How Many Writers Does it Take To Change a Lightbulb?

There's this old set of jokes that I love, you know the how many blanks does it take to change a light bulb jokes. For instance how many feminists- that's not funny! 

How many editors does it take to change a lightbulb? 

Are you sure it's a light bulb? 

How many actors does it take to change a lightbulb? 

One to change it and another to watch and say "I can do that better"

How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? 

Does it have to be changed? 

Funny cause it's true! That is our first reaction to most notes- do I need to change it? The answer quite frankly is yes.  You don't need to change it into the thing that they are asking you to change it into. You don't need to take their weird solution. And yes most people do offer strange solutions. Overly pat suggestions that feel so tidy it's as if Martha Stewart herself sprayed lavender on your draft and then tidied it up. But you do need to respond in some way. 

Why? Because it will engage you in your own creativity. When we bring a script out into the world I believe on a spiritual level we are telling the world we are ready to be in a deeper relationship with ourself. And by world, I mean asking friends to come over and read your script. Getting feedback from me, or your trusted class mates.  We have built enough of a community here that if you would like your script to be read it will be. 

How does that make you feel? 

Excited? 

Terrified? 

 Keep getting notes. Draft after draft. There will be notes that really piss you off... Those are good to look at. There will be notes that seem obvious, look at those too.  This is how your draft builds muscle.  This is how you get a piece of writing ready. This is what it truly means to workshop something.

A Commitment Exercise

I want to urge you to commit.  Before writers begin the advanced lab I have them answer a series of questions in their foundation week.  I have designed something similar for you to do here. 

What do you want to commit to finishing?

What is your goal?

It could be to write every day for three months. It may be to have an outline done by September 1st. Or maybe you want to finish a rough draft of a story that's been tumbling around in your heart for a decade or so. Whatever it is write it down.  No seriously. This is your stern writing teacher talking.  Take out a piece of paper and write it on that piece of paper. 

Good. 

Now I want you to write down 25 reasons why this goal will never happen, why it will never come to completion. 

Do it! 

You've read this far! So write down your 25 reasons why it just won't work out... Push yourself. They can be dumb. They can be brilliant. Just get em' down. 

Convert. 

That's right. Convert each of your reasons why not into a why.  On a separate piece of paper. So if one of your reasons why not is: I'm too old. Your conversion may look like: The dude who wrote Angela's Ashes was old. Or it may be better written and more researched then that. I'm just saying you don't need to overthink this one. 

Now post your 25 reasons why this may just work somewhere you can see them. Yes it's hokey. But you know what's really hokey? Not working towards your goals. 

Remember- you can't save your ass and your face at the same time. What does that really mean? It means sometimes getting things started, or finished, or sticking with them in the middle may look a little silly. That's okay. Let it look silly.  Just make sure to stand in your own life and make what you want to make. 

Please let me know in the comment section if you tried this and if so if it helped. And feel free to share your goals in the comment section for added accountability. 

The Hum In Her Brain

Do you let yourself do nothing?

I mean, really… nothing. Just letting your brain explode with quietness, waking up on your clock, drinking three cups of coffee and wondering about what Diane Di Prima ate while she slept in Washington Square Park while writing poetry in 1963?

Do you let yourself hide from your phone?

Your text messages? Maybe go for a walk until it rains, then pull up under your hoodie and think, “who cares” and keep walking?

Do you let yourself go? If not, why not?

I do. I hide. Phone off.  Even if my partner is home (we both work from home some days) I’ll say, “Hey babe, today the kitchen is Switzerland. Otherwise, pretend I’m not here.” Ever the practical man, he will respond “And the bathroom, hon…the bathroom must be Switzerland as well”. Copy that. Now leave me the %$ alone. 

Sound harsh? Maybe.  But the thing is, unless I give myself the time to unspool, be unaccountable, lazy and waste time…my writing suffers. 

Most often, when I need a day off it's because I am being accountable to the wrong God. I am being accountable to the God of looking like I’ve got everything right.  See, I am getting it right. Put a gold star next to my name and tell me how good I am.

But I’m not. In my heart of hearts I’m not that good of a person. I’m an okay person. I’m a B plus person if I’ve meditated. 

I try to show up at the baby shower with a gift, but it takes a lot from me.  Amazingly enough, one of my students was pregnant during the Advanced Lab. In fact, her due date was the last day of class and she was there, forever making any absence excuse null and void.  She added me to her meal train. I told her I would show up with Aristotle Casserole, which is just who I really am. I am really bad at dishes (ask aforementioned partner). I am really bad at small talk. I am really bad at life details.

But I am really good at showing up for your story, for mine, to listening where you may have disconnected, and helping you get that train back on the track.  And the reason why I am good at it is... I let myself go sometimes. I give myself a day. 

It’s a day where I am not asking myself to be accountable to anyone except myself. And in that time I usually solve big story issues.

At worst, I emerge from the day liking myself.

 Sometimes I just need to wait until I get that hum back in my brain - this is what Shonda Rhimes calls it.

Sometimes, for us folks who are really into being accountable to each other, the best thing we can do is be accountable to ourselves.  I bet you have the skill set to slack off.  I bet you cut class in high school. Go ahead. Free yourself. Call in sick. Cancel plans. Stay in bed. Waste time.  Be lazy.  And then listen for the hum.