I wouldn’t normally glean advice from a fictional intergalactic pilot with a gargantuan hairball as a sidekick. But I’ll take wisdom wherever I find it.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Han – much to the horror of his shipmates – decides to shake off the Imperial fighters by flying straight into a shower of asteroids, reasoning that the enemy would be crazy to follow him.
But after being counseled by an anal retentive robot that “the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720:1,” Han replies with one of my favorite lines ever:
One of my favorite things to do is encourage people. Especially those with long harbored creative dreams. Probably because they are usually the first ones to sell themselves short.
My mother was a beautiful poet. I still have one of her journals filled with some of the most touching verses I’ve ever read.
But she never shared her gift with the world. In fact, she once told me a long time ago that she had started a novel. But after 165 pages of hand written text, she stopped writing.
And tore it all up.
The poem below was written back in the day, for my husband (then boyfriend), Paul. Not long out of the military, he was struggling with wanting to make something of himself. To be his own man, on his own terms…whatever that meant.
Unfortunately, quite a few people in his life were pretty sure they knew what those terms should be. And they weren’t shy about telling him.
Repeatedly. And at length.
I was really hitting my stride.
Getting back to the novel that I had been dancing with for way too long. Ready to finally send out my first email newsletter for this blog. Talking to my partner Curt about the post-production progress of our short film Waiting for Goodbye.
Doors were opening. Things were shifting in a positive way. I was taking step after step toward being the writer I always wanted to be.
And then …
A few years ago, I read an article about a 13 year old girl named Athena Orchard who died of a rare form of bone cancer. I’ve never forgotten Athena, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the tragedy of her having such an unfairly short amount of time on this planet. Never getting to live out all of her cherished dreams. Having to leave behind family and friends who I’m sure are still lost without her.
But Athena left something else behind.
Today – okay, let’s be honest here – the past two weeks I have done a truly masterful job of avoiding the rewrite on my novel. Everything from the grocery store to the dust bunnies under the couch clamored for attention. Throw in the adoption of a new puppy and relatives popping in and out of Hotel Hughes as they toured the great state of Arizona, and voila. Word count: zero.
This morning I watched the rough cut of my new short film Waiting for Goodbye with tears spilling into my coffee. Being that it explores the feelings of a young woman as she spends her last morning with her beloved dog, I suppose my reaction was a good sign. We were looking to capture a heart wrenching emotional journey of grief and loss, so crying my face off meant we did our job well.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
“So, how many of these will you ever actually read again?” my husband asked as he tripped over the stupidly huge piles of books obscuring the bedroom floor. Considering there were more than I could count, I opted to plead the fifth.
Like a lot of writers, I compulsively collect books – especially ones that promise to jumpstart my imagination, kill writers block and make me a genius storyteller. But given that I was about three paperbacks away from securing a starring role on Hoarders, I reluctantly decided to whittle down my literary stash. But the upside of this purging of the pages was that I rediscovered several gems that I (and maybe you) can’t live without. Not only did they shape my outlook on writing, story craft and creativity from the first reading, they have drawn me back time and again whenever I need a shot of inspiration or education.
“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain
I hate to admit it, but one of my worst habits is comparing myself to other writers…usually when I’m in the throes of fearing that I’m not good enough at what I do. Of course, this is wildly unproductive, and I know it. Constant comparison is a recipe for allowing the unholy trinity of Fear, Resistance and Doubt to barge into my psyche and send me scurrying off to Procrastionationville.
But worst of all, it takes all the fun out of writing.
Years ago when I was still a scripting newbie, I decided to enter a fairly well known screenplay writing contest. One of the perks of coughing up the $50 entry fee was receiving an evaluation of your script by a professional screenwriter, so I was pretty excited about that. I envisioned that even if I didn’t win, the person critiquing my story would tell me that it was hilarious, engaging, unique…and, with a few tweaks here and there, virtually Hollywood-ready.
A few months later, when the winners were announced (and none of them were me), I received my evaluation via email. I was nervous as I opened the document, but still eager to receive some encouragement from a pro. Instead, my eyes jumped immediately to these words: