I’m in La La Land–Why the Movie Appeals to Creatives

Apr 25, 2017 by

I’m in La La Land–Why the Movie Appeals to Creatives

Friends and family think I am in La La Land. Perhaps I am.

Today, April 25, 2017,is La La Land Day in Los Angeles in coordination with the DVD release of the movie. When released on iTunes two weeks ago I was skeptical as I started the opening number, Another Day of Sun. But that ended fast. 

I enjoy this film though it tears me up inside to watch.

As a creative who is something like Sebastian, “shanghaied” in the past, “letting life do a classic rope a dope,” I understand the emotions Mia and Seb personify in this film.

Here’s to the ones who dream. Foolish, as they may seem, here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make.

Boy, do I understand those words. How many times have friends and family suggested a “real job,” in lieu of pursuing the gift God put in me?

I’ve lost count. My life isn’t about the material riches many seek. I once enjoyed the lure of a fancy job title, the fancy car, the big house, and though the money doesn’t go as far these days, I don’t need it to either. Could life be better? Certainly, but my writing is important to me.

I recognize daily my time left diminishes each day. The past year of pain and surgeries caused by an ass-hat then-unlicensed chiropractor in Mesquite, Texas reminds me of such.

And then there’s the love story between Mia (Emma Stone) and Seb (Ryan Gosling). I’ve been fortunate to know the up and downs of true love. Seeing these two go through that process in song, dance, acting and inference provided me an emotional rollercoaster when I’m reeling from the most special person in my life walking out when I could barely walk at all.

Somehow I started playing Ringo Starr singing Photograph yesterday and after four months and six days, I found the nerves in my heart still as raw as the ones damaged in my legs by the medical profession.

God moves people in and out of our lives, I get that. But the God I believe in doesn’t call on us to do to others as has been done to me. Another dishonest shanghai if you ask me.

Everything You’ve Got

I’ve taped copies of “Everything You’ve Got” around where I am reminded that pursuing my dream as a writer is my greatest goal.

I understand, however, the path that Seb and Mia take in the movie. Each has a dream they’re pursuing with everything they’ve got. Around my apartment–on my computer keyboards, mirror, fridge, light fixtures, etc.–are little notes to myself from Seb–“When you get this, you’re going to give it ‘everything you’ve got.’

So while the ending of the movie rips my emotions to new levels of pain, there is poignancy and elegance woven into the fabric of this movie that’s hard to personify in the English language–so in this case, it’s best that it’s done in film and music.

My mom and eldest daughter don’t like the movie at all. My twin daughters will buy their own DVD of it today.

It’s probably not a movie for everyone. After all, there’s a reason why Hollywood doesn’t make musicals targeted for adults these days. But it’s just that dreamy magic and hope–God don’t we all need a little of that to ease our daily pains–that makes La La Land all that more special.

I’m revising my second of three drafted novels. My goal is to submit it to the SMU Writer’s Path program in August. They’re taking up to 13 of us in the program to NYC in November to meet with agents and publishers representing the Big Five. Whether I am selected or not, I’m giving this everything I’ve got. This is my dream and without one, well, what’s the point of living like that?

Mia and Seb don’t think so either.

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Go Set A Watchman

Jul 16, 2015 by

At 12:30 p.m. last night, I finished reading Harper Lee‘s Go Set A Watchman. It’s 277 pages and I bought the book Tuesday morning at 9:15 a.m.

There was a period of time Tuesday when I thought about how I wanted to Go Set It Aside, but the story compelled me to keep going.

At one point Tuesday I thought it should have been titled, “Besmirching the character of a character.”

But I endeavored on.

Editing

HarperCollins, the publishing company, did a poor job of editing this book. There is just no other way to put it. From misspelling Judgment Day by adding an extra letter E on Page 65, to the absolutely ridiculous changes from first to second to third person interchangeably, worst on Page 120, to beginning the second paragraph on Page 170 with a lower-cased letter L, I do not for the life of my understand how these things would have made it past a half-dozen red pens at the publishing house. Italics would have been nice when we jumped into Scout’s head in first person from the previous sentence being in third. Or in second (think of listening to the world’s worst quarterback Tony Romo trying to talk sense … you, you, when you…) GSAW Pic

A friend of mine says there’s no way Harper Lee would have penned the sentence atop Page 24 where Scout is studying her beau Henry and says to herself, “I never tire of watching him move, she thought.” No, said my friend, “That’s a line out of Thelma and Louise, but the only way to know if Harper Lee wrote that would be to go visit her in the nursing home and ask. It’s clear she wasn’t involved in editing this book.”

Which leads me to the theory that that is what happened. Harper Lee wasn’t involved in editing this book. Maybe I’ve just not dug deep enough online, but it appears  they took this unfinished work of Harper Lee’s and published it like an archaeologist would leave a find in situ–undisturbed, as they found it….

One of my most valued writing mentors told me she was going to pass on Go Set A Watchman and not read it in order to not damage her perspective of Atticus Finch and “Keep my childhood intact.”

Another writing colleague has said she will juxtapose Go Set A Watchman with To Kill A Mockingbird and use them as examples of GREAT writing and not as much.

Worth Reading

Go Set A Watchman is worth reading. In many ways the scenario penned in this story is still being dealt with today and applied to more issues than just relations between white and black foke. Maybe that’s what some of the foke who are reading it are getting upset about. It’s been a bitter summer in 2015 for many across the land and in many of the same ways, the liberal Yankee media they complain about in the book and the Supreme Court still don’t have a clue as to the mindset of most Southerners and probably never will. What happens because of that eventually is going to get far uglier than what we have seen already. For every action there’s a reaction and the pressure cooker’s steam seems to be rising.

A Writer’s Declaration

After reading Go Set A Watchman, I now declare that if after I have died or have been struck down by a debilitating stroke and my daughters, loved one, or my agent or someone else goes through my drawers of umpteen notecards, notebooks of drafted manuscripts yet unpublished, or finds files on my computers they think the world should be privy to, they CANNOT release them unless they have been well-edited. And by that I mean no style errors, no head-hopping, no changing tenses on one page without logical breaks in between. No, nothing that would make people be as frustrated as I was Tuesday afternoon trying to figure out what in the Hell Harper Lee was trying to share with us in her book. Got it?

 

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Good Friday, Better Me.

Apr 3, 2015 by

Good Friday, Better Me.

In most cases it’d be a cliché to say, “I’m changing,” but in this case, I feel it’s dramatic enough to not be.

It was five years ago last month that my second marriage came crashing to an end. The details, many still like fresh wounds under a band-aide that can be yanked off exposing…you get the picture, but in the past year, I’ve learned a lot about myself I didn’t know or either had suppressed or worse, stopped believing.

Since July, I’ve been a student in the Southern Methodist University Writer’s Path program. I’m on the novel track. It’s like being in a master’s program, but it’s continuing education. There’s no degree at the end. Instead, there’s a high prospect of having a well-structured and polished manuscript ready to submit and plenty of feedback gained from people who have published novels. At the end of the program, there’s the opportunity to submit the work to a blind-committee who can pick up to 13 people to go to New York City and meet with potential agents and publishers. It is the only program like it in the world.

That’s a great outer goal for me. I’d love to be selected one day. But even better, there are more important things happening to me on the inside because of this process.

The Hero’s Journey

I didn’t know consciously about the Hero’s Journey before I decided in March of 2013 to write a book, but the more I was exposed to it, the clearer I see it. A few weeks ago, I told someone it was like having once seen the arrow in the FedEx logo–once you know its there, you can’t “unsee” it.

Time has proven there are 12 phases any character in a reputable work of writing, either film or print, must endure for a story to feel complete. They are: Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Tests Allies and Enemies, Approaching the Innermost Cave, the Supreme Ordeal, the Reward, the Road Back, the Resurrection and then the Return with the Elixir. I will not go into the aspects of each of the phases, but I will say this: Writing about them and exploring them with my characters has caused ME to go through my own hero’s journey.

There’s a fun movie called Ruby Sparks about an author who writes the perfect girl and then she becomes real and ultimately helps him realize how he has to change his view of the world and relationships with the people in it. But Calvin Winfield isn’t just writing a second novel to be writing a second novel, he’s writing because his counselor thought it would be helpful for him to do so.

The leader of the SMU program, Suzanne Frank, (If you follow the link you’ll find her works on Amazon) often says in a writer’s first work, they’re exposing their innermost thoughts so much, “It’s pretty much full frontal nudity” of the psyche. Irene Adler, “The Woman” on Sherlock also said it well, “D’you know the big problem with a disguise, Mr. Holmes? However hard you try, it’s always a self-portrait.” In other words, for young/most writers, the more we try to disguise, the more it becomes a self-replica.

There are things that are in my writing that are truly reflections of me inside, though part of me still denies that. It is important for me to note that studying the process of change a character must undergo in their story has helped me come to understand the changes I need to make in my OWN life. There are major points in any story where a hero will announce or be told what he/she needs to address in their life in order to move on or to be the only one who could bring the end of the story to its ultimate outcome.

This is true for me in my life, as much as it is for any character you’ve seen on screen, but just as well, it’s true for you, my reader as well.

Good Friday

It’s Good Friday 2015 today. In Heroic Chapters Wednesday night, Author and SMU Scientist Keith Goodnight (you may also follow the link to his work on Amazon) was describing what has affected one of the lead characters of a person in my writing group. He said it sounded like the hero had suffered such a massive, horrific Supreme Ordeal, that he just got stuck there until years later, something came along that rekindled a spark inside him to move on to seeking a reward, taking the road back, finding/proving his resurrection and ultimately, returning with the elixir of a better world than when he started the story.

I took several significant Supreme Ordeal type corrective steps earlier this week. Keith’s words, spoken to someone else, nonetheless were affirming. Not shamefully or with any sense of anything else negative, I knew he was right. I understood what he was saying.

I don’t know what life holds in the days, months and years to come. No one does. I’ve written about 53,000 words of what I project to be a 97,400-word work and I still have much to learn about me, my characters and life. But I’m on a positive path now. In many ways, I’ve killed off the person who I’d let others turn me into over the past few years. Now I’m trying to resurrect the old, stronger, younger one–the foremost student iconoclast, as I was labeled after leaving college by a history professor I never studied under–but as important, someone who is stronger than the guy at the beginning of this story, changed forever, better or for worse, to be the only one in the world who can face my challenges head on.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

I leave you with this video from Rachel Platten. Her song is called Nothing Ever Happens. It’s written for a woman, but guys face the same issues. I have. The chorus grabs me every time I listen:

And nothing ever happens if you stay in your room
Nothing ever happens if you leave the party too soon
You’ll never be a winner if you’re not in the game
And nothing ever happens if you always play it safe
Make a little space and get out of your own way.

The next step in your life is up to you. I finally realized it was me who was holding me back. Not the people who dumped crap all in my life. I let their misery, anger, hurt, shame and baloney stick to me like concrete and freeze me, hold me back, even though intellectually I knew I needed to move on. I had to do what Rachel says, make a little space and get out of my own way. I’m 53,000 words closer to having done just that…..

Grammatic Artist 

You may already have noticed, you’re on GrammaticArtist.com and not DaddyClaxton.com. I’m rebranding. Even on Twitter. A grammatic artist, is someone who uses words, pictures, sound and video to tell stories with purpose, just like a graphic artist would focus on just images.

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