My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.Anton Chekhov Quotes (Author of Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov). (2020). Retrieved 29 January 2020, from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5031025.Anton_Chekhov
Prior to beginning the Creative Writing MFA Program I had never written a script. Thus, for me the conventions for properly formatting scripts are not second nature. Gradually, as I complete courses in the MFA Program, the process of writing scripts is becoming less a technical challenge and more a creative pleasure.
In the Episodic and Serial Writing Course I had the opportunity to create a Web Series entitled The Philosopher Stoned, write a Webisode for the series, and create the Beat Sheet for another episode. Reflecting on these experiences, and as I’ve become more familiar with the conventions and mechanics, I’ve come to recognize that writing scripts can be an elegant and efficient tool for me to explore story ideas. Ultimately, this is true even when I craft the final version of my story idea as short story rather than a script. This realization has been an unexpected revelation for me.
Similarly, as I gain practice crafting Beat Sheets, I have embraced using this versatile tool with storytelling formats other than scripts. As I’ve grown in appreciation of Beat Sheets, I am experimenting with using them to structure scenes and sequels for my short stories. Using Beat sheets, I outline the “beats” I use to flesh out my stories. As a result of including Beat Sheets in my short story workflow, I am plotting and crafting stories that are developed more fully and are more compelling to read. The power of using Beat Sheets to guide my creative writing projects is another unexpected revelation for me.
While I don’t see myself as writing scripts as my primary focus as a writer, it is clear that to develop fully as a storyteller it is essential that I embrace and master scriptwriting. As I have become more familiar with the format’s conventions and process, I appreciate screenwriting as a powerful, visual, and compelling storytelling artform that belongs in my creative writing palette.
Reflecting on the strategies and tactics I established for the Episodic and Serial Writing Course at the start of the MFA Program, I believe that I have accomplished each of them:
• Learned the elements of structure, character, and formatting specific to episodic and serial stories.
• Gained experience developing original episodic and serial stories.
• Learned– and learned to love– the process of breaking down episode storylines, planning multi-episodic plot and character arcs, and the collaborative process of writing teams (my classmates and Professor).
I am looking forward to becoming more conformable with scriptwriting as I complete subsequent courses in the MFA Program. Along the way, I will embrace each opportunity to tell compelling stories using scripts.
Salles, G. (2019). Gautier Salles (@yamnez) | Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved 20 December 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@yamnez
Source: Goodreads.com. (2019). N.H. Kleinbaum Quotes (Author of Dead Poets Society). [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/52601.N_H_Kleinbaum [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].
What I love and feel is my “life’s task” and calling
I love creating and sharing engaging and entertaining stories. Through my stories, I entertain, motivate, and educate my students and my clients. As I transition to the next phase on my life journey, I am focusing on pursuing my “life’s task:” to entertain and inspire as a writer of fictional stories a broader audience.
Example project on my Mastery Journey towards becoming a writer of fictional stories
In my role as VP of Marketing for a national homebuilder, I designed and implemented a comprehensive project to revise our promotional materials. The goal was to reach and engage with prospective homebuyers in six distinct segments: Young Adult, Single Professional, First-time Homebuyer, Single Head-of-household, Trading-up Family, and Active Retiree segments. With our promotional materials we sought to engage, inform, and educate buyers. Most buyers preferred to read in English. Many preferred to communicate in Spanish.
Despite the language preference differences, we knew our promotional materials should engage and reach each group with customized messages. Thus, the stories we featured would describe homeowners whose lives, dreams, and desires resembled the unique desires of each targeted segment. Using real homeowners as my inspiration, I crafted brief fictional stories that were composites of several homeowners’ experiences as they considered, selected, and purchased our homes. Each story story featured a fictional homebuyer and described their unique lifestyle and homeownership aspirations. Yet, each story described homebuying needs and desires that were truthful reflections shared by actual satisfied homeowners. In other words, the individual stories of young professionals, first time home buyers, growing families, and retiring active adults I created were fictional—but how our homes satisfied their needs was very much real. The stories worked their intended magic, drove awareness of our communities and grew sales of our homes.
Positive insight gained completing this project
What I learned from this project changed profoundly my professional writing. Prior to embarking on this project, my writing had been focused on brand-building and efficient sales communication, promoting standard solutions and describing actual customers. Once I made the leap to creating fictional buyer stories instead, I discovered how much more effective—and how much more engaging – my marketing and promotional materials could be. Evers since then, I’ve been hooked on business storytelling. When appropriate for the project, I leverage consumer research and my storytelling skills to craft fictional stories that are more truthful than they are true.
Knowing the difference between truthful and true is the key to success in business storytelling. Creating these promotional materials, I discovered that well-crafted fictional stories can communicate “truth” and impact readers effectively. For instance, upon reading the fictional stories of homeowners in my promotional brochures, prospective homebuyers related to the composite characters and connected more powerfully with our model homes and communities.
As humans our brains are “wired for story,” (Cron, 2012). According to Cron, for millennia, listening to stories and later reading them, people have enjoyed being entertained as they learned about their world: how to live their lives, how to behave, how not to behave, and how it feels to dream, to fear, to love. Listening to well-told tales humans learned to crave discovering what follows after we hear the magical words “once upon a time.” As a writer and story teller, I will explore, with reverence and respect, the awesome power of well-told stories to engage, entertain, and inspire my readers.
Negative insight gained completing this project
Providing too much information too soon can be confusing to readers. Instead, it is more effective to build a business story (or an entertaining tale) that unfolds gradually until it reveals fully the message it holds. At first, in the project I described previously, each of our promotional materials included too many details, in both English and Spanish, and the readers were confused. That was the wrong approach. By creating separate, high impact, and engaging promotional materials in each language, and weaving in compelling stories and descriptions with fewer features and construction details, we connected more effectively with each unique group of buyers in our target market.
Lessons learned from the reading
From reading Chapter IV, “Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence” scenarios in the Mastery book, I learned four lessons about communicating my expertise as I develop as a writer of fiction.
Negative Lesson One: Do not avoid fools but instead suffer them gladly.
Greene explains what should matter in practical life is getting long-term results by getting work done as efficiently and creatively as possible (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Instead fools value short term results, immediate money, attention, and good looks (Greene, 2012, p. 163). Lowering yourself to their level and attempting to win arguments with fools is a waste of time and emotional energy according to Greene (2012). In this lesson I learned that instead of avoiding fools and their negativity, I will adapt Greene’s suggested strategies to neutralize the harm they do. I will do this by focusing on my goals, ignoring fools when possible, learning from them how not to behave, and seeking to turn to my advantage what fools throw my way.
Positive Lesson One: Speak through my work.Greene suggests that we express our social intelligence through our work, as well as demonstrate we are thinking of the group and advancing its goals by being efficient and detailed oriented, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). According to Greene, speaking socially through our work and remaining focused will raise our skill levels and cause us to stand out among others who make noise but produce nothing, (Greene, 2012, p. 151). My take away from this lesson is the following: Professionally, I strive to be efficient, contribute to the success of clients and employers, and take pride in communicating excellence through the quality of my work. Unknowingly, I’ve been following Greene’s advice of speaking through my work long before I recognized doing so expresses social intelligence. Embracing my life’s calling, I will continue to speak through my writing.
Negative Lesson Two: Do not dismiss critics but instead see myself as they see me.Greene, explains that while we are quick to recognize mistakes and defects in others, we are too insecure and emotional so find fault in ourselves, (Greene, 2012, p. 158). Also, he points out it is rare that people tell us what we do wrong. Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others would benefit our social intelligence, would help us correct our offensive flaws, help us recognize how we contribute to negative dynamics, and enable us to develop a realistic assessment of who we are (Greene, 2012, p. 158). The lesson I learned is especially important for a writer: Rather than dismiss critical comments and suggestions, it is imperative that I embrace them unemotionally to understand how my work triggered the criticism. My skills and effectiveness as a writer will improve if I actively elicit and seek the criticism of informed readers.
Positive Lesson Two: Craft the appropriate persona.Our ascension to mastery and our success is powerfully influenced by the personality we project to the world, according to Greene, (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Since people will judge us based on our outward appearance, we must create the image that suits us best, and by shaping our appearance intentionally, influence other people’s judgement of us (Greene, 2012, p. 155). Greene advices us to think of this as theater. He suggests that we develop a persona that is “mysterious, intriguing, and masterful… giving them something compelling and pleasurable to witness,” (Greene, 2012, p. 155). This suggestion is intriguing. My personal inclination is always to be transparent and forthcoming through my demeanor, thoughts, and opinions. As a result, my choice in clothing, shoes, glasses, and personal accessories would be described best as professional and conservative. In this lesson, I learned that, keeping Greene’s advice in mind, and thinking creatively of my writer persona as theater—it’s time to rock something fresh! Perhaps donning writerly glasses and a snazzy fedora will do the trick and help others see me as The Writer. Stay tuned, as I find out how well this strategy works out for my persona.
Cron, L. (2012). Wired for story: The writers guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. New York: Ten Speed Press.
Greene, R. (2012). Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence. In Mastery (pp. 144-166). New York, NY: Penguin.
Tom Kelley(Founder-Ideo) – Do What You Love. (2010, October 28). Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://youtu.be/nPRW9q-0unc
Unsplash. (n.d.). Pop & Zebra (@popnzebra): Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@popnzebra?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText Source for illustration image.
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery (p. 19). New York, NY: Penguin.
In the video “The last Lecture,” Dr. Randy Pausch sets out to describe how to achieve your childhood dreams. Ultimately, his presentation pivots to a more existential concept. As Pausch explains, “It’s about how to live your life. Because if you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself—the dreams will come to you. If you live properly, the dreams will come to you” (Pausch, 2008).
Reflecting on this week’s Mastery textbook reading, there are three key concepts that underscore for me, with great power and clarity, Pausch’s recommendation on how to live my life and pursue my dream of being a successful writer. These three concepts are as follows:
The Creative Task
When selecting the creative task upon which to focus our attention Robert Greene suggests “you must have patience and faith that what you are doing will yield something important. You could have the most brilliant mind, teeming with knowledge and ideas, but if you choose the wrong subject or problem to attack, you can run out of energy and interest. In such a case all of your intellectual brilliance will lead to nothing.” He continues to explain “the task you choose to work on must have an obsessive element. Like the Life’s Task, it must connect to something deep within you” (Greene, 2012, p. 179).
According to Greene “the mind must be able to feel doubt and uncertainty for as long as possible. As it remains in this state and probes deeply into the mysteries of the universe, ideas will come that are more dimensional and real than if we had jumped to conclusion and formed judgements early on.” Greene explains that all Masters possess this Negative Capability and this quality “allows them to entertain a broader range of ideas and experiment with them, which in turn makes their work richer and more inventive” (Greene, 2012, p. 182).
The Authentic Voice
Greene advices creatives and artists in the apprentice phase to take time and invest effort in learning structure, developing technique, and absorbing every possible style of their art form. He explains that “the greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something and make a splash. What happens in such a case is that you do not master the basics; you have no real vocabulary at your disposal. What you mistake for being creative and distinctive is more likely an imitation of other people’s style, or personal rantings that do not really express anything. Audiences however, are hard to fool” (Greene, 2012, P. 2009).
This week’s video and reading assignments provided powerful inspiration and actionable steps that I intend to leverage fully to guide and propel forward my Mastery Journey. Dr. Randy Pausch’s message is profoundly lucid, heartfelt, and inspirational. Robert Greene’s recommendations are extraordinarily insightful, effective, and actionable. Together, their sage advice provides purpose and structure for an apprentice’s life and mastery journey.
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin.
Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture reprised. (2008, May 26). Retrieved August 12, 2019, from https://youtu.be/BODHsU3hDo4
Unsplash. (n.d.). George Pagan III (@gpthree): Unsplash Photo Community. Retrieved from
Source for Week 2 Discussion Board illustration.
My name is Rolando Andrés Ramos. I was born in Havana, Cuba, grew up in Fort Lauderdale, and live in Orlando, Florida. I am passionate about creating and sharing engaging and entertaining stories. Throughout my professional career I have helped organizations, entrepreneurs, and artists discover and communicate their brand stories. Currently, as a digital marketing strategist, writer, and educator, I guide entrepreneurs, students, and artists to achieve their professional goals by leveraging data-driven information and digital marketing techniques.
Starting now, as I take steps to transition to the next phase on my life journey, I am focusing with full intent and unwavering commitment on developing creative writing skills to craft and share fictional stories. Thus, I am pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree from Full Sail University, a unique and amazing institution that is home to an ever-expanding family of educators, students, and alumni who are dedicated and inspired creative artists.
Reflections Upon Results from The Grit and Ambition Scales
On the Grit Scale (Duckworth et al., 2007), I achieved a score of 3.83 out of a possible 5.0. My score indicates that I am somewhat short of being “extremely gritty.” This assessment seems to coincide with my past behavior when pursuing goals and undertaking projects. I generally achieve my goals and finish my projects. However, on occasion I shift the thrust of my pursuits away from a goal, or my passion for a project fades, and as a result I do not finish what I start.
On the Ambition Scale (Duckworth et al., 2007), I achieved a score of 4.8 out of a possible 5.0. My score on this scale approaches “extremely ambitious.” This assessment also seems to coincide with my past behavior. Generally, I am achievement-oriented, driven to succeed, and seek to be the best at what I do.
Strongest and Weakest Areas
My strongest areas are that I am achievement oriented, seek to overcome setbacks to conquer important challenges, and I am a hard worker. I believe my strengths are due to being a first generation American with a strong work ethic and driven to succeed.
My three weakest areas are that I allow new projects and ideas to distract me occasionally from pursuing prior goals, become interested in new pursuits every few months, and sometimes have difficulty maintaining focus on long term projects. I believe my weakest areas result from my curiosity and insatiable appetite for new experiences and knowledge. To transform my weaker areas into strengths, I need to prioritize my goals and focus on completing the steps necessary to achieve them.
Three Concepts from The Mastery Reading That Resonated with My Results
The three concepts from this week’s Mastery readings that resonate most with the results I achieved on the Grit and Ambition Scale assessments are as follows:
- Occupy the perfect niche- The Darwinian strategy for finding your life’s tasks. (Greene, 2012). I chose this concept because focusing on my perfect niche to find my life’s tasks will enable me to identify the essential projects and pursuits upon which to concentrate. Focusing primarily on essential projects and pursuits will enable me to resist the call of distractions and maintain focus on long-term goals.
- The three steps of the Apprenticeship Phase: Step 1, Deep Observation- The passive mode. Step 2, Skills Acquisition- The practice mode. Step 3, Experimentation- The active mode (Greene, 2012). I chose this concept because it provides a structure and workflow for me to develop and master creative writing skills systematically and with minimum distractions.
- Trust the process. Robert Greene explains that “when it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient” (Greene, 2012). I chose this concept because it describes the process wherein practicing a new skill over days and weeks will eventually lead to that skill becoming hardwired and part of my tool set. As I learn new storytelling skills in a variety of genres, it will be essential to trust the process and avoid becoming bored or frustrated when the genres taught are not the ones I plan to focus upon in my writing.
Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1087-1101.
Duckworth, A. L. (n.d.). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York, NY: Penguin.
AL, Q. (n.d.). Untitled [Photograph found in Unsplash]. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://unsplash.com/@quinoal?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText