Friday, June 13, 2014

Mark David Gerson: A Writer's Life IV

This is a slightly edited version of an interview that Sandy S. Bazinet conducted with me a few months back. Read the full, original post on her blog

What motivates you to write and how did you get started?

I like to joke that my muse tricked me into writing and, in a sense, that’s true. In public school and through most of university, I did everything I could to avoid anything creative, including writing. I opted for math and science courses and steered clear of any non-mandatory courses that involved self-expression.

But my muse had other plans, as I write about in more detail in my memoir, Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir. Starting in my final years of high school, when I was somehow pushed into taking on responsibility for the publicity for two musical theater productions (and had, of course, to write press releases and other promotional material) and carrying on through my first two post-college jobs (in public relations), I was slowly, subtly and unconsciously transformed into the writer I never thought I wanted to be. When I quit that second job after five years, it was to freelance full-time as a self-taught writer and editor. Still, it would take another dozen years before I moved from a teller of others’ stories as a newspaper, magazine, government and corporate writer to a teller of my own stories, as a novelist.

What I have discovered in the interim is that I can’t not write. I can’t not write any more than I can’t not breathe. I have no need of external motivation. It’s a call I can’t ignore (even on those days when I might prefer to). And it’s a call that I know is heard by others, which is why I titled my second book, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

What’s most rewarding about writing?

I have two complementary answers to that question. First, writing from a place of total surrender to the work opens me to parts of myself and parts of the world that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to touch. While that’s not always a comfortable journey, it’s always a transformational one and it’s always rewarding. Second, it’s rewarding to know that the work I produce from that way of creating inspires others to do likewise.

What’s your favorite genre and why?

It’s not so much that I have a favorite genre. It’s more that I am drawn to a particular kind of story, regardless of genre — be it in a book, on a stage or in a movie theater: stories that are life-affirming, stories that offer hope, stories that empower, stories that inspire. Those are the kinds of stories I seek to create as well as consume.

Where do your characters come from?

My characters don’t have to “come” from anywhere because, in a sense, they already exist. These are not fictional characters I’m writing about. To me, they are real people — as real as I am. My job as writer is to be their chronicler and biographer, listening for their voices and their stories and setting those to the page for others to read.

Who is an author who inspires you and why?

It’s difficult to single out any one author as an inspiration. But if I must, it would be Madeleine L’Engle. L’Engle is best known for her young adult Wrinkle in Time books, which I didn’t discover until I was in my early 30s — during a time for me of powerful spiritual and creative awakening. But Madeleine L’Engle also wrote several novels for adults, as well as a series of memoirs. All Madeleine L’Engle’s books and stories are infused with the qualities I referred to in my earlier answer: They are life-affirming, empowering, inspirational and hopeful. It’s those qualities — in both L’Engle’s books and her life — that continue to inspire me, not only in my books and my life, but in the ways I teach and coach.

What are you writing now?

I thought I would be taking a well-deserved breather after having completed two new books for writers and having written them back to back – From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life and Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally.

But because I can't not be writing for long, I have just started my fourth novel! Also, one of these days soon I will return to the stage-musical adaptations of my Q’ntana Trilogy of fantasy stories, The MoonQuest, The StarQuest and The SunQuest, that I began last fall.

What kind of book would you like to be known for?

Be it through my novels, screenplays, stage plays, memoir or books for writers, I would hope to be known for work that inspires, motivates and empowers, for work that encourages people to reignite their passion and creative potential, for work that gives people the courage to believe in themselves and in their creative power.

What has writing taught you about yourself?

My answer to this question is very much linked to my answer to your previous question. That’s because I would wish for my writing to do all the things for others that it continues to do for me. Writing has rekindled a passion for creativity buried so deeply that I didn’t even know it was there. Writing has taught me to believe in my creative potential. Writing has taught me to believe in myself.

How has your life experience influenced your writing?

I would like to answer this question with a story. Again, I tell this story in more detail in Acts of Surrender, but here’s the capsule version…

It was March 28, 1994 and I was leading a writing workshop in Toronto. After I guided participants into a writing exercise, a little voice — the voice of my muse — urged me to do the same exercise myself. I never write during a class I’m teaching, but the call that evening was so insistent that I didn’t dare ignore it. What came out of me in the next twenty minutes would be the opening scene of the first draft of a novel I knew nothing about, a novel that would reveal itself to me in the months of writing ahead as The MoonQuest.

I wrote that first draft in the third person, thinking it was just a story — a story that spoke to me powerfully…but still just a story. Then, a few days before I completed that first draft, I woke up knowing that when it was time to write The MoonQuest’s second draft, I would have to do it in the first person. I also knew why: This fantasy tale set in a make-believe place and in a mythical time where stories were banned and storytellers put to death was my story. Yes, it was told through the metaphor of fantasy, but it was still a very personal story. I knew, too, that I would have to own it and own that fact about it if I were to give it the life it deserved. In one way or another, all my subsequent books have also been distillations of my life experiences.

Another story…

I spent most of my youth and early adult years being creatively blocked. It took a lot courage and some outside help to free me of those blocks. It also took The MoonQuest  Yet, as painful and challenging as those blocks were, they would ultimately feed all my work in the years ahead: all my writing as well as all my teaching. In short, there is no way to separate my creative life from the rest of my life, which is why the 13 “rules” for writing that I include in some of my books are almost identical to the 13 “rules” for living that I have also written about. Why do I put “rules” in quotation marks? Because the first rule in both cases is that there are no rules…not in creativity and not in life!

What encouraging advice can you offer new writers?

This is advice for all writers, not just new writers: Trust your story and trust that your story knows itself better than you do…than you ever will. Trust, too, the chaos of creativity and the magic of creativity. Trust your own creative process. Trust your intuition. Trust yourself.

Where can readers find your books and learn more about you and your work?

All nine of my books are available in both paperback and ebook editions from Amazon and many other major online booksellers and ebook-sellers. My recording of guided meditations for writers is on on CD or as an MP3 download; MP3 versions are also sold on iTunes, Google Play and CD Baby.

For more about me, visit my new website or look me up on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.


  • Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally
  • Writer’s Block Unblocked: Seven Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow
  • From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life
  • The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write
  • The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers (recording)
  • Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir
  • The Book of Messages: Writings Inspired by Melchizedek
  • The Q’ntana Trilogy: The MoonQuest, The StarQuest, The SunQuest

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What's That Muse of Mine Up To??

I was on author/radio host Karen Vaughan's radio show a few weeks ago when Karen asked me whether I had any plans to write another novel. At the time, my latest book (Organic Screenwriting) had only just come out and the idea of any new book was far from my mind. "Sure, if inspiration strikes," I replied aloud, adding under my breath, "some time in the future."

That exchange flashed briefly through my mind yesterday when I was updating some of the answers to the Q&A that writer Sandy S. Bazinet did with me on her blog this past spring. (I will be posting the updated version of that interview here on my blog next week.) One of Sandy's questions was "What are you working on right now?" At the time of the original interview, I said that I was just finishing From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life. Yesterday, with both that book and Organic Screenwriting completed and published, I rewrote my answer to say that I was "taking a well-deserved break after having written two books back-to-back."

That, I thought, was that.

It wasn't.

Earlier today, I was chatting with a friend about our trip to L.A. next week and found myself mentioning that I was pretty sure that I had at least one more novel in me. I knew nothing about this next novel, I added, nor did I have any immediate plans to do anything to find out.

The words had barely left my mouth when I heard the voice of my Muse as clear and insistent as ever: "The time for a new novel is NOW," it insisted, "or, at least, next week. Start it when you're in L.A."

Start it next week? When I'm in L.A.? Are you crazy!!?

Even as my mind launched a volley of objections, I knew – with that some knowingness that has guided my life and creative life for nearly three decades – that my Muse was right. It is time.

I know nothing about this next novel I'm to write. But launching into it from that formless void out of which all creation emerges is how I have always written. And launching into it from L.A., the city which my heart keeps pulling me toward (even as New Mexico seems reluctant to let me go!), also feels perfect.

Of my nine published books, three completed screenplays and three stage-musicals-in-progress, only four of those projects have not originated in New Mexico. (I started The MoonQuest book when I was living in Toronto and The Voice of the MuseThe Book of Messages and The StarQuest when I was living in Sedona)

As I continue to set my sights on a full-time return to Los Angeles, it's interesting that I am to birth my next book in the city I hope soon to again call home.

Meantime, even before this afternoon's revelation, I had not felt called to make much in the way of plans for my L.A. sojourn. Even the sole Facebook friend I had hoped to meet in person (he lives close to where I'll be staying) will be uncharacteristically out-of-town during the precise dates I will be in his neighborhood! I will see my daughter, of course. I will go on some photography outings, undoubtedly. And there are a few meetings I will need to attend.

But I know now that none of those is the real reason I'm going to Los Angeles. I am going to birth a new book and – who knows? – perhaps a new life.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mark David Gerson's New Book for Screenwriters "Revolutionizes" Writing for Film

Creativity Catalyst Mark David Gerson applies his award-winning, story-freeing techniques
to the rule-bound world of screenwriting in Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally

“You don’t need to obsess about rules and structure to write an effective, compelling screenplay,” insists creativity catalyst Mark David Gerson

Gerson, creator of The Q’ntana Trilogy of fantasy films and novels, award-winning author of four books for writers, and long-time writing coach and workshop facilitator, takes on Hollywood’s screenwriting orthodoxy in his newest book, Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film Naturally.

The book, published last month in paperback and ebook, decries the emphasis that too many screenwriting books and classes place on outlines, structure and what Gerson calls “story engineering.”

“Writing for film doesn’t have to feel like an engineered exercise in story-building,” Gerson writes in Organic Screenwriting. “It can be a story-freeing adventure, not unlike those undertaken by explorers of old…a journey of discovery that retains all the magic, spontaneity and awe of childhood make-believe.”

According to Gerson, writing on what he calls the “Muse Stream” eliminates the need for the exhaustive preplanning so commonly set out as the only professional way to write screenplays. “When you write on the Muse Stream and are in tune with your characters, story and script, your screenplay’s acts, plot points and beats occur naturally and intuitively. They don’t need to be planned, plotted, engineered or graphed.”

Gerson first advanced his “Muse Stream” approach to writing in his landmark 2008 book, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. He describes it as an “unstructured, uncensored, right-brain outpouring” that has proven effective for all forms of writing — from drama to dissertations…and screenplays.

In Organic Screenwriting, Gerson offers many examples of how he applied the Muse Stream to his three Q’ntana screenplays. He also provides practical techniques, powerful exercises and a generous helping of inspiration to help novice and seasoned screenwriters alike get their stories onto the page without struggle.

“I wrote Organic Screenwriting,” Gerson explains, “because it was the book I wished had been available when I was starting out with my first screenplay.” 

Acclaimed writer/director Luke Yankee (Diva Dish, Conversations on Craft) has welcomed Organic Screenwriting as the book that finally frees writers from “the mire of ‘how to get it right’ for Hollywood” and, instead, “gives us permission to do what we set out do in the first place: tell stories from our hearts.”

In addition to Organic Screenwriting, The Voice of the Muse and his three Q’ntana novels, Mark David Gerson has written From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life, Writer’s Block Unblocked: Seven Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow, Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir and The Book of Messages: Writings Inspired by Melchizedek. All his books are available in paperback and ebook from major online booksellers.

Gerson’s Q’ntana Trilogy of feature films is slated to go into production in 2015 with its first installment, The MoonQuest.