Write From the Soul

I recently began helping a friend write a screenplay based on her life. She had gone through some pretty horrific things in her childhood and was now ready to get it out there. Put it on paper. She’d hoped that it would not only be cathartic but an inspiration to all those who’d endure similar situations.

I was proud to be a part of the project. I knew that it would not be easy for her; it would drudge up faded memories and force her to go places in her mind that she’d tried to forget for the past 15 years. But it was necessary.

We decided that to protect certain identities we would write it as a fictional tale leaving, of course, the truest elements intact. Plus, we wanted to take some creative liberties with some of the characters. I was fine with it. Once we got started I asked probing questions. When ghostwriting you really have to do this. I was not there so you needed to get a real feel for the story. It was important to extract not only facts, but the spirit of the story. As author, E.L. Doctorow said: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” This is important. It is always important.

As the questions became more specific she would often break down in tears. This continued on for weeks. Her sleep was disturbed, the memories became like healed wounds being ripped open. At one point I wondered if she was really ready to do this.

You hear often, write from the soul. It sounds poetic and courageous. And indeed it is. It is also difficult and grueling. It is painful and tedious. It may badly hurt before it feels good. And that is OK. Let it pour, let it flow. When you are done your truth will be a refreshing spring to some reader with whom you share a like experience. The only difference is you were able to articulate it in a way that the reader could not. Truthfully, isn’t that the case with a gut-wrenching work? It could be a singing artist, writer, painter, or rapper. They are able to say what we can’t. This is what connects artists with their audience.

Write from the soul. Put it on paper without stopping to evaluate whether you have said too much. Simply write. You can edit later. Don’t worry about whether you will offend or embarrass. You can always change names, events, etc. Writing, especially fiction writing in its purest form transfers the reader from where they are to where the story takes place—you forget that there is a writer and can only see what has been written.
Today, when you take pen to paper, do it without fear. Do it without reservation.

 

Can you really write for everyone? Find your target audience

Can you really write for everyone? Find your target audience

Ann-Marie Slaughter recently wrote an article, “Why women still can’t have it all” for The Atlantic. It was more of a confirmation than it was a revelation of what women have known for years and that is that women can’t really have it all (at least not at one time). The notion that we can bring home the bacon, fry it up, serve it, and take care of that man of ours and do all of this equally is about as likely as fairies with pixy dust coming to magically clean my house when I’m having an off day (although this would be nice). What they did find is that women can have it all, but not all at the same time. You choose. Oh, whether you admit to it or not—you do choose with your actions.

pulling-hair-out-women-large

In all that you do there must be focus and intent. This fact is also true in our writing. It’s a gushy, fantastic sentiment to believe as we are writing our novel the entire world will love it. Oh, the smile that sneaks across our face with this thought in mind. But the truth is some of our closest friends won’t even like it. Oh, yes. It’s true. But that’s O.K.

Stephen King talks about the ideal reader. The ideal reader is the one reader who is a representation of all readers like her. Maybe she is 25ish, recent college grad working her first professional job, dates when she has a chance; she knows all things Bey and lives by her iPhone. Her apartment is sparse and filled with functional pieces only.

Or perhaps she is African American, growing family, works the treadmill more often than not, cherishes the time spent with her book club pals. She and the hubby love cruises and drives up north to watch the leaves change colors during the fall. No matter what she is like your ideal reader will be the face you see as you write. When you edit especially, you will do it with her in mind.

It is the one of the reasons for Stephen King’s success. And Tyler Perry’s as well. Everyone’s not into it. But there is that person, who represents that group and when you get it right with them they will let you know and reward you by being a loyal follower.

When Perry’s first movie debuted, it was met with so much criticism it was probably good that he did not pick up a review. They blasted for his “chitterlings circuit” concepts and plots. And even when his sit-com debuted many predicted it would not work; it was pedestrian, simple, demeaning and not funny. But years prior, Perry had the fortunate opportunity of getting instant feedback from his audience as he performed his stage plays. His work brought relatable stories to many. And they told him so with the applause and by filling auditoriums and laughing their butts off as he parading the stage as Madea. He wrote for them. He appealed to them. And they loved him for it. He tapped into an audience dying to be fed; an audience which had been overlooked by mainstream filmmakers. Ahh…there it is…his niche, his calling, his ideal audience.

Perry knows many will never go to see one of his plays, watch one of his movies or T.V. shows. In fact, they will continue to blast him for having the audacity to show up for work every day. But that’s fine too.

And many may scoff at what you write. But find that audience, that reader and know that they are waiting on you to write what can only be written by you.  Yes there will be critics, but those who love it will be your faithful followers.

Now, this is not to say that you do away with your originality or the voice which makes your writing exclusively you–not at all. That voice will drive you. But that reader will give you focus.

Kip Langello wrote an interesting article about this in September 2013 edition of Writer’s Digest. And he says: “When a writer achieves this focus…the reader buys into the story…the reader will not merely read the novel, she will enter it—and she won’t emerge until it’s over.”

That says it all.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you

It is never to late to write that novel

It seems we attribute the greatest accomplishments in life to our youth: having children, getting married, starting a business. As we get older we look at the younger generation with both admiration and disdain. They don’t know how good they have it, we say. If only I had that kind of energy, we lament. We forget that at one time we were that young and spent that energy as if there was an unlimited supply. Then as the years pass we often don’t look back in warm nostalgia but with regret. My motto is ‘no regret’. It is what it is. The relevancy is here. The important moment is now. Regret robs us of our future.

Fortunately writing a novel is one of those career moves that have no expiration date stamped to it, unlike having children or playing football. In fact some of our greatest works were produced by those well into their adult years.  Laura Ingalls Wilder, who penned the Little House series, began writing when she was well into her 40s, Frank McCourt wrote Angela’s Ashes in his 60s.

ernest hemingway

If nothing else (hopefully there’s more) with time, comes experience and a different kind of passion; it is a passion drenched in wisdom. It is not that you know everything but you have begun to comprehend the important things. Those things that seemed so relevant and necessary in youth have shifted in their place of significance. Sure, we can still write about the trite, create characters that are still struggling to find meaning in it all, with but you are doing it from a loftier position, a position of knowing—if only somewhat. The urgency in your writing is that which you have created or remembered.

person-writing

Writing at this point is not from desperation to launch a career, but a need to get it out, so to speak and to give life to the voice that has been haunting you and urging you to write. The truth is, sometimes the work of an older writer is clearer, more insightful. They’ve seen and lived multiple points of views the perspective is not obscured by novelty or neediness. Now don’t get me wrong, for as long as I live I want to find and discover new heights and fresh experiences, but they will add to what I already know.

I say if you have an urge or desire to write; if all you can think about is putting pen to paper, than get it out there. And yes, the game of book publishing has changed even within the past 10 years, but that’s OK. The thing to be concerned with right now is getting your story on paper. Go on, the world may be waiting to read the story told your way.

The Problem with helping people

The Problem with helping people

It has been and is still my prayer that I am in a position to help more people, to give and do for others in a way that will be significant and apparent. I’m talking about paying for schooling and buying and building homes; I want to help people in a way that will be far reaching and long-term. And, most recently, God heard my prayer. Should I have ever doubted Him?

We recently had the opportunity to help a homeless relative and her son. Nope, we did not buy them a house. But we did not have to. When you truly have a heart to help people God will meet you where you are. We invited them to stay at our home for a few months until they got back on their feet. My husband and I had lofty aspirations of helping her to take care of her young son while she found gainful employment and eventually finished school.

helping others

The problem with helping people is that, well, they are people. As destitute as they may be they aren’t necessarily as humble as you may expect. They may not be as appreciative as you think they should be. It may be downright difficult to get along with them. And even with all of this in mind, they still need your help.

I knew that these people had been placed in my path because it was an opportunity for all of us; God was answering both of our prayers. In fact, if it had not been us helping them, God certainly would have sent someone else to her rescue. But there we were waiting for that feeling of accomplishment to wash over us and confirm to us that what we were doing was so fine and good. But what we felt was something completely different–frustration and indignation.  And then He began to remind me that helping people is for their benefit and His. For them, it is the answer to their prayer, their hopes. And for Him it is doing what He has commissioned all of us to do. Any good feeling we get from it is secondary.

God also reminded me of the humility that underlies such actions and that truly helping others often begins as a sacrifice, the denying of oneself for the good of someone else. It is not simply writing a check without even feeling the effect of it. The doing unto others is clear in scripture, but acting on it means putting aside our ideals and images of what help looks like and give real aid without pretension or apprehension. It is not the pictures we see on T.V. of needy children chosen specifically for the camera, smiling and receiving with much gratitude bowls of food and stuffed animals. It is getting in the trenches because before you can truly feel empathy you have to feel the heart and soul of another. You may not like what you see. You may be turned off because the single mother is bitter, resentful and proud and does not know how to express gratefulness. You may be appalled because her kid(s) isn’t cute and adorable with pudgy cheeks but is unruly, ill-mannered and hyper. But they still need your help. The problem with helping people is there is rarely overnight success; there is no one-check cure. For many, their dilemma didn’t develop suddenly and neither will their fix. And the truth is the help they need may not begin or end with you. You may never see the end result, the finished product, the polished diamond. You will just have to have faith that you did all that you could do. That is really all that God requires.