In the glimmering world of writing, a dark secret stalks you. You are not able to be published or produced unless you are honest with yourself. In being honest with yourself, you must come to grips with what is inside you as a person and as a writer.
What is inside you as a person and as a writer grows out of your passion. What is passion? Why do you want to write or why do you write? It doesn’t matter so much what the reason is as it does to identify the reason. By identifying it, you will understand what your passion is. And in understanding your passion, you will be able to become a published writer or a produced screenwriter or playwright time and time again.
This reason, then, becomes the driving force behind everything you write as a writer. It is the spine from which everything grows inside you as a writer.
What is the spine from which everything grows inside you as a writer?
The challenge of writing after you have studied all the books, gone to all the classes, workshops and seminars, and listened to all the speakers is when a blank computer monitor screen or white piece of paper glares at you. You know how to write, but you stare back at the screen or paper. You might think you know what you want to write, but you aren’t sure how to write it, or you are sure how to write it, but you aren’t certain how to start writing it. You question yourself about it. You might feel inadequate as a writer. You might want to panic and turn to something that is more reliable like teaching or driving a truck.
Is it the first word of what you are writing or about to write that you are struggling with? Or are you buried in the second act of the next multi-million dollar screenplay? Perhaps you’re grappling with the last paragraph of the next great American novel or in the middle of Act I of your stage play or the third line in your poem or the opening paragraph of your newly-assigned article.
What is there to draw upon? Where do you find the courage to write that first word or to get yourself to the next minute in the screenplay or to finish off that great novel? What does it take to push you forward, to give you the ability to tap a key on the computer or typewriter or word processor keyboard or to press the pencil or pen down? What does it take to become a successful writer?
Imagine, for a moment, if you will, a tree. Any tree. Look at it. What do you see? Think about it.
I see a tree with a trunk with branches growing out of it. On these branches, smaller branches shoot our in various directions. On these branches, I see buds and leaves. And if I look closely enough, I can see a beautiful plant, resplendent and magnificent in its physical form and colors that is anchored by its roots. It is complete.
Just like the tree, what you write can be complete and magnificent. In order to accomplish this, you must have a root just like the tree from which everything else grows. Without this root, your poem or article or screenplay or novel or short story or essay or letter will not grow. It will reach for life, but it will fall short somehwere along the way because it has nothing to grow from.
Many of you recognize what I am referring to here. What I am saying has to do with theme. Without theme, whatever you are writing meanders, wanders and confuses. With theme, your ad, note to the mail person, or screenplay is organized, coherent and understandable. With theme, everything you write within the body of what you are writing grows from the theme; just like the branches shooting out from the trunk of the tree. The theme for the tree is the root. Without the root, there is no tree just like without theme there is no short story, poem or article.
In order to be a successful, professional writer, you, too, must have a theme or a root. Everything you write must grow from this theme. This doesn’t mean that everything you write must have the same theme. It means everything you write comes from inside you. And just like the branches on the tree that grow from the roots of the tree, you grow, too.
You grow through your life experiences intellectually, emotionally and mentally. It can include your upbringing, education, and social, personal and professional lives. This life experience determines what kind of person you are. This life experience is your root; your theme; and it is from which everything grows inside you to make you who you are.
Since your life experience is ever-changing, you are ever-changing. This is not to say that you do not possess some characteristics that remain stable, unified and consistent throughout your lifetime. This is to say your total life experience at this moment determines who you are. And contained within this determination is your theme just like the roots of the tree is its theme; the tree’s source from which everything else grows.
How do you find what your theme is?
Contained within each one of us is a unifying theme. It binds us together individually and together universally. It doesn’t matter if we are writers or truck drivers or teachers. What matters is we embrace the idea that there is one unifying theme that makes up human beings. This theme is passion.
According to “Merriam Webster,” passion is, in part, “...the emotions as distinguished from reason...” Passion can come in the form of love, hate, anger, frustration, denial, disgust, desire or a host of other emotions. Passion is the spine from which everything grows regarding what you are writing. Even though you might have a separate theme for what you are writing that is totally unrelated to passion, passion is your theme. It is the driving force, the engine that propels forward what you are writing to its successful completion.
With passion, you have reason for being as a writer. Without passion, you are directionless; you have no purpose; and you are bankrupt of the ability to write. With passion, you have substance for what you are writing. Without passion, the substance for what you are writing is one-dimensional. It has no life. With passion, the substance for what you are writing has dimension and it has life.
By identifying your passion, it will reflect directly in what you are writing, and this, in turn, will connect universally. And, this, in turn, will determine your success as a writer because you are reaching the greatest amount of people. Answer the following questions. Write down your answers.
Where does your passion come from?
What is it that drives you?
What is your motivation in this life?
What event or events make you weep or cry?
What is the source of all your passion?
Why do you write or want to write? Why are you writing what you are writing or are about to write at this very moment?
Answer these questions now. Write down the answers to these questions now. Put the answers to these questions next to your work station and study them each time before you begin to write.
How do you use your passion to get your writing to grow from it?
THE EIGHT KEYS
There are EIGHT KEYS to successful writing that passion glues together. Each published author and each produced screenwriter/playwright utilize these keys each time they begin a new writing project. They utilize them from the beginning of their project, through the middle of their project, to the end of their project, and this includes the marketing of their project, and for years after their project has been published or produced.
And for most published authors and most produced screenwriters/playwrights, they are consciously unaware of what these keys are. After utilizing them for days, weeks, months and years, they become rote for these authors. These keys impel them, compel them, and propel them through their writing projects to publication or production and beyond. These keys distinguish the professional, accomplished writer from the mediocre writer and the “wanna be” writer.
How is this so?
Every writing project I have ever been associated with has originated from these keys. These projects would not have been created and brought to fruition without these keys. These keys have provided the necessary means for me in my quest to be a published author and produced screenwriter and now a film director and producer.
In order to use these keys, you need not only to identify them, but you need to know what your passion is that holds these keys together. You will not be able to use these keys unless you have these keys welded to your passion. Without identifying your passion, these keys get misplaced. In some cases, they get lost. In other situations, the writer unlocks one or two or more doors to only become confused about what key to use next. Whatever can happen to these keys, they will not unlock these doors unless all eight are welded together with your passion.
This is no different than the root of the tree. Your passion is like the theme in what you are writing. It holds everything together. Without it, it is like a human being without a spine or a tree without a root.
What are these keys?
The FIRST KEY is to IDENTIFY THE ORIGINAL SOURCE of what you are writing or about to write. What this means is that you need to think about the reason you got the idea for what you are writing. Was it because you cut your finger? Or did you see someone on the news? Did you read something in the paper that triggered an idea? Did you dream about the perfect person or car or scenario where you were the hero/heroine?
Unlock yourself with this key. Once you are inside yourself, look at your heart and mind. Grasp the ability to understand who you are by looking inside your heart and mind. What motivates you? What makes you who you are at this very moment?
I was unable to identify who I was until I was struck with a personal tragedy. It devastated me. I was destroyed by a deep personal loss without any way to retrieve it. This experience blinded me to who I had been all my life. I began to see myself differently. Tastes, feelings, sounds, images and smells all took on greater meaning. I began to inhale life as I had never experienced it before.
I was ultimately transformed into a more complete human being. This experience became my theme, my root and my passion.
How does this apply to writing a book that can be published or a screenplay that can be produced? Let’s say you have an idea for a story you would like to write. It can be a poem, a short story, a novel, an article, a nonfiction book, a teleplay, a sitcom, an episodic, a short screenplay, a screenplay, or a host of other ways to convey your idea into a story. In order to write the story taken from this idea, you must go to the original source of what you are writing or want to write.
What was the original source of what you are writing or want to write? Where did it come from? What is it that caused you to write what you are writing?
A clue to identifying the original source of your inspiration is to look at your passion; your reason for writing what it is you are writing or want to write. Without knowing what it is, you will have difficulty in being successful with what you are writing.
Whatever it is, find it. Identify it. Be specific. Make sure you are certain about the original source of what you are writing. By knowing what the original source of what you are writing is, you will discover more of yourself inside yourself that will lead you to a more in-depth writing ability.
Once you have identified what the original source of what you are writing is, write it down, place it by your work station, and study it each time before you begin to write.
The SECOND KEY is to identify WHEN you first got the idea for what you are about to write or are writing. Was it last year? How about when you were younger? Or was it yesterday? Perhaps it was when you were sleeping last night.
What were you doing at the time? How old were you? Were you the kid in the seventh grade who always asked the most questions in class and your teacher commended you for that? This made you feel good and you’ve always wanted to motivate others to ask questions so you are indirectly writing about that now? Or perhaps a neighbor sits on the patio in the dead of winter barbecuing a chicken. It is blizzarding. He is in a parka smoking a cigarette and guzzling a beer. This has given you an idea for a story about a man who won’t go in the house because he is terrified to be inside the house for some intriguing reason.
By discovering when you first got the idea for your story, images will come into your mind about the scenario surrounding that time. These images will give you clues about what is driving you to write what you are writing. And these clues will keep you focused on what you are writing.
Identify when you first got the idea for your story. Be very specific. Then write it down, place it by your work station, and study it each time before you begin to write.
The THIRD KEY is to identify WHERE you got the idea for what you are writing. A newspaper article? Something you observed on your way to work? A line in a movie you saw? A shopper in the supermarket? A child in a nursery? A bus driver?
Maybe you were jogging or removing mail from the mailbox. Whatever it was, identify it. By revealing the location to yourself about where you got the idea for what you are writing, you will be able to understand more precisely why you are writing what you are writing.
Pinning down the location where you got the idea for what you are writing will lead you to look into deeper reasons about why you are writing what you are writing. By looking into these deeper reasons, your writing will take on a greater dimension.
Identify where you got the idea to write what you are writing. Write it down. Place it by your work station and study it each time before you begin to write.
The FOURTH KEY is to identify WHY YOU ARE WRITING WHAT YOU ARE WRITING OR ABOUT TO WRITE. Are you an emotional person? Do people, events and situations charge you up? Why do you want to tell this story? Did God inspire you? Or Deepak Chopra? Perhaps a childhood experience? Or a recent one? How about Harrison Ford or Michael Jordan? Or was it Robert Ludlam or John Grisham? Perhaps it was Erica Jong or Shirley MacLaine or Jean Auel.
Finding out why you are writing what you are writing will guide you deeper into yourself. This will cause you to write more profoundly because you are identifying the reason why you are writing what you are writing or about to write.
Whatever or whoever it is, identify it and write it down, now. Place it by your work station and study it each time before you begin to write.
The FIFTH KEY is to identify WHAT YOU WERE DOING at the time you got the idea for what you are writing or are about to write. Were you cutting wood? Or working out on a stair climber? Maybe you were watching a movie or eating an ice cream bar. Perhaps you were separated from the one you loved most and it left a mark on you for your life. And now, you are writing about it.
Knowing what you were doing at the time you got the idea for what you are writing will make you dig even more deeply inside yourself where all your answers are. This process leads you into the cavernous areas of your mind and heart where you tap resources you would otherwise not be aware of.
Whatever it is that you were doing at the time you got the idea for what you are writing, identify it and write it down, now. Place it by your work station and study it each time before you begin to write.
The SIXTH KEY is to identify the THEME of what you are writing about. Are you writing about fires? If you are, are there people involved? Buildings? Matches? Blow torches? Burning flesh? Whatever it is, you can see here that a dominating theme is fire because everything mentioned is linked to fire in one way or another.
Or are you writing about a child who touches flower petals, swirls her finger around in a pool of water, plucks a berry from a tree and eats it, and throws her head back and lets the wind waft through her hair? Your theme here could more than one theme. Themes could be a little girl, nature, love, health, the senses, and/or etcetera. I am sure you can see the significance of identifying the theme of what you are writing about.
It doesn’t matter what you are writing about as much as it matters that you identify the theme or themes of what you are writing about or are going to write about. This exercise will force you to look inside yourself. By doing this, your focus will be sharpened a hundred times. This kind of focus, in turn, will directly reflect on your writing and make it more focused.
Identify the theme of what you are writing about and write it down, now. Place it by your work station and study it each time before you begin to write.
The SEVENTH KEY is to identify your LEAD. Lead here means that if you are writing a story or about to write a story, who is your main character? This person is your lead, protagonist, hero, or main character. If you are writing a non-fiction article, what is the subject matter? This is your lead. What or who is driving what you are writing about? Are you writing an article about love? What or who is the article written around? If it is love, then your lead is love. If it is about a woman or a man, then your lead is the woman or the man. What or who is driving the poem, article, book or screenplay you are writing? You? If it is, who are you using to represent you? A character? Another person? A narrator? A quacking duck? Maybe Matt Damon or Harrison Ford or Jean Auel or Rod McKuen? Or yourself?
If you are writing about or about to write about an inanimate object like wood, what is your lead? An old oak desk with scars on it? A maple tree? A lumbering company in Washington? A piece of paper? A pencil? How about a cherrywood dining set?
By distinguishing who or what your lead is, you will know what to keep your focus on when you are writing. By keeping your focus on who or what your lead is, your writing will be sharp, concise and to the point because you will be seeing everything you are writing from the point-of-view of who or what your lead is.
Whoever or whatever it is that drives what you are writing, identify them or it. Then, write it down, now. Place it by your work station and study it each time before you begin to write.
The EIGHTH KEY is to identify THE PROBLEM you want your lead to solve. Does your lead have cancer? Does he/she need chemotherapy or radiation treatments? The problem your lead has, then, is cancer. Or is your lead a dog and the dog wants out of the yard? The problem your dog has, then, is to get out of the yard. Perhaps the article you are writing on love is about fighting. The problem here could be that when people fight, it separates them. Bring in your lead, love, to solve the problem. Show that when people love, it brings them together.
Perhaps you are identifying the problem you want your lead to solve through the poem you are writing or about to write. By now, you are aware of passion and the seven other keys. Focus on them to find out what problem you are really exploring in your poem. Is about Nazi Germany? Or perhaps hate? Or is it about a beautiful pond, say, like “Walden’s Pond”?
Identify the problem you want your lead to solve. Write it down. Place it next or your work station and study it each time before you begin to write.
Now, how do you feel about that blank page or screen? Are you pumped? Do you understand now what your PASSION and THE EIGHT KEYS really mean and how they can help you become a published writer or a produced screenwriter or playwright? Do you understand how significant they are in helping you hold everything together?
I will bet you have found the next word to type or write down. I will even be willing to bet you have, now, a paragraph, perhaps a page, maybe the rest of Act Two of your play, or for sure, that last paragraph of your novel in addition to an idea or two about how to start your next one.
In order to write something that can be published or produced, you must focus on your PASSION and THE EIGHT KEYS. This focus will keep you in line. It will help you get unblocked. When you are brainstorming a character, or researching, or when you need to get your story back in line, look at what you have written down regarding your PASSION and THE EIGHT KEYS. Study them. They will give you your writing rhythm back and get you back on track.
Keep in mind that without focusing on your PASSION and THE EIGHT KEYS, you will have difficulty making the piece you are writing everything it can be. And in the publishing and film/television industries where millions of people and dollars are involved, the learned eye will catch what you are missing. It can mean the difference between becoming a published writer or a produced screenwriter/playwright.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning writer/filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek studied producing, directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under the reknowned Dov Simens and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay, Inc., with Sally Merlin, daughter of the famed Hollywood Merlin family of screenwriters and writers, as his mentor. He has taught, mentored, and is a script consultant for more than 300 writers, directors, producers, and production companies. He has also acted in NBC’s Mystery of Flight 1501, ABC’s Father Dowling starring Thomas Bosley, and Red-Handed Productions’ Summer Reunion. These activities have resulted in his involvement in more than 100 movies during the past 23 years, from major studios to independent films including MGM’s $56-million Warriors of Virtue, Paramount Classic’s Racing Lucifer, American Picture’s The Lost Heart and Born To Kill starring the Charles Bronson of Korea, Bobby Kim, and his internationally-known brother, Richard, who directed Incline Productions, Inc.’s Born To Win starring, directed, and produced by Connie Martin;, 20th Century Fox’s Die Hard II starring Bruce Willis with Rennie Harlan as director, and Joel Silver as producer; Olympus Films+, LLC and Griffen Films Production’s Haunted World with Emmy-nominated PBS Producer Alison Hill; and Olympus Films+, LLC’s Faces, Oh, The Places You Can Go and the award-winning The Sand Creek Massacre documentary short.
Don also has written and published over 500 books, short stories and articles. His books include How To Write, Sell, And Get Your Screenplays Produced and The Write Focus. He has been a guest screenwriting and filmmaking columnist for Hollywood Lit. Sales, Moondance International Film Festival’s e-zine, Screenwriter’s Forum, Screenplace, Screenplayers.Net, Screenwriters.Net, Screenwriters Utopia, and Spraka & Kinsla (Swedish) and Ink On the Brain. Writing recognition includes Houston’s WorldFest International Film Festival, Chesterfield’s Writer’s Film Project, Writer’s Digest, The Sundance Institute, The Writer’s Network, and the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Guild, Inc.
Don is presently writing, directing and producing The Sand Creek Massacre, a documentary film project that includes the completed and award-winning documentary short, a book, a classroom video, Interactive Media, a study guide, and a lesson plan. His short, The Sand Creek Massacre, was awarded Best Short Film of 2004 by the Philip S. Miller Library’s Bull Theatre Film Project. The same film has also been screened in Los Angeles at the Paxico Projection Series 05, in New York at Staten Island’s Muddy Cup, Tribeca’s Monday Night Shorts, Stars in the Desert Film Festival, Denver’s Bug Theatre, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, The Happening Film Festival, the Colorado Filmmaker’s Showcase and won best documentary short at The Indie Gathering Film Festival and the American Indian Film Festival.
Don is on the board of directors of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston. He also is the founder and owner of Olympus Films+, LLC, a global writing and filmmaking company. He is also a screenwriting volunteer on AllExperts.com.
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READER COMMENTS, SUGGESTIONS AND QUESTIONS
Mr. Vasicek welcomes your comments, suggestions and/or questions. Please direct them to him in care of his office:
Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films +, LLC
7078 South Fairfax Street
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Please contact him also to inquire about seminars, teaching, tutoring, and speaking on writing, as well as his services regarding writing, script consulting, producing, and directing.
Copyright @ 1998-2006 by Donald L. Vasicek
Published and Distributed by:
Olympus Films +, LLC
7078 South Fairfax Street
Centennial, CO 80122
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First Printing, 1998, by Olympus Films+,LLC
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