The dreaded rewrite

There is one thing I really dislike in theory. Cutting up my words and making things shorter than I had originally intended them to be. It gives me anxiety. And this is especially true with playwriting for me. However, when I sit in an auditorium and hear my words reflected back at me – I can hear and feel what needs to be changed immediately. I can sense the repetitiveness, and catch those words that are struggling to come out of an actors’ lips. They are unnatural when they stutter. Actors have a wonderful way of showing you through their actions a lot of the things you want to convey with “SAYING” or the written word, except the “DO IT” with their bodies. And sometimes, that subtle subtext is all you need. Thus, the dreaded rewrite has turned into something exquisitely gratifying for me. Especially when I get the chance to hear actors repeat my own words to me.

Here’s the thing folks, rewrites are essential. It is the reason why novels are published, movies are made, and open mics exist. Test your material, go to a live audience, read the story to a friend, and pick the sh*t out of it. Don’t hold onto things that will keep you down. What are the unnecessary items? Figure it out and cut-cut-cut them darlings. In the end, your voice will still be in there. Your message will pop. Maybe not in the originally way you intended it to…but it will be there.

So if you’re out there struggling with cutting down your work, just remember this: no two people write the same way. Even if you’re asked to change things up or “condensed” the work — it will still be you. Trust the process, listen to your writing out loud, and let it go. Because once it’s shared, and once it’s out there for the world to see — be it on a stage, on a movie screen, or even on a blog … once it’s out there, it’s no longer yours. It belongs to the collective ‘we the people.’ And you’ll have no control over what others may think of your writing, or you, for that matter. You can just hope that the message comes through.

So here’s an exercise for you:

  1. write something precious
  2. edit it to your liking
  3. give it to 3 people to read
  4. consider their opinions and notes
  5. cut cut cut to clarify and clean
  6. read it out loud to one more person
  7. cut cut cut again
  8. submit!

Here’s a cool place you can submit to: KPCC is looking for stories –

http://www.scpr.org/network/questions/YourStory

 

Tootles!

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You’re so f*cked up!

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Hello Blog-Landia! I have not written in a while. I am quite aware. However, I have been doing a lot of writing outside of this blog. Mainly for theater, which is a very happy circumstance. Why? Well, because I also happen to Act. So writing for the stage has been quite the fun adventure for me. Also, I’ve discovered that I write funny. Not throw yourself on the ground funny (though I hope to someday), but like — Oh what a clever joke! kinda funny.  I keep thinking about making a Shakespearean type of play one of these days, or a drama. But people usually laugh at my drama, so I think I’m meant to write funny. 🙂 My serious deep altercations end up sounding like a skit of Lucy and Ricky fighting over what to eat for breakfast. I try not to judge it.

Let’s go back a little, since I’ve been away for a while.

I don’t know about y’alls but 2016 was balls for me. Sure, I could look at all the wonderful positive things that happened — and don’t get me wrong, a lot of cool sh*t happened. BUT MAN!!! The good people of the earth got a cold hard reality check with Cheetoh in the oval office. Huh? I hope his presence there will someday bring laughter and confusion to the children of the future. How could they have let that happen? Dear God, was this a joke? Yes, kids. It was. And you know – let me just summarize the rest of my recent political trauma. Let me admit something: I have never had such a visceral experience in my life over politics, as I have had the last few months. I mean…it was bad. I think at one point during the month of November, I actually started sneezing hearing the term “President” thrown about so carelessly. But we survived the end of the year…and now it’s 2017.

Yeay!

Right?

As my young millennial friends would type: -__-

One can only hope for the best.

I mean, it’s that time of the year when you get to re-invent yourself. Talk about your past mistakes and vow that you’ll never do them again. And if January 1st didn’t do it for you, we just had the Chinese New Year a few days ago…so technically, there’s a second chance for you to be hopeful for the future. Me? I just downed some Pork Fried Rice and had a philosophical conversation with my father about why Gay Marriage is a right. He’s a Christian pastor, so the talk was a little rough. But since we have love for each other, we shook hands like two proper gentlemen and said our goodnights.

Anyways, I’m back folks. And to be quite real — there was a part of me that was like…should I just delete this blog? I don’t write in it, God knows who the heck reads it, and so forth and blah blah blah. Pero, like, it’s my fault. I should have been more proactive about that.

For now, I’ll share the following wonderful event that happened to me today:

I went to my very first group therapy session! I won’t say what the therapy was for, but man on man did I learn a lot about how dysfunctional the whole world is. And frankly, it made me feel better to know that there were a lot of us who had been triggered by this political circus. A lot of us who are…as Hollywood would say it,  f*cked up from the recent activities in our society. Yet, sharing and being real about what is happening in my life to a bunch of strangers was pretty awesome. And it was also very liberating to know I wasn’t the only screwed up person in the room. There are many of us. 😀

Anyway, I am trying to get rid of guilt that has me all discombobulated and what not. So I am here to say that I do not feel guilty for not writing on this blog. I do not feel guilty for growth and departure. Sometimes, we need to step away to regain ourselves. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, after all.

I have missed you, Reader. Whoever you are. I hope this bizarre entry brings you a little bit of joy, and a little bit of peace. And if someone ever tells you: You’re so f*cked up — Reader, just know that deep down that person is also hurting with their own traumas and such. Release yourself from the ties of whatever is holding you down, and just do you. As for me, I’ll be doing a whole lot of writing. My goal for 2017 is to submit a pilot to a studio and see where it takes me.

Because if it’s one thing I learned from therapy today, is that everyone suffers from something. Might as well try to make some people laugh while they’re in their journeys. I will keep practicing funny within the drama. This f*cked up person is the right lady for the job!

Little to know, much to now

The more I encounter and speak with published, or even successful television writers. The more I realize that it’s just a jungle out there. It’s a world where there are so many voices, so many individuals pulling and pushing each other to get their material read. I mean, it’s a frenzy out there. To say that being a writer is “competitive” is an understatement. Also, it’s not a word I would really use.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been speaking with scholars, doctors, television writers, screenwriters, playwrights … and I’ve noticed something in most of them. They are less concerned with fame. Which is a huge thing in our society. I mean, truly — we are bombarded with the idea of FAME. Back in my days, it might have been a back up dancer for Mariah Carey…now being the lead singer of a band, or a movie star…or…just someone everyone wants to know. I was not immune to this mentality. I grew up with a desire for fame as well, but I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t really know where this urgency came from. And most of the time, I think the idea of fame became more important than the work.

Now – that’s dangerous grounds, my friends.

Because most of the people I speak with LOVE to do what they do. They just can’t stop doing it. It’s in their DNA. I have to write, I have to tell this story, I have to collaborate, I have something to tell you. I have a piece of truth that you should know…I hope you read this, I hope it gets multimedia and danced or spoken on stage. I hope it changes someones mind about something (fill in the blank).

Most of my writing gets used in dance performance, or short films, or my novel which has been in the works for years now. Lately, I’ve been dabbling with playwriting. And it occurred to me, in the process of writing, and casting, and getting people to read your writing out loud — and seeing it come to life in various forms with different voices — that the most important thing about ART (in my point of view) …is connection.

I sat through a Screenwriting conversation at the LA Film School a few weeks ago and noticed something. In the eyes of most (if not all) of the writers who talked about their journey to an Oscar nomination was the knowing that this was not the end or the beginning of their journey. They were gracious about the nomination, but they were also excited to share their stories about being writers. But at some point in their lives all of them had seen despair, a moment when they wanted to quit, an obstacle that told them – NO. NO MORE. YOU HAVE TO STOP RIGHT HERE.

And they pushed through it. These writers had pushed on and on until the story that was meant to be told as clean or precise as they could get it was out of them. And then, the story belongs to the audience, the listener, the viewer.

I am learning, Blog Land, that even though it would be nice to get published and maybe even famous…it shouldn’t be the thriving source of creation. That will get you nowhere. The most important thing, in my eyes right now, is that you write it down. It’s that you tell it to as many people as you can. Because maybe, just maybe, the right person will hear it and you and your writing have the power to change or validate a life.

I am growing, and I’m changing the way I see myself as an artist. I thought about now writing, and it just doesn’t work. I end up doodling words onto a take-out box, or singing a silly song to a friend. It follows me. It makes me think and challenge my thought process. Writing, keeps me healthy. And sharing the writing – through dance, theater, or film…that’s just the best thing ever. And it’s because I am sharing and connecting with others…

I’m sure it’s happened to you. You pour your heart out into a poem, you might share it at an Open Mic and someone comes up to you and says … “me too, thank you.” Man, I sometimes wonder if an award would ever surpass that feeling of connection. So Blog Land – be present, be real, be you.

 

Webisode-Land

I am entering into a new art form (for me) called WEBISODES. I am a bit startled and intrigued by the idea of it. Thankfully, I have a hip new young friend who is going to serve as my co-writer, co-director collaborator person on this project. I am super excited to be part of this. I personally feel I work better with other folk, so it’s a bit exciting for me.

To prepare, I shared my webisode with a  writer friend, and she said … so yes, this script can be an entire season. Five minute clip webisodes? I suppose our attention span has gotten smaller and smaller. Here’s to mini short stories and Twitter, who have taught me the art of condensation and squeezing meaning into 500 words/140 characters or less.

I am not interested in your patriarchy

This year has been a very strange year of discovering what I like about writing, and what I do not like about writing. For example, I absolutely love to write in noisy spaces. Noisy spaces are where people gossip. It’s like watching fireworks in a San Fernando Valley back alley – spectacularly familiar and unpredictable.

I am finding it more difficult to write about things that I don’t relate to: like an A-typical family where the man is the head of the home, the mother is at stay at home mom, and the children fall into the 2.5 ratio. I mean, that just wasn’t my reality. I think it is no longer a lot of people’s realities. It doesn’t make me happy to write this, unless it’s to prove a point.

Lately, I have noticed that when I sit down to write – the stories that pour out of me are mostly about women struggles. Specifically women of color, and women with an immigrant background. This is because it reflects my reality and my personal journey. When I write about this, it comes out like a soft song. Sometimes it’s coherent, sometimes it’s just fragments – but I know that’s what it is. It’s me trying to grab onto my voice, my style, my inner power.

I feel as though a lot of women have been silenced and trapped into a corner of the house because of religious and traditional roles. These roles are still valued in our Latin@ communities. It’s history and realities engulf me when I am in family gatherings. I am constantly defending why I have yet to get married or have children. Being in a woman in your thirties, in a predominantly Latino family, is a task.

Once, my mother laughed at me when my boyfriend said I did “not cook enough” for him at home. He was trying to be funny, but he wasn’t trying to be funny. He and I were not jiving that day, and I believe his comment stemmed out of our earlier arguments. It was his jab to me that night. I may be wrong, but that’s what it felt like.

It was an awkward situation. My mother gets told to cook all the time by my younger brother and stepfather. She has felt those pressures and the judgement from other women in her family too. Her laughing at me, was both uncomfortable and sad. I was sad for the both of us because in that moment patriarchy took over our conversation and we didn’t challenge it, we bowed to it by succumbing to what it meant to cook for a man. Let’s talk about it: love, devotion, and etc. etc. etc.

Why should that have to be a factor? And why that task not placed upon the male figure as well? Is my value as a partner only as good as my cooking routine? And what of my mother? She escapes every now and then to go to school, to do some odd jobs. She does it to give herself a little bit of freedom from my stepfather’s paychecks. I know she also longs to detach herself from the stay at home mom role and value system, so why laugh at me? Why not say: “Well maybe it’s because you haven’t cooked for her in a while. When is the last time you showed how devoted you are to my daughter?” Was she laughing at herself too? Or maybe she was laughing at all Latinas as if saying: “Hey guess what? You’re in your thirties now. Pop them babies and put on that apron. Either way you look at it, that’s how your success is valued from here on out.” But women do this, we shoot ourselves down all the time.

I don’t like this. I don’t want to do this. I refuse this.

The more I focus on what women do in order to succeed in LIFE, the more I notice that these inequalities affect the way women relate to each other. In the process of comparing our sizes, what we cook for our man, how well we dress at events, when we should get married, and blah blah blah – I don’t think I’ve ever been taught to stop, look, and listen to other women. Why are we taught to mistrust each other?

This morning I spoke with a religious family member of male gender. In his eyes, I was not being Christian enough. In his point of view, my value as a woman of faith seems lost and therefore, I may not be able to contribute towards x, y, z. I will confess, that I may seem lost at times, but that’s besides the point. My relationship with my faith is none of his business. In fact, I was appalled by his need to break things down to me, as if I had not hear a sermon before. Being raised in a Christian church, I can tell you I remember the laws of the book. I may not be able to recite verbatim, but I know what Love is.

I realized, that Latinas like me, who are in their early thirties, who have chosen to not have a family, who are focusing on their education and careers – can be seen as failures or selfish. I will not blanket the entire American population (and when I say American I mean North and South, because guess what the South is also AMERICA). I know for a fact that progress is bettering the realities for a lot of people all over the world. This morning, however, I felt slightly mistreated. It felt like yet again, I was being confronted with patriarchy. Not the word of God, but Patriarchy.

I wonder how all these years the Christianity and similar faiths like it, have been used to give power to the son, the male, the one to inherit the land. It felt like, for a moment, I was being told that I am not enough for God. Again, I don’t know how that’s any of your business. My puzzling gaze towards his comments ended the conversation. I had no words. I just nodded, and felt as if once again I wasn’t doing enough to challenge this Patriarchy.

I grew up believing the following: (1) Man is made in the image of God, (2) women would not be here were it not for man giving us a rib, (3) women bit the apple, so it’s our fault there is suffering, (4) the pain of childbirth and our moon cycles are punishments for this betrayal. Is it for this reason, the man believes he can speak down to a woman? That men are raised to believe their word is final? I call BS. Whatever it is you think God is, God may not be that for me. I may be wrong about it all, but you also may be wrong about it all. Either way, I don’t believe that super power over the feminine figure (body, mind and spirit) was in Jesus’ mind when he died for us.

My voice and writing is becoming clearer. I am not interested in your patriarchy.

Note: I am discussing something that is more of a personal experience and relatable to me as a Latina Immigrant myself. I focus on a heterosexual relationship when writing about family roles. 

Honesty

I joined this writing workshop recently and was like – okay, this hasn’t happened since 2011. Like a real writer’s workshop with a circle of people reading your stuff out loud and giving you feedback. It’s been interesting. So last Tuesday I shared a piece I had revamped but written before. I prefaced everyone with it’s a dialogue practice and what not because I was really nervous. So anyway, the whole thing went fine and people laughed at the parts they are supposed to laugh. And that was fun and all but then something really awesome happened.

Our facilitator decided it was REAL TALK time and gave us a group exercise that went something like this.

Answer the following questions:

1. Write about your best writing experiences
2. Write about a time when writing made you feel like an Insider? Outsider?
3. What advice practice would you share with someone else?

Then after we all wrote down our answers, he made us go into groups of two and share these truths about ourselves.

Blog Land, I kid you not – we all were laughing, and getting emotional over stories from high school, elementary school, childhood. Someone talked about how her single dad couldn’t handle talking to her about her school dramas, so he made her write down her feelings on paper and promised her he would read the paper in a time when he could. He would read it and then go to her room and talk to her about it. It was the most amazing thing! We all had really wonderful stories like that to share. The person I spoke to is a first time writer, but she’s incredible hilarious and only found out she loved writing through a theater group. So okay, I hope you get how great it was to share our honest true stories about why we do what we do – EXPRESS OURSELVES ON PAPER.

Then we talked about these thing with the larger group. Our facilitator informed us that this exercise was so that we could find out more about ourselves, share knowledge, and write down these stories that are incredibly valuable for anyone who writes.

He said that we as writers need to know what we love about writing, and what we fear about it. It’s invaluable.

I just wanted to share this exercise with you. Maybe you could do it with a group of your writing friends, or at a workshop. I learned so much about why I may lack focus or drag my feet at times. We have small little traumas attached to these stories. It’s good to dig a little deep to get some real results.

And with that, I say BUENAS NOCHES!

Journaling Turkey-Paris

I managed to fit some writing into my Turkey travel. Most of the time I was talking to my cousin about our childhood traumas and helping her watch after her baby. I honestly felt like a straight up aunty while I was there. I was able to write, but it was mostly journaling about the dynamics between the men and women in Turkey. I have to say, most of the men I encountered in Turkey are remarkably handsome. Part of me wondered why? Part of me enjoyed the view.

Now I am in Paris, trying to get some work done but finding it hard to focus. Had a spiritual conversation with my friend today and it was very intense.

But do I have tons of writing material? Oh yes. Plenty. My journal is full of mini-stories and encounters I’ve had with people and or environments.

Here’s one of my favorite ones thus far:

I went into a garden store and asked a man if he could let me wander and take pictures. He said of course in his mannerisms – I walked in and found a lighthouse clothes hook and instantly fell in love with it. I asked him how much on a notepad, and he wrote down 30 L, then I wrote down 25 L? and gave him a goofy smile. He laughed and said “Okay!”

I am sure he overcharged me. I am sure it was a restaurant with lots of plants, and I just grabbed one of his ornaments to take home with me. But it was his graciousness that was absolutely wonderful to be around.

The lighthouse now will live in my luggage until I reach the states later this month.

I arrived in Paris yesterday, and wandered the streets with my friend. She got flirted on by some waiters as I stuffed a crêpe into my mouth. But overall, it was a magical night.

Now onto some plain working time. Then maybe tonight, some serious writing inspired by my journaling travel stories.

reporting from peru

I´ve been staying in Peru these past few days trying to figure when I can find a writing hole/escape in Lima, and so far Barranco seems the most fun. Why? There´s a cluster of all types there, thiefs, rich, tourists, weirdos, sex addicts, various generation, denominations, immigrants, artists, clowns, and finally damn good sea food. I found a hut on a hill, and I think maybe I will try and do some research online on how I can find me a two week getaway to focus on the novel next time I am down.

I don´t think one should wait to get invited to a retreat to start working hard. We must be proactive and Peru is pretty inexpensive.

It´s either Barranco or my grandmother´s house in Callao…but frankly, that place is full of nut jobs and I hardly have time to think.

We will see.

Returning to the states in two days. What a world!

The Wall of Shame

Well Blog Land, I am going to enter this writing competition for television, and I have on idea what’s going to happen, and it’s frightening, and I wish the aliens could send me a computable signal that could make this script any good, and I wish my dialogue could improve, and I hate this feeling of not knowing if I’m any good. Ugh, SUPER nervous. I keep thinking these studio writers receive all these specs and make two piles. A top ten pile and a bottom ten pile. The top ten get discussed in the holiest of spaces — the writers room…meanwhile the bottom ten get put in some sh*t pile where pages of the worst writing any of them have ever seen get selected and framed on the wall for all to see. The wall of shame.

It’s going to be a long night.

Delirious or “the night I lightened up”

I had the strange suspicion that my boyfriend’s friends thought I was a complete bore. I never go to their drinking reunions. If I go to one of their parties, I tend to stare at a picture on a wall, or stand aimlessly by the chips and salsa (which they store buy and not make from scratch, sigh), and normally when trying to find some dirt about me or my boo I tend to pretend I can’t hear what they are saying?

Why is this?

Blog Land, I’ve been traumatized. In my prior failed attempts to maintain a relationship I have found myself divulging too much information. Creating spectacles out of simplicity and thus complicating what little joy I have in life by … how should I put it, allowing too many chef’s in the kitchen. And so it comes with no surprise to my partner that I become anti-me at these social gatherings. I keep to myself. I keep my mouth shut (because I do tend to overshare about the following: farts, vaginas, and favorite pig out spots — in no particular order).

But something happened to me, Blog Land, something absolutely wonderful this past Saturday.

I was witnessing yet another cousin of mine celebrate his birthday, his sixth birthday when I realized that I had held him in my arms. That I was once as trusting and vulnerable and silly as he was. That between those doughy arms, there is in fact a large beating heart. He smiled over his birthday cake and I said to myself, MY GOD, he’s beautiful. 

So absolutely trusting that no one will push his head in the cake. Smiling and hugging his friends and thinking solely about the beautiful fluffy cake that will be joining the other  food in his belly.

That evening, as my partner and I drove to his friend’s party — I found myself feeling tired, out of it, and absolutely goofy. I was, as some of you may relate to this, delirious. This is a regular occurrence when I force myself to get up from a comfortable position. Also when I get up seconds before my body is ready to take a nap.

I stand at this bar, in what seems to be a self forming semi-circle, and listen in on my boyfriend’s friends talk about a guy named Vince. He was (is?) an absolute creepazoid thirty something year old man whom they all knew throughout their teens. He would play video games with them. Vince also, apparently, looks as if he hasn’t aged since they all last hung out (over a decade ago). He can be seen through the streets of their neighborhood wearing a backpack.

In a matter of seconds everyone in the semi circle had questions. Who was this guy, what did he say, were parents at all creeped out by him? Etc. etc. etc. Then we talked about furniture and homes, then babies and parents, then space travel, then track and martinis, then we tasted each other’s drinks and toasted to nothing while we avoided eye contact.

And I found myself having fun, Blog Land. I let go of this uptight –” I am not of your social status, so I cannot possibly have anything in common with you” mentality for the night and just let myself be who I am in front of these 30-something year old teenagers.

I let myself go, and opened up a door to many possibilities. The possibility to meet new people, to have access to some cool characters in a stories, and to shed some knowledge about my own love-friendship-love story about how and my partner really met.

I guess what I am trying to say is, it was nice to lighten up and to be delirious. My mind opened up to endless ways I could converse and find common ground with a group of people I would normally call uncommon in my circle of friends. The martini and beer helped a lot too, but really it was mostly the fun conversations.

Plus, now I can start finding more information about Vince.