Giving up is different than pausing.


It’s OK to take a break for a while while you think through (or not think through) a tricky spot.  Just remember to come back!

I’ve learned that I get blocked when my subconscious mind is telling me that I’ve taken the work in a wrong direction, and that once I start listening to what my subconscious is trying to tell me, I can work out the problem and get moving again. –Walter Jon Williams

Peaks and Valleys

Muse at 11, Writing

This week I watched the creepy and fantastic Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (which is a German version of Dracula). The first 5 minutes of the film got me to thinking about how contrast works in art.

This version of Nosferatu opens with long, lingering shots on desiccated corpses.  After some minutes, my stomach started to churn.  Just when I couldn’t take it anymore, the scene switched: first to surreal video of a bat in flight, then to Mrs. Harker waking up from a bad dream…then to a pair of kittens playing together!

The kittens were a great relief–but also emphasized the lifeless, dead, and creepy aspect of the opening shots.  (Another blogger has noted the contrast and posted an illustrative photo!)

Another movie that’s excellent at displaying scene contrast is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It’s constantly juxtaposing scenes with different emotional polarities.

For example, the rousing song Gaston is set in the warm tavern packed with characters.  But by the time the song ends, the camera is outside of the tavern, pulling away as we watch Belle’s father Maurice thrown out in the cold winter storm.

Here’s another example of contrast from Beauty and the Beast.  Contrast the soaring music with the abrupt horse scream (and just after this clip, a smash cut to the dark castle of the Beast).

Putting happy next to sad intensifies both emotions for the audience; having a space devoid of movement in your painting will heighten movement seen in different areas.  Notice what’s going on overall in your structure–and when you see opportunities to contrast, bring them out!

As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer.   — Victor Hugo

By the way…

Muse at 11, Writing

If you get something out of my little articles, great!  If you don’t, don’t worry about it.  My way won’t be 100% your way.

There’s no right/wrong way to do this.  (“This” being art or writing or whatever creative gig you’re playin’ with.)

“My advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.” — Robert Marshall

PS –Today is the birthdate of one of my lead characters.  It gives me a good excuse to stop and think about where this character’s been, where she’s going, and how much fun I have writing her. 

Your Inner Critic and You (Part 3): The Transformation

Muse at 11, Writing

Here’s some things your Inner Critic might yell at you when you’re starting out:

  • “That’s not the right word!”
  • “This sounds dumb.”
  • “This story will never work.  What a stupid idea.”
  • “Why am I wasting my time with this?  I’ll never finish it.”

But as you begin to jot down (and then ignore) the things the Inner Critic says, I think you’ll find that it starts saying different things, like:

  • “Describe this better.”
  • “Does this work logically?”
  • “Are you sure you spelled that right?”
  • “Did that character talk like this when you first introduced them?”

Once your Inner Critic figures out there’s nothing it can do to stop you from writing, it’ll turn into a Constructive Critic!  –Less “This is stupid!” and more “Hey, didn’t you say X happened like a hundred pages ago?  What about that?”

And while you don’t necessarily need to tackle those points during drafting, you have to admit–these kinds of comments are useful!

“The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.”  – Abraham Lincoln

Your Inner Critic and You (Part 2): How to Listen to Your Inner Critic

Muse at 11, Writing

Your Inner Critic mostly wants to be heard.  The trick is to let him speak–but not to listen too closely (especially when you’re drafting!)

In my own drafts–both digital and handwritten, I use the following technique:  If I’m writing along and suddenly my inner critic points out something, I simply insert a square bracket, write its comment, close the bracket, and proceed with the story.

If I’m doing this on the computer, I turn the comment red so it stands out during editing. That way I can review the comments later (some of them may be on to something, after all) when I’m not in the flow of writing.  I get to write, the Critic gets heard, and everybody wins.

It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.  ~Ornette Coleman

Your Inner Critic and You (Part 1): Meet Your Inner Critic

Muse at 11, Writing

I love the game Psychonauts for many a reason (MILKMAN CONSPIRACY! also, Sasha Nein), but the studio’s interpretation of the “Inner Critic” really won me over.

Psychonauts is a game where you jump into the minds of different characters and help work out their issues.  One level is set in the mind of a failed actress. When you enter her mind, you meet her inner critic, Jasper.  He’s a huge ticklike guy, who is snarky and hates everything you do.

At the end of the level, you defeat him in a typical video-game style boss battle. But unlike other enemies, this inner critic doesn’t disappear or die! No! instead he just shrinks…down…to a manageable size.

And to me, that rings true: Your inner critic will never go away. But there are some ways to keep his loud voice from overpowering your desire to write.

If criticism had any power to harm, the skunk would be extinct by now. ~ Fred Allen