Guest Post by Dinty W. Moore: Writing and Creativity as a Peculiar Crossroads

One of my favorite writing quotes of all time comes from Flannery O’Connor, well known for her sharp observations and refreshing honesty. “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet,” she said.  “His problem is to find that location.”

O’Connor manages in these two short sentences to say so much about the mystery, the dedication, and the frustration of writing, while also reassuring those of us who have temporarily lost our roadmap to creativity that this is normal, ongoing, and to be expected. The peculiar crossroads is indeed elusive, which is why artists are both crazed and exhilarated most of their days.

O’Connor was Catholic, of course, and may not take kindly to my equating her views with a central Buddhist concept, but that connection is something else I like about this quote.  And O’Connor, while spitting in my eye, would perhaps applaud me for having the courage to say what I mean.

So here goes:  I think O’Connor is also speaking here of enlightenment.

The Sanskrit word for enlightenment, bodhi, means “awakened.” For a long time, I held all of the common misperceptions that we in the West usually have about Buddhism – most of what we know of the tradition was often learned from New Yorker cartoons of a mystic sitting atop a mountain. One of those misperceptions is the persistent idea that enlightenment is the final goal of Buddhism; that once enlightenment was attained, the ethereal Buddhist sits, perhaps glowing and smiling at the lesser beings trudging along the path below.

That, of course, is utter nonsense. Enlightenment is of no use unless it is employed to better the world for all beings, and enlightenment—like any awakening—can come and go. Indeed, it can be very fleeting.

Writers who struggle with a poem, or story, or essay, for draft after draft after draft, may on occasion experience a smidgen of enlightenment. It is the moment that the perfect word, or precise action by a character, or the ideal phrasing of an idea, is revealed to the writer.

So often, this ideal phrase or line of dialogue is more of a discovery than an invention. It is often a flash of sorts, like the proverbial light bulb above the head depicted in cartoons. This flash of insight doesn’t come from thinking, from intellect, or from reason; it comes instead from a more mysterious part of our awareness. For that moment at least, it can seem as if time and place and eternity have somehow met.

Once a writer is fortunate enough to experience such a moment, however, she doesn’t stop.  Her job is to find that “peculiar crossroads” again, to somehow pinpoint the ever-shifting “location” where insight forms. And then, once the story or poem is finished, the search begins again.

Dinty W. Moore is a Now Write! Nonfiction contributor, and the author of The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, as well as the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. He also edited The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers. Moore has published essays and stories in many literary magazines and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. A professor of nonfiction writing at Ohio University, Moore has won many awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction. He edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction.


Now Write! Screenwriting Panel: Sept. 23

Learn how to improve your writing from professional screenwriters.  Three of the contributors to the Now Write! Screenwriting anthology will share their exercises in the book and answer a few questions at the next Southern California Writers Conference: A Weekend for Words .

The conference is coming up September 21-23 in Laguna Beach.  These are not that cheap but really fantastic conferences for writers in all genres and mediums.

It is my honor to moderate a screenwriting panel with three Now Write! Screenwriting contributors who are coming to discuss their exercises and why they are important for you as a screenwriter.  This will be on Sunday, Sept. 23 at 10:40am with three fantastic writers:

GLENN M. BENEST is an award-winning writer/producer with seven produced film credits.  He teaches professional level screenwriting workshops which have launched five films, including SCREAM and EVENT HORIZON.  He is currently writing an ebook based on his award-winning screenplay, The Highwayman, which will be available at Amazon later in the year. (Also a contributor to upcoming Now Write! Speculative Genres)

CHRISTINE CONRADT has written more than 40 indie films and made-for-TV movies in the horror, thriller, and crime drama genre. Her films have aired on networks like FOX, Lifetime, LMN, and USA. She is the writer of SUMMER’S MOON, CHRISTIE’S REVENGE, MATERNAL OBSESSION and HOTEL CALIFORNIA. She holds a BFA in Film from USC and an MCJ in Criminal Justice from Boston University. (Also a contributor to upcoming Now Write! Speculative Genres.)  

Christine will also be doing a free teleconference for International Screenwriters Association on Saturday, Sept. 15. The topic is: Life As A Horror/Thriller Writing Professional: Find Out What It’s Really Like.

TOMMY SWERDLOW wrote the screenplay COOL RUNNINGS with his partner Michael Goldberg.  This led to credits on the family films LITTLE GIANTS, BUSHWHACKED and SNOW DOGS. Their television show, Brutally Normal, was on the WB. Tommy is also very proud of them being the original writers on SHREK.  Though it was 8 years later that the film was released, their creation of the Donkey character lives on.

New Work by Now Write! Contributors

The Walking Dead  TV series (2010-present) Executive Producer and Writer Glen Mazzara (Now Write! Screenwriting contributor)

Police officer Rick Grimes leads a group of survivors in a world overrun by zombies.  Based on the graphic novels of the same name by Bob Kirkman.

The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life by Dinty Moore (Now Write! Nonfiction contributor)
Wisdom Publications, April 2012 (hardcover)

Explores how a lifelong pursuit of writing and creativity helped open me to the path of Buddhism. The book explores these ideas through sixty writing quotes, from Buddhist writers such as Pema Chodron and from others, including Flannery O’Connor and August Wilson. Each of the quotes is discussed in a short page or so, revealing the similarities between artistic awareness and mindful thought.

 Death In Four Courses: A Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette (Now Write! Mysteries contributor)
Signet, Sept. 2012

The annual Key West Loves Literature seminar is drawing the biggest names in food writing from all over the country, and Haley Snow is there to catch a few fresh morsels of insider gossip. But when Hayley discovers the keynote speaker’s body in a nearby pool, the cocktail hour takes a sour turn, and Hayley finds herself at the center of attention—especially with the police. Now it’s up to her to catch the killer before she comes to her own bitter finish

Death Will Extend Your Vacation by Elizabeth Zelvin (Now Write! Mysteries contributor) 
Five Star, May, 2012 (hardcover)

The third novel in the mystery series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends, world-class codependent Barbara and computer genius Jimmy. The trio take shares in a lethal clean and sober group house in the Hamptons.

Shifting Is for the Goyim alsoby Elizabeth Zelvin
Untreed Reads, July 2012

A paranormal whodunit e-novella. Emerald Love, known back home as Amy Greenstein, is a nice Jewish girl who’s a rising country music star and a shapeshifter. She must use her paranormal abilities to find the killer of the man she loved. 

BETRAYED AT 17 (2011) TV movie written and co-produced Christine Conradt (Now Write! Screenwriting & Now Write! Speculative Genres contributor)

A mother vows to get justice when her daughter’s life is destroyed by a sex video that goes viral.  The film premiered as the fourth highest rated for the network this year.

NOTE: Free teleconference with Christine Conradt on Sept. 15, 2012 for the International Screenwriters Association.  Life as a Horror/Thriller Writing Professional: Find Out What It’s Really Like

Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius by Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber (Now Write! Screenwriting & Now Write! Speculative Genres contributor)
Da Capo Press, Aug., 2010
The early years biography of Jimi Hendrix – has been included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library in Cleveland and was Finalist in the General Biography category at the International Book Awards. Brad is adapting the book as both a musical and independent film.

NOTE: Free teleconference with Brad Schreiber on October 6, 2012 for the International Screenwriters Association.  Adapting Articles, Books and Life Rights to TV and Film

 Overtaken by Valerie Storey (Now Write! Mysteries contributor)
Dava Books, Feb. 2012
Portrait painter Sara Elliott agrees to marry a stranger days before he is scheduled to leave the country. Sara is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her new husband Miles and her own mysterious past. Caught between her imagination and her desire for the truth, Sara worries she is losing her mind, or worse: has she been overtaken by a power beyond her control?

Free Teleconferences from I.S.A.

Now Write! Screenwriting and Now Write! Mysteries co-editor Laurie Lamson has been moderating teleconferences for the International Screenwriters Association for the last 7 months.  These are wonderful conversations with a lot of food for thought both for screenwriters and authors in general.

William-AkersWill Akers is the author of Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great and a contributor to Now Write! Screenwriting. He’s had many writing assignments from producers taught screenwriting at Vanderbilt University for 19 years and is now Chair of the Program in Motion Pictures at Belmont University.  We had a very informative conversation about rewriting your script.  Listen now.  (Expires 8/31/13).

Adam Levenberg has worked as a development exec and shoots straight from the hip about the easiest way to break into the movie industry as a screenwriter – with a starter screenplay.  His candid advice is also available in a wonderful book The Starter Screenplay: An Executive’s Perspective On Screenwriting. Listen now. (Expires 6/30/13)

Jeffrey Gordon, the founder of the Writer’s Bootcamp, has developed lots of tools for writers.  We had a deep conversation and he also gave some tremendous advice to people on the call.

Listen now. (Expires 6/30/13)

Jacob Krueger was a wonderful guest with fantastic advice and encouragement about your creative flow and the essential drafts to take yourself through – starting from the ‘me’ draft where he encourages an unfettered outpouring without regard for structure.  Listen now(Expires 4/30/13)

Another of ISA’s guest speakers was a Now Write! Screenwriting contributor – Devorah Cutler-Rubenstein.  We had a lively discussion about different ways to tap into the spiritual essence of your story and evaluate your own work for a deeper and more meaningful and focused rewrite. (Also a contributor to the upcoming Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror.) Listen Now (expires 4/30/13).

Candace Kearns Read

What a lovely speaker!  Her background is as a story analyst for top agencies where she read scripts for some of the biggest movie stars. Her especial interest is true stories and she wrote a book called Shaping True Story Into Screenplay.    (Listen now). (Expires 3/31/13)

Earlier teleconferences moderated by Laurie.

The ISA Teleconferences are free so just sign up on the ISA website to stay informed about upcoming guest speakers.