Tuesday, June 6, 2017

On Killing Those "Darlings"

I'm working my way through Screenwriting for Neurotics by Scott Winfield Sublett, which has valuable information not only for screenwriters but for all writers. The chapters on plotting have been especially helpful, but he also says something truly wonderful about killing your "darlings."

Your darlings, they say, are those words or phrases or sentences (or paragraphs or entire scenes) that you've poured your heart and soul into and that you love more than life itself, despite the fact that they really don't add much to the story.  

Sublett says: 

“You might say, 

'What a pity that my inspiration should go to waste!' 

But saying that is misunderstanding the nature of inspiration: it’s not a scarce resource but rather a limitless river that flows through you. There’s plenty more inspiration in that river, so please waste it.

Building a table would produce sawdust and wood scraps

Would you glue them to the top of the table so that they don’t 'go to waste'?”

Isn't that a fantastic analogy?

No: you wouldn't build a table--carving and sanding--then heap the "unnecessary" back onto it, no matter how interesting or "beautiful" it seems. 

So go ahead. Tap into your limitless river, and don't be afraid to kill those darlings. There's plenty more inspiration where that came from. In fact, you are a well of inspiration, and the more you create the more creative you'll be.

If it really bothers you, don't delete the darlings permanently. Move them to a "darlings" file. Maybe you'll be able to use them somewhere else/in some other project one day.   

Be Brilliant!


Friday, May 26, 2017

On Risk-taking

Why take risks?

The more risks you take, the more confident you become.
The more confident you become, the more equipped you are to deal with rejection.
The more rejections you accrue, the more likely you are to embrace feedback.
The more feedback you apply, the more you grow

The more you grow, the closer you get to reaching those important goals you've set for yourself.

Take risks.

The more darts you throw, the more targets you'll hit.

Be Brilliant!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

GAILs: Limiting Beliefs

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

In this final post we tackle: 

A Limiting Belief is something we believe that limits us--or holds us back--in some way. They can be about others or the world around us, but they're usually related to our self or our identity. 

Somewhere along the way, we witnessed or heard or read something that became part of our core belief system. It's this idea hanging over our heads that we can't do *this* because of *that,* so why even bother?

I don't. I can't. I mustn't. I'm not. . . .

These are words/phrases to watch out for, because they're likely to precede a Limiting Belief, which look something like this:  

Because I'm a "math person," I could never write a book.
First novels don't sell well, anyway, so there's no need to promote myself too hard. 
As a guy, I can't write a good romance novel.
As a girl, I can't write a story narrated by a guy.
I don't read horror, so I could never write a scary book. 
Because I was raised this way, I could never write about that

The problem?

Yeah. It's pretty obvious that if we act with a Limiting Belief in mind, we're going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don't think we can write a book, so we don't try. We don't think a first book will sell well, so we don't promote. We don't read horror, so we never try to write a horror story. When, in actuality, if we put aside our beliefs for a moment, sit down and read the books and learn more about the subject and put our pens to the page, we could probably do the thing. 

The key? Know that a Limiting Belief is a false conclusion and recognize when we may be acting on one. Determine what the belief is, its origin, and replace it with a more empowering belief. 
To do this, we should ask ourselves: 

What is it that I believe that's keeping me from being my true self?
Where did this belief come from?
What does this belief do for me? 
What is it costing me?
How true is this belief really?
What would my life look like if I got rid of this belief? 
What step could I take today that challenges the Limiting Belief and moves me closer toward my dreams/goals? 

And always: Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:


Friday, May 5, 2017

GAILs: Interpretations

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

Today, we tackle: 

An Interpretation is an opinion or judgment we create about a person, event, situation, or experience that we believe to be true. 

An Interpretation looks like this:

My agent hasn't called. She must have hated my new book.
My editor hasn't followed up since I sent in my revisions. They must not be what he expected.
My critique partner won't return my emails. He must not want to be friends anymore.
*BIG NAME AUTHOR* just unfollowed me. I must have offended her.
Random guy on Row F hasn't clapped once. He must hate what I'm saying.

The problem? Interpretations automatically make us think the worst of ourselves (and others).

My agent sucks because she hasn't called. I suck because my book sucks.
My editor sucks because he won't follow up. I suck because I suck at revisions.
My critique partner sucks because he's MIA. I suck because I need a critique partner.
*BIG NAME AUTHOR* has a BIG-@SS head. I suck because she hates me.
Random Guy sucks because suck sucks and I can't do anything right.

Do you see what's happening here? Our Interpretation of events is distorting our viewpoint, causing us to think something is wrong with them or us, when agent/editor/critique partner could really just be busy, or out of town, or dealing with a family emergency; and BIG NAME AUTHOR was hacked and had to open a brand-new account and re-follow people from scratch; and Random Guy has tingling in his right hand due to carpal tunnel which makes it hurt to clap. 

The truth doesn't usually show up in our Interpretations, so these can't be trusted. If we want the truth, we have to seek it out: follow up with the editor, agent, or critique partner. It's not always as bad as our imagination makes it out to be, and if we act on our insecurities we're likely to make some pretty ill-informed decisions. 

Because there's this thing called The Law of Attraction: what we imagine, we create. BIG NAME AUTHOR unfollows us, Interpretation gets in the way, we announce she has a Big-@ss head, she re-follows, sees the post, and BOOM. 

We just created what we feared.

The key? Recognize when an Interpretation may be distorting our world-view.
To do this, we should ask ourselves: 

What is my Interpretation of what's happening?
What's another way to look at this?
What might someone else (with a completely different viewpoint) say about this?
Is this me or my Interpretation talking?
How do I know this to be 100% true?
What concrete evidence do I have to back this Interpretation?
What price am I paying for believing this? 
What step could I take today that challenges the Interpretation and moves me closer toward my dreams/goals? 

Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:

Limiting Beliefs

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

GAILs: Assumptions

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

Today, we tackle: 

An Assumption is an expectation that because something happened in the past, it's destined to happen again.

An Assumption keeps us from moving forward because we assume that because we had a previous experience that ended a certain way, we're likely to have that same experience in the future.

The key word here is assume

This is what an Assumption sounds like:

This agent rejected me before, so there's no need to re-query him about a new project.
That editor wasn't interested in my last book, so there's no way she'll want this one.
I tried writing that kind of article before and no one wanted it, so there's no reason to try again. 
Five other editors hated my book, so the sixth will, too.
That reviewer one-starred my last book, so I'm sure she'll hate this one. 

We put ourselves out there, we didn't end up with the result we expected or desired, so we created an assumption--rooted in fear--to keep us from moving forward. Because it happened once, it's bound to happen again. I can save myself by not trying at all. 

The problem? There's no logical way (that I know of, at least) to predict what will happen in the future. So what if 99 magazines rejected my story? It could be exactly what the 100th is looking for. Editor X might not have wanted my last book, but that doesn't mean Editor Y won't be crazy for it.  

What is an Assumption's purpose? To keep our feelings from being hurt when we're rejected the second, third, and thirtieth time we contact someone or attempt something. 

The key? Recognize the Assumption exists, then put it to bed.

Because when we avoid situations out of fear of what we think might happen, it becomes our status quo. And let's be real: eventually we're going to run out of magazines, agents, and editors to query. 

Instead, we should ask ourselves:

What is the assumption? (Write it down. Make it real.)
How is this assumption standing in my way? 
What is it keeping me from accomplishing? 
What concrete evidence is there to back this assumption?
Because this happened in the past, why must it happen again?
What would life look like if I let this assumption go?
What step could I take that challenges the assumption and moves me closer to my dreams/goals? 

Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:

Limiting Beliefs

Friday, April 28, 2017

GAILs: Gremlins

What are GAILs? 

GAILs stands for Gremlins, Assumptions, Interpretations, and Limiting Beliefs--the key energy blocks that reflect how we think about our challenges. This four-part series is designed to help us face our GAILs head-on.

Today, we tackle: 

A Gremlin is that little voice inside our head that tells us we'll never be good enough--no matter how hard we work, no matter what we try, we're destined to fail at it, so why bother?

A Gremlin is the worst possible critic because the voice seems rational because it's coming from inside us. We hear the voice and think that maybe there's something to what it's saying. 

We think it's our voice--even our "voice of reason." 

Maybe there was once a real voice attached to it: 

A parent who told us that writing was a waste of time. 
A teacher who thought our poetry read like a Hallmark card.
An agent who didn't find our plot believable.
An editor who didn't find our voice authentic.
A reviewer who thought our work was trite, and the topic overdone.
A writer who preached the impossibility of ever "breaking out". . . .

And we believed them. 

And somewhere along the way, that voice became OUR inner voice--our Gremlin. 

The problem? That voice, which is rooted in fear, can lead to some serious self-doubt and keep us from maximizing our potential. 

Its purpose? To trap us in our comfort zones and keep us from taking risks. 

The key? Acknowledge it exists, but don't give it the credibility it thinks it deserves.

Instead, we should ask ourselves:

What does my Gremlin tell me? (make a list)
In what ways is this holding me back? (make a list)
What might my life look like if I refused to listen to the Gremlin?
What step could I take today that challenges the Gremlin and moves me closer toward my dreams/goals? 

Be Brilliant!


Other posts in this series:

Limiting Beliefs

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

On Habits

“The difference between who you are now and who you were five years ago is largely due to how you've spent your time along the way. 

The habits we groove become who we are, one minute at a time. 

A small thing, repeated, is not a small thing.”

~Seth Godin~

Friday, March 17, 2017

Throwback: "The Why"

Previously seen on Katie Klein Writes....

I first began to take writing seriously--as something I could do forever--in college. (I blame Dreamland by Sarah Dessen--a book I needed SO MUCH in high school but didn't have access to at the time.) But . . . I didn't think I had it in me to sit down and write an entire novel. Because, when you think about everything that goes into creating a full-length work, it can be paralyzing. Character development. Plot. Dialogue. Scene development. Story arcs.

What. The. Heck.

I did the reading and I did the outlining, and I realized NONE of it mattered if I couldn't get 50,000 words onto paper. It seemed like such a huge task. I didn't believe I had what it takes, because every time I sat down to write, I just couldn't get to "the end."

But then, just before my last semester of college, I realized I had to scrap the details. Characters and scenes and description could be fixed later. I needed words. I had to prove to myself that I could do this.

That summer, I wrote my very first book. It was pretty bad. I'm sure it will never see the light of day. But I wrote it, and it was all mine, and I realized that I could tell a story in 50,000 coherent words. It was possible. After that, I never had trouble with word count again--characters, arcs, description--those still frustrate the hell out of me, but never word count. I've got that covered. I beat that block as soon as I wrote that first "the end."

But what I've learned along the way is this:

If you want to do this--if you REALLY want to be a writer--you have to find the "why."

Why do you want to do this? Why is this important? Why do you feel this pull? Why do you think it matters?

You're going to need to know the answer, because it's not going to be easy. You're going to start all determined, and then you're going to hit the "messy middle" and you're not going to know where to go. You're going to want to give up. 

If you don't want this to happen, it's going to come down to the "why."  

Why do you need to tell this story? Why do you need to write it right now?

Why do I write?

I write because I have stories in my head that need to get out. I write because I want to make a difference. I want to create characters that speak to readers--characters they can relate to. I want to take readers away from the world for a little while. Make them squeal with joy. Make them cry. 

I write because I don't see the world in black and white. This annoys some of the people around me, but I see gray--things that aren't so easily defined. No one, simple answer. I like playing devil's advocate. I can find the humanity in anyone--remember that we ALL have stories, no matter who we are or what we've done. I believe anyone can change. I believe anyone can make a difference.

I write to offer a new perspective--to try to make sense of the world we live in and who we are as people.

The "why" is one of the most important parts of my writing.

If you want to be a writer, if you're already a writer and struggling--if you're not a writer but there's something else you feel compelled to do--sit down with a sheet of paper or a new computer document and spend some time working on the "why."

You'll need this.

Your "why" is your motivation.  

And knowing this is just as important as getting that story out of your head and onto paper.

Be Brilliant!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three Life Lessons from Helen Keller

I just finished reading The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. I knew her story, or so I thought. She was the bratty little girl who threw tantrums because she couldn't see or hear, until Anne Sullivan came along and taught her how to communicate.

(And really, I shouldn't fault her for throwing a fit because she lived in darkness/silence, because I can't even fathom what that must have been like. No judgments here.)

What I didn't realize, though, was how motivated she was and how hard she worked to accomplish her goals.  

I mean, the girl worked her ass off. By the time she headed to college, she could already speak(!) and read multiple languages, AND she could do geometry. I had 20/20 vision (with contacts) and I couldn't figure geometry out (shapes! angles! numbers!).

But seriously: If a blind/deaf girl from the South can learn to read and speak French, there's no excuse for the rest of us.

So, here are three takeaways from the life of Helen Keller, and the quotes that inspired them:

1. Be Optimistic

2. Take Risks

3. Give 100%, and Stay the Course

And always: Be Brilliant (just like Helen). ;)


P. S. It goes without saying that I highly recommend reading her autobiography if you haven't already. After the temper tantrums subsided, Helen became a kind and generous soul determined to open doors for children like her, and to change our attitudes towards and understanding of them.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

On Winning

"Winning" isn't about impressing others.

Largely because it's impossible to impress all of the people all of the time.

(If you're a reformed people-pleaser--like me--this is a tough concept to wrap your head around.)

No, it's better to write your own definition of success: what it means to you. 

Because if we're doing important work--the work we're called to do--we should give zero f*cks about what the people around us think. 

Define success in your own terms--what it means to "win"--and start aligning your progress accordingly.

That is all.


Friday, February 24, 2017

On Shooting for the Moon

On yearbook day of my ninth or tenth grade year, a guy--we'll call him Kevin--scribbled a quote in black Bic along my inner spine:

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars."

I scoffed. 

What a loser. 

This was the late 90s, personal computers were finally making their way into homes, and I could picture Kevin at his desk, waiting patiently for his dial-up to connect (because back in the old days it took like, five whole minutes just to log on to the internet), searching for that perfect quote to enlighten us all--because he did, in fact, sign everyone's yearbook with the same mantra:

Shoot for the moon.

Shoot for the moon.

Shoot for the moon.


See, I wasn't exactly my best self in high school--wasn't sure where I fit in. It was hard being me when I didn't even know who me was. I had serial "best friends"--a new one every year, and struggled with opening up to people. If I'm honest with myself, all I really wanted was for everyone to like me (which, as we all know, is impossible).

I think that's all Kevin wanted, too--to be liked.

And despite four years of complete asshattery, Kevin wrote me a final yearbook message just before graduation. In sum, he didn't know how I managed to give him so much hassle, and still remain "nice."

Because at the end of the day, he still somehow thought I was a nice person. 

I should never have laughed at Kevin's yearbook quote, because fifteen years later I'm taking his advice. I'm shooting for the moon.

And that's what you should be shooting for, too. Because if we want to make an impact we have to stop thinking so small. We have to think big--bigger than we could possibly imagine. Because even if we miss our intended target, we've still taken that risk. Stepped outside our comfort zone. Left planet earth behind.

We're still soaring among the stars.

And it's a beautiful world up here.

So thanks, Kev. You were right all along. ;)


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Wishing and Hoping

Kind Sir or Madam,

While you're sitting back wishing and hoping, someone else is stepping up and getting the hard work done.

It's simple, really....

If you want to be a painter, you should be painting.
If you want to be a blogger, you should be blogging.
If you want to launch a new business venture, you should be launching.

And if you drop by this blog every so often because you know me or have read my books and you think it would be cool to write one--that maybe you want to be a writer--you should be writing. 

Painters paint.
Vloggers vlog.
Designers design.
Leaders lead.



Proceed boldly, before this world sucks all of the creative out of you.

No more excuses.

Be Brilliant! :)