Creativity On Writing Shakespeare

Creative Motivation in the Time of a Pandemic

I know there are some creatives out there who are seriously taking advantage of this pandemic downtime. I see it happening. One just has to glance in Taylor Swift’s direction to see an example of this. She’s been on fire creatively…taking advantage, it would seem, of every second of her pandemic downtime.

But not all creatives are created equally. Some take the lemon they are given and make glorious refreshing thirst-quenching lemonade. Others, they look at a lemon and think, ‘Now, what the hell am I going to do with a nasty old lemon!? Those things are disgusting!’

Though I’m not always a negative Nelly, rest assured that I’m side-eyeing my lemon with hatred and disgust. This particular creative is struggling to put a sentence together.

I recall at the beginning of the pandemic that there were memes going around about Shakespeare. They were–I THINK–meant to bolster creatives. I immediately recognized it as a bad take, though. It was an insult to all of us and I’m ashamed that I may have even been one of the ones who shared it in the moment.

I believe Rosanne Cash was one of the first ones who perpetuated this bad take meme. Sittin’ up there on her hill, just spittin’ out takes willy-nilly.

Soon, the Shaky Pear’s face was everywhere…with any number of quotes and explanations as to how wonderfully he dealt with his plague lemons.

If you were furiously creating when this meme first strolled by you, you probably thought, “YES! Damn right!”

But…if you were one of the ones truly struggling to get words on paper, paint on a canvas, vocals on tracks, musical notes recorded, yarn on a needle, or any of the other million ways creatives choose to express their creativity, this take would have come as a hot slap across your face. A face that was already burning from the frustration of not connecting with your particular mode(s) of creativity.

We are now more than a year into this thing. As the world is PAUSED, creatives are either creating, struggling to create, taking a break from creating, or screaming into a deep void that appears to be both endless and unforgiving. It’s a struggle.

Stop comparing yourself to Shakespeare. Stop beating yourself up if you feel your pace isn’t enough. Creativity will happen, come what may. If you have to take a break, do so. There’s no scorecard. We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. You’re doing your best. You’re getting through.

We (creatives and humans in general) are our own harshest judges. We see what others are accomplishing and we beat ourselves up over the fact that we’re not keeping up. Now is not the time for that. Good for Shakespeare for creating during the plague. That’s awesome. Really. Commendable. But there were some other great creatives in his day, I’m sure, who took a breather during the fear and uncertainty of the times.

Be you. Create when you can, not when you’re feeling pressured to do so. Define your own timeline of creativity and be kind to yourself during the down times. This is a big worldwide event. Yes, a poem will uplift the world. But so will serenity in a time of strife. If you’re not the poet this time around…be the reader. Take comfort in the creations of others.

Stay safe.

From one creative to another, sending love and light…

Amazon Balloons Elton John Kevin Craig Levon Music Sebastian's Poet Shakespeare Summer on Fire The Reasons William Shakespeare

Birthdays and Balloons!

Today is my good friend’s birthday! Okay, so he’s more an acquaintance than a friend, really. Okay, so he’s more a mentor than a friend, really. Okay, so I never actually met him…but I feel as though I know him intimately.

Happy 450th Birthday, Sir William Shakespeare!

I love Shakespeare. I finally dipped into this love for one of my forthcoming YA novels. My main character, Francis Fripp, loves Shakespeare and can quote anything from the bard’s work because he spent the lion’s share of his childhood in the hospital recovering from burns he received to almost half of his body. While it was his father who set him on fire for playing with matches, his father’s kind sister gave him The Complete Works of Shakespeare to read during his recovery. So, I really got to give the old Shaky Pear the nod in Burn Baby. (-: Shaky Pear. That’s what we called him in high school.

Did you know that many of the phrases we use every single day come from the man? It’s true.

How many times do you say the following phrases? If you invoke them, you are invoking Shakespeare!

  • A wild goose chase
  • Give the devil his due
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Vanish into thin air
  • What the dickens
  • Knock knock! Who’s there?
  • For goodness sake

These are just a few of the good man’s many everyday phrases. He certainly has achieved world domination in the English language phrasebook.

Raise a glass for old William today. He has brought us much joy.


Speaking of birthdays, don’t you just LOVE balloons! Wouldn’t you love for your job to be to sell cartoon balloons in town?! Couldn’t you just imagine yourself sitting on a porch swing somewhere blowing up balloons all day. Just letting them go and watching them fly!

After listening to Levon recently, I turned to my friend and said, “Wouldn’t that be the most awesome job in the world?! Selling balloons for a living.”

He said, “Der. That’s what you do. You play with words. You sell word balloons. You HAVE the awesome job. Dude, you’re living it.”

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am. I get to do this thing I love to do. I play with words. I sit on the porch swing and watch them fly. I take a balloon and I go sailing.

Find your thing. Find your balloon. And when you do, enjoy the flight. You only live once.


Don’t forget to check out my novels on Amazon. BURN BABY and HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN will release in the Fall of this year, but there’s always SUMMER ON FIRE, THE REASONS and SEBASTIAN’S POET…if you want to check out something now.

On Writing Shakespeare

To Thine Own Self Be Stew & I Finally Give the Old Bard the Nod!

Okay, so this particular quote makes me think of swimming with my cousins when I was young. The first one in would often be asked, “How deep is it?” This would invariably be answered with, “How deep is your love!” And we would all laugh…

J’adore Shakespeare! It’s true. I don’t even know the why of it. I just do. It started with Romeo & Juliet, but I think it really took hold with Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice. Or maybe the foundation was solidified with The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing. I don’t know. I love so many of his works. He’s up there with Mark Twain, for me. Funny, poignant, intelligent and not condescending.

This brings me to the Hamlet quote I pseudo-referenced in the title:


This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

In writing, it truly is important to be true to one’s self. Your output is a reflection of your soul. This is absolutely true for fiction writers, too.

There has always been debate about how much of our true selves we inject into our fictional creations. Should we write from our own personal experiences? Can we use Aunt Berta as a character in our next novel, and simply change her name to Bob? Can we write about the time we fell from the fourth story of an apartment complex in our neighbourhood that time we were trying to escape a run-in with the police by jumping from one balcony to another, if we change the names and make it a fifth floor fall?

When I hear the old adage, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, I kind of get all sorts of negative feels going on. If one takes it at its word, literally speaking, one might feel the desire to pummel the crap out of that adage for being so utterly and completely WRONG and UNHELPFUL and STUPID. It’s definitely cringe-worthy on so many levels.

I write what I know about through personal experiences, yes. I admit this. My themes are, for the most part, on subjects I feel passionate about as a person. I love to use cornerstones such as family dysfunction, teen angst and depression and mental illness. I have used abuse–sexual, physical and emotional. I have used the bully, the quirky off-beat character who doesn’t quite fit in. These are the areas in which I live, at a core level. I like to drag my characters through the proverbial mud, then give them a little leg up and a slim modicum of hope (I hear English teachers flinching at my use of slim and modicum side by side). I certainly don’t write and rewrite my life story every time I sit down to write a novel. You won’t find me in my work. At the same time, you will DEFINITELY find me in my work. When I write a story, I sometimes feel as though I am sending up emergency flares to my teen self…warning him that he is not alone. That someone sees him. That he is real. That it gets better. So, yes. In this sense, I am writing what I know.

Just don’t tell me not to write about life on a nuclear submarine or the story of a 100-year old Zen monk living in the Himalayas as told through the POV of his pet llama because I don’t know these things well enough to write about them. Don’t do that! Think of that adage in a different light. WRITE WHAT YOU WISH TO KNOW ABOUT. WRITE WHAT YOU WILL KNOW ABOUT AFTER YOU WRITE IT. WRITE ABOUT ANY GODDAMNED THING YOU WANT. Don’t restrict yourself. And don’t restrict other writers by giving them lame-ass advice like WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. Write what you believe in and allow other writers to do the same. Write what moves you. Write into the darkness of a thing, so that you may shed some light on it.

This brings me to my bastardization of the Shakespeare quote in the title. You will probably have to reread it now, since I tend to ramble so much it kind of drags the reader out into the bush and causes them to become briefly lost. I’ll reiterate here:


You are an accumulation of all of your experiences. And of all the experiences of others which you heard about through stories, news, first or secondhand tellings, etc. You have all of these things living inside you like a chunky manic stew of information and experience. Now, you can gingerly put your hand in and grab out a wad like that cartoon-guy on the Bits & Bites commercial. “You never know what you’re gonna get!” Or, you can dive in from, say, the fourth (or fifth) story of a building in your neighbourhood. Whatever way you choose to enter the stew of your own personal history, you’re gonna come up with a slew of ideas. This is WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. You’re taking from your core and you’re reforming what you–or someone you know or heard of–experienced, and you’re making it a story. You are the stew. So dive in. Discover those situations you think you forgot about, discover places you have been, or scents you remember. Or feels you survived. Discover all your sub-conscious mind has to offer. These are the things you KNOW. Write from that place. TO THINE OWN SELF BE STEW.

Now, I bet you’re thinking, ‘that was a pretty weak nod to the bard. They merely mentioned Shakespeare in passing!’

Nope. That’s not the nod.

As you probably know by now (as I have been shouting from the rooftops), I have recently signed two book contracts. In one of these two books, BURN BABY, BURN BABY, my main character, Francis Fripp, is a fan of Shakespeare. In one scene he and his potential love interest bat back and forth with Shakespeare quotes, trying to stump one another. It’s me injecting a bit of me into the story. The two characters are clearly madly in love with Shakespeare. That’s one of the fun things we get to do as writers. (-:

Incidentally, that’s not the only nod I gave in that particular story. Francis’s last name is ALSO a nod to an author I love, and one of his characters. Tripp was the last name of the main character in Michael Chabon‘s WONDER BOYS. For Francis, I changed it to Fripp, but the nod is still there. (-: