Monday, August 11, 2014

Wisdom from Anna Deveare Smith: on acting and writing

In an interview about her groundbreaking play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, playwright and actress Anna Deveare Smith says, "You're not the character, and you're not yourself. You're in the 'not not' -- which is a positive. I think this is the most we can hope for. I don't think we can really 'be' anybody else. The actor is a vehicle of consciousness, projected through a fictional character, and the fiction displays great truth."

I think this sentiment applies to writing as well as to acting -- actually, I think it apples to any creative art. When I write a piece of fiction, I am simultaneously myself and the characters I create. I give pieces of myself to my characters, but as the story progresses something magical happens: they become their own individual selves, with their own identities and desires.

Often when I set out to write a story, I have a specific ending in mind, but sometimes the main character will decide to take the action in a different direction, or a minor character will pop up and demand attention. It's as if I am merely the vehicle for expressing these various voices.

Here's a writing prompt that you might try: When I'm stuck or the writing becomes stagnant, I place two characters in a situation and let them talk to each other on the page. Often the story takes form in ways I never would have guessed before I began writing.

I also love something that Anna Deveare Smith says about the actor: he or she has "a deep desire to connect and people come to the theater because they too want to connect. The actor does not produce the connection alone, the audience has to push forward also; the two have to meet in the middle." This is true for all types of art.

One of my favorite things about the medium of writing is that once a piece is published and unleashed upon the world, it is open for interpretation from all different perspectives. The meaning of a piece of writing can shift and morph as the times change and society's needs for sustenance and meaning through literature changes.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guest Post: Motivate Yourself to Write

How to motivate yourself for an academic piece of writing

a guest post by Eileen Archer

Most of us do it wrong: we sit down at our desks about a day or two beforehand thinking that we’re going to be able to write a first-class essay without having done any preparation. Especially if it’s the first time writing an important academic piece, this is a disastrous strategy. Here is a quick guide to show you the most important skills for essay writing, how to perfect them and how to get motivated.

Practice makes perfect

Keep a journal to document your life! Do it with music! Find some joy in writing! Then, when it comes to writing academically and trying to express complicated theories or discussing your opinion, it should be a lot easier for you. If you do find it difficult to write then maybe joining a writing group will help. Try also reading related papers to help you analyze the ideas and writing of others.

Organization is key

Make timetables for every complicated aspect of your life, for example: household chores, studying, writing, being productive, and hanging with friends. Attach themes or pictures to each hence turning it into something proactive, fun and interesting, not a chore! Stick them up on your walls, or give them to your parents in case you get lazy with it. Organizing your life to this extent will serve you well for any future work you have to do, both inside and outside of academia.

Reading from the same page

Surround yourself with books -- read, read and read more. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book. But, be wise about it. Reading chick lit or trashy magazines is all well and good, but if you don’t have several books on the go at once you’ll lose that writing knowledge. The ideal book selection is obviously something light-hearted that you enjoy and don’t have to think too much about, but more importantly you should be reading something that is well-written and certainly something attached to your work. So, on your night stand and desk, even before you do some academic writing, make sure there lays an academic journal or a classroom book too. And make sure you spread the time between the books evenly, rather than just staring at it dumbly from behind your top ten apps article.

Research – no pain no gain

You’re not alone, most everyone detests research. This is why you have to do it early. If you’re going to procrastinate in any part of your life or writing work, don’t do it here. Imagine a big pile of books and papers and links to references you’ve used. That’s what you’ll end up with; a big unorganized mess in front of you that will take forever to deal with. So, the key here is once you’ve used a reference, type it in a document, fully. Use the correct referencing style and make sure it’s 100% correct and all you’ll have to do at the end is click one button to arrange them alphabetically.

Bio: Eileen Archer is currently a resident blogger and a chief writer at After obtaining a Masters in English language she decided to dedicate her time to creative writing as well as providing assistance to students. She spends her free time reading, writing poetry and studying for a PhD in an art-related field.