Yesterday I attended the Commit to Creativity workshop hosted by Krista Vernoff, show runner for the Grey’s Anatomy TV show and others. After doing 2 writing exercises during the workshop, I feel inspired and energized to write more articles here on my blog.
I’ll discuss the workshop and share those 2 powerful writing prompts in a minute. First, I want to discuss my plans for this blog going forward.
I want to write more frequently, and I want to write shorter pieces sometimes.
I also give myself permission to write more about my own journey as a recording artist, writer, and owner of a membership site. While I’m changing my format and focus somewhat from more substantive content that I’d call “teachable moments” — I will still write those, of course! — I think the lessons I learn and observations I have along the way will still be relevant to other narrators and authors who are publishing their work in audiobooks.
With that said, let me tell you now about the workshop yesterday.
I could say that I only learned about this workshop through accident.
On 29 December 2020, I saw a post in a Facebook group where someone referenced this Twitter thread that Krista Vernoff wrote about having a life in the arts. I confess that I did not know who she was when I clicked the link.
I connected to what she wrote and saw that she was hosting this workshop. Her guests were actress/director/dancer/choreographer Debbie Allen, actress/writer Nia Vardalos, and author Cheryl Strayed.
I knew the phenomenal accomplishments of these ladies and thought the afternoon would be entertaining, if nothing else. I signed up.
When the event started, I felt excited to be in the presence of these creative powerhouses! Within a few minutes, their genuine natures had crossed the ether in the casual Zoom atmosphere and made me feel like they were mentors and friends I had known for years.
Of course, I took a loooong page of notes in Evernote! Almost every utterance from each of these accomplished women was a golden nugget of wisdom. Listed below are a few of the gems I heard:
- The most important thing is to learn how to take a note even if you don’t like it. — Krista Vernoff
- If the phone doesn’t ring with a job offer, call yourself and do your own project. — Nia Vardalos
- Don’t reject yourself. Don’t let someone else’s opinion or criticism come for you. — Debbie Allen
- Part of creating art is letting it go. — Cheryl Strayed
A Compelling Case Study
One part of the conversation was particularly thrilling to anyone in a creative field as we all can follow similar steps to our own destiny!
Early in her career, Cheryl wrote a series of essays as if she were an advice columnist named Sugar. She wrote them for free to create content for a friend’s web site.
At some point, she repackaged and repurposed those essays into a book named Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.
Some time later, a director urged Nia to read Tiny Beautiful Things. Nia had a highly emotional experience in reading the book; she used the phrase “it unzipped me” to describe it.
Nia decided she wanted to adapt it for a stage play — not that she had any experience in stage adaptations.
She laughed as she said she had the AUDACITY to ask Cheryl Strayed for the permission to develop that adaptation.
Not only did Cheryl say “yes” to the adaptation, but she asked Nia to play Sugar in the stage production! Although Nia hadn’t even given herself permission to ask that question, she had no hesitation in her answer: “Yes, please!”
She and Cheryl lived on opposite coasts, so it cost Nia money to fly back and forth for meetings with Cheryl and later the Broadway production.
In its review of the play, the New York Times awarded a Critics Pick designation.
Nia commented that she’d made the least money on that play than any other professional pursuit, but it gave her the most professional satisfaction.
Now, the play has been done in numerous other cities and theatres. I’m sure when Cheryl wrote all of the columns originally way back when, she never would have dreamed that her creative output would take on the life that it did.
By the way, Nia did an incredible reading from the libretto that had us all in tears. Cheryl’s words and Nia’s interpretation left me breathless and further motivated me to continue improving my acting ability in order to bring even more nuance to my narration.
The Writing Prompts
At the workshop’s conclusion, I no longer thought of this workshop as an “accidental” find. It was more a case of “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
You’ll remember that I said Cheryl gave us 2 writing prompts. In writing the second one, I found marching orders to guide my path going forward!
She explained we must trust the clarity of our deepest inner truth. Every day, she has to face down the inner critic and start new. Cheryl said, “Every time you do it, you evolve. You hand yourself the key to your next becoming.”
The writing prompt she gave us was:
Dear [your name here],
This is your deepest inner truth, and here is what I know.
In her prelude to the second prompt, Cheryl stated that your power/strength/love is at the root of your desire. She encouraged us to not think about the obstacles we face, but to instead think how it feels when you have stepped into your power and are creating your art. “Who are you when you are doing what you are most deeply, divinely called to do?”
Here’s the writing prompt:
Dear [your name here],
This is your power, and this is who you are when you own me.
In both cases, you should set a timer for 10 minutes and then write everything that comes to you as fast as you can. Don’t stop to edit or fix mistakes. Just keep writing.
For me, the last 3 sentences I wrote about my power contained truths I knew but had tried to ignore.
I won’t ignore them any more.
If you do these 2 exercises, did you learn something about yourself? I hope you’ll share your comments below!