Is your mind feeling out of shape? Are you struggling from a mild, or perhaps severe, form of writer’s block? Then you’ve come to the right place because Lisa Medway’s Right Brain Aerobics for Writers is just what you need. With her background in sitcoms and animation, and as an author of award-winning columns for Copley Newspapers, Lisa can help you fearlessly press on and stretch your creative muscles to strengthen your writing. Here’s what she had to say about what it means to work out your brain.
Writers’ Program: As writers, we know that writing requires us to work out our minds. In your Right Brain Aerobics for Writers course, what does it mean for students to use the right side of the brain to utilize their “creative muscles, strengthen material, and increase productivity?”
Lisa Medway: My wish is for my students to calm down, take a breath, and allow their thoughts to take shape in the stillness of their minds. Imagination occurs in a state of relaxation. It’s not a coincidence that dreams happen while you’re asleep. We come up with ideas in the shower or while we’re doing mundane activities: washing dishes, watering the lawn, surfing. Creativity takes time; patience and contemplation to make stuff up, let it percolate, write it down, edit, fix, revise, and polish. It sounds counter-intuitive, but over-thinking can lead to over-writing.
WP: Every successful writer faces daily challenges that they must overcome. But what does it mean to be a writer?
LM: Okay. I don’t mean to go all OPRAH-Lifetime Television for Women here, but I suppose I need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, right? There’s a difference between being a writer and writing. I know people who can play the piano, but they’re not professional musicians. I don’t equate bringing your laptop to Starbucks once in a while and tinkering with the screenplay you’ve been writing for the last decade with being “A Writer.” Writers, if they’re not cranking-out pages every day, day-in-day-out, are always thinking, problem-solving, making notes, editing, making submissions, taking classes, coming up with ideas, and reading – all the time. You wouldn’t brush your teeth once in a while or feed your cat a couple of times a month or pay your bills a few times a year. You do the things habitually and consistently. And when you’re not doing them, you think about doing them. Writing is a routine. It’s habituated behavior.
WP: You have extensive experience in comedy and your work exudes humor. What would you say to students who are interested in comedy and want to get their feet wet, but never took the plunge into the world of comedy writing?
LM: Wow. I love that I can “exude” anything – especially humor. Here’s the thing: comedy is not a mystery. Over the years my students are gobsmacked when they discover they can write comedy. They are orgasmic when they get a laugh. Comedy is The Truth stretched to the edge of reason. When you begin with a story that’s simple, specific and emotionally truthful, you can always find the nooks and crannies for what’s funny and language that sizzles and pops. One of my anthems is: “It’s funny because it’s true.” Authenticity, Honesty, Vulnerability, Human Frailty are the building blocks of comedy. Comedy is not memoir. It’s not a documentary. A lot of writers make the mistake of not “reading the room.” I believe the best funny writers are intuitive and know their reader/audience.
WP: What words of wisdom do you want to share with our students?
LM: My tip: DON’T PUT STUFF OFF! Don’t wait another day to start your novel or learn the tango. Fall in love – and write about it. Get your heart broken, then write about it. Live in the world, leave the house, don’t be a whiner, don’t procrastinate, be a doer, not a poseur. Have adventures, read books, watch movies, take classes at Extension, be around other bright, like-minded people who will inspire you and root for you. Write for the joy of writing. Not everything you write is the Hope diamond. Don’t tell people you’re a writer – BE a writer. Stop reading this and go write something.
Lisa Medway will be teaching Right Brain Aerobics for Writers in Spring 2014. Click here to enroll or call Registration at 310-825-9971.
Phoebe Lim is the Program Assistant for Creative Writing (Online) and Events. Contact her at 310-825-0107 or firstname.lastname@example.org.