Calling All Struggling Writers!

If I sit down at my computer first thing in the morning then before I know it, it’s 2:30pm and I haven’t had breakfast yet.

“So what?” you are probably saying, “ We all have a little trouble balancing life at times.”

Well, aside from the fact that it points to a little condition known as OCD (that’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for those of you not up on your psychiatry), it is concerning because the result is that all the other aspects of life don’t get taken care of. Like the dishes (although there are remarkably fewer when you don’t eat), the gardening, the care and feeding of the animals, personal hygiene.

Lately, though, I’ve been surfing the web instead of waves, amazed to find so much information related to writing. The OCD is paying off in dividends. In the course of this frenzy of focus on the craft of writing, I’ve signed up for a writer’s conference, bought screenwriting software and made contact with a major screenplay development editor and am considering attending her workshop this October. (Ya, this is getting expensive.) I’ve found answers to questions I didn’t even know to ask. Like:

How do I get from an idea to a finished screenplay?
Who do I get to read my screenplay and when?
How and when do I find an agent?
How do I get a producer to read my work?

and, related to the opening of this blog entry,
Do I have to abandon all my friends, family and personal hygiene to be a successful writer?

It’s funny and a little mysterious how out of the blue all these resources have popped onto the screen, whereas for the past three years, I’ve been out in la-la land, clueless about the “hows” of getting my writing career tangibly underway. I took a screenplay writing course all those years ago and it taught me a fair amount about the nuts and bolts of what a screenplay should look like. But what it didn’t teach me is that there is this whole big world of help out there for the struggling writer – resources to help you get it done and get it done well. The screenwriting software is just el gipful auf dem eisburg (tip of the iceburg…I really like the way that sounds in German).

Among all of these discoveries, I think the thing that blew me away the most was that many writers do not work in a vacuum, holed up in their offices, cigarette dangling from their mouths, sweat dripping from their brow. There is this thing, or person, called the Developmental Editor that can lighten the writer’s burden. And the degree to which they carry the weight is really vast and varied.

The most extreme example I learned of is a shocker. According to former Rolling Stone editor Alan Rinzler, as a deadline loomed over the head of Hunter S. Thompson, his editor would have to go to his home and literally drag the story out of him. Hunter would be totally disorganized, manic and panicking because he didn’t have the story done. There’d be little pieces of paper and cigarette packets all over the place with notes scribbled on them, but nothing coalesced. The editor would sit down and ask him the who, what, when, where ,why & how, record the answers, which would be transcribed, allowing the editor to massage it into a story. The impact this had on Thompson’s success is up to you, the reader, to consider.

Bottom line? Even the most successful of writers have not attained their success effortlessly or solo. Ya, sure, there are some rare people who sit down and write a story from front to cover and get it right the first time without any help from their editor, but let’s face it, they are the exception, not the rule.

In this, the Information Age, no one should have to struggle the way I have to discover that we are not alone. It’s hard enough to write. So I’m sharing a bunch of these really great links so you don’t have to struggle quite so hard.

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There’s lots more, so get out there and get inspired. I did.

Retreat

It was considered two days ago to write about a political subject – about the Universal Health Care Bill that the Obama administration is presenting to the Senate. The title of that post would have been

2009=1984

from which is becomes clear the opinion this article would have expressed.

The decision has been made not to write about that topic however. For several reasons.

First off, it would be necessary to do a lot of research to write such a blog with great accuracy. Accuracy is imperative when expressing a political view. And frankly, this blog can not eat up the necessary time, as there are other writing projects that call for the attention. Furthermore, the topic is highly contentious, making the readers upset regardless of their opinion. If they are for the proposed bill, then the blog would have made them angry at the author for the contrary opinion. If they are against the bill, then the very mention of the subject would raise their ire. Only a small fraction of the population would have a neutral opinion and read such a blog with an open and inquiring mind.

So it was decided not to write a blog that would just upset the majority of readers.

Instead a recent happenstance crossing of two paths that occurred and the results of this chance encounter will be related to the reader.

On Sunday, Alaska Airlines Flight 224 was taken from San Francisco to San Jose del Cabo. Check-in was a harried experience when it was realized that the flight registry had closed one minute earlier due to the line moving at a slug’s pace. It was reported that departure would have to take place the following day. Ack! Quick thinking and it was pointed out to the airline rep that there were several other people behind in the line that were also scheduled to take the flight, so there was clearly a problem with the check in process. The large man who’s opinion was sought by the nice check in lady took this into consideration for a moment and then allowed her to override the restriction. Phew!

And so the security line, which was much longer than the check in line, was approached with some trepidation. Fortunately, it moved much quicker than the check in line.

Approaching the actual security check, it was noticed that the lady in front had a lap top computer and had not taken it out of its bag. In the interest of efficiency and making the own flight, it was politely shared with this lady that the lap top had to be removed from its case. A sincere expression of gratitude followed and then a conversation ensued. Where one was going, what to do?

“A writer’s retreat” was the reply, to which great surprise and admiration was expressed. It was determined that the retreat was not expensive because work was exchanged for mentoring. And the idea that a writer’s retreat might be within the grasp was born.

So back in front of the computer a search was enthusiastically made for “writer’s retreat.”

Enthusiasm quashed.

“These retreats are all so expensive!” came the thought. One must either already be an established writer and be accepted to an exclusive program or one must be well-heeled. Thousands of dollars were requested to attend a retreat run by an academic institution or unknown author. The accommodations are lovely, but the real substance and purpose of the retreat seems undermined and secondary.

Then a thought came. Perhaps in the home and native land of Canada there will be a retreat that is affordable. And can be combined with a trip to visit the family, thereby saving on airfare (killing the proverbial two birds, as it were). And sure enough, a lovely retreat in Quebec was found located only 2.5 hours from the family home. With mentors that are well-known and respected authors. Cheap, no, but at least the money will be well spent.

I wonder if the same can be said of Obama’s Universal Health Care?