Wonder Boys

I came across this relatively old movie and thought it would be perfect for all my writer friends out there.  Enjoy.

Michael Douglas plays Grady Tripp, a distracted and downtrodden professor who is suffering from an epic case of writer’s block.   Life’s little surprises and academic politics aren’t helping the creative process either.  Every writer has been there:  when life seems to be wildly spinning away from you, the only thing you can control is your writing.  WONDER BOYS thus asks the question, what happens when you lose control of the writing too?   Michael Chabon’s novel skips along with a rueful comic sensibility and director Curtis Hanson and screenwriter Steve Kloves captures its literate warmth.    

Is Your Self-Esteem Beating You Up?

How many times have you looked at the project you are working on and said, “What the heck am I doing?  This is a load of crap!  No one is going to want to read this!  My writing sucks!” 

At least once or twice, right?  But yet you keep writing.  Why?  Why all this self-doubt?

I think it is all because we begin to compare ourselves to whatever is out there and selling well and think, “My story isn’t anywhere near as good as [insert best-selling author’s name].”  Excuse me.  Hello, but when did we get in a competition with best-selling authors who, up until their first book became a best-seller, was in the exact same spot as you?  Remember, they all had to start somewhere.  They weren’t born best-selling authors.  This kind of thinking is toxic.  Toxic to you and your writing.

So how do you overcome this thinking?  I think we need to understand the difference between talent and skill.   

Deep down inside all of us writers, we all believe we are or have the potential to be really incredible authors.  Otherwise, why would we write or seek agents or publishers if we thought we were bad?  And why would a bad critique send us scrambling for a box of chocolates and/or a tub of ice cream and days of depression if we didn’t believe we had what it takes to be a published author?  Are we confusing talent and skill?

The way I see it, talent is something we’re born with.  It’s the drive that makes us write (even if we think we suck).  The talent is that voice or the characters or the plot that speaks to us in the middle of the night – the very ones that make us get up and write them down before we forget.  Talent is what makes us put aside one manuscript and begin another.  Talent is being a slave to the written word.  If writing is your passion, if it drives you every day of your life, then you have talent for writing. 

But just because you have talent, do you automatically have the skills to write?  Um, no, but here’s the beauty of it:  you can learn skill.  See, writing is no different than any other art form.  To perfect it and become the best at whatever it is you have talent for, you have to practice for hours, days, weeks, years, to perfect your craft, your talent.  How do you go about doing this?  Well, if you’re a writer, you write.  You write a lot and you read.  Read, read, read.  Anything and everything.  You study how your favorite authors put together words to make them come alive for you.  You find out what it is that makes you hunger for their next story and then see how you can incorporate those same things into your own writing.  If you find you have to force yourself to read and write, that you lack drive and motivation, then maybe writing isn’t your talent.  However, if reading and writing infiltrate every second of your day, if it is your passion then you have talent.  Now you just need to perfect the skills to be the best, and heaven knows there are plenty of books out there to give you advice on how to be the best writer ever.  You can also obtain skills through school, writing classes, blog sites, crit groups and writers’ groups.  All of these tools will help to develop your natural talent and turn it into something for the world to see.  Will the journey be easy?  No.  Will there be blocks in the road and pain along the way?  You can bet on it, but as with anything worthwhile, the climb to the top, the dings and scrapes you’ll get on the way, will be worth it in the end.

So, the next time you come across a part of your book you don’t like and you begin to question yourself as a writer, stop and ask yourself, are you questioning your talent or skill?  Odds are it’s your skill and that can be fixed.  And always remember, not everyone is going to like what you write.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have talent or you’re a bad writer.  It just means you’re not going to please everyone, so don’t try.  Difference of opinion is a beautiful thing. 

So, now you know you have talent, stop beating yourself up and write.  The world is waiting for the next great author. Why shouldn’t it be you?

What Would You Be Thankful For?

As the day of Thanksgiving approaches, I would like to pose a question:

Suppose you wake up the day before Thanksgiving and find you are homeless.  Your money is gone.  Your spouse is disabled.  You can’t find a job. You can’t pay your bills and your children and pets are hungry and your own health is failing.   You have no means to care for those you love.  You have no family left, none that care about you, and your friends have all but abandoned you.  

What would you find to be thankful for?

My Writing Desk

My kitchen table is where I write.  I face a window that looks onto my side yard, and just outside my window is a mess of night-blooming jasmine.  Who needs fake air freshener when you have this glorious plant about?  I love bringing fresh-cut sprigs inside to permeate my home.  But I digress.

I am surrounded by books.   Lots and lots of books.  Some I’ve read a gazillion times, so much the covers are cracked and the pages are falling out.  Others are pristine, beautiful, never opened, waiting for me to visit them someday.  I have hardbacks, paperbacks.  Most belong to me.  Others belong to the library.  I have a thesaurus that is literally broken in two but I can’t part with it.  We’ve been through a lot together.  The genres are many though I would have to say most are fantasy, paranormal or mystery thrillers.  About half are considered Young Adult or New Adult fiction. 

I always read multiple books at one time; how many and what genre really depends on my mood.  Rarely do I reach for anything biographical or non-fiction.  I deal with enough reality during my day.  When I relax, I want my books to take me away.

I keep these books around not only for relaxation but to help me write.  Sometimes I’ll go back to a book and read a passage to see how that particular author wrote a scene or how his/her choice of words spun the tale so magically.  I study it, read, and reread until I can decipher and take away from it something I can use to use for my own story. 

I think it is essential for writers, especially aspiring authors, to first, read a lot and then second, to write a lot.  I never met another author who didn’t devour the written word as much as (s)he wrote them.  Never copy another author’s voice or style.  As a writer you have your own to contend with.  Never lose your passion and most of all, believe in yourself.  Perhaps someday your book will be on someone’s nightstand or kitchen table, its binding cracked, the pages highlighted and tagged, your words an inspiration to another.  We can only dream.

So, what’s on your ‘writing desk’?

I Love Florida

and not just for its warm weather and beautiful beaches but for its . . . sand art?

Here’s a sampling of what the Bilmar Beach Resort on Treasure Island offered locals and tourists this weekend.  The pics aren’t the greatest as my camera started acting up but I think they are good enough for everyone to appreciate the artistry. 

Which one do you like the best?

My Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Last night I took a trip into Harry Potter’s cinematic world again and saw The Deathly Hallows Part 1.  It was nothing short of amazing!

Did it follow the book?  Yes . . .  and no.  When do films EVER follow the books completely?  Were there hokey parts?  Yes, which were good for a few laughs here and there.  Was there a moment or two that brought tears, even to the most hardened, manly man?  Most definitely.  There was even a bit of *gasp* sensuality between Harry and Hermione.

I was a little worried if Director, David Yates could pull this one off as his directing has left me desiring more in the last two films, The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince.  But he does a solid, albeit unsurprising job.  He’s great at connecting the dots; not too much in producing cinematic excitement.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is one moment – the scene in Godric’s Hollow – where the audience is on the edge of their seat, but it is fleeting and short-lived.  I was hoping for more of the same, but it never came.  Exposition trumps drama in this film, but it’s ok because we know this is all a set up for Part 2 and what is surely to be one of the most climactic, cinematic events we’ve seen on the big screen since Lord of the Rings.  At least I hope so.

Daniel Radcliffe, (“Harry”), Rupert Grint (“Ron”) and Emma Watson (“Hermione”) give their typical performances but the film introduces new characters that rock!   Bill Nighy gives a stellar performance (though brief) as the new Minister of Magic, and while the interpretation of Mundungus Fletcher isn’t quite what I had pictured in my mind, Andy Linden’s short-lived appearance and performance in the film was memorable.

But enough of the technicalities.  What was the film about?  What was it like?

Well, if you haven’t seen the last six films or read the books, it’s too late to try to catch up now.  There is too much to tell to get the average Muggle up to speed.

In short, and by necessity, The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is essentially a lead-in to the grand finale and is about as dark as ‘kid’ cinema can get.  There’s lots of death and even some torture, though the kiddies are spared the visuals.  The audio, however, is enough to send chills up your spine.

Much of the film involves attempts to find and destroy a series of Horcruxes (vessels containing leftovers of Voldemort’s shattered soul).   Voldemort (excellently played by Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters have taken up residence in the Ministry of Magic.  Voldemort is determined to kill Harry Potter before Harry can find and destroy all the horcruxes.  The mood is set in the opening scene where all we see is the face of the Minister of Magic, Rufus Srimgeour, telling all of us muggles, “These are dark times, there is no denying it. Our world has never faced a greater threat.”

As Voldemort’s dark mark becomes visible in the sky, everyone, Muggle and wizard alike, flees for their lives from the feared Death Eaters. This includes our hero, Harry, and his faithful minions, Ron and Hermione.  There is a lot of apparating in the film and Harry, being the ‘chosen one’, is quite the sullen, hot-tempered youth.  Ron also has a shining moment where he loses his temper and yells at Harry.  It was good to see Ron lash out for once and I felt it showed Rupert’s true acting ability.  Of course, those of us who have read the book, knows what the outcome of that little tiff is and the film doesn’t let us down.  There are many unsettling moments when the three take up refuge in the woods; however, I was disappointed there was no explanation for the patronus that appears to Harry.  I think for those who know nothing of the books, this should have been explained.     

There is a lot of teenage angst going on here but it’s ok as there is not much else going on in the film.  But that’s not the fault of the director.  Let’s face it – there isn’t much going on at the beginning of the book, either.  The excitement comes at the end.  As it is in the book, so it shall be at the movies.

I must say the scene, from where Ron, Hermione and Harry disguise themselves to enter the Ministry of Magic until the time they leave, is classic, and Doby’s return, though brief, was heart-warming and poignant.  There were a few scenes that niggled at me, one of which was the wedding.  There seemed to be pieces of dialogue that felt somewhat stilted, almost like information dumping.  Thankfully, these moments were very few.  Surprisingly, one of my favorite parts of the movie didn’t come from any actor or special effect fighting, but rather from a wonderful animation sequence that tells the origin of the Deathly Hallows.

Of course the ending jars, and no, I’m not going to tell you where they decided to cut the book in half.  And while there are many plot lines left to be resolved, I am reasonably happy with this film and can’t wait until June, 2011 when all the stops will be let out and this beloved series comes to a climactic end, which is all the more reason for me to savor every quiet moment this film has to offer.  If I had to rate it, I’d give it a B+.