Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On the sixth day...

I finished the first three scenes of Act II.  I can hardly believe it.  It almost feels like this is writing itself.  How I love that groove.  Let's hope it lasts: six days and three scenes to go....

Did I mention I am doing this all while preparing to move to a new apartment on Jan 16th?  It truly is amazing how all these things seem to come at once.  Off I go to look at furniture at the post-xmas sales!

Monday, December 26, 2011

On the fourth day of "write fast!"...

... I finished Act I!  I'm very pleased with myself, especially because the majority of that writing was done on the bus to and from New Hampshire (on which my very pained butt is still sitting as I type this).

I seem to write well while in transit -- even on the subway, even if it is only for 5 or 10 minutes, sometimes I'll find a couple of choice lines or an important turn in a scene.  (This was why I made the out-of-character early purchase of the iPad when it first came out, so I could better take advantage of those fleeting moments.)  I often seem to focus easily while on the move: perhaps the world flitting by me and the mild (or in this case, not-so-mild) physical discomfort provide just enough distraction to keep the rest of my mind busy so that my writing mind can focus.  When I'm home, still and comfy, I think I'm more easily distracted by other things.  Or maybe it's my writing-to-a-deadline in miniature: I know I only have x amount of time to write in this confined space (be it 5 minutes or 4 hours), so I best use it well.

Either way, I am delighted with my progress.  Now, 8 days to finish Act II....

Friday, December 23, 2011

12 days of "write fast!"

(If I were my wit-machine friend and colleague Kat Sherrell, I would surely attempt to write this as a parody if the song "The 12 days of Christmas", one line each day for the next twelve days.  But I am not so clever nor do I want to put in the time to try to be.  But you should check out her blog, currently featuring daily haikus.  It's awesome.)

Once again, I have an insane writing deadline to meet: 12 days to complete this rewrite. I have 5 scenes to revise and 2 scenes left to write.  That's a scene every 1.7 days.  Erp.

This deadline is not an arbitrarily self-imposed one, though.  TRU (Theater Resources Unlimited) - an organization of which I am a member and am also very fond, check them out - has a reading series for new plays with a deadline of January 3rd.  I wanted to submit last year, but didn't feel the play was ready at that point.  So I promised myself I would submit this year.  At the time, I figured it would be done many months in advance.  Funny.

It's actually not entirely my fault that this didn't happen.  Or I guess it was, it just wasn't because I was being lazy.  I did complete a rewrite in the spring where I changed the structure of the play, an important step but definitely a transitional one.  This summer I was busy writing for a short-forms class at ESPA, in which my writing grew so much that it was time well-spent away from this draft.  This fall I enrolled in a rewrite class, confident that I would then have the draft complete by the end of the class in late November.  But then I had to go and take on this show (see my last post), which did not allow me the time or mental focus to work on the play for the last month or so.

So, here I am again, writing on a deadline, one of my favorite past-times.  I'm actually good at it.  It helps focus the mind.  Last night I finished the revisions on scene 1, on to scene 2 this morning.  I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Performing as peanut butter

A little background on two points:

1) for the past six weeks, I have been rehearsing then performing a show, Dziewczyna, as the sole actress/singer in this multi-media theater/music piece. A huge project that has taken up so much of my time that I haven't written a blog post since October.

2) in Weight Watchers, we identify foods as red-light, yellow-light, or green-light foods.  Green-light foods are foods that you can easily control without over-indulging (or that have little impact if you do, like vegetables), so you can go for them anytime.  Yellow-light foods are foods that you can control only in certain circumstances -- say if you are out somewhere so you can order a single serving -- so you much approach them with caution.  Red-light foods are foods you can't control, ever.  You don't just consume them, they consume you.  So if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, you have to avoid those foods altogether. 

Peanut butter is a red light food for me.  If I have peanut butter in my house, I will eat the whole jar with a spoon.  And what that does to me -- the resulting weight gain and feeling crappy about myself -- isn't worth the pleasure I got from eating the peanut butter.  So I don't have it anymore.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that peanut butter is bad for you -- it's actually really good for you.  But it is very high-impact.  If you eat much of that, you can't eat much else all day without gaining weight.  So I found a substitute, this low-fat stuff called "Better 'n Pnut Butter", that I can have 2 full tablespoons of for just one WW point.  It's not as good as peanut butter - nowhere near - so I'm not tempted to eat it with a spoon.  When I need some protein and don't want dairy or meat, it's a great option that I can control and doesn't cause me to sacrifice other things I want.

What does this have to do with performing, you ask?  When I gave up performing, it wasn't because I didn't enjoy it anymore, it was because I didn't like what it was doing to the rest of my life.  I didn't like all the crap that went with it, the sacrifices, the time away from friends and family, the anxiety, the constant stress, the frustration of not being where I wanted to be career-wise.  Performing wasn't inherently bad for me, I just didn't like the trade-offs anymore.  It had become a red-light food for me, so I gave it up altogether.  And eventually I found some substitutes -- writing and teaching.  These things help fill me creatively, and still allow me time and energy to exercise, be with family and friends, and sleep.  These are green-light foods, nourishing, healthy, things I can have while keeping my life in balance.

It is not an entirely fair analogy, though, to equate writing with low-fat peanut butter.  Writing is an incredible art, and it satisfies me creatively in ways that performing never did.  But there is a part of me that is a performer, an actor, that thrives on the stage in front of an audience as if I was born there, as if I was meant to do nothing else.  Therefore nothing else will ever quite entirely take its place, just as fake peanut butter will never be the same as real peanut butter.  Even if I have figured out how to be quite satisfied with the substitute.  Maybe even satisfied enough, given the trade-offs.

And I felt those trade-offs these last six weeks.  Doing this show took me away from finishing my play when I wanted.  My friends were frustrated with my lack of availability.  I wasn't able to put the energy into my teaching studio that I needed to (and since that pays my rent, that is dangerous!).  I got sick, twice.  Fortunately not for the performances, but it reminded me how much I hate hate hate hate hate worrying about getting sick.  And let's not forget exercise and diet -- those things have definitely fallen off track the last several weeks (and I've gained a couple of pounds to prove it). 

Is it worth it?  Is the joy of inhabiting a character, of being present in the moment, of telling a story, moving people, giving people an opportunity to laugh and cry and forget themselves, and, yes, to hear that I'm "amazing" over and over again, worth all the sacrifices?

Can I apply the Weight Watchers advice I have heard (and given) hundreds of times?  That sometimes it is better to have some of the real thing in a controlled, balanced fashion, than to continually try to fill a craving with something that isn't quite what you want?  If you are perpetually unsatisfied eating how you are eating, you will not be able to stick with it.  Sometimes, you just have to eat the real peanut butter.

I did figure out a way to eat peanut butter once in awhile this summer -- it turns out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the only thing I can eat while on 50+ mile bike rides.  Anything else upsets my stomach.  So I get to have them once in awhile, but only on days I'm biking more than three hours.
Can I can pursue performing again while maintaining my other priorities, just as I figured out a way to sneak in a little peanut butter without derailing my weight?  I don't know.   But I think I owe it to myself to try.  It's time to make performing a yellow-light food instead of a red-light food and see if I can handle it.