Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On vacation

Yes, I am. This means I am both writing and relaxing (which includes sleeping a lot more than I have recently, watching TV and movies, which I always do, reading a bit more, and working out with having to hurry to do so). I primarily took this week off to both write and, honestly, to use up some of my vacation time. I get about five weeks of vaction time a year, and so now I'm on my first week (which means I'm going to carry over a lot, as usual, despite my going to Florida for the holidays in December, for the first time in many years). Last year, I got to take just about every Friday off, and that was far preferable to the situation this year. It meant I got a long weekend every week, which does wonders to one's sanity (I think everyone should get four-day work weeks), and let me enjoy writing on either Fridays or Saturdays. It did not put pressure on me to HAVE to write every day of the break (not that I have to--this is my own pressure, not anyone else's), and it also did not stress me out OR make me go stir crazy (which is what always happens by the middle of my break).

I did keep busy last weekend. I went to the Pumpkin Fest on the Boston Common (the city won the Guiness Book of World Records by lighting more than 30,000 pumpkins, and the proceeds went to Life is Good, a charity for kids with life-threating illnesses; I bought a cute but dorky winter hat to do my part). I was fighting a cold (which, fortunately, did not materialize), so I didn't work out Saturday, but I did go to yoga Sunday, and then watched the Patriots beat the Bills at my parents, which was fun and also enabled me to get laundry done. When my parents are in Florida for four months this year, beginning of December-end of March, I will miss them, missing watching football with my dad, and miss doing laundry there, b/c it's not pleasant to go down winding stairs to do it here, though it's better than a laundrymat, of course, or having to navigate many steps and several doors to go outside and then back inside the room where the machines were (this was the case in my last apartment).

On Monday, I had a doctor's appointment, worked out, and then did some writing. But this particular play, A GENETIC TRAIT, the one I wrote for fusionworks' 24-hour marathon in June, is just not working out. It has an absurd premise--men are women, women are men, and stereotypes are mocked--but it isn't funny enough, or clever enough, and it doesn't really have a story, so it's flat. It was funny when it was performed by the high school kids in June (they were very enthusiastic and physically engaging), but that didn't mean it was a particularly GOOD play. I've since brought it to both of my writing groups, and neither particularly cared for it in its present state, though both agreed it had potential. After more work, and Edd's comments, I realize that it is something that needs to be put away for a while, and after I think about it some more, and let it jell, a story idea, and not just a premise, will come to me, and I'll be able to complete it. That happened with my hair play, now called REMEMBERING, last week. I had a bad day--somewhat inexplicably sad--and I wanted to channel my feelings, somehow, see if I could get something productive out of the lonely emotions I was feeling. I don't know exactly why, but I realized this might translate to the hair play (still called CONTROL at that point), so I came home and wrote for 3 1/2 hours (even though I was tired). When I was done, I basically had a new play that worked, for the most part (Edd agreed, and Edd's a hard judge :-)). I did some more work on it Friday night (despite a bad sore throat and fatigue), and then finished it and began submitting it.

Sometimes you can't control when you'll write something that will work. You have to be open to the process, and, as Edd says, you have to let the characters speak for themselves, but you can't *force* it, and you have to let go (the title CONTROL was very apt, b/c that's what I was doing with the play). Unfortunately, I still have very little confidence in my writing, despite having been produced a number of times this year. I want my writing to be stronger, more powerful, more real, and I know that's very hard (though certainly not impossible) with 10-minute plays (and of course one reason I've been urged to write longer pieces). I also have trouble sitting down and just writing, and I get frustrated, which doesn't help. It really is a good thing I don't depend on my writing to make a living. ;-) Yesterday, I got inspired and wrote the first draft of a play called WEDNESDAYS, about a woman who has a date with several men every Wednesday in the same place, wearing the same red sweater, and and what happens when she meets one particular man on one particular evening. I think the premise works and there is actually a story here, not just characters (unlike in A GENETIC TRAIT), but it's still stiff. But I do hope I have the makings of a successful play, though we'll see. I may need to leave this one alone, too, though I hope not. (Of course, it's also intended to be a comic play, and I have a lot more difficulty with comic plays; REMEMBERING is about a woman who uses her sad past to allow her to stand up to her domineering hair stylist, a metaphor for her relationships with everyone in her life.)

I watched an interesting movie last night called ROCK STAR. It's about Paul Green, a musician turned teacher, who has a school for 9-17 year olds where they learn to overcome difficulties through becoming musicians. (In some cases, they aren't troubled, and just want to become proficient on an instrument, but this is often not the case.) Some make it, some don't, but Paul has FAITH in them, and requires that they practice, whether they want to or not, and that's part of writing; you need to have patience and you have to practice. You have to write and write and then rewrite and revise and revise again, and I'm not very patient and I like to write something and be done with it. Edd is painstaking in his revisions; he does not berate himself (to my knowledge) if a piece is not working or needs a great deal of revision. He enjoys the process and just sits with the piece. I do not feel the same way (lack of confidence is one of the issues; the more I see it, the less happy I become, the more frustrated I feel), I start to feel rejected and beat myself up, and this is not healthy or productive. I will try to keep the movie in mind; the kids didn't get good b/c they wanted to and it just happened. They had to work at it constantly, and the ones who did were, for the most part, successful (of course, they needed some talent and a great deal of interest to begin with), and those who didn't try hard enough and weren't passionate enough ultimately failed. So all the elements need to align, and I have to be accepting. I keep telling myself this and I keep trying to internalize this, and I hope with practice I'll truly believe it.

I wanted to add two things. First, I finished WEDNESDAYS (with Edd's blessing) and sent it off to a few theatres. It came very easily to me, though I had been thinking about it for many years (I knew it would work better as a play than as a short story, and I figured out a way to construct it so that it only used four characters, rather than the six-eight I had originally imagined), so it's doable for a theatre. It's lighter than my usual fare, but that's okay. Nothing wrong with light (or lighter), and why not try it for a 10-minute play festival? I'm not submitting it to the Boston Theatre Marathon--I am submitting two darker pieces (well, more serious), b/c they get lots of comedies, and maybe one or both of mine will stand out--but I already submitted it to three festivals, b/c it seemed to fit their criteria. I also just got a rejection from Towne Street Theatre and DID NOT FREAK OUT ABOUT IT!!! :) Yes, I am growing up, kids. While I will be very disappointed if a local theatre *coughACMEcough* says no to my work, I know I'm improving with every play, and I'm getting more comfortable judging whether or not what I write is working. Oh, and I'm enjoying the process again. That's what it's really about, right? And yes, John, it's good to be Zen and to just open yourself up to the writing. Forcing it won't make it come more easily or result in stronger pieces, just more stress.

In through the nose, out through the nose (yoga breathing)...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Brief check-in

Hi, all. Not much to say tonight. Things have been status quo. It's suddenly gotten very cold (50s during the day, low 40s at night) and I hate that (and having had no heat last night and this morning, though the problem has been rectified, I doubly hate it). I had two infected toes, and took antibiotics, but I know you don't really care about that. :) I also had a bad stomach virus (had to go home in a cab on Wednesday, since I couldn't even walk a block to the subway!) so this hasn't been the best week (and the amount of food I've eaten, after the virus went away, clearly shows that). Otherwise, though, work has been fine, and I have this Friday through a week after Monday off, meaning about 10 days to write (and watch movies from NetFlix, the best service EVER) and hang out and read and work out and relax. I'm looking forward to it; I want to write a cafe play, and I hope to do that, and start my full-length, during this vacation. I have sent out a number of plays to a number of festivals, and will hear back sometime soon about some of them, so I'll have more to report at that time. I hope (pray?) that I have some good news to share (b/c it won't be pretty if I don't :--P). I have tried rewriting my play "Control" (name to change) a number of times, after leaving it alone for three or four months, but it just isn't happening, and I'm frustrated. I don't seem to be able to find the needed groove, and I can't figure out why. I know how to write dialogue. That isn't it. I guess I just don't know what the play is about, and the harder I try, the further I get from whatever it's about. I also tried writing a play about one shoe for a festival and that, too, was difficult, so much so that it's on hold for a while (maybe forever). So don't ask me what the deal is; I guess I'm just trying to hard, eh?

I did see two plays this weekend that sort of inspired me. One, Mauritius, by Theresa Rebeck, is about a woman who finds a very expensive (possibly) stamp collection and what happens as a result. It's not that plot driven, but the characters are so well written and the dialogue so naturalistic and snappy that you are captivated the entire time. The other, A Night in November, written by Marie Jones, is a tour de force, a one-man play about a Protestant man in Northern Ireland and what happens after he attends a soccer match (aka football) with his father-in-law. The star, Marty Maguire, plays 30 characters and imbues nearly every one (though he doesn't do the female characters nearly as well as the male, which is a bit of a bummer) with great life and passion. The main character is fascinating and you are with Kenneth the ENTIRE TIME. I was so impressed with both the writing and acting and again thought, THERE YOU GO. That's great theatre. That's what *I* want to do. I just haven't found a way to get there yet, but I'm going to keep trying.