ask yourself:

“Up or down?”

Is that eventual, tentative emotional conveyance moving your internal energy up and out, or is your energy moving down and in?

If your internal substructures of energy and soul move in and down, your body and mind are telling you to retreat, to hunker in and protect yourself from harm. If your energy moves out and up, expanding towards the verge of your skin and possibly even extending towards the outer world, beyond the boundary of your physical being, then your body and mind are saying, “Yes, I can grow, I can relax; I am safe.”

Now, that is the four-second test, and here is how you evaluate your results.

If you are looking into your own writing, at a particular story, and your energy moves down and inwards, you are flinching in preparation for kickback from potential readers because you know in your heart that you are deliberately hurting people, and you’re preparing for a fight.

If, when you look into your main characters and cast your heart forward to the emotional end, your energy moves up and outwards, you are sharing your true inner self with genuine, human desire for connection and communication.

I’ll give you half a guess which response indicates abusive writing, and the half-guess doesn’t count.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and today in my current novel, a former prostitute is facing demons with a murderer. There is chocolate involved, as well as doctored identification documents.

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Why Breathing Is A Better Strategy Than Panicking

mountains

Here is a sketch from me looking at landscapes.

I’m working on expanding my word choice for the current series I’m developing. I’m okay with my general word palette being pretty consistent over the course of one series. My touchstone metaphors and described behaviors are fairly consistent within the universe of each individual series, but I am feeling gun-shy about repeating particular verbs too often.

How Many Times Should A Character [verb], For Example?

On the other hand, I really don’t like it when writers stretch so far beyond the point of casual readability that you feel as if they’re sitting with a thesaurus and making esoteric word choices just to keep from repeating any one word more than twice. I don’t like that either. So there’s a balance I want to achieve.

I’ve been thinking about the time when I, a dancer, was going to my local studio all the time. It was frustrating because one of my important classes got canceled right through the summer that I had the most time to practice, so I got behind on classical training catch-up, and had to practice on my own, which is still good, but not nearly so useful as having a teacher on hand to correct arm placement and all that.

I’m Also Agonizing Over Comma Styles Lately

I was reading a story today where the author made a premise and then jolted into a flashback as a casual way to sneak out of any action happening in the present moment.

I didn’t like that. I thought that author was behaving like a dastardly and sleazy skunk. I’d rather the author gave the premise and then followed through on it, and didn’t squeeze two or three stories into the umbrella of a lie (the lie being, in this case, that all the narrative fits under the original premise). (Because it didn’t! No action happened at all under the original premise! Booooo!)

I think, based on my own experiences, that authors often avoid making action and significant change, and often backtrack and dither. Here’s an example of that:

BAD Writing

Silas pulled out the can of shotgun shells and sorted through for the one he wanted. Today was the day he was going to hunt after that big doe, the floppy black one with big haunches and vicious red eyes.

(Here’s where that sneaky, avoidant backtracking normally comes into play.)

Silas remembered the first time he’d seen old floppy-ears. He closed his eyes as he was lost in the mists of long ago within the confines of his sappy mind.

(Sudden flashback to years earlier!)

He pulled up his jacket and shifted his rifle against his arm as he strode through the empty cars and the discarded clothes and possessions on the freeway. The giant, man-eating rabbits didn’t come out this way often, but it was better to be prepared.

Suddenly! A black do with floppy ears! Her eyes were so red! And her large front teeth sharp, violent! He could imagine those teeth stained with his own blood! Probably the blood from his neck where he thought she would sink her horrible bunny teeth in and chew him limb from limb, or head from torso, really, since it was his neck he was thinking of.

Silas brought his gun up and sighted along the barrel, fully prepared to brutally destroy this fine creature of predatory dominance over the fallen, extinguished-almost race of man! The rabbit looked up! She dashed away!

(Return to present moment.)

That darned rabbit always got away, Silas thinks to himself sadly. He was so depressed about how he’d never caught her before that he gave up on the hunt and went back to bed.

GOOD Writing

Silas pulled out the can of shotgun shells and sorted through for the one he wanted. Today was the day he was going to hunt after that big doe, the floppy black one with big haunches and vicious red eyes.

He felt the shiver of the morning air over his bare arms; the rabbits always went for his biceps, because they wanted to taste skin right away under their awful, slathering jowls, and Silas wore a mask and full-body suit to draw the rabbits onto his arms.

He’d rigged a sort of invisible armor, a kind of electrical system that ran from his wrist cufflets to his shoulder gear, and the rabbit who bit down on his arm was a rabbit that got its brain shocked, hard. Silas had thought when he’d first invented the arm-guards that he would be able to stroll among the bunnies and let them bite his arms and kill themselves, but he had found that his arm system was more of a last-defense, as it ended up stunning a rabbit for three seconds and then turned the animal crazy and rabid. He took the massive rabbits out from afar as often as he could.

Silas stood for a long moment at the mouth of his hideout, looking along the destroyed highway and the many piles of scrap metal, where the bunny families had chewed abandoned cars to pieces. He hoisted his ram-fire weapon over his shoulder, patted the useful shotgun buckled to his body, and strolled out into the early morning air to find the black doe.

She’d left her spoor near the left-hand exit again, and it was fresh. Silas licked his lips as he imagined roasting fresh rabbit over a bonfire tonight. He hadn’t eaten a doe for a long time now, almost two weeks, and he hoped to be able to strip her body and store up rabbit jerky for the winter.

Silas tracked the doe to a cluster of trees and spotted her nibbling at a lower branch. She was fully fifteen feet, from nose to fluffy tail, and her hide was slick, ebony, and looked very soft. I will make her into a bed, Silas thought, and he cautiously unfastened his shotgun and put down his larger ram-fire cannon in the same motion. Die, bunny, Silas thought, as he lifted his gun and aligned the sights with her violent crimson eye.

And So

Following through on a premise is a good way to gain trust and confidence in the reader’s mind. Abandoning a premise mid-story (or anywhere within the story, really), is a rude thing to do.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Dave Tinnels is about to have a very interesting conversation with a dead gangster’s bodyguard.

Why Skipping Revisions Brightens Your Craft

I read an acting book (actually it was a book aimed at directors) by a man who hated himself. I mean, he HATED himself. The book itself was pretty useful, as a treatise on directing, and the management of actors as a general group, but the preface–PHEW!

So Much Vitriol

So he’d written this book about handling actors, right? And it was a pretty perceptive, useful book.

Except For The Preface

You see, in the preface, his mask slipped, and he … um, was honest. He talked a little bit about his journey as a director, and there was raging, debilitating self-hate through every word.

The funny part (which is only amusing because he felt so sorry for himself in a melodramatic way) is that he wasn’t aware at all that he hated himself.

I mean, he knew, most probably, that he hated himself, but he didn’t at all realize (based on what he wrote, and how he wrote it) that he hated himself FOR GIVING UP ON HIMSELF AS AN ACTOR.

He didn’t see that, or realize it.

Because, You See

He really wanted to be an actor, more than anything in the universe. You could read it, taste his passion bleeding through the page, oozing through the words. He wanted to be somebody, become a real force in the world of acting.

And he felt like he couldn’t.

WHY?

Because, dear reader, he revised himself.

He cut away at his original craft, his impulse towards creation, his soul. He wanted to be good so badly that he was willing to murder and contort his original offering of self in order to make himself over into, to his mind, something magnificent and special.

In frantically revising his personality and presentation as a young man, he destroyed, temporarily, his ability to act.

The destruction was temporary, but he was impatient, and insecure, and he wanted success NOW.

RIGHT NOW, In Fact

He wanted to be good enough NOW, not tomorrow, not next year, not after ten years of work, he wanted to find fame and acceptance and glory RIGHT NOW.

So he turned his passion for acting, twisted it, contorted it viciously, into a passion for HELPING OTHER ACTORS.

He found so much success in this, because his original drive was so deep, that he gave up on the idea of an actor and labeled himself as a director who had just started off confused. “I’m a director!” he shouted to himself. “Ha ha! I was such a newb! I thought I wanted to act!” (Imagine the sobbing that was going on underneath those words, if you will.)

So, What Does That Mean For You?

When you revise your work, as the writer you currently are, you destroy your soul.

I’m not talking about catching typos. I’m not talking about that afternoon when you realize that Gyinoss would flow better in the text if you renamed him Janos. And I’m not talking about that late-night session when you realize you skipped some emotional development in the second half of chapter twelve.

Those are editing tasks; they ADD to what is already there, and further develop the writing you’ve put down.

Revisions means pruning and cutting. Revisions means taking a scene that you label as BAD and rewriting it while judging yourself to make it NOT BAD. Not to make it better, not to heal up some emotional confusion, but to wipe out the original development and action sequence and write a BETTER ONE to replace it.

Examples

BAD Writing

Dana mowed through the grove on the back of the machine, cutting down several young trees as she moved to cut a pattern in the shape of her name in the grass. Oh, what a good message this will send to the woodland creatures, Dana thought. The squirrels, in particular, had been getting above themselves lately, and all of the birds were making complaints by the time their nests lay ruined in the grass and mangled by the teeth of the mower. Ha ha! Dana thought, and she set fire to the downed trees.

GOOD Writing

Dana Williams drove her young goats towards the grove of saplings where the unruly squirrels lived. Normally Dana had warm and cozy feelings towards all the woodland creatures, but the squirrels as a group, ever since Darryl had enchanted them to make them clever and talkative, had formed a nuisance that was swiftly destroying the neighborhood.

Their mischief had started out innocently enough; a few eggs smashed against windows and a couple of cows stolen and hidden in living rooms or tethered in the central intersection of the town. Soon, though, the squirrels had escalated to theft, destruction of private and public property, and kidnapping of pets.

By the time the fourth ransom note for a cat had shown up pinned to the town hall door with a sharp stone, Dana decided it was time for something to be done.

The squirrels had taken up with the bluejays, and the two groups formed a rowdy, insolent gang of small beasts who ran rough-shod over peace, quiet, and neighborly civility.

As soon as Dana brought her small herd of goats to the grove, she slipped their collars, drew a narrow hatchet from her waist, and proceeded to chop down and pile up every sapling in the area. Her ax was sharp, and her hoists and blows were full of vim and grim decision.

Dana had not been able to locate the squirrels, to ransom and retrieve her own cat, Mr. Fluffles, and Mr. Fluffles’ head and dismembered corpse had been left on Dana’s front porch one week ago today.

The goats grazed down the grass and undergrowth to the dirt as she worked, and before long, Dana had an enormous pile of felled sapling and a stubby, shorn piece of land that looked as if it had received a merciless shave with a rough-toothed razor.

The squirrels came into sight over the nearest hill, hooting and shouting obscenities in their usual way, just in time to see Dana pull an economical welding torch from her bag and set fire to the heap of cut wood.

“Nooo!” the foremost squirrel bellowed, his enormous front teeth bared in a howl of fury.

“This is war, Dana Williams!” another gray squirrel screeched.

“I’ll fetch the bluejays!” a juvenile squirrel yelped, skidding away just as Dana’s flame caught against the base of the pile of cut trees.

Dana smiled when she heard this, for she had a wicked little bird-shooting gun tucked down the back of her bag. I will be eating fresh bluejay and squirrel tonight, Dana thought, as she turned and prepared to flame the onslaught of squirrels into shrieking little balls of fiery death.

When You Write To NOT SUCK, Your Writing Sucks

Our director-author who hated himself had a blistering genius and passion for directing, because he had taken a true love for acting, and a genuine ambition for acting, and mashed and twisted it up until it became a subverted ability to make OTHER people into decent actors.

Not into brilliant actors, because he wasn’t one himself. You can’t guide someone into a talent you don’t understand yourself. The man was blind, when it came to healthy vanity, to personality development, to fame. He had no idea how he’d failed, or even that he had failed as an actor. He thought he’d made an informed choice into a more suitable field.

He Was So Angry With Himself

This was a betrayal, of himself against himself.

Now, there are actors who try directing and find a genuine passion for it. There are tons of people who write a book, or a scene, look at it, and say, I can write this SAME SEQUENCE OF ACTIONS AND EVENTS in a cleaner, stronger way.

That’s not the negative type of revision I’m hammering against right now. Redrafting and editing are great, and if you make positive changes and additions while revising, and calling it revision, then you’re doing the right thing; awesome.

Revision, as I’m talking right now, for this subject, means CUTTING, DISCARDING, and DESTROYING vital parts of your personal, inner vision.

That’s Self-Immolation, And It’s Morally Wrong

Don’t revise. Edit.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m on a high of adrenaline because of reasons. In my current novel, John Benzing is suffering an unfortunate emotional breakdown. His graft is still a secret from almost everyone.

Is Your Writing Good Enough?

Being an actor is really challenging. Not only do you have to figure out how to make everyone like you while pretending to be another person, you also have to master the delicate art of becoming popular, which, if you’re a normal human from an average background, is fraught with complication.

Popularity Is A Deliberate Skill

If you’re from a terrible background, and you have to cope with all the neurosis and maladjustments accordant to that circumstance, things can feel a little sticky and impossible.

I went to acting school, or I have formal training as an actor, in any case. There was a kind of journey that I went on, as an actor, from the beginning to the end of my acting program.

From The Beginning To The End

At the start, I was naive, full of myself, very talented (and I didn’t know it), and supremely confident in my ability to figure things out and become the very best.

Then life happened, and very poor directors happened, and really damaging classwork happened on top of that, and I started to look about myself and think.

I Didn’t Blame My Teachers, At First

Why, I asked myself, was I such a worse actor than I had been when I started out? After all, studying, and being surrounded by like-minded aspirants and supposed professionals in the art should have, I thought, prepared me to be super awesome as an actor.

I’ve read visual artists saying (writing) that their time in art school, receiving training and instruction, was only valuable insofar as the experience hammered into their brains how completely helpless and useless formal instruction is. Their point, as they were writing, was that art school allowed (or forced) them to the realization that they were their only secure and reliable source for inspiration, teaching, and improvement. That the idiotic waste of art school forced them back into their private, personal spring of talent and inspiration.

That They Had To Become Artists On Their Own

I feel a similar way about acting school. I really don’t enjoy speaking negatively about things, and I resisted taking a realistic view of my training until it was almost over, but at last the damage, both to myself and my classmates, was so pervasive, so inhumane, and so unanimously perverse that I faced the music, as it were, and woke up.

I cut off my heart and my mind from my (genuinely terrible) instructors–and I want to say that when I call them terrible, I don’t only mean that they didn’t teach very well, though most of them didn’t teach well at all. I mean that they lied and cheated and set up long-term contextual scenarios that destroyed young actors, and they did it on purpose because they were bitter people with no inner substance.

I Sound So Cynical, I Think, But They Did

I cut off my heart and my mind from my instructors, and I determined to figure things out for myself. I took all the information and impressions and experiences I had personally gathered over the years I had studied theatre, both before school and during it, and I began to experiment.

The first thing I learned was that my teachers sucked a lot more than I’d ever given them credit for. You see, as I began to dabble in learning for myself, I, of course, required bodies with which to experiment, and I found out, in the first two months of doing so, that I had a genius for teaching and changing the bodies around me.

I Can Release A Person’s Natural Self

I couldĀ  make people do things on stage that were objectively glorious. I could create visceral emotional interactions on stage, in scene work, that gave anyone–anyone–watching, chills. When my work was going on, the room got very quiet. People turned still inside. They started to think deep things about morality, and God, and shit like that.

I was really, really good.

The second thing I discovered is that all of my instructors but two were actually evil.

No, Really

You see, when I changed actors’ bodies, and taught real, effective acting (and how I know how to do that is a really long story, not having anything to do with today’s subject), all but two of the mature, supposedly professional acting instructors got strangely irritated.

The two okay ones, the two non-evil teachers, were enormously pleased by my work, and wanted more of it. They wanted me, and my genius, and they wanted everything to change so that this kind of authentic work was happening in all the classrooms, for all the students, and in all the theatre productions involved with the school.

They were on the side of learning, and growth, and right.

Tension Between Established Old People Ensued

The rest of the professors didn’t come out and say anything, exactly, but contextually, they all shifted, and started to cooperate in concert. It was a little like a hunting party, or a creepy conspiracy film.

They didn’t want change, and they didn’t want their established power to go away. That’s when I really knew, deep in my heart, how rotten they were, and how bad each of those people were at creating art.

Angry, Empty People Who No Longer Sought To Create With Authenticity

They were exploiters, and predators. Icky people.

Anyway, back on point. What I found out, as I started to mold and open people’s bodies in acting, and through scene work, I discovered that all the dozens of really horrible actors and immature hobbyists around me (the students) were insanely talented, in terms of potential power and native ability.

I Was Startled By The Depth Of Their Talent

They were blocked, and they were ignorant, and had no idea how to access their own powers of creation, but they were legitimately precious resources, and had nearly endless potential for professional-grade, stunning acting work.

This situation startled me. I’d thought the bad actors were without ability, because their classwork, before I opened them up and made them behave like themselves, was so genuinely awful and insensible. These actors slowly transformed into the kind of exciting talent prospects that would make a film agent salivate, and I started to apply the ramifications of this situation to myself.

I Wanted A Blueprint For Acting Cultivation

I’d started with the idea of learning how to act, and in the process, I learned about creativity in general.

You see, when you set out to create, you are forming a visceral part of your own, true self, your actual energy and spiritual, unseen self, and transforming it into some kind of medium to be seen and consumed by other humans.

You’re harvesting droplets, or buckets, as the case may be, of essence from your deepest unique self, and proffering it to other people, who may or may not choose to take it, taste it, and consume it, if they like it.

Creative Disciplines, And The Emotional Exchange Of Art

This goes across acting, writing, drawing, and singing. And dance, and programming, and math, and every other creative medium. Anything requiring creative energy.

People who last, and who thrive over time in any creative discipline, do so by treating their own lives as a plant, a precious tree. They harvest from themselves, and they feed and tend themselves with an understanding, whether instinctual or deliberate, that they cannot get product without first caring for the productive plant of self.

So, now we come to today’s topic.

Is Your Writing Good Enough?

The real question that you need to be asking yourself is this:

Is my writing clean? Is it mature, fully-developed, and edible?

I’m serious about the edible part, actually. When you consume a piece of artwork, whether through seeing performance, taking in writing, or any other transaction of the senses, your energy structure opens up and you absorb, depending on the quality of the spiritual food, actual aural energy into your innermost being.

You are a living human being. In essence, you are a tree.

And Are Therefore Capable of Producing Leaves, Blossoms, Fruit, Or Seeds

Asking yourself if you can make fruit is not productive, and asking yourself if anyone likes to eat fruit is a similar waste of time.

The real question, and the only productive question, is how well and how deliberately you are caring for your own emotional, physical, and total creative being.

Your writing is good enough, always, impinging on the condition that you are feeding and caring for yourself as an inherently productive tree.

And Now, A Metaphor Or Two

A zebra who has an existential crisis about whether or not he is an elephant is wasting his time.

A heron who sits all day and agonizes over whether or not she was really meant to fly, and if she’s good enough to fly, is similarly going nowhere, as far as getting a satisfactory flight going on.

Action is the answer. You are human, and your soul is designed to create, in whatever medium suits your tastes.

Confused Creatures Who Are Afraid Of Being Something Else

Your writing, by default, is good enough, because you are human, conditional upon you treating yourself as a creative entity and caring for yourself as such.

A heron who agonizes about the value of her flight will never fly, though she can, and should.

A zebra who ponders the moral dilemma of possibly not really being an effective zebra, avoids the natural life and satisfaction zebras presumably get out of being zebras.

My Student Actors

Stop asking yourself if your writing is good enough, and start asking yourself if your writing (which, by default, is good enough by dint of being produced by you, as long as you accept that you are a creative being) is clean enough to be desirable to other humans.

My student actors were all good enough. They all, every single one, it turned out, had enough talent, and enough prospective skill to become legitimately successful, given many years of discipline and targeted self-care and cultivation.

You Are A Fertile Plant, Spiritually

Their acting was good enough. The question for them, and for you, is this: Are you currently engaging in a lifestyle and a method of self-care that will allow you to produce writing (or acting) that is clean enough, mature enough (as in, not plucked off the branch prematurely), and authentic enough (as in, coming from your genuine self, and not a plastic apple) to be edible to and desirable to a hungry person?

That’s the pertinent question, the productive question that leads to better work, stronger writing, and eventual externalized evidence of your creative worth.

As an aside, here is a link to my eerie, romantic book about a mature accountant trapped between death and the afterlife: My Name is Caleb; I am Dead

Caleb new

In Conclusion

Asking yourself if your writing is good enough is the wrong question. The right question is whether or not you’re treating yourself in a way that will reliably lead to an edible creative harvest.

As a side note, fertilizing and clearing up weeds around your roots is a deeply satisfying process, and makes for great story fodder, later on.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my revised book, Claire is contemplating a sudden journey to the dragon-infested continent of Asoan. Mm. This is me making a shiver of anticipation. There are dragons in My Name is Caleb; I am Dead, but they are colorful manifestations of stars, and not traditional lizard-type creatures at all. They have gorgeous wings, though, and they can talk.

The Suitably Anti-Social Writer

I used to think it was a huge liability that I don’t get along with a lot of people in casual, everyday conversation.

Turns Out, I Just Like Getting Work Done

It’s not that I can’t so much as I find it kind of sort of a complete waste of time. Unless, of course, I’m practicing my group management skills or researching character types.

I just hate casual chitchat. Such a waste of time. When I was a kid, I saw how people did this weird thing where they “hung out”, or just, you know, sat and talked about nothing at all and seemed happy about it.

Shooting the Breeze

Like a naturalist among an alien species, I hunkered down to figure out what the shit was going on.

Because why didn’t each of those individuals peel off from the nonfunctioning social group and go into a corner to write? It was so strange to me.

That’s What I Liked Doing

I went through a long period as a young person where I decided there was something wrong with me for not taking satisfaction out of wasting time, so I tried really hard to fit in and do like the other people did. I tried to waste time, you know, and talk about popular whatnot.

It was so boring. Also, I got very little work done. Ugh.

Super Non-Productive

Then I got more into directing and found out (hurray!) that it’s a lot more interesting to play God in a group, and that most people are also bored and want to play that sort of conversationally-directed game.

When I say play God, I really just mean that I took control of the conversation whenever appropriate and made it functionally useful. You know, like actually about reality, and/or about actual emotional phenomena inside me or the other people present.

Like Public Improv

That turned out to be great for character research, for making lasting friends, and for being not-bored. Plus, after a long conversation like that, writing is exciting and fun (because you’re all revved up from actually meeting new people and knowing what they’re like on the inside.)

Anyway, the point of today is that if you, like me, find social groupings sort of useless, perhaps you will also find, like me, that going with the general flow of boring, staid behavior leads to an enormous drop in your writing production.

Like, A Big Drop

In short, if I try to be conventionally social, my word count plummets. And I don’t mean, “oh, I got a few less words written today!” I mean, like, “Oh, my usually quota just eked out to a measly ten percent, and I don’t even care because life feels meaningless.”

Which, over the course of several days, adds up and means a lot less completed work. Ugh.

And Less Usable Work

If you’re wondering why I talk about writing so much, and I only have two books out, that’s because I want to make a good impression, and I have twenty-some-odd complete manuscripts that I’m sitting on that are, for various reasons, not yet satisfactory for public consumption, and I’m tinkering on my official publication style. Luckily, I have an excellent editor.

Anyway.

So, In Conclusion

Avoid other people at all costs, unless you’re prepared to take charge of your interactions and use them to further your craft. Investigating human nature, discussing reality, or actually getting any kind of relaxing social good out of interaction is great, but if you’re just hanging around because you’re supposed to, out of some perceived need to fulfill social obligation, run away!

You’re reading Victor Poole, and no, I’m not really a hermit, but maybe I will be when I’m old and rich. Tee hee. In my current book, I think Gilbert’s gang trial is not going to go super well today.

The Tiny Guide To Integrating Your Creative Soul

Is your energy scattered and frenetic? Here’s how to get a surge of creative potential throbbing through your body.

Your Natural Energy

I invented an energy form because all my actors were broken. Incidentally, this form works well for writing good fiction. I will now share the method with you.

Using your natural energy means hooking up the disparate parts of your energy mechanism, the parts of you that are set up to work as a natural, living animal, and channeling them into service of creating a fictional world.

Think of this as exercise for your soul, to make you bright, shining, and sexually attractive. My main shtick, as a theatre specialist, is making actors unbearably hot, as in, attractive and “zing”-y. I’m very good at that.

Good writing has a zing, and a body and soul that is aligned effectively creates more adaptive, fertile fiction, which opens the reader’s soul. That kind of shared openness leads, if the conditions are correct, to mental sex, which is where commercialism and profit come into play.

How To Do It

Your body, naturally, is an animal, and has chains of impulses that, if they’re connected, fill you with energy, bursting life, and vitality. If you’ve ever watched a cat walk around, or a really healthy animal of any kind, you’ve seen the power and flexibility in their shoulders and hips, the kind of easy, confident fluidity that runs in their muscles and shoots out through their eyes.

This is why show biz people say, “Don’t work with children or animals,” because little kids haven’t gotten deeply screwed over yet, physically, and so their eyes and muscles shine with power, just like animals’ do.

The good news is that your body already knows how to do this instinctively. You just have to plug in the main breakers for your impulse chains, and your body, as it releases civilized crap and old emotions, will embrace the method automatically.

Pelvis

The root of motion starts down in the pelvic cradle. Imagine, if you will, a champion jumping horse, like one of those slick creatures at the Equestrian Olympics, or a hunter type of horse. When the horse gathers itself at a fence to jump over, the body coils in and the wide, enormous pelvic cradle of the animal acts as a kind of powerful spring that launches the body up into the air.

Your pelvic cradle is the root of your motion. It’s probably closed up and tangled together right now, like a slinky, a toy metal slinky that got twisted up and caught against itself.

Imagine your pelvis is a box that is a little squished and crushed in. Open the sides to straighten and make the box a proper cube shape, and make the top and bottom level and parallel to the floor. The key is to be at square angles to the floor, and to avoid any tilt or internal collapse in the sides and floor of the pelvis. If you go and look at a well-muscled ballet dancer, you will see a very open, stable pair of hips and a strong, balanced pelvic floor.

Ribs

We want to have a stable, open pelvic cradle, and to let the surge of energy, the spring that naturally rests in your body to bounce up into your ribs and freely up through the rest of you.

Now we move on to your ribs. If your ribs are stiff and holding tension, you probably aren’t breathing very much, and if the muscles between your rib bones, your interstitial muscles, are hardened, which they probably are, your impulses are getting caught into a traffic jam at your floating ribs and not making it up through your body.

What we want is to soften and open the rib cage, from the very bottom of your floating ribs all the way up to your clavicle. We’ll do this the same way we worked on your pelvis, by imagining the rib cage as a box. This time the box is rectangular.

Again, we want to have stable, perpendicular sides and a level top and bottom that are parallel to the floor and matching up exactly to the box of our pelvic cradle.

Now that we’ve softened and aligned our ribs, our impulses are flooding straight from our pelvic cradle up to our ribs; now it’s time to open the channel into our face, to get that intriguing light and power pouring into our eyes.

Face

The face is the part of the impulse chain that makes you distinctive, and that adds a personal flair to your work. Actors learn to focus the majority of their energy into their facial muscles and their eyes, which is why movie stars look so incredibly distinct and individual. They carry a stamp, a proprietary branding of energy shaping and impulse style.

Your writing spark, your stamp of self in your personality and your eyes, is what will eventually make you unforgettable, but you have to free and loosen the impulse chain to trammel in an open river from your newly-stable pelvis, through your emotionally-softened ribs, and into your distinctive, one-of-a-kind face.

We’ll do this by opening the tunnel of our necks and imagining hot, molten power pouring up from the pelvis straight up through the actual bones and muscles of the ribs, and into the bone and muscle of your face.

And Getting To Work

Now that your body is full of energy and light, get to work as a writer, and your words will start to jump and spring a little, just like our champion jumping horse leaps over barriers. You’ll have hiccups, and your body will jolt and adjust over time, but if you embrace your natural impulse chain and let yourself settle into the form your body wants to take, your writing will get stronger, better, more distinctive, and much more flavorful to the reader.

In Conclusion

Utilizing the natural energy in your physical body will strengthen your writing and empower your style.

  • The pelvic cradle is a box of steel or hardwood: make it level, open, and square
  • The ribs are a rectangular box, more like strong cardboard that can give and bend: open the ribs, level and straighten your parallel lines at every side
  • Your face is the key to your zing, your personality and intriguing star power: open the channel of your energy and flood your facial muscles and bones with hot light from the root of energy down in your pelvic cradle

You’re reading Victor Poole, and one of my favorite villains is struggling with the temptation to pound people today, and is resisting the urge.

The Simple Shortcut To Achieve A Strong Working Session

If you struggle to rock into a consistent rhythm while writing amidst inevitable distractions, here are two steps to cut through to solid work, no matter what the world is doing around you.

How many times do you picture yourself getting your shit together, sitting down in a peaceful spot, playing your favorite working music, and pounding out a solid session of really great prose?

And how many times does that imagined experience translate into reality? If your life is anything like mine, mundanity and irritating obligation do a lot to intrude and destroy your peaceful work habits, and that’s not even including whatever psychological barriers you may be wrestling with at any time.

For example, I’m working on a gangster stairwell scene right now, and owing to the fact that it was really late when I did the first draft and had a slight case of brain sludge, I accidentally flopped the power between the two gang leaders’ personalities and have to start over on the scene today.

Overwhelm, Noise, Demanding Humans, and Money Problems Can Destroy Your Work Session

I used to have pretty rigid conditions for how I wanted to write, and when. Spoiler alert: I got very little writing done at that time in my life. After that, I got a strong dose of reality and hello-I’m-failing, eventually got my shit together, and started to experiment, by which I mean I started to write through everything.

I started to write through money problems, and handle distracting humans while I was tapping little bits at a time. I started to stay up absurdly late or to get up very early, to catch quiet.

I started to train myself to write with a constant, concentration-shattering veneer of noise going on.

I’ve said before on this blog (I don’t remember if that post made the last ye-olde-purge-scythe roll-through, so you might not be able to read it now), that I often write novels while playing Spongebob Squarepants episodes on half of my screen.

Embrace The Right Kind of Chaos

The first time I was ever in a large dance performance, I remember being backstage when the leading ballerina darted into the wings and started to desperately strip off all her clothes. Two or three useful persons descended like rabid hyenas and helped her shuffle manically into her next gossamer tutu.

Not having observed a true down-to-skin costume change involving pointe shoes ever before in my life, I was somewhat startled by her total lack of concern with modesty (which is saying something, because I’ve been doing costume-heavy drama with period garters and stockings for a while, and have assisted a fellow actor with a quick-lingerie change for weeks at a time before).

Having Children Made Me A Much Better Writer

Have you ever gotten yourself set up to write, to have a really great work session, and found that it just–is too quiet? That there’s too much space and attention available for your work and you’re a little set adrift by the way in which you can concentrate?

This is why I started using Spongebob. Well, I didn’t set out to use Spongebob; what happened was that I had to entertain my toddlers while I was working, so I learned how to split my screen and play Bob the Builder or Sesame Street while I typed as quickly as I could.

And It Turns Out . . .

It turns out that a moderate level of controllable distraction does a lot to settle my mind. I started to experiment with pacing and music types, and Spongebob Squarepants has exactly the right pace and auditory combination to keep my prose flowing.

The First Part of the Shortcut:

Find a distraction that works for you. This might be ugly music (I’m serious; the agitation of something that drives you crazy usually helps you type a little faster), or it might be Youtube videos of people wrapping gifts (because apparently, that’s a thing).

The point of this first part is to establish a base-level, white noise distraction that you begin to establish and associate with working. You control the distraction, and you condition your mind to think you’d better be writing while it’s going on.

The distraction works better if you kind of enjoy it, or find it soothing on some level, but don’t do anything that’s going to make you fall asleep. The distraction needs to be an agitating thing.

Part Two of the Shortcut:

Over time, you can teach yourself to associate chaos with deep productivity.

Life, unless you are super special and lucky, is never going to slow down in terms of emotional and psychological intensity. Something is going to be a problem, always, and obstacles are always going to present themselves, whether they are crushing bills, very loud neighbors, or persistent feelings of inferiority or failure.

Part two of the shortcut is to gradually train yourself to control your poison, to get in charge of something that seems to stop you from working.

And then you use that thing (in my example, Spongebob Squarepants), to get a lot more work done.

Most Problems Come Down To Control

If you are having a hard time, and I don’t care if it’s a tiny hard time or a soul-shattering “I cannot do this right now” hard time, much of your resistance to knocking out a solid session of writing comes down to your feeling, deep in your heart, that you are not really in control.

So, in the two-part shortcut, you take back control.

If you’re anything like I was, or like most of the writers I’ve known throughout my life, you’ve been stalling and/or throwing strike-type resistance to combat the out-of-control feelings in your heart.

Having a strike or putting work off gets zero words written.

Our goal here is to write words, and more words, and even more words so that we can learn and grow and become the best writer ever in the history of language. Or to finish a spanking good novel.

In Conclusion

If you’re having a hard time getting regular, strong work sessions out of your available writing time, try this two-part shortcut to settle down and get right to work.

  1. Find a distraction that works for you.
  2. Teach yourself to associate your chosen, deliberate chaos with deep productivity.

Take back control over your process, your exposure to irritating distractions, and your writing time by first

  • acknowledging that there will always be distractions or obstacles
  • accepting that you can’t make all the physical or emotional or psychological barriers go away
  • actively choosing an acceptable, hopefully-pleasant distraction to subject yourself to
  • getting right down to work with a more peaceful and much more productive heart.

You’re reading Victor Poole. It’s not nearly as cold outside as it was forecasted to be, which I’m sort of glad about. My Christmas tree is getting a tiny bit wilty, which I think is adorable.