Table work

There’s a session in theatrical rehearsals where actors, the director, and design staff sit down and discuss the vision of the show. It’s not just about recitation, but about being visions to reality.

Life is a lot like that. If we have clear visions, we’re more apt to make them reality. We can sit down with them, till then over, discuss them, and try them out.

Clear visions set the standard for quality theatre, and can also be used to create quality life.

Making time to create

More often than not, when pressed for time we give up our own ambitions or creative work to make room for other things. The challenge, then, is to not push aside our creative work. Make time. Chisel it in stone into your calendar.

This is my time, for my creative work. It will not be altered.

Force yourself to work, and hold yourself accountable. That’s how to make meaningful projects come to life.

Thinking fuzzy

Back in 2013, Fast Company featured an article on 10 things about the brain. Item number one is: “Your brain does creative work better when you’re tired.”

The article quotes a study published in Scientific American, stating “Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to “distraction” can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight.”

So what does that mean practically? When you need to come up with clever and innovative ideas, it’s better to do it from the side rather than straight on. Allow yourself to be distracted, or tired, or not even think about the problem at hand. Allow the unconscious mind some time to come up with the solution or find a breakthrough.

Wasted time

After looking at Vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction more closely in my last post, I thought I’d take the first one to consider today.

Information used to be difficult to come by. Before written languages, oral tradition was the only way to communicate ideas and stories. Written forms of communication allowed for external storage of ideas, and facilitated the dissemination of those ideas,

Now we live in a world where instantaneous transmission of ideas is common. What I wonder is whether there are ideas that aren’t worth sharing. That “waste people’s time”, so to speak.

Vonnegut, I believe, was saying that a writer should choose words carefully and craft a satisfactory story. Not so much worry about wasting time as just being expeditious in the writing.

But as to stories or writing wasting time, I doubt that you can waste someone else’s time by putting your ideas out there, provided that they are original ideas. It’s an extension of communication, and your audience will find you.

Or they won’t. Maybe no one reads what you’ve put out there. And no one’s time is wasted. But you’ve put it out there.

Consider Van Gogh, who for his entire life lived in poverty and relative obscurity, as well as some notable infamy. Had he felt that his paintings were a waste of time for others to see, he might have given painting altogether.

We just don’t know how our work will be received, and we can’t self-impose our own limitations. Doing so would be wasting our time.

Love the art in yourself

I’ve spent the last week with the words of playwrights, actors, poets, philosophers, and directors. An eclectic mix, to say the least. What I’ve gathered in my journey is a collection of thoughts on acting, theatre, and art.

Constantin Stanislavski said to love the art in yourself, not your self in the art. For me, I think he’s warning against getting too big for your breeches. And that can happen anywhere, in any occupation.

When you get to feeling like you’re the best thing since sliced bread, even if you happen to be the best thing since sliced bread, something is wrong. Humility goes a long way in keeping you working. In keeping you producing. It’s when you start to lost that humility that you think anything you do is above reproach.

As the Chinese proverb says, the higher up, the greater the fall.

Wit

I was doing some research about playwrights, when I came across an interesting fact:

Pulitzer Prize winner Margaret Edson, for her play Wit, remains a public school teacher with no plans to write another show.

I love this. This woman had an incredible story to tell – worked hard to get it produced – saw accolades and acknowledgment for her effort – and continued to teach, because she loved it.

We’re not all one thing. Sometimes it’s not what we do for work that defines us. No employee is just an employee, and no one should forget what kind of dreams and drive that others may have.

Margaret Edson is a teacher. And a playwright.

What are you?

Spooky spooky books

Spooky

October 2019

Books Bought:

  • Meet me in Atlantis: Across Three Continents in Search of the Legendary Sunken City – Mark Adams
  • Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around WILD ALASKA, the Last Great American Frontier  – Mark Adams
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • The Pine Barrens – John McPhee

Books Read:

  • The Final Solution: A Story of Detection – Michael Chabon 
  • Riding the Bullet – Stephen King
  • Joyland – Stephen King
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – Mary Roach
  • Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life – Terry Brooks (unfinished)
  • Book of Sketches – Jack Kerouac (unfinished)
  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender – David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. (unfinished)
  • Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel – Rolf Potts

Ahh, October. For nearly a decade I’ve said that October is my busiest month of the year. I usually seem to be involved in a theatre production, working on my own projects, and making time for Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. My first Horror Nights was in (oh dear lord) 1993. I’ve only missed a couple of years since, and most years I go multiple night.

So, onto the reading. Final Solution and Riding the Bullet were both short reads. Not much more than stories, really. I took on Joyland next. Having finished Joyland, I have this notion about Stephen King. What he writes are human stories about growing up and loss. What he uses to relate to his reader are horror and suspense.

I’ve not read many of King’s books (Salem’s Lot; It; Desperation are three that I remember reading previously), so this assessment of mine is based only on what I have read. But it seems to me that King’s writing focuses on the human connection between his characters in the face of immense horror. Joyland didn’t have immense horror, but enough of the supernatural element to provide a chill. And the serial killer’s identity is one that leaves you guessing until the end.

Mary Roach’s Spook was something I had seen at Barnes & Noble in the Science section last year I think. Good overall, it was a quasi-historical examination of how we’ve been looking for proof of the afterlife for centuries. Proof is something that, when used to speak of afterlives, can only be used in a loose sense.

Various experiments were described, such as weighing the newly deceased. audio recording, sensory experiments in high-risk operations, etc. I learned about the Society for Psychical Research, whose focus is the study of events and abilities classified as paranormal or psychic in nature.

Her determination at the end was really the only place it could go, given the research she did, but I suppose it does leave you wanting more. Assuming you are interested in afterlife studies.

Other than that I perused a number of books. I read a bit of Kerouac, Ferriss, Hawkins, and Potts, as well as Terry Brooks’s Magic. I like books on writing craft, and since reading Draft No. 4 by McPhee, I decided to look to some other writers. I also made it through the first couple of pages of Mark Adam’s Meet me in Atlantis, as well as a book Seven Schools of Yoga, by Ernest Wood. Both will likely be on November’s reading list, time permitting.

Of the four purchased books, three came in used. Into the Wild and Pine Barrens I got at a library book sale. Tip of the Iceberg was new but discounted. Again, I’m counting my pennies. But, it speaks to my love of the last American frontier – Alaska. Sadly I no longer see mountains in the clouds when I look up at them. I suppose that means that it’s time to go back…

And with that, another Halloween season has closed. I carved a pumpkin this year, the first in many years. I also ate candy intended for trick-or-treaters. They still had plenty though. And I read. They weren’t all that spooky, but they were fun.