Sunday, January 30, 2011

Unexpected bright spot

So here I was after my demon battle last week, resolute but sad to not submit my play to this reading festival for which I'd been given a personal invitation from the producer.   Just to do a dummy check about my instincts on this, I emailed my director and asked if he thought it was worth submitting the script in its current incarnation, or if I was right to think I shouldn't enter it since I know it needs some work.  His reply was not at all what I expected:

"Yes, I would send the play.  It's a great play and a work in progress."

I guess I had gotten so caught up in processing all the feedback after the reading and subsequently so focused on all the things that need to be fixed, that I forgot that at its core it's a great play.  And one of the main purposes of reading series is to help develop works in progress.  So, even though I am not going to get a rewrite done, I still get to submit my play.  Whether or not she selects it, the producer will see that I can write.  And that can only be a good thing.

Funny, is that whistling I hear?  I turn and see my demon strolling off towards his favorite demon-watering hole, whistling a jaunty tune to himself.  Even he seems content with this turn of events. 

Never fear, I'm sure he'll be back to hound me soon enough.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Playwriting meets Buffy (or, my battle with a demon)

Sunday evening, a mere few hours after I wrote my last blog post, I battled a demon.  It wasn't nearly as glamorous and exciting a showdown as those between Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) and Spike (the Vampire), but my relationship with my demon does have some parallels:  he appeared early on in my development and keeps coming back, over and over again; we fight viciously most every time we meet, though now and then in a fit of uncontrolled passion we have a good roll in the hay instead. But either way we both always walk away a little battered and bruised, and I can never seem to actually kill him (or him me).

My demon isn't nearly as sexy as Spike, though he can be very alluring.  He makes promises of success, fame, fortune, untold doors opening, endless possibilities that might come within my reach if I would only take his hand and tango.  But I know this demon and I know the toll he almost always exacts from me if I follow, and thus I must fight him.  Again. And again.  And again. 

Unrealistic expectations.

I had set myself a very, very ambitious goal before the new year of finishing a rewrite of my play by Feb 15th.  (I was invited by a producer to submit my play for a reading series she is curating, and that is the due date.)  My original plan was to start that immediately after the new year, which would have given me 6 weeks to do it.  Highly highly ambitious, but not actually impossible.  I was on track -- I met with my playwriting coach on January 3rd, walked away with a whole new vision for how to address the main problem with the play, and was ready to dive in.

But then... life happened.   Between work I had to do for my voice studio and being horribly sick, by the time I was ready to start writing, I was faced with a ludicrously unrealistic deadline of completing a full-scale rewrite in just three weeks.  Rather than feeling motivated to get cracking, I found myself resisting writing at all.  I was at a standstill, neither moving forward nor content with taking a break.  It was time for a showdown between me and my expectations.  It went a little something like this.

Me: It's just not possible.  There is no way I can finish a rewrite in just 3 weeks.

Demon: Of course it's possible, if you just devote every waking minute and many of those minutes you waste sleeping to it.  What happened to the woman who got up at 6 am to write before going to the gym before going to work?  

Me: That woman burned herself out pretty badly -- remember how sick I've been for the last few weeks?  That's what happens when I go long stretches -- like a whole YEAR -- without enough sleep.  I can't do that again, at least not yet.  I'm still recovering.

Demon: You're lazy.  You clearly don't want this. 

Me: Yes I do. I just have other things I want too, like--

Demon:  If you really wanted this, you wouldn't be wasting time on other things.  This is a big producer, she likes you for some strange reason, she is interested in your work, how can you possibly miss this opportunity to send her your play?  

Me: Even if I do what you say and I somehow manage to finish a draft, I won't have time to hear it out loud to make sure it really works; to polish it and make sure I'm sending her something good.  I don't want to ruin this opportunity by sending her something that isn't ready.  

Demon: Now you're just making excuses.

Me: No I'm not!  Part of being professional in this business is knowing when your work is ready to be seen.  She'll respect that and I'm sure there will be another chance.

Then my demon leans in close and whispers in my ear, his fangs piercing the skin just above my jugular:

Demon: You're sure, are you?  What if this is your one shot?  What if this was the universe opening a magic door for you that you were supposed to walk through, and if you don't, it will close forever and you will never get to be a real playwright and you won't even know what your life could have been if you had only--


Because at this point my demon has reduced me to a self-deprecating, depressed, pathetic puddle of inadequacy, "shut up" is about the sharpest rebuttal I can come up with.  He's a little startled by my sudden adolescent outburst, and steps back, long enough for me to get behind a barrier and regroup.  I hold a cloth to my neck to staunch the blood flow, gather what little bit of strength I have left, and look him wearily in the eyes.

Me: Then I guess that's just the chance I'm going to have to take.  I'm only human, unlike you, and there is only so much I can do.

I walk away, wounded, weary, and not entirely sure even I believe myself.  I look back over my shoulder and see the demon following me, but he keeps his distance.  He looks a little dejected himself -- perhaps he doesn't like it when I remind him he's not human.  Or maybe he just feels sorry for me.

With the demon temporarily off my back, I was actually able to face the blank page without a well of anxiety filling within me that I'd never finish in time.  Thus it was that Sunday night and Monday, I completed an outline of the next draft of my play, and sent it off to my coach for feedback.  I like some of the discoveries I made, and I think the rewrite will actually flow pretty quickly once I begin writing it.  I'm also left with room now for seizing other opportunities, like writing a 10-page play incorporating a Grimm Fairy Tale for a cooperative project at my new writing school, ESPA.  If selected, I'll get to work with actors and directors from the school, and my writing will actually be seen by people at a real theater company.  I've already chosen a fairy tale, have the 4 characters named and pictured in my head and have a basic idea of the outline of the story.  I'm really looking forward to writing something completely new for a bit.

I slyly pick up a rock and quickly turn and hurl it at my demon.  See?  There will be other opportunities.

The demon catches the rock.  You haven't been selected yet. Heck, you haven't even written it yet. 

And we both trudge on into the night.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Human again

After 2 solid weeks of being sick, I finally feel like myself today. My boyfriend and I were able to go out to eat last night, and I even put on makeup, fixed my hair and dressed in something other than jeans. I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to want to do that. Then, for the first time since I got sick, I was able to sleep through the night without medication and without being propped up on a princess-and-the-pea-worthy stack of pillows. So, today I hope that, along with feeling like myself again physically, I will also feel like myself again motivationally, and can get my ass to work on my rewrite.

First it's off to the gym (again for the first time in awhile) and then to the grocery store to pick up some provisions for the week. My new self-imposed schedule is to use Sundays as my day off and errand day, so that Mondays can be entirely devoted to writing without having to leave the house for anything. I think it's important to structure my own time now that less structure is imposed from the outside. So that's my plan. I'll report back after tomorrow and let you know how it's working for me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Missing: Drive, maniacal. Last seen 11-2-2010 in the vicinity of my brain.

Well hello, blog.   Sorry I haven't stopped by in awhile.  I've been a little preoccupied settling into my new self-employed life, and dealing with a whopper of a respiratory infection the last week and a half.  My immune system apparently decided to relax a bit along with the rest of me -- and I guess I can't really blame it.  I managed to make it through most of the last insane year without really getting sick, for which I am very grateful.  Though I'm ready to be better now.  Any day now.  Yes, please.

I am looking at 2011 and wondering what is in store for me.  I don't feel nearly as focused as I did at this point last year, when I had just begun this project and was blogging almost every day.  But I do have some goals for 2011, and since I find that publicly stating goals helps me stick to them, here there are:
  • finish a rewrite of Breaking Pairs by Feb 15th (if possible!)
  • grow my studio by at least 5 more regular students
  • write one or two new short plays to submit to festivals
  • explore the idea I have for a musical
  • train for and complete a 100 mile bike ride next fall
I've set a few things in motion already: I met with my playwriting coach and I have a clear idea of where I want to go with my rewrite; I have workshops and free seminars scheduled for my voice studio;  I've signed up for a Libretto 1 class at Primary Stages to help teach me how to get started on writing the book for a musical; I applied to two artist residencies for the summer; I'm exercising regularly (when I'm not sick) to keep in shape until the weather warms up enough to bike again.  So I know I'm on the right track.  And yet....

Where is my drive?  That crazy the drive I felt all last year, the drive that got me out of bed at 6am to write for an hour before going to work, that kept me up til 1 or 2 am writing many nights, that wouldn't let me turn on something on netflix instead of being creative.  It, like my immune system, seems to have gone on vacation.  I miss it.  I want it back.  My boyfriend assures me I haven't lost it, that I'm still just recovering from the craziness of last year, that I'm still exhaling from holding my breath for so long.  I sincerely hope he's right.  Otherwise I'm going to find myself in the position of having to figure out how to do the thing that so many people assume I do all the time: kick my own ass.  But the reality is, I rarely have to kick my own ass.  It's historically a much bigger challenge for me to slow down than it is for me to gear up.

So, here I go.  I begin with this humble blog post, and hope to slowly ramp up to full drive-mode over the next few days as I finally recover from this stupid cold.  I'll keep you posted.