Tappity, tap, tap…

In Essays, Playwriting on February 24, 2009 at 10:33 am

It first comes through me like a rushing river.  I sit down with my juicy idea, flex my fingers, and write away.  And then I get to the act break, and the little Idea God that had been all this time on my shoulder, gives me a thumbs up, a chipper “You got it from here?” and before I can cry out for it to stay, that little bugger takes off for wherever it is those things come from.  And I am left trying to answer all the wild and unexpected questions that first act asks.

I’ve been sitting on the second act of my new play for about six months now.  Looking at it, glaring at it, avoiding it’s empty end… well, finally, FINALLY, I think I’ve got it wrestled to a close.  And wow, the relief.  If I had any money in my pocket I’d go out and celebrate with something pretty or yummy, but since I don’t, I can only celebrate with this delightful bag of Lays Sour Cream and Onion potato chips and my ice cold Coke.

Writing, as I’ve come to realize, comes for me in waves.  And I can sit at the computer for days with but a handful of pages to show for it, or plow through the hours like a machine… and it’s all up to so many little ingredients that I can’t even begin to understand them all.

My first full length play had about 45 different Act II, Scene I’s before I hit upon the solution.  My next full length was so bloody in the coming that I thought for certain I had made some grave mistake in efforting at an MFA in the field.  But now, five full lengths or so behind me, I find that this is just my process.  And it’s a bit insane.

The insanity only gets worse when you consider the fact that I would never set out so wrecklessly with a screenplay.  Oh, no.  Those are structure and formatting, and all planned out ahead of time so that when ink comes to paper, I’ve got a MAP to follow.  And I’ve thought about applying this process to my playwriting, but it seems (somehow) like cheating. 

I don’t know, perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, or I just haven’t suffered through enough “HOW DOES THIS PLAY END?!” anxiety to change my stubborn ways.  But I think it’s because I enjoy the ride of uncertainty that comes with the crafting of these wild things.

So, as I sit here relishing the comfort of yet another play coming to a close, I must admit a certain amount of adrenaline and worry as the next little Idea God hops upon my shoulder.


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