I’ve been editing, And then editing, And finally editing some more. Lately, I’ve actually started to nod off at the keyboard with only flashes of memory. I have to stop at these points, least I insert GGGGGGGGGGG into my manuscript.
One interesting moment in all of this is a visceral event. I was editing a section where a character’s breath smells like rotten milk. Then, out of nowhere, there’s a fly circling my head. (There’s never been a fly in this room before.) It kept landing on me or the computer. I thought, wow, if the writing can attract flies, then I must be really using those sensory details.
When I was younger, I delved into all sorts of artistic endeavors: painting, music, poetry. Yet I couldn’t get any traction and create authentic art unless I picked one and committed. The more you spread your time over different projects or media types, the less you can focus on one. For me, it’s writing.
I’m often tempted to jump art forms. Pick up the paintbrush or compose a song. However, I’m well versed enough to understand these distractions for what they are. It’s a subtle form of writer’s block. My brain, forced with creating, would rather sidetrack to another creative venue. It’s the same temptation that makes me want to switch novels rather than complete the one I’m on.
You have to stay firm and commit for the long haul. Finish what you started. If you want to switch to another art form, do it when you’re between projects.
Nothing is worse for an artist than taking critiques personally. I know that for myself, when folks tell me I need to change some of my manuscript, I get these little squirmy worms in my chest that wiggle around. I don’t want to change anything. But then I sit back and think. Give it some time to sink in. That’s when I know that the changes will only make the writing stronger.
Think about those artists who were given total control. Few can deliver. For example, the reason why the first three Star Wars movies (IV, V, and VI) were so great was that Lucas had to answer to the producers. The greatest Han Solo line of all time (I know) was an ad lib. Lucas would have cut it, but the producers saw gold and kept it in. Yet when Lucas made the prequels (I, II, and III) they lacked the spontaneity of the older films. They were too controlled. Sure, they followed his vision, but had no spark.
Then there are the Beatles. I’ve a big fan and always find it obvious which songs were written mostly by Lennon and which were by McCartney. Yet the credits always say Lennon and McCartney. Even though one of them must have taken the lead, the other probably played the Devils advocate—critiquing and adding.Even by there last recorded album (Abbey Road) when they were pretty much working independently, the songs still have that collaborative effort. When they split, both John and Paul had their own hits, but none rose to the level of earlier Beatles songs. They had no alter-ego critiquing.
The message: Let people read and critique your work. Only make sure that these people are professionals. You can gain nothing by reading sour reviews. Don’t go there.
Everyone likes to be scared. (Okay, not everyone. But if you’re reading this, then yes, you do.) But how about giggling during your brain eating? Not every horror flick needs to be a serious spine tingler. Humor can liven up a scary flick. What follows are the funniest zombie (or zombiesque) films around.
5 Evil Dead
Rami has a gift for delivering chills and gags all at the same time. The demon possessed folk aren’t exactly zombies, yet they stumble around asking Bruce Campbell to “join them.” This is probably the most serious of the bunch, but still good fun.
4 Dead Alive
Everyone knows Peter Jackson from The Lord of the Rings. Few know that he started with slapstick horror. Honestly, you can’t get more gore than Dead Alive. It takes gross to a whole new level. But the film is dead on funny. It has a zombie baby, a plague infested rat, and a kung fu practicing priest. “I kick ass for the Lord.” Come on, give it a go.
3 Evil Dead II
If the first Evil Dead was great, the squeal is awesome. But this isn’t really a continuation of the story. It’s a remake with a bigger budget and more laughs. Bruce Campbell (aka Ash) has to do battle with his severed hand. He replaces his lost appendage with a chainsaw and proceeds to cut up some demon possessed people. All while black blood spews everything. For fun, count the number of head injuries Ash sustains in the film.
Ash tripping out as the house creaks and lamps start dancing.
2 Shaun of the Dead
This movie simultaneously pays homage to nearly every great zombie flick while making you roll over laughing. One of the best scenes is one that would probably happen in real life. Simon Pegg (Shaun) is going through his morning routine of picking up a soda and an ice cream from the corner shop. He fails to notice the staggering corpses in the streets or the bloody hand print on the glass door.
1 Dead and Breakfast
This is a highly under appreciated movie. Watch this and you will never look at blueberry pie the same again. It has it all. Line dancing zombies (alright, possessed people, but they act like zombies). A person’s head used as a hand puppet. And David Carradine.
Eating blueberry pie and ignorant of the gore behind him.
Recently, I was lucky enough to speak to some middle school students about writing (specifically High Tech Middle Media Arts). The experience was exhilarating. The kids really knew their stuff, asking a ton of good questions. Then one came up that I hadn’t considered: Where do your ideas come from? Sensible query, especially from a kid’s point of view. After all, they are required, by force of curriculum, to generate creative ideas on the spot.
My answer in class was a knee jerk reaction. Given some time to think, I’ve come up with a laundry list of places that ideas come from. Mostly it’s a set of connections. One thing relates to another and then bang. Idea. I’ve started a book based on the results of a presidential election. (Not even a political thriller. The book was about monsters.) Another idea came from a Poly Sci class in High School. One of my best ideas sprang up while watching an episode of Scooby Doo.
Mostly the idea of a story starts as a “what if” scenario. I find a detail from some article or snippet of a commercial and then think, what would happen if…? You need to give your mind time to daydream, otherwise the ideas (the good ones at least) won’t come.
So where do your ideas come from?
Me plus names equals epic failure. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I can recall obscure math facts or trivia from films, yet ask me the name of an actor or a character and I shut down. I end up saying, “That guy that was in the film with the sword who cut off the head of the guy that turns into a snake.” (Conan)
What’s worse it that I’m a teacher. I have to remember about a hundred names a year. I rely heavily on seating charts. It’s not to say that I can’t remember names. They do come. Yet after the students move on, I can only recall that I know the person. Not the name.
Some people view this as rude. Don’t. It’s not that I don’t remember you. I do. I simply can’t recall the name. It’s like those kids I work with that simply can’t remember how to add fractions. It has to do with multiple intelligences. You see there are different ways that the brain understands the world. I have the logical spatial and the linguistic. I don’t think I have the naturalist. But my daughter does. She can recognize and categorize animals in a snap. My theory is that this is linked with names. Or perhaps it’s the interpersonal intelligence, as she it sensitive to what others feel.
So don’t blame me for forgetting your name. I just have a deficit in that intelligence. You can’t be perfect at all of them, can you?