Tag Archives: Writer

Write Selfishly, Readers Will Be In Ecstasy

My laptop is ready to blow. It overheats so much these days that my keyboard is burning away my finger tips until I’m forced to take a break from any writing. These are the notes from a computing inferno.

It has come to my attention that blogging has become some sort of mental health pill for me. These posts are all over the place in topic but all share the same purpose for me as a writer: a way to stop moping and start writing. This blog is a perverse confessional, a manic cry to the world from an isolated bedroom, a message in an electronic bottle thrown out into the cyber sea, amongst all of the obscurity of millions of other blogs, billions of other words, hoping to leave a few ripples and maybe some waves.

This is indulgent. This is selfish. This is ok.

A writer has very few hopes of leaving behind many original pieces. Life is full of monotony. Even the anguish, the wars, the deaths, the physical and mental tortures have all been experienced and reiterated countless times. So why try? The reason is because you’re the only person who experiences these things the way you do. Write things the way you know them. Let the reader see big, universally known experiences through your eyes.

Kurt Vonnegut says in his novel Timequake:

“Many people need desperately to receive this message: ‘I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”

This is why readers need to hear your voice. Maybe you’re saying something they’ve felt and so desperately need to have affirmed. Feeling alone in your thoughts can be crushing. For me as a writer, feeling unoriginal in my emotions, whether it is heart ache, insecurity, or confusion, is devastating.

Writing is a beautiful art form. You don’t have to be a “writer” to gain the benefits of writing. It’s something I think everyone should do. But I am a writer. I may be an aspiring writer when it comes to my professional dreams but in my soul I am nothing else. Like any dream I have to pursue my goals with blinders on to deter the blurs around me.

In Factotum, Charles Bukowski said:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

So the message in this blog post’s bottle is the above: selfishly fight the good fight for yourself and your readers and throw anything that prevents you from doing so to the side and out of your mind. There is nothing but greatness waiting for those willing to shed comfort. Comfort is a tethering chain. Free yourself. Give your readers affirmation that they are not the only ones feeling this way. They will be as grateful as you are to the writers who have done this for you.

If Writing is Rewriting then I’m finally a Writer

I’ve always been a tad perplexed by the age old writing advice that “writing is rewriting.” “No great writer ever penned a masterpiece in his rough draft,” writing experts would say. This may be soothing advice for the many times I’ve completed a screenplay and while beaming with pride, I’d suddenly have my dreams of Hollywood schmoozing and houses in the hills ripped away when I read what I’d written and realized it was mostly just a heap of (insert whatever foul smelling waste you can think of here).

Although I was comforted in those lonely, depressing moments of supposed personal failure by the idea that I could always rewrite, fix the problem; the fact is that my track record shows I rarely get passed the thrill of writing a first draft, meeting the characters and learning their ways, and onto the hair-pulling, eye-gouging editing process that is required to polish a story into something worth selling.

Until now…

Friends, family, peers, fellow writers, and Hollywood execs everywhere, I’m proud to inform you that I have a rewritten feature-length screenplay on my hands. This one is different from the other attempted rewrites I’ve done in the past. This time I actually fixed what I set out to revise, added scenes where I deemed necessary, and molded existing pages into well-crafted works.

“How the hell did you do that, Greg Probst?” you might be screaming at your computer but probably not since you may not have any clue who I am. (I’m the author of this blog.)

But I’ll tell you anyway; this monumental milestone in my writing career comes after months of going back to the basics. I’d studied and read about how to plan, write, and format a screenplay for years when I was a teenager and realized I wanted to write movies. Since then I considered myself an old pro, writing away and leaving hard drives and floppy discs (yes I used those religiously when I first started writing and well after they went technologically extinct) full of over a hundred or more aborted screenplays; some with 5-10 pages, some with 30-60, others well exceeding the 120-page feature limit, all needing additional work that would never come.

So I analyzed my writing methods and even picked up the very first book I read as a 13-year-old lad to get started, Skip Press’ The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Screenwriting. I reread sections on outlining before writing, keeping a writing schedule, and tips on rewriting. So I started keeping a writing schedule and zeroed in on a few top scripts that needed work or finishing.

As of today I have one feature nearing completion and another that is successfully rewritten and being looked over for polishing. It feels like I’m a real live writer.

So what’s next for old Greg “The Writer” Probst? Probably years and years of writing and mastering the craft with hopefully some success in between.

The Powerful Effects of a Good Writing Group

Being a writer is tricky business. It’s a strange talent that requires complete submergence in order to have any lasting benefits. If you want to become a professional writer, you pretty much have to slave for over 40 hours a week, without getting paid; writing, editing, nitpicking, stressing, and freaking out over your work just to produce something that might appeal to a publisher, studio, newspaper, or whatever person with money that will make your words readable to the right people.

If you just want to be a decent writer in general, you can look to the millions of quotes from authors that basically tell you to write often, write every day, write, write, write. Good writing comes with writing. Period. Case closed. Practice makes perfect. Writing every day is the only way you’ll get really good.

That is easier said than done.

I started my blog simply as a way to write more and put a voice to ideas and personal opinions I could never plant into my fiction. Writer’s block is a hell of a thing. It’s a crippling thing. So I figured if I couldn’t write fiction and create stories, I could frequently write blog posts just to keep my hands on the keyboard and my mind molding sentences. And still, I don’t write every day. Sometimes I don’t write all week. Yikes.

A little less than a year ago, during the 2011 fall semester, I took a creative writing class that changed my life. I’ve documented my thoughts on the first class in another blog post and continued to discuss the powerful lessons I learned from the professor in a post about heart break. It’s safe to say that class changed my life. And that’s really saying something considering I’ve actively been pursuing my dream of being a writer since I was about thirteen. So that’s almost ten years of trying and writing a lot. Still, that class gave me a new look on writing and what it takes to write something meaningful. I have found a joy in writing poetry since the class which was always something that bored me, confused me, and smothered me in previous years. But now I’ve come to find that to really write in the “deep water” often means bearing my soul. And I think that soul bearing is a format best suited for poetry.

Here I go on another tangent. These blog posts, Jesus do they tend to go off topic quickly. Let’s back track, this is a post about writing groups and how they help motivate me to write. Now I’m talking about my awesome creative writing class, which is good back story, but let’s get back on track.

In this creative writing class I managed to write some really good short stories and even a half decent poem towards the end of class. But most importantly I got amazing feedback not only from the professor but my classroom full of peers, many of whom were actively trying to be writers themselves. It was a great environment, slightly competitive but not in any negative sense. It was more that we didn’t want to come to class unprepared or clutching a crappy story since we knew we’d have to read aloud often. This made me write good pieces on a very consistent, weekly basis.

So when the semester came to an end I was nervous about where I’d go as a writer. I learned some tools but would they just grow a coat of dust sitting in the tool shed that is my thought process? I was relieved when on the last day of class; two students mentioned getting a writing group together once a month after the semester so we could keep working. I signed my name boldly, the John Hancock of the group I hope.

So since then, myself and three of the best writers in the class (and in the entire school in my opinion) have been meeting in a secret, intimate, little writing group on campus and providing each other with very useful criticism and motivation to keep writing. I cherish that one day a month and have grown close with the other writers.

There are two female poets, one male poet/fiction writer, and me who alternates between presenting short screenplays, short stories, and as of yesterday, poems. There’s a great mix of style, substance, and format being passed around each meeting.

Recently, I’ve been assisting a best friend with some of the challenges of being an early-twenties college graduate with no immediate job future in the field he wants to pursue. But he mentioned something that I thought provided him with all of the hope in the world: he said he wanted to start writing.

I jumped on the thought and told him what every author on earth tells new writers: write, write, write. “A writer writes. Always.” That’s a quote from the film Throw Momma From The Train with Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito. But yes, it’s accurate. Write!

He’d been writing poetry to keep his emotions in line but was weary of their merit. I told him there isn’t a lot of bad writing if it’s honest writing. And just as I suspected, it was pretty good stuff. I gave him my comments and then finally mentioned he should take the jump and come to the writing group with me.

My friend was hesitant but finally agreed and I was pleased to see how much he enjoyed himself and walked away with valid critiques and motivation to continue writing. I’m excited to see where this motivation takes his work.

Yesterday’s writing group was something else. It went on for hours and hours because we took a month off and all had so much enthusiasm to present the several works we all brought with us. It was a wonderful session. We read multiple works. We passed around some of our most valid and useable criticism. And I left in awe of some of the writings that my group came in with. I make no mistake in saying that I believe in every one of them to reach success with their work if they continue cranking out stuff of that caliber.

So we disbanded from group just short of midnight and had to unlock and force open one of the automatic sliding doors that was bolted shut with us still inside the campus. We practically floated back to our cars in the vast, empty, chilly parking lot, hollering to one another that “it was great to see you” and “I can’t wait for next month!”

And I noted that familiar surge of energy and excitement sprinting through my veins and bouncing about my stomach that I get while going practically light headed with enthusiasm in a discussion over writing or filming. By the time I got in my car I had a headache from the rush. My voice was scratchy and I felt exhausted although I knew I’d never sleep. I agreed to meet up with my friend for a drink because I still wanted to talk more and gauge how he felt about the group.

I believe we all left that particular meeting with a heightened level of enthusiasm to continue writing. Not in general, since any writer could probably never really give up writing altogether. But I think we were ready to write liberally. We had more ideas now. We’d gone to the fountain and replenished our imaginations with each other’s stories and enthusiasm. Now it’s just a matter of sitting down and writing.

So that’s what I’m doing. I wish it wasn’t a blog post but something in one of my many opened projects. But it’s a start. And after all, you’ll never know what you’ll get until you sit down and write it.