I hope you have all been doing fabulously this week!
Darlinks, sometimes I say “darlinks” when I want to sound more fancy, but in reality I have strong Southern California accent, something that is the cause of much of my heartache in this life.
Really, me of all the fabulous people in the world? Why, gosh?
ANyway, there is something quite essential that I need to delve into, pronto and right a-way, and that is something I have been meaning to tell you all. In fact, I’ve been rather delirious with excitement and also the pain of not letting the secret slip, but now, finally, I, Broadway Lil, ruler of, um, A Blog, would like to inform you of the Exciting News I promised last week.
I am starting an online magazine.
*drops in a dead faint*
Whew, sorry about that I don’t usually give into my dramatic tendencies.
Anyway, yes, thank you for the frantic cheering and screaming, I truly appreciate it. To add to what I formerly announced, I am starting an online magazine that is going to be written by teenaged girls for teenaged girls. I know!
I’m really excited because the topics covered in the magazine range from tech and politics to fashion and literature to the most important thing, theatre. Variety! Inspiration! Fabulousity!
Now before you get all upset about this and say something like, “but Lil, you only know about Musical Theatre, what the heck are you thinking?!” I want to add one quick thing, which is of course I only know about Musical Theatre, who do you think I am, you silly geek?
I am blackmailing my mildly willing victims of friends into writing articles.
The magazine is still Being Written as they say (in the bizz) but I will give you loads of more information on it, including a link at the Soonest Possible Opportunity.
Also, if you are still here? Thank you. I really enjoy plugging and promoting myself disgustingly, but I know it isn’t always beautiful to read, so thank you.
Onto the topic of the week.
This specific topic came up because this week I am participating in a workshop where the participants work together to write a short theatre piece about the Holocaust. We actually have been given the opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors, and it has been a truly, truly amazing experience, while also being very difficult to process.
Now, this workshop has gotten me thinking about writers and how we interact with the world and what inspires and leads us on our writing journeys.
Personally, as a writer, I have found that any piece of advice from another writer is very motivating.
For many, self-doubt can be sort of a permeating theme throughout the writing journey and is in fact, the cause of writer’s block.
But if another writer you respect gives you a piece of advice that gives you confidence, you, as a writer, will live to write another day.
I haven’t met all of my writing inspirations, but thankfully their words have been preserved on the internet and are quite easy to obtain. And even though I know they aren’t speaking directly to me, I still find that writing advice from the greats is a true life-changer when you need a little boost.
This week I wanted to make a list of the most inspiring and helpful pieces of theatrical writing advice I have been “given” and if you’re a writer, or even if you are not, I hope that these smidges of wisdom will provide you with some of the same encouragement and hope that they provided me
1. Writing The Real Thing – Louisa May Alcott
The first person I want to put on this fabulous list is someone who has inspired me since I was quite small and immature. She isn’t a musical theatre writer per say, but she is famous for having been very theatrical as a child, something that is recorded in detail in her semi-autobiographical classic novel, Little Women.
There are so many quotes of Louisa’s that I love. Her novels (all of which I read in middle school) are very humourous (also kind of romantical, just saying) and the character of Jo March in Little Women, a fictionalization of Louisa herself, inspired me in so many ways.
There is a specific quote of hers that I think of quite often when I’m writing. It relates to a struggle we, as writers (and non-writers) face quite daily: sometimes it’s hard to write something really real because you’re afraid that it’ll be judged or misunderstood. And especially if you want to get a strong point across in your work (like we talked about last week, link here) receiving a little encouragement can be quite essential, so I present to you, Writing Tip Number One, courtesy of Louisa May Alcott:
“I like good strong words that mean something”
- Writing in Stages – Lin-Manuel Miranda
Of course. I love Lin, as you all know, and this specific writing tip from him has lately been really important and meaningful to me.
“Anytime you write something, you go through so many phases. You go through the ‘I’m a Fraud’ phase. You go through the ‘I’ll Never Finish’ phase. And every once in awhile you think, ‘What if I actually have created what I set out to create, and it’s received as such?”
In any creative endeavour, there’s always the fear that you’re a fraud. The fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda has felt like a fraud at writing is literally the most encouraging feeling ever.
- Keeping a Diary – Oscar Wilde
Ah, Oscar. If I’d lived back in the day (when he lived) I hope we could have gallivanted around London together.
Oscar Wilde was a man of wit and theatrics, and he wrote some of the most hilarious plays known to humankind, including my personal favorite, The Importance of Being Ernest.
Oscar, as a writer, really understood the difficulties that all writers face. He also had some unconventional ways of looking at the writing journey.
For example, writers are often told to carry a notebook wherever they go. It seems that Oscar Wilde totally agreed with this, but not because he was following a Writing Self-Help Book. (If that’s a real thing, will someone please get it for me immediately?) Instead, he is quoted as saying,
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
I completely agree with this advice. If you bring your notebooks and diaries with you wherever you go, not only will you have something sensational to read on the train (the Uber, fine) , you will have paper at the ready in case you have to write some comment about some person or jot down some hastily passionate love poems. Quite important.
- Art vs. Craft – Stephen Sondheim
Writing is said to a form of art. Art is beautiful and many people love art and admire it. Also, quite a lot of people want to create art, including moi, your author of impeccable oddness (I just added that to liven things up, even if it’s true.)
But I remember I once heard a really well-known screen-writer speak, and he said that when you’re a mechanic, you don’t sit around waiting for inspiration to come down and land on your shoulder, you keep working because you have to finish your job. And he said that writing isn’t and shouldn’t be any different that mechanic-ing. I think this is really important to remember as a writer, and Stephen Sondheim makes this exact same point perfectly. He says,
“Art is craft, not inspiration.”
At one point in my life, I was discussing the structure of a story with one of my colleges (I’m allowed to to say colleagues, by the way, I have a fake New York accent) and he said that all we had to do was make good art and we’d be set, structure be frak-darned, Lil you blastedly infuriating creature. (I added some extra bits to that to make it more exciting.)
I, of course, sniffed disapprovingly at my colleague and smacked him a little with my large purse that I carry for just such situations, but him saying that really made me think about how we as writers sometimes put off writing because we just don’t feel “inspired”, when in fact we just have to do it and get words on paper. Also, I put off writing a lot and am really far from perfect.
*watches YouTube for a week*
- Writing With Confidence – Lillian Hellman
Ah, Lillian Hellman. My namesake and mentor back in the good old days.
Actually, my parents named me Lillian because, well, because..?
And unfortunately, I never met Lillian Hellman.
But Lillian Hellman, the renowned female playwright, has some advice for all of us, regarding the art of writing and the act of confidence, the latter which is, in fact, vital to the former.
“It is best to act with confidence, no matter how little right you have to it.”
There we have it. Keep writing, keep believing in your writing and yourself, and you will succeed!
Said the teenaged theatre blogger with the real dead-line issue.
I hope these writing tips from the greats inspired and encouraged you, if only the smallest bit, to keep writing, if you are a writer, and if you are not a writer, to live life with confidence, and (obviously) most importantly, fabulousity.
See you all next week!