The Importance of Journaling

Thursdays are normally my clean-up days. I wake up, straighten up for an hour or so, then go into meditation. This week, however, I stumbled across an old journal of mine. I’m generally not interested in the past at all, but I thought it would be fun to scan through what I had written.

I found an entry about an old boyfriend from years ago who wasn’t very nice to me. One of those things where you break up and the next thing you know he’s posting about introducing some woman to his parents. “Hi, I’m getting engaged!” “But, wait, didn’t we break up a couple of seconds ago?”

I care nothing about this now, but it was a bummer then. However, when I read what I had written about him, I realized that it wasn’t even a bummer then. In my mind, I had glossed over the negative because so much time had passed. When I actually went back and read my journal entries, it was obvious that we were in no way right for each other. If his new boo is the right one, I’m happy for him. Truly. Time heals all wounds (if you let it).

But time is also a liar. Had I not stumbled across that journal entry, I might have told myself a story about that situation which was patently untrue. The truth was written in black and white: Our break up had been inevitable. Only the clarity of hindsight made that crystal clear.

As a writer, the truth of any situation is what is most important to me. Memories are unreliable. How we remember something often has nothing to do with what actually occurred. Only by recording things as they happen, can we capture how we really feel in the moment – before time has a chance to come in with its airbrush and make it all pretty.

Our characters are the same way. What they remember in our stories will not be accurate. Show how that happens. And if you’re ever struggling with writer’s block, it can help to have your characters write a few journal entries. It helps us get inside their minds when we allow them to write about their problems freely, from their own perspective. Just open up a new Word doc and call it “So and so’s diary.” You may be amazed at what you come up with.

And if your characters are unhappy, that’s a great thing for drama! Have them write about it and get some juicy details flowing.

Happy writing!

Peace and love,

Raven

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Twin Peaks and the Nature of Evil

The new screenplay I’m working on has characters that defy labels of “good” and “evil.” It has been interesting exploring their motivations and their desires. I have come to like all of my characters, the good ones and the bad ones.

I’m also re-watching the first iteration of Twin Peaks (1990-1991) and I’m on Season Two. As strange and unrealistic as the story is, the show really makes me think. As I watched LeLand, one of the hosts of evil spirit Bob, attack Maddy, I paid specific attention to Leland’s relationship with Bob.

As Leland is attacking Maddy, we go back and forth between seeing Bob or Leland as the attacker. Leland cries out “Laura,” and “my baby.” Bob, of course, just grunts and growls. But, if we are to believe that Leland is his true self for brief moments, and Bob at other moments, then Leland is not only bad when he is inhabited by Bob. He has seeds of Darkness within him even without Bob. Leland, the man, has an unhealthy (and unholy) attachment to his own daughter, whom Maddy reminds him of. So, is it really Bob who motivated Leland’s violence? Or, was it Leland all along – and Bob, the spirit, was just along for the ride because he had a willing host?

This made me think about real life. Are people evil because they’re just evil, or are they overcome by spiritual forces that compel them to do evil? If they are overcome by spiritual forces, then they will be horrified and remorseful once they come back to themselves. Leland is remorseful once the full weight of his deeds hits him. And I’ve seen criminals express genuine sorrow and remorse for their crimes (usually once they’re caught). They often are hazy on the details of their crimes. They remember just before it happened and right afterward. The doing of it is a blank.

Are they suppressing an unthinkable memory? Or, were they “possessed” by a murderous spirit that, in a sense, took them over?

I’m no David Lynch expert, so I have no idea what his intentions were with the show. But, my own take-away is that Leland is not some blameless vessel that was simply taken over by evil. He was a co-creator of evil who fell in and out of lucidity by choosing to ignore his conscience.

And that’s the point for me: evil is a co-creation. I do believe that evil exists as a spiritual force of sorts. It thrives where goodness is rejected. But, as humans, we have a choice. We can choose to embrace evil and negativity, or we can choose to embrace goodness and integrity. Evil is introduced when we choose to follow our selfish drives, and ignore what we know is right. That introduction becomes a way of life when we persistently ignore the nagging of conscience.

Evil, I believe, then gains a foothold in us through trauma, pain, and fear. These powerful negative emotions make us more vulnerable to outside malevolent influences as well as internal moral conflicts. What approaches us from the outside is eventually invited to the inside, as we submit to its influence. So, while we may hate that which is evil, we also must understand and have compassion for it, since the seeds of it exist within us all. We avoid Darkness by resisting it. But, the weak among us are unable to do so. Thus, criminals and “bad guys” are humans, above all.

This ability to view both the “good” and the “bad” guys with balance, compassion, and thoughtfulness is important for writers. One-dimensional characters are forgettable and false. There is some good in the worst and some bad in the best. Twin Peaks rises to the level of art because it recognizes the complexity of the human experience, and explores it in a novel and compelling way.

We, too, can infuse our writing with complexity if we approach both our beloved and our hated characters with the knowledge that Good and Bad are stereotypes. Real life humans are a mixed up combination of both.

Happy writing!

Peace and love,

Raven

The Best Writing Advice

The best writing advice I ever heard was just to write. Very non-sexy, right?  But that’s it in a nutshell. Write.

There are lots of tips out there about how to write compelling characters, how to structure the plot, and how to market your finished work. But the advice that has helped me the most is this: sit butt in chair, and…go!

And read. That’s the second best writing advice I’ve ever gotten. As I read, I get a growing feel for what works and what doesn’t. Reading also informs me on what has already been written. That still leaves the problem of time.

Time is, and always will be, a problem for everyone. For artists, who are often trying to balance day jobs with their real passions, time is a big deal. There are no fancy tricks to finding time to write, either. Figure out when you’re at your best, then find a way to write at that time. I’m best in the morning. So I peel myself out of the bed and write in the mornings. Nothing fancy, nothing sexy.

But it gets that first draft written.

Emphasis on first draft. The only way to get anything written is to just write. The first things that come to mind will usually suck. I write them anyway. I hold my nose, and write them anyway. I wouldn’t dare show anyone, not unless I were being held at gunpoint. Then, yes, I would reveal my first draft. Other than that, first drafts are private, secret territory. The next few drafts will probably be better. Nevertheless, putting words on the page is the goal.

I wish I had juicier advice. But I don’t. If you want to write (or paint, or start a business, or do stand-up comedy), just do it. Don’t ask for permission. Don’t worry about money, fame, or critical acclaim. Just do a whole bunch of it. And repeat.

Have a beautiful, creative weekend.

Peace and love,

Raven