The past couple months have been focused on getting my new podcast, Writers Get Animated, going, so my plays had been placed on the back burner a bit. When I say "back burner," I mean that I'd journal about them, obsess about them, but not write actual lines or scenes for them. I find that ti's difficult to really keep the writing going when other things are "vampiring" (not a word) energy. One of those things is the day job lately. Any other playwrights work retail? If you do, then you know what I'm talking about that the last month has been exhausting. However, the retail that I work is slightly more brain taxing because of my role in the store... I won't go into it, but suffice to say my brain is completely enervated by the time I get home.
But! Yesterday, my vacation started! Due to some schedule swapping with another playwright who works at my day job and also is my partner in crime for the podcast, my vacation has ended up being longer! Knowing this, I spent the few days before, trying to prep myself for actually having time to write. I made maps and lists of scenes for my play Leak, which I hope to have a draft of before my vacation is over because this is a "working vacation." When done right, however, playwriting, for me, isn't work. When I think of work, I think of being taxed mentally and physically and not getting anything back. I think of day jobs that have nothing to do with what you want to do with your life. Maybe I shouldn't call it a "working vacation" then. I know! It's a "Vocation Vacation!" Vocation: "a person's employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication." Worthy is the main point. Playwriting is my vocation.
After months of story and character sketches, yesterday was a mixed bag of writing success. I chose to focus on two scenes for the play, so I could prepare and have a manageable goal. I mean, it was day one, I wanted to set myself up for a good day. One scene, between my main character, Rachel, and her father, Paul, was amazingly easy to write. I wrote Paul's first line and then only had a couple of brief stops as I looked for better ways to phrase the lines that popped into my head. It had great flow and seemed to "write itself." Ah, satisfying.
Later, I attempted a scene with Rachel and her artist partner, Simone. Simone is older and has often hired Rachel to assist her with mural work. This scene did not flow. I wrote Simone's first line and then stared into space. I knew what was supposed to happen in the scene, but I couldn't get there. I'd write the next line and then stare into space and then the next and then stare into space. Write-Stare-Write-Stare-Write-Stare... I fought against being frustrated because the writing was getting done and told myself to trust the process. There was probably something in the subtext that I hadn't answered for myself that I hadn't been able to tap into to allow the scene to "flow."
With the Paul/Rachel scene, I understood more about where Paul and Rachel were coming from at a deeper level, in their relationship, how they view one another, how they interact with each other. With the Simone/Rachel scene, there were a lot of unanswered questions, so I allowed my process to work and stared into space, asking the questions and finding the answers. I came away with a scene that's okay, that'll be great once I tackle it in rewrites and after I've spent more time with Simone as a character I'm sure. It was my first time writing for Simone, figuring out how she speaks, how sarcastic she is, what references she makes, so it'll get much much easier as the play goes on.
Today, I've again chosen two scenes: Rachel and a pastor, then Simone and the pastor. We'll see how they go.
How do you find scenes flow for you? How do you feel after your day jobs? Are you surviving?
Keep working and, as always, be excellent to each other.
(Also, be sure to check out Writers Get Animated on iTunes!)
When Melanie Marnich was a visiting artist at The University of Iowa, she had us all do an exercise: imagine where we saw ourselves in 1 year, in 3 years, and in 5 years. We thought about our personal trajectories and, in some way, how we would get ourselves there through short term goals. Something that I've been lacking lately is a focus on goals. I don't quite have any. Okay, that's not entirely true. I suppose I don't have large, specific goals. We often are asked to define what success means for ourselves since success, especially success as a playwright, is so personalized. I've been concentrating a lot on my family, my wife's goals, and have had some very distracting business going on at the day job, so my playwriting goals have been out of focus. Mainly the goal has been "I want to write plays." I've also extended the goal to "I want my plays to be performed." Easy enough.
What I've decided to do is take bite-sized action towards this goal by submitting at least 1 play a week. It's not as ambitious as Brian Doyle's 1 submission a day, but it's doable for me. It's been especially easy after having done all the prep work as recommended by Donna Hoke. I can get a play submitted in about 20 minutes, not including research about the theatre or contest. The most difficult part of the process will be pairing the right play with the right theatre. I just recently sent off a copy of Father Bob, a play I haven't sent out in a while, because it seemed like the one play of mine that would work in terms of theme and casting. Maybe. I don't know. All I can do is read the missions of the theatres, look at their previous productions, and try to be honest about whether or not one of my plays would work there. I'm doing my best to not send something simply to send something.
In other news, I have a fun new project that's going to start in December. More info to come. I hate being vague, but it's coming soon enough!