THE PRACTICE: Seeking Help

THE PRACTICE: Seeking Help

Sometimes when I look back at the last five years, I’m surprised by what I’ve accomplished. It seems like it happened so fast. In truth, I’ve been developing my various creative skills since I was a child, and focusing on the task for about twenty years. Whatever I’ve accomplished has only occurred because of the assistance I received along the way and my willingness to seek help when I needed it. 

I wrote my first screenplay with the aid of books I found at the library. I shared it with a movie producer friend, and he encouraged me to revise it and go back to school. So, I went back to Yale and finished my bachelor’s degree in Film Studies and Screenwriting.

During that time, I not only improved my screenwriting skills but also I learned how movies are produced. In one class, we were required to make a five-minute film every week. I knew that my first attempt was not so great, so I recreated the same story the following week, and every week thereafter, until the end of the term. Ultimately, I produced nine versions of the same scene. The characters and plot remained constant, but each week, I explored different settings, shots, and dialogue. I think the repetition irritated pretty much everyone in the class. But at the end of the semester, my professor praised me for my persistence in trying new things to improve each time.

After college, I joined a group of writers and actors in Hollywood. It was an unusual setup, as far as what I was used to. Instead of writers gathering around a table to critique each other’s work, a writer would select a group of actors to act out the script in front of everyone. Then the entire group would comment on what they had just witnessed. I learned a lot from that process, too. Eventually, I got an agent who didn’t critique my work but helped me understand what would and would not sell in Hollywood. 

The year I taught writing and filmmaking at a boarding school also helped me hone my storytelling skills. During that time, I befriended an author who had just had a “breakout” (at age 50) success with her first memoir. She proved both a wonderful friend and mentor in my writing career. 

Since that time, I’ve taken classes, hired editors for each of my books, joined one writing group, and formed another. I’ve improved my painting techniques by studying, too briefly, with Kwadwo Adae. When I need feedback on my art, I send pictures to my friend, David, a retired art teacher and active multi-media artist.

It’s been twenty years since I earned my bachelor’s degree. I’ve published three novels and nearly 200 magazine articles. Now, I’m back in school, earning my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. I’m still learning, still seeking help, and expect I will be throughout my career.

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