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!

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!

in awe

I am in absolute awe of my colleague writers. They have been performing at local open mics, and frankly it’s been inspiring me to do it too. I don’t really do public readings, but I suppose there’s a first for everything. Wish me luck Blog Land.

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.

 

Deadlines

I am trying to be better about deadlines. Tomorrow night, the pre-final draft of my play is due. I think I may also submit a couple of more pieces just to throw it in the mix. Writing original comedy is a scary new thing for me. Earlier in the summer I did an episode of “Bob’s Burgers” for a fellowship application which fell through. But I am going to try at it again. Hopefully all the various writing classes and stage productions will aid my technique and strengthen my style/voice.

Once I have a collection of work under my belt, I have to find someone to support me – a manage or agent, I dunno. I wonder if I should also try ghost writing? Though, I’ve heard horror stories about that.

Coffee won’t let me sleep for another 2 hours. I suppose the best I can do now is get to it. Time to polish.

To be or not to be

Well, writing has been intense these past few weeks. People are reading my work, new ideas are being developed, and most importantly I’ve been hearing the writing via actors which has been substantially helpful and great. Sometimes I sit alone in my little office, or at a cafe and I stop and think…how long can I go on believing that I am going to be a writer? It’s a tough position to be in. Writing and hoping that some one out there will recognize you for the weirdo that you are and give you a platform to express yourself in. And then there’s this other part of me that is already proud of the platforms I have been able to be part of with my writing and dancing and acting. It’s a struggle, you know? – To accept and sink my teeth into what it means to be an artist and specially a writer. I hope that this work will lead me to something meaningful and life changing. I have visions of opening little libraries in poor parts of my home country. I wonder if I’ll ever get there. I wonder if people (by then) will lose touch with the feel of paper between the fingers. I hope not. I will continue to write and share, and hopefully get myself in a big enough platform to cause some ruckus and change some minds. Until then…a venting I will go.

 

 

The More

I am starting to realize that in writing simple is best. I am working towards diminishing the “floreado” (as we called it back in Lima, circa 1980s-1990s) in my work. But it’s hard, you know? In a young writers mind, we want everything to sound pretty sometimes…or at least eloquent. Well, first let me explain what it means to “florear.” In a simple explanation – to “florear” means to add flowers to your writing, or your message, or your declaration of love to a 15 year-old girlfriend outside of a wooden garage door when you know absolutely well (Jose Luis) it might be best to say WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY ALREADY!  But such is life, that we get lost in the flowers.

In other words, for most writers I know, we think that making things sound nice will hide the fact that maybe (a) we don’t know what we’re talking about and/or (b) we’re still trying to get our life together. Hehe. Just kidding fellow writers! The truth is, writing is freaking scary. And I’ve realized that what has helped me not go crazy when I am putting things down on a page is to keep it simple.

To illustrate this further, let me give you two examples: 

Example 1:

  1. Complicated: George’s eyes swell with the watery memories of his past – regrets, loss, and unspoken truths. He reaches for Lisa’s hand and manages to whimper out his feelings “I can’t stand to be with you another day.” Having wasted the better days of her twenties with a coward, Lisa closes her eyes in agony.
  2. Simple: George tells Lisa the truth, he doesn’t love her anymore. She releases his hands, smiles, and walks away never looking back again.

In the complicated version we see a cowering George and a pretty pathetic Lisa. But in the simple version – Lisa has a bit more of redemption near the end. It’s cleaner and just as revealing. In fact, it seems to have more of an impact. It can also be shortened.

Example 2:

  1. Complicated: Laura spills her Chai Tea Latte on her new Macintosh Apple computer (the new silver kind that’s flat and hipster cool). She sees her reflection on the sugary brown surface and finds it comical. A sensation bubbles within her core and she releases a flutter of positive vibes out of her mouth. The cafe is filled with echoes of pleasure. The barista turns around quick, as he wipes down a glass. The laugh is intoxicating and he just has to join in.
  2. Simple: Laura spills her coffee on her laptop. She laughs hysterically, and the barista joins her with a chuckle.

Ugh! Keep it simple. Unless you’re writing a farce – in which case THE MORE ridiculous you can be – THE BETTER.

Writing it down raw

It’s strange, but the more writing classes I take…the more confused I get about the act and structure of writing. It seems that the science has taken over my style…and voice. How do I get my rawness back after grinding the laws into my head? I feel like before – I knew how to naturally make something exciting — or at least I wasn’t too afraid to try it. Where as now… I find myself doubting everything and asking questions about Act 1, 2…and Climax and Resolution and blah blah blah. And it distracts me from the original story. The raw feeling of just writing is dimming and I need to get it back. Any tips out there? Any exercises to help?

I think I have to go back to the drawing board and remember what a mentor told me once. He said, “Write it down first and think about the science later.” The formulation of style and all that jazz can come later. Get the story down on paper first! Get it on the page. He always reminds me that research can come later. It’s difficult because I want to make sense all the time. But sometimes, nonsense is the way to go.

Sigh.

Laws. Sometimes, they get in the way n’est pas?

Going Mad in a CAFÉ

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I’m in a café trying to edit some footage. I had to come out of my little hole in the wall apartment. Going a little crazy being indoors nowadays. My sassy Ecuadorian friend came out with me because she has a French exam this coming Friday. We are both nervous about our deadlines. She’s working away  at her French book, thinking about getting back with her lover in Paris. She dreams about romance, La Seine,  red wine, and the reunion with her studies abroad. She dreams of biology — scrapping out rat brains to find out the effects of epilepsy through certain medications…I may be embellashing what she does, but it’s definitely not what I do. I write, or at least I used to.

Having a dilemma here Blog Land. Having an internal depression about my writing.

I got a letter of rejection from a fellowship I applied to. I was sad, but also glad because great things are happening for me with video work. But now I’m on this fork in the road. Writing? Videography? What’s happening? WHO AM I? WHY IS LIFE SO COMPLICATED? OMERGARSH I’M ALMOST 30!!! You know, the usual internal freak outs people tend to have when drinking coffee in a public place—or laying down on their bed at 3:41pm in the afternoon. The kind of freak out that makes your left eye twitch, yeah, I’m there right now.

I’m working on a few promotional videos. One about dancers, and the other about of engineers, mathematicians, and animators.  Why am I sharing this information? Because I am not writing, I mean…aside from this I suppose.

Blog Land, something is happening to my dream of writing. It’s evolving but in a visual way. I am making stories with video, telling tales with imagery, making gestural and analytical conversations with subjects. I like to call this work video prose…I think I just made that up, but after studying at Berkeley I might have not. Almost everything under the sun has been written about!

I suppose I feel as if I am expanding my writing into video work. It’s great. It’s also extremely frustrating because I haven’t written a lick in a while. But C’est la vie! as my sassy Ecuadorian friend tells me in her South-American Californian accent.

We have to make the best of what we have, I suppose. And right now, I have a lot of work. I have to be grateful for that at least. Right? Right.

So here I am eating a Chicken Caesar Salad, venting online, and seeing my pal on the other end of the vigorously studying for love, for science, for her life after summer. She rubs her eyes in frustration and I pretend to listen to music while I type type type.

I share nothing significant, and therefore this is a vent! A writer’s venting session!