Visiting Art Museums (and how they can inspire writers)

This last weekend, my dad and my step-mom came to visit me in LA for the first time since I’ve made it my permanent (ish) home, and I was tasked with showing them around for a couple of days. Because they are both well-traveled and enjoy art, I decided a trip to the J. Paul Getty Center Museum would be a perfect way to fill a pretty Saturday afternoon in LA.

The Getty is one of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles. For those of you that haven’t had a chance to visit it yet, it is perched high above West LA on a hill, right off of the 405 Freeway, and it houses a fabulous, first rate art collection ranging from antiquity to a few early 20th century pieces, all of which are displayed in a beautiful modern white marble collection of buildings. The views alone are worth a trip.

I’ve always loved visiting the Getty, especially when I was in college. Even before I switched my major from Creative Writing to Art History, I would make the drive from Malibu to the museum at least once a month to bask in the treasures that it holds and to revel in the views of the LA basin, which stretch from downtown all the way to the ocean on a clear day. And the best part was and still is that admission is to the center’s permanent collection is FREE.

This trip, the museum again didn’t disappoint. It has been years it seems since I last visited the Getty, and I always forget how amazing the art and experience of it is when I spend time away. We wandered around the galleries and had ourselves a grand time, and it occurred to me how inspired I was feeling to go home and write.

I tried to think of what it was about visiting art museums that I’ve always loved. I’ve decided that reveling in the incredible works of art that men and women have created over centuries past has the power to spark the desire in us, as writers and as creators in general, to work tirelessly towards our own creations and contributions to the world. Seeing the great work that others have accomplished reminds me of the vast creative ability of man, something that is easy to forget in our world that is being devastated by those seeking to destruct and harm.

It made me want to go home and start writing immediately and see my own creative vision be manifested on the page!

I think I’m going to make it a habit to visit art museums more often – I’m a big fan of LACMA and the Norton-Simon Museum in Pasadena, and it is definitely time I paid both of those spots a visit.



NYC Midnight Contest, Round 2: Done and Done

Well, I can cross a few things off my personal to-do list:

1. Finish a short story in record time while juggling it with a strenuous shoot schedule.

2. Actually leave a casino with more money than I went in with.

3. Write a blog post while drunk.

As I’m sure you noticed in my last post, the night following 4 shoot days (14 hours of work each), I went out to a casino with some co-workers and drank a bit too much. Usually, when I hit a casino, I leave after a couple of hours because I’ve lost money. Well, the reason I stayed sitting at the same blackjack table for 6 hours was because I WON. Like, a lot. So I stayed, and kept drinking. I can’t say I regret it (my wallet certainly doesn’t) but I do wish I had gotten a better night’s sleep so that I could be focused and ready to finish my story yesterday before my flight back to LA.

But, yesterday I managed to wake up, a little later than anticipated but still with enough time to work on my my story. I had a really crappy rough draft that I had thrown together the nights before, and I had some time to shorten it (it was WAY long) and refine it (it was WAY rough).

I do wish the second round had fallen at a better time for me, but you know what? Opportunities come up in life, and they usually don’t take your own schedule into account. You have to just take them as they come and give it your best shot. I submitted a story that I don’t feel entirely confident about, but I did the best with the time I was given, give or take a few drinks at the casino. And while I was maybe less focused yesterday than I could have been if I’d not stayed up all night gambling, I do feel quite excited about the new shoes I ordered with my winnings.

Cheers to that.

Where The Hell I’ve Been

It has been some time since my last post, which was pretty much expected on my end as this is the busiest time of the year for me. From January to April, I do a lot of traveling for work, which I really love but admittedly doesn’t leave much time for writing! I find what little time I do have to write, I spend it working on my novel. It isn’t a lot of time though, but 15 minutes here and there do add up over a few months.

I had the pleasure of traveling to San Francisco twice in the last month, a city that I hadn’t been to since I was about 16. I’d either not noticed it before or had forgotten it over time but I absolutely love San Francisco! It has more character than any other city in America, in my opinion. Every city street you walk down (or up!) is unmistakably San Franciscan. The architecture is so unique to the city and the neighborhoods are so distinct that I can’t help but think that if America was a novel and it’s cities the characters, San Francisco would be the most distinct, well-written and three-dimensional one in the entire book.

On my first trip there, I spent my free half day riding a rented bike from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate bridge and back, and even though it rained for most of the day, it was a beautiful and memorable ride. And when I returned a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend a day leading a b-roll crew around the city to film the most iconic landmarks on an unseasonably sunny day in February. It was a perfect day that culminated in watching the sun set over the city from Twin Peaks overlook.

I am about halfway done with my work travel, at least for this part of the year, and I feel a renewed sense of excitement to get back into writing more and spending more time contributing to this blog. Usually a few months of heavy travel and heavy drinking leaves me with a fresh, new outlook on my writing, even if it is accompanied by a weakened liver and a consistent feeling of jet lag that takes weeks to disappear.

See you all soon!


Books On Writing – What To Read Next?

My designated shelf for books on writing – everything is there except the Writer’s Market guides which are too big and have to go on a different shelf!

Is there such a thing as having too many books on the subject of writing?

For me, the answer is no, but only as long as you don’t spend all your time reading them and no time putting in to practice what they teach.That is definitely something that, up until now, I’ve been guilty of.

I was looking through the titles on my special writing shelf today and was trying to decide which book to dive in to next. I’m trying to pick one that will keep me motivated, both to keep writing for this blog and also to work on my novel-in-progress. Typically, I concurrently read a writing book while also reading another fiction (and sometimes non-fiction) title. That way I can just grab whichever book I’m in the mood for at the moment.

The books on my shelf range from old college textbooks to old favorites to reference books to several titles that were gifts that I haven’t read yet. Here is a list of what I have by author:

Any recommendations from this list on which book to grab first? Or any big ones I’m missing that I shouldn’t be without in my writing book library?

The Courage To Start

Today, I made history. For myself at least. Today, I started writing my novel.

I sat down, opened up a new word document, and strung together a scene. I didn’t open up my chapter breakdown grid. I didn’t start trudging away on another lengthy character profile. I didn’t even get on facebook to update my facebook status. I just started with one line of dialogue, followed by a bit of exposition, and then some more dialogue, and then a character description and a short action sequence. The next thing I knew, I had a full page of a first draft completed. And then I had three.

This is a personal victory that I cannot begin to exaggerate.

I tend to be a bit of an over-planner. Actually, I’m a violent over-planner, who usually ends up getting tired of a great idea after planning it for so long that I no longer want to execute it. But not today.

Today I was a doer. I was able to actually accomplish something, even if it was mere 1,600 words.

I was spurred on by chapter I read today in the book Pen On Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett about the process of rewriting. She says that “You can learn to appreciate revision, especially if you frame it like this: At least you have pages that need revising, a major accomplishment in itself.”

It then occurred to me how silly it was that, even though I’ve been “working” on my novel idea for several months now, creating chapter outlines and writing character histories and maps and timelines and whatnot, I hadn’t actually written anything.

I’d been held back by fear that it wouldn’t be great, that I’d never do my great idea justice. DeMarco-Barrett says that “fledgling writers mistakenly learn that coming up with great ideas is the most important thing, not rewriting. They also believe they should be able to say exactly what they mean the first time out of the gate. Nothing else in life is like this. Who prepares a fabulous meal the first time they cook? Or plays a piano concerto at will?”

She’s right, dammit. I need to get a first draft out there and then beat the crap out of it before it will start looking like I want it to. How ridiculous of me to sit there planning it for months and months, when the only way I’ll get to really know my characters is by writing them, and then rewriting them. The only way I’ll get to that amazing plot is to write a really shitty one first, with a lot of holes and a bunch of poorly written, one-dimensional characters.

Let’s do this. I’m diving in.

Writing On A Plane Really Sucks

What an inspiring setting to write in, yeah?

If I had to rank the absolute worst places in the world to write, I think I would put sitting cramped in economy class on a 5 hour flight near the top of the list, next to the moldy cabinet underneath my kitchen sink and the trunk of a speeding car being driven by a drunk Mel Gibson with Lindsay Lohan navigating.

It isn’t that I’m complaining – I mean, I am, after all, on a flight to Hawaii from LAX for a 5 day vacation with my best friend who lives on O’ahu – but honestly, I face enough distractions from my writing already without having to listen to the sounds of multiple children crying or shoving off the vile man sitting next to me who keeps leaning closer and closer to me as he snores.

For one thing, I hate the idea of people seeing my screen as I write. Or seeing me do anything for that matter. I don’t like knowing that prying eyes could be watching me check my facebook and email, and I always have this bizarre fear that for some reason, my computer will go haywire and suddenly start a slideshow of the embarrassing pictures in my iPhoto library, starting with the ones from college of me drunkenly peeing on my school’s prayer tower.

I also can’t stand the cramped space that makes you contort your body in ways you didn’t know possible in a futile effort to get comfortable. I keep sighing loudly every time I decide the new position I’ve found isn’t helping me get anymore comfortable. Maybe if I put one foot up on top of the seat in front of me? No, I’m not that flexible. Really, all I want to do is punch the guy behind me that lucked out and got the entire row to himself and is now sprawled out with a smug grin on his douchey face.

I travel a lot, for work and for fun, but I’ve never had a lot of success writing on planes because of the environment and the sheer anxiety and frustration that air travel invokes in everyone. But, here I am, plunking away at my keyboard, fighting the elements and battling to put words together into sentences. Does anyone have any tips to make this easier? Maybe I should try sitting cross legged and face the window?

A week in Hawaii will definitely offer ample material to write about. Whether or not I actually write about it is a different matter altogether, but at least I’m starting off on the right foot by attempting to get some words out here in seat 26A. I better finish this up before the guy next to me wakes up and sees that I called him ‘vile’.