Lucas Pralle here. I am the co-founder and host of the creativity workshop and podcast, Endless Beautiful.
During an Endless Beautiful workshop, we listen to audio that my partner Carolyn Decker and I have recorded out in the field for a 15 minute duration. During that time, we write, and immediately after the audio we share what we came up with. Check it out on our site endlessbeautiful.com, especially Session 15: Featuring Scott Mullins from ThisIsWriting.com.
Okay, now that my pesky introduction is out of the way, let’s get into the meat of it. It’s my business to promote and explore the creative process, and I’ve learned some interesting things along the way that I would like to share.
Write for Yourself, Not the Idea of Yourself
One of the largest barriers to one of my workshop participant’s progress is their own couched and completely twisted views on literary success. Some feel that they don’t have permission to write. Other participants are looking for the golden ticket, the guidebook on how to write perfect prose. I’ve encountered participants that spent the entire workshop writing about how they hated the Endless Beautiful process and how I was a jerk!
Writing can be a very personal thing for many that do it. Sometimes when we try to write something meaningful, we’re pulling that stuff up from depths unknown within our own psyche. This is good. That is the incredible power of fiction and other forms of writing. It allows us to examine the human condition just as a good painting does or philosophers smoking opium in a salon would.
What is not good is when we allow the gravitas of the idea of writing to prevent us from moving forward and actually writing. Think about it this way: Flying is a big deal for human beings. We’ve only been doing trans-oceanic flights for 75 years or so. The technological aspect of thousands of human beings traversing the planet at any given moment is a miracle. If one of those 747s crashes, which a few have, over a hundred people die. Flying is a big deal once you start digging into the nature of it. For God’s sake, we even have Wi-Fi.
Yet we happily buy our tickets and get on our flights, drink ginger ale, read those funky Sky Mall magazines, and fly thousands of miles without a second thought. The process and result of flying, at least to most of us, is utilitarian in nature. Nobody has lost sleep over the artistic merit of one flight over another. Nobody has made you feel slightly inadequate at a party because they connected at Heathrow and you in Berlin.
Because that would be stupid.
Don’t over think it.
Write your damn stories.
Demystify the Writing Process and Make Sure it is Healthy
It wasn’t until I started running Endless Beautiful workshops that I realized that my relationship with writing was completely toxic. Somehow, I had equated trauma, many times self-inflicted, with my writing process. After I got back from two combat deployments in Iraq as a United States Marine Corps Infantryman, I wrote stories to help sort it out.
In retrospect, this was very helpful for a period of time, but then that normalized pain and mental distress became my only viable starting point. Many times, I needed to be recovering from a massive hangover before I felt like I could tap into my creative potential. Drug benders, sleep deprivation, and other emotional anguish were the fuel to my creative fire.
And they were crap. I constantly felt like shit. I was an emotional wreck. My relationships suffered. I came closer to dying during that period of my life than when I was involved in a damn war.
You should not have to feel like garbage in order to be a productive writer. Did I hit a couple lucky shots while living like trash? Sure, but I could have done that regardless. Don’t rely on inspiration that is born out of misery and luck. Get yourself in a place where you can consistently hit your shots.
Let’s use a basketball analogy. Maybe you managed to make a couple hook shots from half court, and if you take enough shots, you will hit those. Sure there are high fives abound, but those victories are few and far between, and if getting “better” at those shots means inflicting pain on yourself and those around you, well, you can see the flaw in that logic.
Square up on the free throw line and get a good baseline there. Your shots will be much more consistent and you will build a foundation that will work for you, not kill you.
You Are a Seasoned Explorer of the Human Experience
Write what you know. You have probably heard that one before. So let me offer up this bit. Imagine if I told you to write me a story about being an inhabitant of a far-off planet. Let’s call it Hanoo.
Light would come down from a distant star and reflect off of the mercurial seas of Hanoo. Your protagonist, Jackzina, would be hopelessly smitten with a lovely green, three-breasted attendant at the intergalactic supermarket named Suezina, and your dog would be named Sparg.
Broken down, we would find that you like to drink that chocolate milk stuff Yahoo, and you have a thing for boobs, and you’ve always wanted a spotted terrier.
Dumb. Yes, but you’re writing what you know. Now let’s turn the tables a bit.
Imagine that we are on Hanoo and I tell you to write me a story about a place called Earth.
If only we had an expert that lived on Earth for the past x-amount of years….
That’s right, I’m looking at you!
The moment you were born and opened your eyes, and possibly even before that, you began your journey of probing this planet and what it means to be a human being on it.
The inhabitants of Hanoo will never totally get what it means to love a human, to feel grief, or to see a sunrise on the beach. They haven’t lived it. You have. It’s time to recognize yourself as the seasoned explorer that you are and collect data and present it accordingly. You are an expert! Sit and listen to a conversation. Watch the wind in the trees. You are an explorer.
Write your damn stories.
Get Others Involved
One of the biggest lessons that I have learned running Endless Beautiful is that art, writing, heck, life in general gets a lot easier when you get others involved in a meaningful and positive way.
Share stories. Collaborate. Find creative ways to think out of the box and give others access to what you are doing. And by access, I don’t just mean, let them read it and sign your own books. Writing is a living, breathing, active art form that should be shared at all stages.
Celebrate this incredible gift that we possess. You are not alone. To be human is to understand stories.
I think I’ll leave it here for the moment. Try a session out on my website endlessbeautiful.com. I think you’ll have a good time. I know you will come up with something unique and interesting.
Write your damn stories!
Lucas Pralle is the co-host and producer of the writing workshop/podcast, Endless Beautiful. He’s the writer and producer of the serialized audiobook, Inner Harsh. Lucas, or Oracle in some circles, also co-hosts two other podcasts, The Red Eye Report and Worm Island. He thoroughly enjoys torturing his cat Bella by making her wear sweaters and other festive costumes.