Creativity Breeds Creativity

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The days where authors sequestered themselves in an isolated cottage in upstate New York may not be over for good. A lot of authors – myself included – love moments of quiet and solitude, but for me, those moments are rare. Instead, I’m actualy finding that the time I am out in the “real world” can provide inspiration for the ongoing plotlines winding and twisting through my head. And instead of shutting myself off from the world, I find myself reaching for other pockets of creativity.

As I write this post, my daughter is a few feet away, emptying the dishwasher and signing the entire “Frozen” soundtrack. In her elementary years, she discovers her creative side every day and is even prodded to do so in her schooling. As adults, we can’t always do that. In fact, there are many people who stop seeing the “possible” once real life has set in. They’ve convinced themselves they are no longer capable of painting a surreal landscape, of learning to play a musical instrument, of writing a novel.

When I was fresh out of college and writing at the local newspaper, I made a goal in my head to write a book by the time I was 25. My early 20’s went by way faster than I anticipated and soon that goal was to write one by age 30. I had a lot of life changes between 25 and 30, but writing a book was not one of them. Then the years just started ticking by. 31. 32. 33. Still no book.

But I had purchased a Kindle for myself in November of 2011. Then I started exploring the books and stumbled upon Hugh Howey’s WOOL. I’d love to say I read it and my life was transformed. But I didn’t even read it for months after downloading it. MONTHS.

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*Note: Not Hugh Howey

By the time I finally read it, I also had discovered Hugh’s blog and began discovering that he was JUST LIKE ME. Just a few years older and he had begun his writing career a few years before. He talked to his readers and even danced for them. Way different than I imagined a successful author. I always pictured them cooped up in some dark and dusty loft, plinking away on some ancient typewriter. Hugh was not that type, for sure.

And so, in January of 2013, I began to write again. I’d written the beginnings to books before…only to fail after 30-40 pages. This time I didn’t tell anyone – even my wife – for over a month after I’d started. I was scared to death I wouldn’t finish. That the book manuscript would simply get forgotten and curl up and die. It nearly did a few times when life got too much last spring, but once I’d reached a certain point – probably 20,000 words or so – I knew I HAD to finish.

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Proof: My first novel.

And I did. My first book. A life goal, accomplished before I reached age 34.

But, I wasn’t done.

Once I started, I found new ideas. Ones I didn’t know I had. I have more than a few Word files with just a paragraph explaining a plot that I didn’t want to fade into mental obscurity.

Then, I started to meet other authors. To be fair, I haven’t met a single one in person – or even talked to any on the phone, but I lucked into a remarkable group of authors who were all writing WOOL fanfiction last year. (I decided to write The Veil as a tribute to the man who finally got me off my duff; I published it last July.)

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Soon to be released Charity Anthology. Super excited for you guys to read these stories.

This group of writers has been amazing and we’ve all inspired each other. I read their work and they’ve read mine. Many of us have teamed up for a charity Silo Anthology to be released soon. (Announcement here.) Their creativity astounds me and inspires me. When I read my friends’ books, I find myself itching to get back to my laptop to add a chapter or four to my current manuscript. Their creativity sparks my creativity…and I think that is an amazing thing.

In November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I decided to write the sequel to my first novel and successfully completed the month by putting over 50,000 words towards my book. But a strange thing happened that month. I read more books than I had in a few months. You wouldn’t have thought I would have wanted to expose my mind to all the new and different ideas found in other people’s books, but I found the opposite to be true. The strange, new, and wonderful ideas that sprang out of the pages of these books pushed me and motivated me to get my own words down on paper.

And I hope that my words will do that for you as well. Don’t just sit there – do something. Be creative. Take the energy you would put into a few rounds of Candy Crush or the next episode of Game of Thrones and put your thoughts down. They may be great, they may be terrible…but they’ll be yours.

That book I started writing in November? I had been a little stalled on it, but my friend WJ Davies challenged me to finish. I in turn challenged him to finish his book Binary Cycle 2 and we both aimed for February 8. (Here’s Binary Cycle 1, btw…) I just finished the rough draft two days ago and now it’s in the hands of five people who are (hopefully) critiquing the heck out of it. If all goes well and there aren’t any black holes (metaphorically speaking) in my plot, I should be publishing within a month or so. It may not be Feb. 8, but it’ll be pretty stinking close.

Maybe you won’t write a novel, maybe you won’t paint the Mona Lisa and maybe you won’t be the next Justin Bieber (we can all hope), but whatever you do, it’ll improve and enrich the world and your creativity will touch someone else. I can just about guarantee it.

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2013 in Movies — Top 20 List

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The other day I did a “Best of” list for the books I’d read in 2013. That got me to thinking about the movies I watched in 2013. Since I didn’t write down what I watched, I had to find a release schedule for the past year and find the movies I saw. Turns out, I watched 16 movies in the theatre as well as four that were released in 2013 that I saw later on DVD or some premium channel. I will now rank these movies as to which I enjoyed the most to the least. My criteria for this follows this line of thought: Would I watch it again? If so, which would I watch first?

Another thing to remember as I begin. This is the year I told my daughter (she turned 9 in August) that I was not going to take her to “crappy” movies. Basically, if Daddy decided they looked stupid, we weren’t going. For the most part, that worked. There are a few regrettable choices, however.

Image1. PACIFIC RIM. Big, loud, and silly. Yes, yes, and yes. I loved it. It was the only movie on this list that I’ve seen twice and both times in the theatre. I’ve got a Pacific Rim movie poster hanging above my desk at school. I know it didn’t do well at the U.S. box office, but that means nothing to me. It was my favorite 2013 release, in spite of the lack of A-list stars.

2. FROZEN. I’m a sucker for Disney musicals. Frozen looked good before I went to the theatre a few weeks ago, but after seeing it, I knew it was GREAT. So great, I bought my daughter the soundtrack for her to play endlessly in her bedroom. Just like when I was young, I listened to the Lion King soundtrack over and over, she can now do the same to an equally good movie. Go see it if you haven’t already.

3. OBLIVION. Can you keep a secret? I’m a big Tom Cruise fan. Mission Impossible, Jerry McGuire, War of the Worlds. I love to see that man run. He is great at running. And yelling. And being near things when they blow up so he has to run and yell. You take that and put him into an ORIGINAL sci-fi movie, and you’ve got my second favorite movie of the year.

4. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Alright. I know there are the haters. THE ORIGINAL TIMELINE! some will shout. I do love the original timeline stuff, but I gotta say, I loved J.J. Abrams’ second Star Trek movie as well. The lens flares do get a bit distracting and the whole “Khan” reveal got to be a bit tedious, but overall I thought it was a well done movie.

5. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE. Better than the first movie by far and I loved the first one quite a lot. It almost seems so ridiculous to have a sequel to movie where so many of the characters die and then they do it again! I thought it was really well done and am anxiously awaiting the Mockingjay movies (and yes, I liked Mockingjay and I know I’m in the minority).

Image6. CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2. Silly and not afraid to show it. The first one gets put on repeat by my daughter and this one will be a mainstay in the DVD player as well. All the food puns…she was quoting them before we even saw it and it was even better than I thought it would be. Would watch again in a heartbeat.

7. IRON MAN 3. This movie worked on many levels. The kid in the middle was fantastic and worked very well with Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark when it could have fallen flat on its face. What really put this movie over so many others was the final action sequence. Wow.

8. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. My second animated movie on this list and ahead of a few others…one of which you might find a little shocking. I so-much loved Monsters, Inc. that perhaps my feelings towards that transferred to this movie, but as an adult, I loved the hints towards movies like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and dozens of other “college” movies. I loved that they managed to get a prequel out of Sully and Mike and will definitely watch it again.

9. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. Peter Jackson should have stuck with the plan to make two movies. I could have understood that. But when my daughter turns to me halfway through this movie and says “This movie is long,” then I know it’s long and drawn-out. She doesn’t usually comment on movie lengths, but what saves this movie from being farther down the list is the barrel scene as the dwarves and Bilbo escaped the Mirkwood Elves. I am looking forward to the final Hobbit film, but there is a certain aspect of simply checking it off the list with these movies.

Image10. THOR: THE DARK WORLD. The second Marvel movie on this list and yet I will say it was a million times better than its predecessor. Thor is a tricky hero to capture on film because he is a “god,” but this movie was much better at making him relatable and showing his world as opposed to him as an outsider on Earth.

11. ENDER’S GAME. Finally. That was the reaction of so many after reading the book as adolescents and finally seeing the dream fulfilled this year of seeing Ender on screen. Asa Butterfield did as good as could be expected and I actually thought Harrison Ford did fine in his role. What I didn’t like was the lack of Peter and Valentine’s storyline on Earth as well as the Battle Room sequences sped up a little too much, but you’ve got to trim for a movie and that’s where they had to cut, I guess.

12. DESPICABLE ME 2. I know this will be a little unpopular, but I honestly enjoyed Cloudy 2 and Monsters U better than DM2. I thought the girls were a huge part of why the first part was so good and yet this one was all about those yellow minions. I think they are a little funny and cute, but not enough to base the whole movie and its marketing around. Just not as good as what it could have been.

13. MAN OF STEEL. This past summer, I probably would have put this higher on the list. I was so disappointed after the last Superman movie that this one had me feeling positive after leaving the theatre about the future of the franchise. I thought Supes did an outstanding job of destroying IHOP and other businesses in and around Smallville, but there were some serious flaws with the movie and I’m not so sure that adding Batman and Wonder Woman to the sequel is the way to go.

Image14. WARM BODIES. I didn’t see this in the theatre, but looking back I kind of wish I did. Great zombie movie with a twist. Not lighthearted like Zombieland, but a good turn on the genre anyway. If it is possible to have a zombie romance, Warm Bodies did it well.

15. THE CROODS. I waited to see this one for a while, but my daughter and I had some free time to kill one day and this was playing, so I caved. It wasn’t as bad as I feared. Nicolas Cage as the father certainly didn’t help in my opinion, but overall the movie was better than I expected from the previews.

16. A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. Did this movie really come out this year? I saw it on DVD this summer — must’ve been a quick turn-around from theatrical to DVD release. I love Die Hard 1 and 2 (Yes, I know they are essentially the same movie) and the third is highly underrated. The 4th was okay, but this one was just disappointing. I love the John McCLane character, but I hated his son. A lot. The action was good, but I found myself checking my phone a lot, which was good that I was at home, instead of at the theatre.

17. PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS. My daughter loves the Percy Jackson books, so I took her to see this. She liked it, but there were so many (I lost track how many) times during the movie that she leaned over and said, “that’s not what happens in the book.” I eventually had to remind her that sometimes the books are different than the movies even with the same name. For a movie directly named after a children’s book, they really did a poor job of trying to connect with the source material.

18. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. I also saw this on DVD, but I kind of wish I hadn’t. I just really didn’t get into it. I like the Wizard of Oz, but some of the things they did in this movie didn’t really work for me.

19. THE LAST STAND. It’s a fun and stupid movie. I saw this a few weeks ago on TV and Arnie is about the only thing that saved it for me.

20. FREE BIRDS. This is the worst movie I watched that was released in 2013. This means one thing. I didn’t see Disney’s Planes. Again, my mantra to my daughter of not seeing stupid movies worked for Planes and Turbo, but we had some Daddy-daughter time in November and no kid-friendly movies, save for Free Birds. I saw it and I can now say I’ve seen an animated movie about time-traveling turkeys. Oy.

 

So….what does that mean? It means I didn’t see some (what I’ve heard are) great movies like Gravity or some really dumb ones like After Earth. Summer is also prime movie viewing time as I’m not teaching then with winter coming in second with a few weeks off for Christmas. Because of this, some movies simply get missed simply because I couldn’t get to the theatre when they were out.

Overall, I liked a lot of what I saw this year and only regret a few of the movies I saw. Hopefully my discernment will lead me down wise paths in the future as well.