Movie Moments of Stillness – A Creative Necessity
Movie references tend to creep into my stories a lot; in my most recent paranormal release, In the Company of Witches, my heroine Raina (half-succubus, all witch) is a big fan of the movie Titanic, and she and Mikhael, my hero (a Dark Guardian, something like a cop/sorcerer), end up necking in a theater where they’re showing New Moon (I’m not ashamed to admit it – I LOVE the Twilight movies!). Anyhow, though I’m a bit of a movie addict…(ahem – 500+ DVD library and counting!), the movies serve a creative purpose, as any source of good storytelling does. In fact, this week they helped me turn a flat, ugly scene into something worth reading. To make that happen, I employed what I call the “Moment of Stillness” exercise. Let me explain, with a few less parentheses (lol).
There’s an amazing movie called The Legend of Bagger Vance, with Matt Damon and Will Smith. It centers around a golf game between Matt Damon’s relatively unknown character, Junuh, and golf legends Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. During the movie, there’s a part where Bagger (Will Smith) tells Junuh to watch Bobby Jones when he steps up to the ball to take his swing. Once Bobby arrives at the tee, everything else disappears. He clears his mind completely, and when he does, a synergy of instinct and experience happen—and so does a great shot. It’s as Bagger tells Junuh: “All we got to do is get ourselves outta it’s way.”
I have noticed this theme in other movies. In Finding Neverland, Johnny Depp portrays playwright J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan. Caught in writer’s block, he strikes up a friendship with a widow and her children. As he gets lost in the enjoyment of being with them (rather than worrying about his stale play), he starts “seeing” a new story, Peter Pan. There’s an extraordinary scene where the boys are jumping on their beds but, in J.M.’s imagination, he sees them bounce, bounce, and then begin to fly through the air, finally soaring out the window, just as will eventually happen in the Peter Pan story.
In Star Trek – Insurrection, Captain Picard meets a people who have slowed down the aging process. In a lovely moment with one of the female leaders of the community, he is sitting by a stream with her where she helps him “stay in this moment”. We see a hummingbird’s wingbeats get so slow we can see the delicate wing structure, everything in slow motion.
Final example – Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law. In both the first and second installment of these incredible movies, there are times Sherlock, with his amazing ability to anticipate action and reaction, shows in slow motion what will unfold and plans his response to it, all before it happens. Though in reality, it all happens very quickly, it is slow and steady in his head, the rest of the world tuned out.
Anyhow, this process of slowing down the mind, opening it up, “getting out of its way” is vital in almost every creative endeavor. It becomes absolutely essential to find this method when you evolve from doing something you love merely because you love it, and doing it professionally. Business and creativity have always had an uneasy relationship. For instance, the athlete who is pure poetry on the broken asphalt of the inner city basketball court, must learn to hold onto that craftsmanship when playing for a million dollar contract, with the demands of team owner, fans, etc piled on his back.
On the same note, writers have to make the transition from scribbling away in their glorious solitude, where getting published is no more than a distant pipe dream, to being an author who writes on deadline, meeting promo requirements, answering copious amounts of email, social networking, etc… Yet every subsequent story must be a creative and fresh as the ones they created in the beginning, in their little private cubbyhole.
Impossible? Nope. Not with that moment of stillness. At the beginning of this post, I claimed that “moment of silence” had really helped me this week. I was working on the latest book in my Vampire Queen Series, Taken by a Vampire, which features a threesome—Evan, my vampire hero, his Scottish servant Niall, and Alanna, the rigidly trained Inherited Servant who has come under their protection until her treasonous Master is apprehended. My editor needs a partial sooner than expected, so over the past several weeks I’ve been typing furiously, getting that first draft vomited out onto the pages (yeah, no better way to put it than that). But now I’m in the first edit. I can do the “barf to meet deadline” for only so long before my soul shrivels up into a husk.
So I take a deep breath, slow it all down. Surround myself with that creative stillness, and tap deeper into who and what my characters are, where they are, etc. As such, what was a pretty bland, bare-bones section became the following, which I like much better, even though this is still only a rough first draft. I’m too proud to give you the first version for comparison; just imagine blah blah blah, vomit, vomit, vomit, and you’ll have the essence of it – grin. Read the rest of this entry »