Thursday, May 26, 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This is a slightly edited version of piece that I originally posted to Facebook on May 24. Click here to view the original post and its comment stream.

If you  I have just unfollowed another Facebook friend because of a vicious, vitriolic post attacking one of the Democratic candidates. This one was venomously anti-Sanders from someone who is vehemently pro-Clinton. But there have been just as many, if not more, from Sanders supporters. That both sets of attacks have been far more searing than anything coming from the Republicans should concern anyone who cares about the future of this country, not to mention the future of political discourse. (See "Don't Be a Hater."

Unlike those whose posts I have reluctantly chosen to mute, I see the many positive qualities in both Democratic candidates; I also see the many flaws in both. As I view it, both are qualified to be President, either would bring unique skills, passions and gifts to the Oval Office...and neither would be perfect. Whichever one would ultimately make it to the top job would alternately delight and infuriate their followers; that's the reality of politics.

It's also important to note that neither would damage this country, its citizens and its world standing and reputation the way a Trump presidency would, if Donald Trump's public rhetoric is to be believed.

One side note: Anyone who thinks you can equate a Clinton presidency with a Trump presidency has not been listening to Donald Trump and the Congressional Republicans or to their allies...like the KKK, for example, which has trumpeted its support for Trump in the hopes that he will put Jews in their place. A Republican presidency and Congressional majority would destroy American's remaining international credibility, would do its best to dismantle what little social safety net we have, including Obamacare, and would continue to strip women and minorities of their rights, making certain that those changes are upheld with Supreme Court appointments.

I understand the passionate yearning for radical change, and I share it. However, if Trump and the Republicans are elected because those who should be opposing them are instead opposing each other, we will all get radical change – just not the kind any of us desires and definitely the kind it will take generations to overturn.

I also understand that the political process is fraught with passion, and that's a good thing. Passion fuels change. But wouldn't it be better to channel our passion constructively, using it to broadcast the solid qualities of our candidate rather than misusing it in vicious attacks that are too often grounded more in rumor than truth?

If all elections are important, this one is perhaps more important than most. Let's keep the debate alive, but let's dial up the r-e-s-p-e-c-t and crank down the vitriol, which seems to grow more rabid as each day brings us closer to the Democratic Convention. This country deserves more. We deserve more. 

I welcome your comments as to why your candidate is the best choice or what your experience has been with the campaign so far. Negative comments, simplistic comments or those that simply say something like "your candidate is no good" or "your candidate should drop out" will be deleted.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How I Tried to Give Up Writing...and Failed

"I can't do this anymore. It's too emotionally draining. As soon as I finish with this draft, I'm closing the door on my writing 'career.' I'm not a writer anymore. It's over."

It's August 2013, a few weeks before my 59th birthday, and I'm about two-thirds through a first draft of my stage-musical adaptation of The SunQuest, the third story in my Q'ntana Trilogy. I've been at this nonstop for six weeks now. I started with The MoonQuest, the first story, and have continued straight through The StarQuest and into The SunQuest. I still have a fair bit of work left on this trio of initial drafts and I'm beyond burnt out.

For more than two decades, I have treated writing as a spiritual pursuit, writing from the deepest inner places I have been able to access and, as the title of my memoir suggests, surrendering more and more fully with each project to what I view as my highest imperative. This is also what I've taught – in my books for writers as well as through my coaching, classes and workshops.

But on this day, it feels as though I have sacrificed too much for too little return: My book sales are poor, my coaching income is negligible, I no longer have a home or car of my own and the emotional pain of digging so deep has grown unbearable.

On this day, my only commitment is do whatever it takes to finish this draft of The SunQuest so I can bring my trilogy of stage musicals to completion.

Two weeks later, as soon as I ring down the final curtain on The SunQuest and my Q'ntana musicals, I declare to my housemate and my closest friends that I'm on strike. "If I'm going to return to writing," I insist, "something has to shift. Otherwise, I'm giving it up. The work is much too hard for so pitiful a payoff."

My friends, some of whom are writers themselves, make sympathetic noises. I'm certain that they don't doubt my sincerity, but I suspect they doubt my determination. "Let them doubt," I mutter as I settle into a diet of Netflix movies and murder mysteries. "If nothing changes, I'm not going back."

My sole concession is to a pre-strike interview I conducted with New York Times bestselling mystery author J.A. Jance the previous month (see below). Because Jance was so generous with her time, I commit to editing the interview and posting it to YouTube as the sole writing-related interruption to my job action.

About 34 minutes into our recorded conversation, as we're talking about craft, I tell Jance how much I love that she never outlines her books because I don't either.

"I have to sort of step out with faith," she says, "that if I can write the first sentence of the book, I can eventually get to the end of it."

"Shit," I say out loud – not to J.A. Jance in the interview, but to the recording I'm editing. The moment she talks about the faith that gets her from her first sentence to her last, I know that my strike is over.

My creative and spiritual lives have always been inextricably linked, and both have been built on a solid foundation of faith.

My faith, as I describe it in Acts of Surrender, is not about submitting in any kind of demeaning fashion to some white-bearded, white-robed gentleman peering down from on high. "Rather," I write in the book, "I acknowledge the existence of an infinite mind whose wisdom transcends my conscious thoughts, and I do my best to defer to it. Whatever [that infinite mind] is – and I don’t pretend to have solved the theological and scientific question of the ages – it is something that is both within me and of which I am part. Whatever it is, it is definitely smarter than I am, and that is where my surrender is directed."

As J.A. Jance's words echo in my heart and mind, I realize that if the deepest part of me has determined that I am a writer and that my writing (and all that derives from it) is the most important part of my being, I can't walk away from it. I can't abandon my faith and I can't stop surrendering to it. I am a writer. Period.

I would be lying if I said that I never again doubted and never again half-wished that I could turn my back on the sometimes-onerous demands of my Muse. But every time I'm tempted, I remember my 2013 writer's strike and the words of faith that aborted it.

In the end, as I'm reminded over and over and over, all that matters is that I'm writing.

The writing has definitely continued since my failed strike; if anything, the pace has picked up. Although I have yet to return to my Q'ntana musicals, I am now at work on my 13th book, After Sara's Year, a reader-demanded sequel to last year's award-winning Sara's Year, itself a story about never giving on your dreams. 

After Sara's Year will be available later this year; meantime, pick up the Sara's Year, the  first installment in what is now The Sara Stories! Look for all my books in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website.


From my interview with J.A. Jance (if the video doesn't play from the player, click here)...
"I hated outlining in 10th grade geography class and I hate it now. Because I write murder mysteries, I usually start with somebody dead, and then I spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who did it and how come. I have to sort of step out with faith that if I can write the first sentence of the book, I can eventually, 100,000 words later, get to the end of it."



Monday, May 9, 2016

The Act of Surrender That Created Acts of Surrender

In this excerpt Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir, I share the act of surrender that helped birth my memoir into the world...

It’s May 6. I have just finished breakfast, and as I stare into my empty coffee cup, I contemplate my immediate future. It has been less than twenty-four hours since I completed a final draft of my novel The SunQuest and, along with it, an odyssey that has occupied nearly one-third of my life: Eighteen years ago I surrendered to the words that would become the first draft of The MoonQuest, a story I knew nothing about, a story that would launch a fantasy trilogy that I did not yet know existed. Now that I have written “The End,” both to The SunQuest and the trilogy, what’s next for me?


As I stare into that coffee cup, I am certain that another draft of this memoir, of Acts of Surrender, must follow The Q’ntana Trilogy on my creative agenda. How can it not when The SunQuest is, among other things, about Ben’s coming to terms with his past? How can it not when Ben’s story, like Q’nta’s and Toshar’s before him in The StarQuest and The MoonQuest, is also my story? Hardly a day went by, while I worked on The SunQuest, that I failed to notice a parallel between Ben’s life and mine, between what he discovers through reliving his journey on the page and what I have already discovered through living mine on these pages. 

At the same time, I ask myself: Wouldn’t it make sense to wait a month before taking on a new draft of Acts of Surrender? Between the Q’ntana screenplays and novels and the early drafts of this memoir, I have been writing nonstop for nearly two years. Maybe it’s time for a break. Besides, I have a business trip to Las Vegas coming up in a few weeks. Wouldn’t it make sense to wait until I get back? 

You would think that after writing three fantasies where conventional sense is an elusive commodity, not to mention penning two drafts of a memoir that exposes similar threads in my own life, I would have more sense than to ask questions about sense. Apparently, I don’t.

The coffee cup is still empty, and my mind wanders, away from my creative life and on to my life — not that it’s altogether possible to separate the two. I have now been back in Albuquerque for eighteen months. A 2010 move from here to Los Angeles ended after ten weeks, when I felt a call to return to New Mexico. Through this, my third sojourn in Albuquerque, I have become aware how much my life here has come to resemble my 1994-95 time in rural Nova Scotia: a hermit-like existence where little occurs beyond my writing. In Nova Scotia, my focus was on the first two drafts of The MoonQuest; once they were finished, I found myself back in Toronto, my monkish tendencies forgotten.

There is, however, one significant difference between these two periods in my life: In Nova Scotia, I had no conscious desire ever to leave. I thought I had rebirthed myself on the East Coast and, when the call came for me to go back to the big city, I was initially startled and dismayed. Here in Albuquerque, I have never stopped longing to get back to L.A., to resume a life that has felt on hold since I returned here. 

Suddenly, the opening scene of The MoonQuest pushes my mental wanderings aside. In it, the dreamwalker Na’an interrupts an elderly Toshar, who has long resisted writing his story. 

“It is not for me to boast of my exploits,” Toshar argues. But Na’an is firm. “It is your story to tell,” she says. “It is for you to fix it in ink, to set the truth down for all to read.” 

I cannot move on to other realms and set off on other journeys until I have told my story, I hear myself speak out loud, paraphrasing Toshar’s thoughts in The MoonQuest. The words catch in my throat, and I’m gripped by an emotion so strong that I find myself on verge of tears.

I can’t know what those other realms and journeys might be. I can’t know whether, in another parallel to my time in Nova Scotia, they will mark the end of my creative retreat and launch me back into the world’s bustle — this time to L.A. instead of Toronto. What I can do is recognize the charge I experienced and the truth that underlies it: Like Toshar, I must tell my story, this story, or I will not be free to move forward with my life. 

I know one other thing: Whatever the “sense” of the matter, I cannot wait a month to begin. In the act of surrender that is the book, I must make Acts of Surrender my primary focus, and I must begin now...in that realm where all stories begin: Once upon a time...

• An excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir (c) Mark David Gerson, available in paperback and ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website.


Photos: Coffee mug and L.A. billboard by Mark David Gerson. Flag is the Nova Scotia provincial flag. MoonQuest book cover designed by Angela Farley. Acts of Surrender book cover: Ojai, CA; photo by Sander Dov Freedman.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

In Freeing My Story, I Freed My Life

I never intended for The MoonQuest to be such a powerful metaphor both for my creative journey and for creative blocks and the creative process. But that's what it turned out to be...through my act of surrender to the story that wanted to be told through me.

In the book excerpt I share on this video, the main character is visited by a Muse-like being who insists he tell his story.

Na’an says it is my story. Perhaps she is right. Is that why the words come so reluctantly? So many seasons of storytelling and still I hesitate. Of all the stories to stick in my throat, how ironic that it should be The MoonQuest, a tale of the freeing of story itself...



• Look for The MoonQuest and its two Q'ntana Trilogy sequels (The StarQuest and The SunQuest

For more about the personal and creative journey that led to The MoonQuest, pick up Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir.

All my books are available in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by my to you from my website.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Raising a Glass in Gratitude, for Every Moment in My Life

 It's always significant for me when Easter falls in March. Although Easter is not part of my religious heritage, this holiday that marks death and celebrates resurrection parallels two personally significant death and resurrection events in my own life: the death of my mother in 1984 and the resurrection of my creativity 10 years later, almost to the day.

My mother rarely pressured me to be or do anything other than what I chose to be or do, and for that I will always be grateful. Yet all parents carry expectations for their children, however unconscious, and all children tune in to that, even if they're not aware they're doing it. When my mother died on the evening of March 26, 1984, the burden of that unconscious awareness lifted. This is how I tell it in my Acts of Surrender memoir...

"As courageous as I had allowed myself to be while [my mother] was alive – to come out as a gay man, for example, or to quit a secure job for the risks of freelancing or to leave my hometown – all my choices and actions had been colored by how I thought she might respond and had been filtered through her world view. With her gone, all her hopes, fears and expectations for me were gone, too. Suddenly, without being conscious of it or of what it meant, I was free. It would take a few more years before I could begin to grow into that freedom, before I could let it unalterably transform me and my world."

One of the most dramatic expressions of that newfound freedom showed up on March 28, 1994. That was the day I penned the first words of what would become The MoonQuest. This, my debut novel, would come to stand as a metaphor for the unblocking of my stifled creativity: It takes place in a land where stories have been banned and storytellers put to death.

When it was finally published 13 years later, it would also launch a writerly career that has now produced 12 books (with a 13th on the way), a trio of optioned screenplays and three stage plays-in-progress.

However, just as my mother's passing did not unleash an immediate flood of creativity, nor did The MoonQuest: It would take me more than a decade to complete an initial draft of my second manuscript, The StarQuest. (Ironically, I started writing The StarQuest a few days after Easter in 1998.) The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, my third manuscript but second published book, also didn't materialize for several years. And it wasn't until five or six years years ago that the real tsunami of creativity hit: It's only since 2010 that I have started and/or completed most of my books, screenplays and stage plays.

It's not surprising, then, that I greet this and every March with mixed emotion: with gratitude to my mother and sorrow at her absence, and with awe at the creative awakening that ignited 10 years later in a Toronto writing workshop I was teaching (a story I shared in my February 2016 newsletter). I will be raising a glass to both as the month draws to an end.

One final note: A year before her death from cancer, my mother confessed to me that she had made many poor choices in her life. I thought a lot about those regrets as I wrote my most recent novel, Sara's Year, the story of how one woman's abandoned passions inspire both her son and her oldest friend to live their dreams.

I am now 61, my mother's age when she spoke those words and when she died the following March. Like my mother's, mine has not always been an easy life and there are situations and circumstances that I sometimes wish had played out differently.

But unlike my mother and the Esther character in Sara's Year who borrows bits and pieces from my mother's life, I have no regrets. I recognize, not always happily, that all my choices and all my experiences have made me a stronger, more compassionate human being, a more insightful and creative artist and a more effective and intuitive coach, mentor and motivator.

Perhaps the greatest gifts of all were those very years when I didn't feel free to create and when I felt tied to my mother's hopes, fears and expectations. Like the caterpillar trapped in its cocoon, they forced me to push free to become the butterfly I now am.

So as I raise that glass, it will be in gratitude for every moment in my life – the blocked as well as the flowing, the deaths as well as the resurrections. And I will look forward to many more years of that same flavorful yet maddening goulash of love, fear, frustration and creation that comes together in every moment to shape each of our lives.

Photos: My mother on her second wedding day, some time in the 1970s • Me and my mother at a family gathering in the late 1960s • The current and original MoonQuest book covers.

Look for The MoonQuest, Acts of Surrender, Sara's Year and all my books in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website.

And watch for The MoonQuest movie, the first installment in a trio of epic motion pictures based on my screenplay adaptations of my Q'ntana Trilogy fantasy novels.



Friday, February 12, 2016

Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?

It's December 2008 and I'm in the video section of Target, Christmas shopping for my daughter. As I'm browsing through the movie racks, I overhear an older and younger woman discussing which DVD to buy a child on their list.

"What about Eragon?" the younger woman asks. "I hear it's good."

"Does it have magic in it? I don't want a movie with magic," the older one – her mother? – responds sternly.

They move out of earshot and I'm too stunned to follow.

Are we truly living in some version of The MoonQuest's mythical setting? This land where vision is outlawed and visionaries put to death, where myth and magic are forbidden, where "once upon a time" is a forbidden phrase, and where fact is the only legal tender was a creation of my imagination... Or was it?

What kind of culture have we created where children are denied magic, where fantasy is suspect and where dragons are relegated to dustbins?

More than 30 years ago in an essay, author Ursula K. Le Guin asked, "Why are Americans afraid of dragons?" She concluded that most technological cultures dismiss works of the imagination because they lack measurable utility, an outlook only exacerbated in this country by our Puritan heritage.

If 30 years ago dragons were not fit for adults, are they now unfit for children, too?

While the Harry Potter books and movies broadened the reach of imaginative fiction for kids (and adults), it also expanded our hysterical suspicion and suppression of it.

The fact is, imaginative fiction opens our hearts, expands our spirit and broadens our minds in ways that nonfiction never can, and that magical/fantastical fiction can carry more truth in its castles, dragons and trolls than many pieces of so-called literature.

That's why I called the original, pre-Q'ntana Trilogy edition of The MoonQuest a "true fantasy." There is nothing factual about it. But as those two women in Target have proven, it's decidedly true.

Look for The MoonQuest and its StarQuest and SunQuest sequels in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website. 

The Q'ntana Trilogy: Soon to be a Trio of Epic Motion Pictures!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Don't Be a Hater

Watching the primary campaigns play out here in the U.S., I have begun to wonder whether we human beings are programmed to be haters and attackers. Maybe it's something primeval, dating back to our hunter-caveman days. I sure hope it's not innate.

You might think I'm talking about the Republican primary, populated as it is by rabid bigots, homophobes, racists and misogynists, whose various campaigns have been endorsed by the KKK, so-called "pastors" who think all gays should be put to death and other so-called "spiritual leaders" who claim God will kill all Jews who don't accept Jesus. (I'm a fiction-writer and even I couldn't make this stuff up.)

No, I'm talking about the Democratic primary campaign, where Hillary-supporters attack Bernie with a virulence that's matched only by the apparent hatred that Bernie supporters have for Hillary. Of course, overblown rhetoric has been the hallmark of every election campaign every fought. But this feels different.

When Bernie's supporters proclaim that they will stay home before voting for Hillary as president and Hillary supporters make equally foolish statements about what they'll do if Bernie is nominated, you have to wonder what these people are smoking. 

There is no such thing as perfect candidate, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect human being. Every political candidate throughout history has been flawed. Bernie is flawed. Hillary is flawed. Each comes in to this campaign with baggage, and should one of them be elected President, she or he will have to govern not only based on campaign promises but on the messy reality of Washington politics.

But to dismiss the other candidate's flaws as fatal is to ignore what is really at stake in this primary season, not to mention in the election season that will follow. If you as a Democrat (or Independent or compassionate Republican) believe that any of the GOP nominees would make a better president than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, then by all means sit on your hands (or vote Republican). 

What you'll be voting for, through your action or inaction, is a theocratically leaning government that treats its women and minorities as, at best, second-class citizens. And you'll be voting in a President (whichever Republican it is) who will nominate Supreme Court justices that will uphold these restrictive, retrogressive and retrograde policies for generations to come.

If you think I'm exaggerating, pay closer attention than perhaps you have been not only to what the Republican nominees have been saying but to what kinds of groups and individuals are publicly supporting them. 

Then ask yourself how you would feel living in a country under any of the Republican nominees for president were you an immigrant, a raped woman seeking an abortion, a homeless or suicidal teenager disowned by his parents for being gay, a Muslim attacked on the street because of her religion, a Jew being blamed for the Holocaust that wiped out his family or a soldier being sent to war only to be stripped of her benefits when she returns home.


Whether you're "feeling the Bern" or supporting Hillary, don't sit this election out if your candidate doesn't make it to the final ballot. Don't be a hater. There are enough haters out there, and this country doesn't need another one. This world doesn't need another one, especially in the White House. 


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Happy 11th Birthday, Mark David!


In January 1998 "Mark David Gerson" became "Akhneton Yoseyva," a spiritual name that, six months later, would be made legal in an Arizona courtroom. It was a powerful transformation and one that would define my life for the next seven years. 

Then one day, as suddenly as Akhneton had entered my life, he left. A few weeks later – 11 years ago today – Mark David Gerson was reborn in that same Arizona courthouse, this time not as "Mark," but as "Mark David." 

Today, on the 11th anniversary of the legal birth of my "Mark David" persona, I share the story behind my name change, in this excerpt from 
Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir.  

I was driving along California’s Pacific Coast Highway in early January 2005 when suddenly, as I had experienced with “Mark” seven-and-a-half years earlier, the name Aq'naton no longer fit. [I had changed the spelling from Akhneton to Aq'naton a few years earlier.] I swerved into the next pullout and, shaken, stared at the ocean, steel-gray on this overcast day. If I wasn’t Aq’naton, who was I? Was I David again? Mark? Neither felt right.

Over the next days, I called myself, variously, Mark, David and Aq’naton. None seemed to express who I was becoming. Perhaps, I thought sinkingly, nothing can.

“What about ‘Mark David,’” my friend Martha suggested, rapidly calculating its numerological significance.

I repeated it a few times. Mark David. Mark David. Mark David. It felt odd, an unusual compound name that seemed to stumble out of my mouth rather than trip easily off my tongue. Still, “Mark David” felt more right than a return to Mark, David or Aq'naton, so I adopted it...and once again reintroduced myself, somewhat anxiously, to the world.

A few days later, I drove back to the Camp Verde courthouse, to the scene of that first legal name change. In Arizona at the time, name-changes did not require legal notices in a newspaper. They involved a summary hearing before a judge. The first time, in 1998, my court appearance took place a few weeks after I handed in the paperwork, in a session filled with uncontested divorces and other quick-gavel decisions. This time, I was only passing through Sedona with no plans to stay beyond the next few days.

“I’ll be traveling,” I told the clerk when she offered possible court dates weeks out. “Are there no other options?”

“Hang on a sec,” she said, and disappeared into a back room. Five minutes later she reemerged. “Can you be back here in two hours?”

I nodded.

She grinned. “I found a judge who will give you a private hearing.”

Three hours later I was in Division Six of the Superior Court of Arizona. “Why are you changing your name?” the judge asked.

I told him Aq’naton had been a pen name and that I now wanted all my affairs back in my birth name. It was the simplest piece of a larger truth.

He scribbled something on his pad.

“Are you changing your name to avoid debts or to hide from creditors?”

“No, sir.”

He scribbled something else on his pad, signed the name-change order and passed it to the clerk. She stamped it.

It was 11:11 on January 27, 2005. Six years and eight months to the day after Akhneton Yoseyva had been legally created in this same building, he ceased to exist. Mark David Gerson had been reborn.

© Mark David Gerson 

Read more about my many name-changing experiences – and much more – in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir, available in paperback on most Amazon sites, from selected other online booksellers, from my website or from your favorite ebook store.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Finally, a Home for My Book Excerpts!

Two years ago when I streamlined my website, the first pages to go were those featuring excerpts from my books. It had been simple, with only one or two books, to include excerpts on my site. But as the number of my published titles swelled from two to four to ten, those excerpt pages were threatening to take over the website!

Then I discovered Bublish, and it was as though the service had been created just for me: It was a centralized way for me to share not only excerpts from all my books with potential readers, but also short personal essays (or "author insights," as Bublish calls them) about those excerpts. On top of that, visitors to my Bublish pages could easily navigate back to my website, as well as to my books at their favorite online bookstores.

I was hooked. Even before my free trial was over, I signed up for the full service. Now, seven months later, my excerpts (or "book bubbles," as they're called on Bublish) have been viewed nearly 20,000 times, and more than 10% of those views have translated into online bookstore visits. As an indie author, that's terrific. And for readers wanting to get a risk-free taste of my titles, it's even more terrific.

If you haven't visited me on Bublish, please do at https://www.bublish.com/author/view/5354, where you'll find two or more compelling excerpts from each of my titles and, coming soon, excerpts from After Sara's Year, my new novel-in-progress, a sequel to Sara's Year.





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Destination Unknown: The Magic of the Open Road

In the following exchange with a fellow screenwriter on Facebook, I spell out why I believe that control is anathema to the creative process – in both writing and life. 

It's ironic that my Facebook colleague chooses to use the "unmapped drive" example to criticize what he terms the wastefulness of unplanned writing. Going for a random, unplanned drive is the example I always use in my workshops and coaching sessions to celebrate the magic of discovery. It's also the basis for what I call "writing on the Muse Stream," which I explore in Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally and all my books for writers.

Other Writer: The problem I think a lot of screenwriters have is not being able to nail down exactly what your ending is before starting. That would be like getting in the car for a weekend getaway and not having any idea where it is you're going... just driving... aimlessly, wasting a whole hell of a lot of gas. This is where the idea of mapping comes in... if you know where you're going, you'll get there, and usually in the most direct line.

MDG: I'm glad you used the analogy of going for a drive without a fixed destination in mind because that's precisely how I like to go for drives. It's much more fun to get in the car, start it up and see where it will take me. Nearly always, it takes me to a place I never could have imagined going, along a route I never would have thought of taking.

As it turns out, it's also how I write and live my life. It can be scary sometimes. It can certainly feel out of control. But those are the places where magic resides and miracles thrive. And what's life and creativity if not a magical, miraculous journey of wonder and surprise?

To go back to your "out for a drive" analogy: When I write, I sit in the passenger seat of the experience; the story is in the driver's seat. The story is in the driver's seat because it's its own entity, if you will, one that knows its direction and imperative far better than I ever could. And if I let it take charge, it will introduce me to characters and situations my controlling mind would never have thought up.

As for my life, if I had set a fixed destination and mapped out the journey, I would never have written 12 books and a trio of optioned screenplays (in fact, it's unlikely I ever would have been a writer), I would not likely be living in the U.S. (I'm Canadian), and I doubt that I would be a parent...just to name three pretty amazing life-altering experiences.

Just like the greatest bulk of an iceberg, my deepest desires and greatest stories often lie largely hidden in the ocean of my unconscious mind. The only way I know to access them is through those leaps of faith that keep my controlling mind out of the process.

In the end, my directions in writing and life are neither aimless nor energy-wasting. Rather, they're guided by a wiser part of myself that knows the destination and the way to reach it far better than the limits of my conscious mind ever could, as powerful and wonderful as that conscious mind is. That guidance is the best GPS there is.