Some Simple Encouragement and Advice for Writers, Artists, and other Creatives

You’re thinking about a story or a blog idea and boom, it hits you like a frying pan in the face in one of those old cartoons. It’s that perfect idea. It’s the one that takes everything that throbs inside of you and puts it into words that express it in a way you haven’t heard before. For a moment, you rocket up into the stratosphere, imagining the unique visitors and comments, the book sales, the TED talks, the friggin’ Nobel prize!

Then that other feeling hits you. It’s the one that makes you feel like someone’s just poured a pint of mercury into your veins. It’s a feeling of dread and depression. It says, “yeah, this is the most incrediawesomeable idea I have ever heard. It’s the one that’s going to make me. But then what?” What do you follow it up with. You stop hopping around in the shower like Gollum with his precious, and you stand there, water dripping off your cheeks, a cold numbness prickling at your private parts. The mercury meets up with that prickling and makes it way, slowly to your brain. All your dreams clam up under the urging voice saying, “Put it away. The thought is too good. You can’t follow it up. People will be disappointed with whatever you put out next. You’ll slowly watch your followers tick down from the hundreds of thousands to the fifty that you have now, which consists of TeamFollowBack members, BookSpammers, and your alcoholic uncle who writes dark, erotic crime novels with characters that are uncomfortably close in resemblance to the people in your family.”

We all know that voice. Anyone who is judged on their creativity knows that voice because we know we are not the source of our ideas. We are dependent on inspiration for our greatest ideas, and we cannot control it. So we worry when we stumble across something truly excellent that we might just be setting ourselves up for disappointment when we can’t sustain that level of mind-blowing brilliance.

Let me step in to encourage you here, my friend. I’m all for practical consideration and planning out your next steps before making big decisions, but worry has no place in that process. So the next time you hear that voice, step out of the shower, throw it in the toilet and flush it. Then towel off and go write. Don’t worry about following up your brilliant ideas with more brillianter ideas. Just put them out there and keep writing. It won’t all be great, but the more you write, the better and more consistent it will get.

Movies Worth Your Time: Predestination

Time–we don’t have a lot of it, and every movie out there claims to be “spectacular”, “one of a kind”, “mesmerizing”. Let me save you some time right now and point you at films that are worth seeing for those who like thought-provoking, story and character driven, sometimes a-typical films. You may have seen them. If that is the case, let me know what you thought in the comments. If you haven’t seen them, check them out and come back for a conversation. If you’ve got any others to add to the list, pop them up in the comments feed.

predestination-poster01Predestination- Based off of a 1958 sci-fi short story by Robert Heinlein called “All You Zombies”, this one will leave your eyes bugged wide open with every turn of the plot. I can’t give away anything without ruining a few surprises, so let me just ballpark the movie for you. Much of the movie is a dialogue between two characters in a bar in 1975. One of them is a time-traveling crime-stopper trying to catch a serial bomber who is set to kill 10,000 people in a New York city bombing in a few days. The other is a transgender confession-story writer.  If that set up is not enough to make you give this movie a shot, I don’t know what is. The movie explores issues of gender identity and time paradoxes in ways that will leave you shaking your head for days. Hopefully we’ll see much more from Hawke and Snook after their acting in this one.

Movies Worth Your Time: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Time–we don’t have a lot of it, and every movie out there claims to be “spectacular”, “one of a kind”, “mesmerizing”. Let me save you some time right now and point you at films that are worth seeing for those who like thought-provoking, story and character driven, sometimes a-typical films. You may have seen them. If that is the case, let me know what you thought in the comments. If you haven’t seen them, check them out and come back for a conversation. If you’ve got any others to add to the list, pop them up in the comments feed.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes New Poster - warDawn of the Planet of the Apes. This is one you’ve probably seen. If not, and you’ve been sitting on the fence, definitely give it a go. At times it feels like watching the original Jurassic Park. There is an awe at the wild world and its ability to completely decimate us once we step outside our convenience-laden, civilized worlds. Dawn, however, differs in that we, humans, are not the protagonists. The movie follows Caesar (the little ape from Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as the hero of the tale. It’s this factor and its subsequent exploration of what a naturally evolving ape society might look like that sets it apart from other man vs. animal movies. It also leaves you wondering who, truly, will come out of this thing alive. Brilliantly acted, communicated, and animated, Dawn is more than satisfying.

Movies Worth Your Time: Cake

Time–we don’t have a lot of it, and every movie out there claims to be “spectacular”, “one of a kind”, “mesmerizing”. Let me save you some time right now and point you at films that are worth seeing for those who like thought-provoking, story and character driven, sometimes a-typical films. You may have seen them. If that is the case, let me know what you thought in the comments. If you haven’t seen them, check them out and come back for a conversation. If you’ve got any others to add to the list, pop them up in the comments feed.

cake-cake-posterCake. I’ve heard a lot of talk about Reese Witherspoon’s Wild, but not much about Jennifer Aniston in Cake. I’ve seen Wild, and, yes, it was good. It was the best acting of Reese’s career, and the story was important, but it felt lacking due to having to compress an entire memoir into a film. Cake, in my opinion, is the better movie. It, too, sees the best acting from its main character, Jennifer Aniston. Aniston is like a sponge sopped in bitterness, sorrow, anger, and pain. She carries that burden subtly so that, at no moment, despite the heaviness of the film’s content, does she over-act to prove a point. All she has to do is look at you and you see the weight of her life in her eyes. The movie begins in a chronic pain support group, where one of the members has committed suicide. It follows Aniston’s character as she processes that suicide and continues to manage, or mis-manage, her own pain. Slowly, her character opens up to us like a crushed orchid unfolding. As more becomes known to us, we are left asking ourselves how we could possibly have managed anything better.

Review: The Martian

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The Martian is like a twelve hour math class. It’s the most fun twelve hour math class you will ever have the chance to take, and its well worth the time. I know that’s not much of a pitch, but let me explain. Mark Whatney# is the lead character of this book (for much of it, he is the only character). He’s a mechanical engineer and botanist who gets stranded on Mars. He is the only living person on the planet and has to figure out, daily, how he is going to survive in an environment that is constantly trying to kill him. That means math, lots and lots of math, but this is James Bond math. It is math that, depending on whether you get it right or not, can either save you or kill you. Those are pretty high stakes. Imagine what a rush it would be if you were sitting in a classroom, knowing that if you forgot to move the decimal, your face would implode. Many of you probably had a teacher capable of such terror, so maybe that’s not the best illustration. Even if you don’t like math (which I’m not particularly fond of), Whatney’s wry sense of humor and “if there’s a way to get off this friggin’ planet, I am going to find it” attitude make the entire book feel light and unencumbered by the restrictive narrative environment that Andy Weir has to work in.

The actual narrative structure of the book is unusual. What begins as a first person account told through log entries later meets a third person narrative of the reactions of the rest of NASA to news of Whatney’s survival and their desperate attempts to rescue him. This threw me at first glance, but I quickly adjusted.

Some might criticize the book for the “unprofessional” nature of Whatney’s blog entries, and I can see how a few of them go over the top, but I would have rather had the humor than just a dry lecture on the conductive qualities of spacecraft siding. Additionally, if you were stranded on Mars all by your lonesome and you knew you were going to die without ever seeing another person again, I think you might drop the pretense and just say what you’re thinking as well.

So, is it worth the read? If you’re looking to get off planet, but not go as far as a true Sci-Fi novel, I’d say “yes”. It gives you a lot to think about; places you up there. While you’re reading it, you’ll be looking up at the night sky, imagining what it would be like to be out there, all alone, like Robinson Crusoe, but on a whole ‘nother world. That’s a thought worth contemplating for a while.

Review: Hindsight ~ Owen Banner

Owen Banner:

Stumbled across this “four thumbs up” review for my novel, Hindsight, today on catesbooknuthut.com. Cate is one of the members I go to on Goodreads for clear, incisive book reviews. If she doesn’t like it, I don’t bother. If she does like it, it’s usually pretty quickly on my shelf. It’s nice to know she enjoyed Hindsight.

Originally posted on Cate's Book Nut Hut:

Hindsight“I am hurtling eight stories to the pavement. There’s a bullet in my left shoulder and another chewing through my lung. I am going to die.” – Shirley O’Shea

When Shirley got out of prison three years ago, he committed himself to being there for his sister, Haley, and his aunt, Winnie–the only family he has left. Then he met Isaac, a man with connections to his grandfather and to the IRA. Isaac said he owed Shirley’s family a favor: deliver a package and get some money. But things are never that simple, are they? What should have been an easy drop-off blows Shirley’s world apart. Now he’s on the run, a continent away from those he loves, trying to figure out what he’s gotten himself into, who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in order to keep his family safe.

But Shirley has a few…

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Review: Blue Ruin

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Blue Ruin’s best trait is its slow reveal. If you did not read the synopsis or look at the movie’s poster, you wouldn’t know it was a revenge thriller until a good twenty minutes into the movie or so. It opens with wit and a melancholic humor that helps you quickly attach to the main character, Dwight. He is a homeless man, living off what he can scrounge and what he can steal. Isolated from people, he is still drawn to them, to a life he once knew. I won’t give up too much more, because, as I said, every small revelation is a slow unraveling of the backstory that weaves together with Dwight’s current actions to create the tapestry of chaos and violence that lays over a growing number of bodies like a sheet at a morgue. I will say this, however. Dwight is not the perfect action hero. He is no ex-marine or ex-cop or ex-mafia hitman. He’s just a normal guy, a little pudgy around the edges and not accustomed to pulling a trigger. He makes mistakes, and he is punished for them. That’s what made this revenge thriller so refreshing. Give it a shot. It’ll be worth the night.