Wof Blog (and other things)


I Did It In the Window – And I Loved It - By Mya Kagan

August 28, 2014
Playwright Mya Kagen
When I have a good writing day, it makes me feel like skipping. I type quickly, grin at the computer screen, and suppress the urge to shout my exciting ideas out the window at neighbors and feral cats.

But, no matter how much you love your creative endeavor, not every writing day is a good one. Even the most prolific or successful writers have days when their muse doesn’t visit. On days like that, writing can be lonely and thankless. It can feel like you’re writing into a void because the work – good or bad – is still so far from the point at which anyone will see, enjoy, or appreciate it.

Unless you’re writing in the window.

On a recent Sunday, I participated in Theaterspeak’s WRITE OUT FRONT, where playwrights spend two-hour timeslots writing in the storefront window at Drama Book Shop in midtown. A street-facing screen projects the writers’ computer display so passerby can see the work being done in real-time. As my boyfriend put it, it’s like being a zoo animal for artists. Except that I imagine being a zoo animal feels way less awesome than it felt to be a WOF playwright.

From the second I stepped into the WOF window, I became a rockstar. This transformation had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the concept – by simply putting the writing process in front of people and allowing the public to enjoy and participate in the process (versus being exposed to only the end-product), it was inherently impossible to feel like my work was something lonely or unappreciated. Here were total strangers – busy, jaded New Yorkers with places to be and things to do – who stopped to see what I was doing and check out my work. Sure, they only read the snippet of whatever happened to be on the screen at the time, but they were engaged. Instead of my writing being something I was doing alone, it became something I was doing with all of West 40th Street. It was like being a tiny celebrity.

The thrill of the experience was aided by the comfortableness of my surroundings. One of my concerns about WOF had been that the window would feel like a cold, strange, unfamiliar place to work. In fact, I felt like I was in a cozy, safe library that had been curated just for me. Micheline Auger, who created the program, had furnished the space with a nice desk, colorful chair, soft rug, wall of inspirational words and pictures from other playwrights, and even a bowl of free candy. What’s more, Amalia, who facilitated the afternoon for Theaterspeak, knew exactly how to make me feel like I was “at home.”

My time in this delightful space was refreshing and inspiring. In two hours at home, I probably would’ve paced around my apartment, eaten a spoonful of peanut butter, stopped twice to pee, and written three and a half pages. At WOF, I gave a tourist directions to another bookstore, was humorously mistaken for the shop’s checkout register, provided inquirers with all the information I had on street parking (none), gave advice to a woman walking by who was considering leaving her 9-5 job to pursue being a playwright, and wrote six pages. Six GOOD pages that were filled with the excitement of a fruitful writing day. The simple design of literally writing out front, which put emphasis and importance on the work I was doing, made it possible for me to not only double my productivity, but to feel valued for it.

I was sad for my time in the window to be over as soon as it was, but I left feeling renewed and excited about the pages I’d written. It had been a good writing day, and as I made my way down the block, I skipped just a little bit.


WRITE LIKE AN EAGLE, EDIT LIKE A MOUSE
September 24, 2013

I was talking to Steven Pressfield, author of the much-loved and 'if-you-haven't-read-it-what-are-you-waiting-for' War of Art and a gazillion other compelling books and screenplays, and he shared with me this tasty, tasty tidbit. "Write like an eagle, edit like a mouse."

 Back in the day, before he gave them away, Steve used to pull spirit-animal cards in the morning and they would be a sort of guide for the day. If he pulled the eagle card, he would ruminate on it, i.e. how does an eagle exist in the world? He soars over it.

Steven Pressfield, Author and All-Around Bad Ass
And who wouldn't want to have an eagle sort of day?
 
Don't diss me!
But say you pull the mouse card, instead? I, personally, would be tempted to throw it back in, and pull another, which is sort of like cheating. Sort of like playing Heads or Tails with your friend and you don't get what you want so you say '2 out of 3', then '3 out of 5,' and so on and so forth, until your friend walks away, shaking their head. You don't want to do that.

But back to the mouse. So you wake up and pull the mouse card and you're like, 'great, I'm gonna be scurrying around today trying not to get devoured by bigger, more awesome spirit-animal-people who pulled tigers, lions and panthers'.

A good editing day
But noooooo, dear Theaterspeaker! I am here to tell you, via Steven Pressfield, that mouse rocks too! As Steven said a moi, a mouse exists in the world by exploring everything up-close, which sometimes is oh-so-useful. Like when you're EDITING.  Mouse asks, "Is that the right word for what I'm trying to say? For the picture I'm trying to paint? Does that sentence really need to be there?" Mouse wants you to get your whiskers all up in those words!

BUT WHEN YOU WRITE, SOAR.

Writing is different. You want to soar over the page like an eagle. You want to feel the wind in your feathers. And if mouse shows up, you want to zoom down and eat that little bugger up!

"Get offa my first draft, field mouse! You don't belong here!"

 But say it like an eagle, so all the other field mice hear and run far, far away, and the people will look up and say with awe "Oh! Eagle!" And pages fly from your feathered fingertips, and myths are written about you, and people pull your card in the morning, and want to be you. Write like that.

"Gee, I've been at my desk for hours and all I've written is two sentences..."
Both mouse and eagle are important to the ecosystem of the creative mind, it's just knowing which animal you need to be or, rather, what animal your writing needs YOU to be.

And, because I pulled the More-is-Better card from the deck of All-Good-Things today, I've decided to ALSO share this from Steve's website which YOU MUST CHECK OUT! IT IS CHALK-FULL OF STUFF THAT WILL SET YOUR WRITING PANTS ON FIRE!
"I love it when my writing pants are on fire!"
 Such as:
 "I believe in previous lives and the Muse—and that books and music exist before they are written and that they are propelled into material being by their own imperative to be born, via the offices of those willing servants of discipline, imagination and inspiration, whom we call artists. My conception of the artist's role is a combination of reverence for the unknowable nature of "where it all comes from" and a no-nonsense, blue-collar demystification of the process by which this mystery is approached. In other words, a paradox."
-Steven Pressfield 
Now go write and so will I. 








This is the truth.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATT AND THIS THING HE READ
August 8, 2013

The last time I blogged it was after having a conversation with musician Matt Keating and I just got off the phone with him this evening and felt compelled to blog again so this blog may be becoming the Weekly Convo with Matt Keating Blog (with the possibility of guest stars). He inspires me and maybe he'll inspire you too or at least distract you from your cubicle/headspace/paradigm for a couple seconds.

THREE THINGS A DAY IS ALL IT TAKES
This is Matt Keating
He was talking about the things he wanted to do tomorrow and he mentioned four very cool actions he wanted to take - some were fun and some were, shall we say, slightly "character building". He had crafted a nice blend of both.

Then he asked me what things I wanted to do tomorrow and immediately a wave of anxiety enthusiasm rushed through my body as my list went from 0 to 100 in a couple of seconds (this has less to do with laundry or going to the movies and more about the vision you have for yourself and your life). This is where it got groovy (as in inspiring or as in his glasses to the right.)

Matt had read somewhere that doing just three things a day was often more productive than trying to do 10 or 20 things or just taking your list of 100 and trying to knock a chunk out every day. Apparently, more people were able to sustain 3 actions a day over a longer period of time than trying to face a big list and then spacing out on Facebook/email/refrigerator/Huffington Post/masturbation and whatnot. And then Matt and I - because we are math wizards realized that would be like 15 actions a week and like 80 a month (okay like 60) and then like a whole lot over the course of a year.*

This is a unicorn.
THE UNICORN IS YOURS
The other thing he read was that apparently it was more effective to check your email only two times a day rather than throughout the day. That, when you check your email throughout the day, you tend to think, "oh, I'll get back to that later" and then you don't and it piles up -  unless of course it's a really juicy email and you have to respond right away because if you don't you won't get that promotion/girl/guy/unicorn you've been vying for. The fact of the matter is that when people check their email once in the morning and once at night, people tend to respond to things more consistently and quickly. Yay people!

This is silly.
WHAT YOU'RE REALLY LOOKING FOR
And then - I don't know if it was Matt or what he read that said this, but the revelation as it was revealed to me via Keating was that when we're checking our emails throughout the day, what we are actually really looking for is the email that says, "YOU ARE AMAZING. HERE'S A MILLION DOLLARS AND A REALLY AWESOME BLOWJOB" or whatever version of that your ego prefers.

Sometimes, in everyday reality, that filters down to Twitter telling you you have a new follower, or Facebook telling you that you've been messaged or an email that says you've been selected as a semi-semi-semi-finalist to a ten-minute play competition in Nebraska. Peeps just need a little ego massage every once in awhile or every 6 seconds, which is apparently how many times Iphone users are compelled to look at their phones.

DO IT
Actually, I think that would be a great service to start. For a dollar a day, you will receive an email that says "YOU ARE AMAZING. HERE'S A MILLION DOLLARS AND A REALLY AWESOME BLOWJOB" and for an extra .50,  it can be handcrafted to suit your own particular quirk. Now that's an awesome idea. You should add that to one of your three things to do tomorrow (and then send it to me.)


*not to exploit the stereotype that artists are not good at mathamacation, here are the stats: 3 actions a day totals 1,095 actions a year. 100 actions a day totals probably not a whole hell of a lot of fun to hang out with maybe.

 THE POWER OF NO 

July 15, 2013

I had tea with musician Matt Keating last night and he was telling me about this idea of collecting No's. That artists are so often afraid of the word NO that they hold themselves back, so if you reframe the whole dealio as sort of a challenge like "I wonder how many no's I can get today,"  it might take the fear away and also be sort of fun.

Matt Keating
It's more disheartening when you're out there trying to collect YES's (unless yer one of the beyotches that gets yes's all the time and doesn't know what I'm talking about in which case jump off a cliff - kidding, I love you - or email me and write a blog about it and I'll put my big girl pants on and post it) What was I talking about?

Oh yeah, that when you're out there trying to collect YES's and inevitably you get NO's, it can kinda wear you down (unless you build that muscle - more about that in another blog about the YES Work-out which I just made up, but right now I'm focusing - positively, because I'm a positive person - on the NO Work-out.)
 
So today's challenge is to get as many No's as you can.


 When Matt and I were talking I was like 100! I'm gonna get a 100! He's like "cuz your an overachiever like me - I was going for 75." But the problem with "overachievers" (like perfectionists) is that they set the bar so high (it seems like vision but it's really a hallucination) that they never reach it and then stop because they feel defeated. So I'm amending my 100 to 5. FIVE high quality No's! (Don't diss me, tomorrow I might go for six.)

And  b to the w to the y, high-quality No's aren't asking a super beleaguered individual with five screaming kids on a crowded subway for a seat. It's also not asking someone if you can give your art away for free (cuz often they say yes) It's doing the thing you've been putting off because you're afraid of the NO. Go for it. Love the No. No is your friend because somewhere in those no's will be a yes. (And also, no doesn't mean no.- in this case - it means NOT YET.)


So go get a big ass No and then tell me about it and I (and the universe, because I'm from California) will give you the most amazing cosmic high five you have ever had. And more importantly you will be that much closer to where you are going. Which is amazing.

What No are you putting off? Do it. Do it now. You rock.

Micheline Auger is the editor and creator of Theaterspeak and is not afraid of No. Or Yes. 

2 comments:

  1. Great article.
    You ARE amazing!
    You WILL get a million dollars (but probably one at a time spread out over a lifetime).
    Here IS a really amazing...
    Okay, I'm gonna have to ponder that last one some.

    ReplyDelete