Preparation and effort–Ideas as tools.

“Creativity is not a gift from the Gods bestowed by some divine and mystical spark.
It is the product of preparation and effort and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.”
Twyla Tharp.

I love this quote

and I believe it–

I am perhaps a little more of the mind that magic is involved–

But I agree the magic part is only there–

when the preparation and effort is in place.

Ask any magician. They will agree.

And as far as the part about Gods bestowing divine and mystical sparks-

well I think that is the business of the Gods–

and our business as artists is:

the rigorous preparation and effort.

So I am with Twyla and I am encouraged by what she says,

But Twyla is a dancer–

so the daily discipline is clear–

but for a writer?

What is the preparation?

A dancer prepares every day by standing at the barre.

Maybe for writers it’s standing at the bar?

Just kidding. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

I do believe writers could learn from dancers in how they practice–

and how they understand the various functions of practice

or in other words what they are doing and why.

The warm-up to a dancer, is very specific and done in a particular

order to achieve desired results.

When writers sit down to work is there a preparation?

Something that focuses the mind and tunes up the imagination?

Is there a preparation for writers that readies us for the work

by opening and releasing the imagination

in a specific order?

Something that builds the muscles of our craft?

Something that strengthens our ability to

imagine and create intrigue, pathos, emotional truth?

I write this blog as a warm up to my daily writing session.

It’s my preparation

But it is a bit haphazard.

Whatever pops into my mind is what

ends up here.

What if I were to think like a dancer and focus on a particular creative

technique or tool.

For example I know that I need to raise the stakes for my character.

Raising the stakes is an expression used by actors and directors and screen writers.

It is an idea that works like a tool. It’s an idea with a purpose.

Here is an example:

An actor is playing a scene as if his character knows he will get what he wants from another character.

He is cocky self assure oozing with charisma but–the scene is boring.
The director might tell the actor to raise the stakes for himself in the scene.

He needs the actor to think about what it would cost the character–if he didn’t get

what he wants. This idea–this tool- could get the actor to think of the negative outcomes

–the losses–the pain that he would experience if he didn’t get the other character

to agree to the plan.

Suddenly the actor can see another way to play the scene.

Now he can use the tool of raising the stakes to layer in a whole level of anxiety

underneath his words. The actor himself is affected now–

He has an inner life to his character now.

His character has terror to contend with–

and this inner life makes the once boring scene, now, riveting.

See what I mean by an idea that is a tool?

You use the idea. You apply the idea.

Not all ideas about writing are like tools.

In my case I know I need to raise the stakes for

one of my characters.

I have to make him really scared to lose anything more.

So far he has been ok with having nothing to lose–

and that’s the problem.

He’s never in any jeopardy.

He’s always pretty much ok.

Nobody worries about this guy.

I chose to have him be this way but now–

I need to force the issue that is facing him.

I have to make the audience see what he is up against–

I have to make them care.

I have to make him face himself and do what a hero does.

He has to come up against something that all his easy going acceptance

and street wise spiritual enlightenment can not fend off.

I have to find the modern day monster that will devour him unless he kills the monster.

–ok so how could I prepare for pushing him over the edge and into the monster’s lair?

Maybe I just did. Maybe defining the tool and thinking about why I have to use it

actually opened my mind a little–stretched my imagination nicely–

and hey– I do want to get to work now.

I am excited. Gotta push that guy into the fire and scare him–

I just realized, I been to0 easy on him.

I liked him too much.

I still like him–and I will save him–

but not til he faces the monster.

One response to “Preparation and effort–Ideas as tools.”

  1. This is like a mini “how to” class on upping the stakes. I love the way your mind works. It may seem like meanderings but one always ends up with such an intriguing sense of the ‘ravels of your brain. Wonderful. Yes, yes to pushing that guy, but also that he is comfortable in himself is interesting in itself. Maybe his _____ is a secret and we only get it at the end? Or maybe he is just evolved. Does anyone get there before the end?


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