Dream Journaling and Creativity – Princess rides Whale-Shark

All these lucid dreams I’m having is sparking some creativity. It’s been hard to just let them go, so I recorded them into this dream journal app on my phone, at somewhere around two hundred words each entry.

In one, a middle aged Adonis with frizzy black hair joins me to DJ a “killer” rave. In another, a topsy-turvy business venture seashells by the beach becomes a slice of life where Bill Murray educated me on meeting a soul mate. While in the most prevalent dream, I met a dark princess in a world-past-midnight, who rides a flying whale-shark, as she stalks the skies high above the kingdom I’m working a con in. There are others too.

Reading back through the entries is an introspective experience. Similar to a normal journal, I found reading them back helped me work through some things by figuring out the metaphors buried in these fantastical settings. Perfect juice for writing stories.

What I’m trying to say is, get on board. Dream journals are a must for any writer seeking transparency – leading to better creativity.

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Why Writers On Foreign Soil Are Lucky

Your country shapes you into a particular type of looking glass. When you look out at the world, you see it through a lens particular to where and how you grew up. It’s something we ourselves become apparent of more so when on foreign soil. Mainly because we start comparing the strange land with home. It can be quite revealing of the world around us. 

Thus writers working or living overseas will instinctively use these differences in the “thisness” of a place to colour the writing a particular way. It should shape your writing into something original, which is great but always what people want until it’s too late. 

So I think it’s good to be aware of such a process. It then becomes a tool for your arsenal in the war against the blank page. Freeing yourself further from indistinctness. 

To lucidity and beyond. 

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Building the Best Layout for Your Writing

I can’t tell you how many times I come across:

  • bloated paragraphs,
  • sentences longer than 30+ words, or
  • badly placed images which lead readers to lose interest and bounce out of the read.

You see it in blogs, books, web pages, articles, tweets (Yes, tweets!) and copy of all sorts.

It’s ugly.

My first sentence above is longer than 30 words but I made it reader-friendly with bullet points. Readers love bullet points. In fact, readers love simplicity.

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Writers should know the basics of the medium they’re writing in. And writers should know the nitty-gritty of the English language. A good rule of thumb is, if the writing feels even a little off, re-write it. Again, I wrote the first sentence above and thought it much too long. But I liked it enough not to change it – so I broke it up. Of course, what works well on a blog may not work well in prose or screenwriting.

You also don’t need to stick to the rules. But two basic guidelines for most writing nowadays are:

  1. Sentences should be under 30 words.
  2. Paragraphs should never go over 5 lines (not sentences, lines). 2-3 lines for screenwriting.

A good idea is to learn or emulate the layout of some of your favourite writings. Begin with this, anyway, then try to develop your own style. How does layout affect your story? Is there a right or wrong layout for a social media campaign’s narrative that’s spread out over 6 months?

Some food for thought.

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10 Sure-Win Methods to The Conjuring 2

This surprising little horror movie feels like one of the American classics – The Exorcist or The Omen – but set in North-West London. An American husband and wife team of paranormal investigators, haunted by a demon of their own, travel to London to help a mother and her four children plagued by a malicious spirit. It’s a fun flick.

Something almost integral to any modern horror doesn’t occur in this movie and that’s part of why it succeeds. What is that ‘something’ you ask? No spoilers.

What makes this movie so fresh? Countdown:

10. The Cinematography. James Wan uses clever shots inspired by horror films of the 70s and 80s to punctuate ordinary turning points with disorientating moments.

9. The Atmosphere. There’s a gloom that permeates the film’s atmosphere that’s layered upon themes of love between a mother and her children and the love between a married couple. This juxtaposition makes the film easier to swallow and more fun to watch.

8. The Scares. They won’t make the hardened horror-flick vet jump, but they will do their job with most folk. And that’s because the setups and payoffs as well as how lovely each of the characters are make you care for them while hoping that the creepiness they’re dealing with doesn’t give way to something much worse.

7. The Inventiveness. Some genuine creepy set pieces and characters mix with the shot choices to evoke surprise and genuine interest in scenes that would otherwise feel familiar. Seriously, colour me impressed with the ideas in this film and how they’re shot.

6. The Pacing. Shit just moves well in this movie. Soon as one thing finishes something else starts. I enjoyed every bit of it.

5. The Simple Story. It’s a credit to the writers and director with how well this movie comes together. A lot of things seeded earlier in the film become apparent as integral pieces of the story as the end illuminates the beginning. You can only do that when you have firm grip on every detail of the story.

4. The Actors. Man o man, do you feel something for the Warrens, the kids’ mother, and the kids themselves. These guys just kill it.

3. The Weirdness. Some actual weird shit in this film, like the husband’s portrait of the demon-spirit – which becomes part of the story, hehe – and the Crooked Man to name a couple.

2. The ‘Only Fools Rush In…’ scene. Yep, this got me. Tugged on the ol’ heart strings.

1. The Nods to Classics. If you like The Exorcist, The Omen or Poltergeist then you’ll enjoy how much love those movies are shown in The Conjuring 2.

Go. Watch.

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The Heartaches That Crush Us – Creativity Blues

For the past 10 days I haven’t posted, read, written anything but copy at work nor been able to think straight. Fuck. Love.

It should be there to support you but when you open yourself up wider than any time before and let out an effort reserved for that special someone without her reciprocating anything worthy back, it’s time to switch gears. You lost it, buddy.

It made me realise that without any end goals to your work, the drive to create is directionless. And when that drive has slowed to a pathetic crawl instead of a turbo-boosted sprint, you’re going nowhere fast. Ideas don’t form because your head is a miasma of emotions that cut into you like jagged glass. It’s the worst type of suffocation.

So, to fix it – let it out! I let it. the. fuck. out. Now, I’m here writing this to you. It’s the best medicine for the procrastinator, the lost soul or tunnel-visioned fool. I was kind of all three for a while. That said, having a drink or two helps as well. Jazz Cafe and cocktails? Hell, yes.

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10 Dichotomies of the Creative

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ~

I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”
10 Dichotomies of the Creative:
  1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.
  2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.
  3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
  4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.
  5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted.
  6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time.
  7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping.
  8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative.
  9. Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.
  10. Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment.
Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living.

How to Understand Stories Like a Boss

Start with a notepad that never leaves your bag. Every time you read or watch something, write a log line for it. After that find some time to write a synopsis of the story, then try writing the character portraits for the protagonist and antagonist using a simple formula: Want + Motion + Obstacle + Choice = Character. Try combining this formula with Theophrastus’ archetypes to breathe more life into them. This process will have you understanding stories in no time.

Log lines are the most important step here as you will be learning how to boil down pages and pages of story into 1 to 2 sentences. You can even compare your version to the one on IMDb or, say, Netflix. Here’s one I did for Billy Wilder’s Irma la Douce:

A naive ex-policeman falls in love with a Parisian prostitute who he tries to keep off the streets only to get in over his head. 

It’s similar to the Netflix log line, but with a little more mystery. To be honest, I prefer the Netflix log line as it follows ‘the book’. Here’s one for The Hospital (1971):

Doctors keep dropping dead at a New York hospital as one melancholy doctor tries to keep the place from falling apart before he does. 

Not bad. ‘Melancholy’ might be too strong an adjective for the protagonist, but fuck it. I usually just give it 1-2 attempts then move on. No point dwelling on shit. Just get the practice in.

Writing a synopsis is harder. You need to make sure to jot down the emotional beats and plot points – developing the spine of your story. Give it a go.

Character portraits are fun and will help you get inside the character’s head to understand what he or she will say in this or that situation. Here’s one I did for Charlie Nash from SFV, which was for another blog’s article on him:

Charlie Nash: Intelligent, tactical and well-timed, he’s suspicious of and regards most people with the lowest of opinions. He doesn’t let others help him. His speech is underlined with arrogance, feels demanding and terse. He’s surly to others because of his narrow pursuit of vengeance, which he considers to be a pursuit of ‘ice cold justice’. He lacks fear, is confident, and cautious. 

The portraits don’t need to be written well, they just need to paint a picture of the character so you can better use the character. Of course, much more detailed and eloquently written portraits would help evoke certain things you didn’t know were there. That said, Nash here is a tad 2-dimensional. I’d love to beef him up. He portrays only two traits. Real people can show like 6-9 traits in a single night. You need at least 3-4 traits for a character to feel real.

That’s it. Give it a go.

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