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Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

Adversity

June 24th, 2010 No comments

You hear it all the time: ‘adversity builds character.’ And it’s true: place someone in a situation of ‘misfortune’ or ‘continued difficulty,’ as the dictionary defines adversity, and you’ll see some real character emerge. Perhaps not always the kind of character you were expecting… but that’s the nature of man – and the formative power of adversity. Diamonds are formed under pressure, as the old saying goes… but, then again, so are earthquakes.

But adversity can be inspirational. It can motivate someone to react, refine and adapt to deal with tough circumstances. For some, it brings writing inspiration, turning a negative into a positive – literally.

In my life and in my work, I have encountered adversity and I have dealt with others who have done the same. None of us are exempt from misfortune, but it shows a certain resolve to ‘turn that frown upside down’ or ‘make lemonade from life’s lemons.’ In terms of writing, the adversity characters experience in a story or screenplay is called conflict; it is the job of the writer to frame this conflict in a way that allows the reader to empathize with the character’s adversity – and hopefully resolve it in a way that satisfies the reader while ringing true for the character. As simple as that sounds, it really is difficult to construct (and conclude) a screenplay without running into some ‘writer’s adversity’ along the way…

As a story analyst and reader, I have dealt with a number of screenplays and manuscripts that were inspired by their authors’ own struggles with adversity, from substance abuse to physical disability, chronic illness or psychological problems. Each author wrote from the heart, and their sincerity was always evident. The quality of these works varied wildly, from novice screenwriters making simple mistakes with plot, story, or pacing to experienced, established authors whose tales evoked a level of poignancy rarely felt. And occasionally there were surprises, like the first-time writer who chronicled his often harrowing, always painful treatment for deadly Hepatitis-C; his manuscript made his ordeal come alive for the reader, turning a conventional medical tale into an affecting, scary and honest memoir.

We experience adversity in our lives in the same way that characters in a screenplay deal with conflict. It is how we respond to our adversity that is most important: if you see every challenge as an opportunity to learn, create and grow, then maybe some adversity isn’t all that bad!

Writing Inspiration

May 20th, 2010 1 comment

Inspiration for writing can come in many forms. As I’ve written here before, family reunions are great sources of material. In the same vein, so are college (or high school) reunions, where the contrast between ‘then’ and ‘now’ can be surprising. As a writer heading off to a college reunion, I’m looking for lots of inspiration – and plenty of good times…

Just a change of pace or a different location can offer writing inspiration. A day trip to a local landmark or even housesitting for a friend can recharge your batteries and offer subject matter and/or writing ideas.

At present I’m watching an old friend’s home while they’re are out of town – and I am always inspired when I visit, because the house is beautiful and imbued with a sense of Hollywood history. Our host was married for years to a late, well-known actor/director, and the house is still full of his presence. As I move from room to room, legends of Broadway and Hollywood peer at me from the walls, where photos, memorabilia and souvenirs hang in testimony to his life. It’s impressive, moving and tinged with sadness. And a complete source of inspiration to me. It doesn’t hurt that the house was left fully-stocked in anticipation of our stay… That’s simply Beverly Hills hospitality!

Speaking of ‘fully-stocked,’ a lot of other writers have found their inspiration from other means – specifically, alcohol. A quick scan through a list of notable writers and Nobel laureates yields numerous notable alcoholics, as I discovered some years ago while researching a book about the liquor industry. William Faulkner and Dylan Thomas were famously alcoholic, as was Dashiell Hammett; Nobel literature prize winners include the hard-drinking Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, among others.  And Edgar Allan Poe died drinking… like Dylan Thomas.

Still others follow DuPont’s slogan and look for “Better Living Through Chemistry.” This bunch includes the late gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson and the esteemed counter-culture figure William S. Burroughs, along with Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley and Philip K. Dick. It makes one wonder – were they inspired? Or merely altered? The quality of their writing says one thing, the originality of their ideas another.

As for me, I tend to draw inspiration from what is nearest and dearest. Relationships with loved ones and friends, interests I have fostered, and the best inspiration of all (at least for practical purposes): money. My wife’s grandfather, a prolific pulp-fiction author himself, had this to say about writing: “It’s a wonderful thing to be a writer. But to be paid to write? That’s a miracle.”

Miracle, indeed. Now go out there, get inspired… and create miracles!