Stunt Writing

EXPLOSIONS! Muscled, athletic people who look remarkably like celebrities leaping off buildings and gracefully rolling to their feet! CARS FLIPPING!

stunt man falling

stunt pyrotechnicsEnter the world of stunt writing. Basically all those things that make up stunts in movies, minus…er…most of it. And a lot safer, usually.



I’ve joined a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course – on the Canvas network called “Stunt Writing for Personal Growth.” The instructor, Erin Jourdan, has an M.F.A, resides in L.A. and teaches a writing class on memoirs (see her website here: In her Twitter profile, she describes herself as “Creativity junkie, writing therapist, creative coach, dream catcher.” So far, she’s challenged us with a very big goal.





Why does this seem so hard? So intimidating and impossible? 30 minutes is but a fraction of waking hours. Considering I’m usually up from 6:30am/7am until midnight, it’s only 2.7% of my day. (Somebody check my math – 30 minutes / 1110 minutes, yes?)

make it happen captain

For me, the fear comes from building structure around such a creative activity. I want to let the creative juices flow when they may, let them whisk me away into dreamworld suddenly and out of the blue. But, to be a professional writer, one cannot wait on the capricious winds of fancy, one must BUILD A FAN. One cannot simply float along, carried by the tides of imagination, one must BUILD A PADDLE BOAT AND PEDAL. (And if you’ve ever pedaled a paddle boat, you’ll recall just how much paddling you do for just how little payoff!)

So I’ve challenged myself to accept Erin Jourdan’s gauntlet. To make it happ’n, Cap’n.




Writing About…What?

So…erm…what’s the topic? You may be asking. Jourdan asks us to fill out a stunt writing plan with parameters (argh! real work! but you gotta have a plan in order to stick to it!).

Here’s mine:

  • I commit to writing for 30 minutes every day.
  • My stunt is focused around: ___evaluating how I entertain myself_____________
  • I will consider this aspect of my life from 3 different perspectives, one each week for 3 weeks.

WEEK ONE_____Observe how I entertain myself and make scientific notes in a journal (what time of day would I rather watch a movie vs. read a book? how often am I choosing entertainment over work in my free hours? when I’m with others, what are they doing to entertain themselves? how much of entertaining yourself is entertaining others?) I will observe what I feel before and after entertainment (what made me want to watch that movie? how do I feel afterwards? is it what I hoped? why’d I choose that book to read? what does it make me want to do afterwards? am I better for having had this experience?).

WEEK TWO____When I feel like being entertained passively, choose a different path. (example: Eh, I just feel like sitting on the couch and watching a summer blockbuster movie right now. Choice: No! Switch things up and read something challenging, go for a walk, watch a documentary instead, etc.)

WEEK THREE__Be more thoughtful and intentional in making entertainment a useful activity that makes me better, rather than just takes up time. Do I feel better? Have I been more productive


#1 Write a short paragraph about what your stunt is, this will be your “plan of attack.”

I have found that I spend a lot of time doing things that are entertaining (watching a movie, reading a book, etc.), then feel guilty afterwards for not having been more productive with my free time. I know that entertainment is an essential part of life, because your mind needs to relax to stay healthy and strong. However, I worry that I devote too much time to being entertained, and that my entertainment doesn’t make me a better person at times. At a recent conference, a speaker challenged us and said when you are choosing your entertainment, go for a documentary instead of a summer blockbuster, or read something new rather than a beach-read. This resonated with me. On a larger scale, I can make an educated guess to say that American culture today may be more built on entertainment than cultures of the past, when I think back to stories I’ve read of my ancestors’ Scottish roots in hard work and my grandmother’s tales of growing up on a farm. Can being hardworking and regularly entertained coexist peacefully? What’s a healthy appetite for entertainment? What’s the right balance for me? To pursue this, I’ll spend the next three weeks studying this aspect of my life. For the first week, I’ll make scientific notes on how I entertain myself, when, with whom, how many hours, etc. For the second, I’ll observe my feelings regarding the entertainment before and after. In the third week, I’ll try to be more purposeful in changing my entertainment habits and see what happens.


#2 Create Restrictions: Removal, Consequences, Places, People, Research, Data, Change and Practice


-Removal: In the second week, I will change my entertainment habits from what I feel. To do this, I will plan out my entertainment rather than act on a whim.

-Consequences: For every time I succumb to regular entertainment habits, I’ll tell you about it on my blog and do 50 pushups.

-Places: I will seek out other places for entertainment I wouldn’t normally go to.

-People: I will ask one person each week about their entertainment habits and whether they feel good about them.

-Things: I will review about a book or movie each week on my blog.

-Research: I will look into studies on entertainment.

-Data: I will keep a log of my entertainment habits.

-Change: I will change my entertainment habits in the second and third week.

-Practice: I will write down notes on my entertainment habits.

-Practice: I will write thoughts on my entertainment habits each day.

-Practice: I will dedicate my time to building more positive, healthful entertainment habits.


Discussion #1

Jourdan’s first discussion board post was interesting. Usually with these large courses the introductions consist of Give your name, country, and why you are interested in taking this course. Yawn…but Jourdan asked for us to share our earliest memory related to either shoes, a coat, a handbag or a meal. (A little female-centric, but that doesn’t bother me too much!) So I shared this off-the-cuff thought:

When I was young, I envied. Other kids in kindergarten had the coolest, the neatest, the greatest shoes. Why were these shoes the pinnacle of awesomeness? Because they would light up with each step. Chin in my hand, sitting on steps, I remember watching other kids at recess play basketball and speed around on tricycles, their light-up shoes glowing with each movement. One day, my mom brought me to the shoe store and had mercy on my plight. She bought me – and I will always indelibly remember – a pair of purple suede boots with exactly three light-up knobs on either side. These knobs lit up with precisely each step I took. I wore them out of the shoe store, stomping and hoe-downing, jumping and leaping, tap-dancing and hopping to test them out. For days I enjoyed them. But only just days. Because one day, they lit up on only every other step. Then another day, only every few steps. The lights flickered and faded, as did my excitement. I felt like I learned something about life from those shoes, but I’m not sure what.

By the way, if you want to also join her course – you don’t have to write 30 minutes a day, but you can look around in the course and learn something – it’s not too late to sign up!