Monday, March 10, 2014

My Thoughts on "Self"


As a general rule, I am a thinker. A crafter of words, thoughts, and ideas. I puzzle over simplicity as lustfully as I do over complexity. I thrive at all times to understand, grow, learn, and enhance my way of thinking and understanding.

As a stay-at-home mom, I have an abundance of time to spend with myself. As an Army wife to boot, I spend lengths of time in my own company. Left to do not much else than to think. Some might find this to be a prison sentence. Trapped in loneliness, boredom, and despair. I imagine those with this mindset would fall under the category of people who are not suited for this lifestyle. Very few are, in fact. The plain truth of the matter is, most people thrive on and define themselves by who surrounds them. Left in their own company, they may find a disconnect. A void of understanding and familiarity with the person who reflects back in the mirror. This being a natural occurrence is not an easy habit to break. Figuring out what it is that defines YOU as a singular person is no small task. But, if pursed consciously, provides the greatest understanding and value of self.

Some might assume that thinking too openly and too frequently would lead to a disastrous outcome. After all, what else is there to do but worry? The truth is, there is plenty else to think about. And in thinking and exploring these thoughts the dance of understanding can truly begin.

It is in these moments of open thought and exploration that I often come to except truths I once never thought possible to cope with. I have overcome obstacles and roadblock in every aspect of my life. For, in the end, our greatest obstacles lie in the recess of our own minds. We think we cannot, therefore we do not. We fear, so we do not try. We hurt, so we let that pain consume us.

For most of my life I was defined not by who I was, but by who I found myself attached to. Being a twin, while greatly rewarding and an amazing blessing, can define a person so much so that it is difficult to separate oneself from their sibling on a core level. For YEARS when I was talking to someone, whether Erika was with me or not I always replied in conversation with "we" "our" or "us." "Our parents" were coming to the school play. "We" enjoy running and drawing. I just didn't view myself in the singular. When I was fifteen I started dating my husband and I became a confusing and twisted version of "the twin" and "David's girlfriend." It was rare that anyone knew me as just Shawn. What else did I really have to define me? Looking back, nothing. Nothing defined me other than the people in my life. And lucky for me they were/are beautiful and inspiring people who care deeply about me and love me as much as a person can be loved. But it wasn't until my husband deployed and I was "stranded" in a foreign country in my own company, at the mercy of my own thoughts that I was able to truly discover who "I" was.

I had to learn what it meant to be strong with little more than a few close friends and distant family to support me on the tough days. I was suspended delicately in this break or bend mentality. I could either grow and adapt or lose the battle in self discovery and find myself in a mess of shattered pieces on the floor.

Words saved me in the end. My openness to embrace them in thought and on paper allowed me to sift and sort through all of the clutter and uncertainty and find not only salvation but myself.

And who am I exactly, might you ask? In truth, I'm still learning. And the day that I stop growing and learning will be the day that I lose sight of myself again. So I pray the day never comes. As I see it, it is impossible to truly be defined if you are not open to self exploration. We are all fluid. At our best, we are not defined by anyone or anything. We are defined by what we do, what we strive to do, what we have created, and how we positively affect the world and those around us.




Friday, January 31, 2014

Save the Cat!

I've been reading the book Save the Cat! over the past week or so, recommended to me by a GREAT source. (To any screenwriters or screenwriting hopefuls out there, I definitely recommend this book to you.)

I would even suggest that you read the book before you sit down to write your screenplay. It's much easier to go in with knowledge than it is to come across it later. I happened to finished my screenplay first THEN started reading this book. Which can be a tad intimidating. But in writing I've never shied away from a good challenge. I've been blessed enough to have the time and the means to work on my craft comfortably. Which is important when trying to overcome the challenges you're bound to come up against in perfecting your story. Especially when it comes to overcoming self doubt. If you never stop trying and improving and you refuse to give up then you still have a chance!

In the end, fellow screenwriting hopefuls, this book will help guide you on your journey to screenwriting success. 

I'm taking things slow since my husband's only been home for a handful of weeks now. But I've gotten a good ways into the book so far and I've already learned so much! If nothing else, this book helps you put the pieces together. Make sense of things so that you can really produce a great piece of work. 

I will elaborate more once I've finished the book but for now I think you need to know sooner rather than later about the best tool to have in your hands in writing your best screenplay!

Until next time, happy writing!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

It's That Time of Year Again

Every year I try and set a few writing resolutions for myself. As with any other type of resolution, sometimes I fall short and other times I discover that my direction changes and my goals then change right along with them. But, as stubborn as I am, that won't stop me from putting down a few choice writing goals I have for myself this upcoming year!
 
So...here it goes!
 
 
  1. Reach a new/higher level of progress in getting my screenplay for The Wanderer "out there" by the end of the year. No giving up!
  2. Complete at least one more screenplay. Since I'm nearly half-way through my second one, that shouldn't be too difficult.
  3. Publish a new novel, either one I've already started or a fresh idea.
  4. This year I would really like to try and participate in NanoWriMo. It's something I've never done before and I think it would be a fun challenge. Kind of like a writer's version of a marathon.
What about you? Do you have any writing goals this year?! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Thing About Writers Is...

I was watching an interview with J.K. Rolling a little while ago and she said something to the affect of "As a character trait, all writers have pretty thin skin." When she said that and went on to explain, I was yessing her every word. The thing is, I think as a general rule, writers are people who crave a personal and intimate connection with other people. And they accomplish that through their writing. A side affect of that is we tend to be pretty open, passionate, and emotional people. This leaves us with a multitude of weak spots and we tend to be easily hurt by negativity, but it also allows us to be open to absorb praise and gratitude that is basically what we live for. And you just can't have one without the other.

We expect and respect the negative reviews right along with the positive ones but we can't completely brush them off because they imply that we didn't accomplish what we set out to do for those select unhappy readers. We didn't emotionally connect. They didn't understand or appreciate what we were trying to share with them.

In the interview, Rolling also stated that writers don't publish for money. They publish to connect and have a relationship with their readers. Rolling is highly successful in her writing and is ultimately set for life, yet she still desires to publish her stories. Not for the money, but for that connection. This is not unlike the reason behind self-publication for those of us who haven't penetrated the traditional publishing industry (yet!) We don't publish because we are under some glorified delusion that we will, without a doubt, become the next Amanda Hocking, Colleen Hoover, or E.L. James.  We publish to make that connection with our readers. And every. Single. Reader. Is important to us. That relationship we have with them is priceless. In fact, most of us give away dozens of books, just so that we can share our stories with more readers.

I've been told on occasion that I need to get thicker skin. Or I need to take criticism less personally. The problem is, it's just not how I'm designed. To turn off that emotion for one purpose would require that I turn it off entirely. I enjoy the rush and reward of being so sensitive to my emotions and to the world around me too much to even consider for a second that not feeling what hurts me is worth sacrificing feeling what makes me thrive as well.

 To watch the full interview with J.K. Rolling go HERE.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Writing Resolutions Revised

With the year (and another deployment--yay!) winding down, I'm looking back on what I'd hoped to accomplish with my writing in 2013 back in January.

Originally my hope had been to finish up one of my old writing projects, making for my 6th published novel. In addition to that I had hoped to be at least started on my 7th! And as much as the idea of that excited me, and still does, it turns out that I had other plans in mind for the direction that my writing career would go.

The thing is, I'm not ready to move on from the stories I've already published. I want to do each and every one of them justice. So the next logical step was to begin writing my first screenplay. If you've been following me, you already know that I've completed my first screenplay, based on my third novel The Wanderer. For those of you who haven't been following, I'll fill you in a bit.

The Wanderer, a novel centering around a combat veteran and his journey of healing and finding love, is very close to my heart. And it is the one novel that without a doubt I can see as a movie. And it finally got to the point where I just had to sit down and write out the screenplay for it. No matter the outcome. No matter how far this journey will go, I need to start the process of seeing that this dream becomes a reality.

This is the perfect example of how unpredictable a year can be. One minute you think you know what your goals, hopes, and dreams are. The next you're pushing the envelope. Reaching outside the box. Taking risks. And challenging yourself. There was a point in my life where I hated the idea of putting myself out there and taking risks. It was intimidating and a lot of work and I wasn't all that confident in my ability to be able to handle either of those things. Today I sit here with the mindset of "bring it on." I'm happy to get feedback and to keep working to improve myself and my craft.

The truth is, failure is only obtainable by giving up. Everything up until that point is just trial and error. You may fall down 100 times but if you pick yourself up 101 times then you can consider yourself a success. In fact, that's basically how this industry works. Very rarely will you hear a successful author (or anyone for that matter) say "I wrote a book and instantly became a best seller and made millions." That's just not how it works. You have to earn it. And I'm more than enjoying the process of earning my spot.

So what I've learned this year is that goals are great but limitations should never be mistaken for them. Dream big because only you have the power to create and mold your destiny! I'm already looking forward to next year and what exciting adventures and challenges it will bring.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Made For the Big Screen

 
When I wrote The Wanderer I saw it in lights. Part of why I decided to write the screenplay for it in the first place is because of how vividly I can see it playing out in my mind. Whenever the song "The Wanderer" by Dion and the Belmonts comes on the radio, my heart starts racing as I picture the opening scene of the movie. Landon Bradley riding his Vulcan down a long stretch of highway.
 
 
After completing the screenplay, my ambition and my hopes for this story's future have only grown. Over the past few years of establishing my writing career and getting my footing I've come a long way. I started off with the mindset of "Well, I know it's just okay, but I'm working on my craft." Since then I've become a lot more confident in my work. My novels all need a final polish but this screenplay is gold. You just wait and see. I have never been so sure of anything in my life. I don't intend to stop until I make this dream a reality.

Why the abundant amount of confidence, you ask? Well, I'll be honest with you, through novel writing I'd argue that I've discovered my true calling: screenwriting. Don't get me wrong, I love novel writing but it's like I said, when I write I play the scenes out in my mind. When I sat down to write this screenplay, it came so naturally to me. And not just because I had the story mapped out through the novel. The layout and the beat of telling a story in this way felt like second nature and I can't wait to start on my next on.

It's really only a matter of time before I've converted all of my novels over to screenplays. And that's in addition to the fact that I'm interested in trying my hand at writing original screenplays as well. That's a ways off though I imagine. First and foremost I want to make sure that all of my stories have equal opportunity on the big screen!

 

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