T-to-the-A

(Tap, tap, tap) Is this thing on?

In Playwriting, The Daily Drool on March 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Alright kids, pull up your overalls and get ready for some soap-boxin’ – I have just come from one of those meetings that make you itchy all over with Verbage Coloriscus.  (Yes, I just made that up.  And I like how it sounds, so I ain’t deletin’.  I told you, I’m soap boxin’!)

… AHEM…(ready?)

Writers.

We love to read their words, we love to watch their plays/movies/t.v. shows.  We love to revel in the visual representation of their imaginations.  We know it’s slow-going, and difficult to succeed, but somehow, through all the impossibilities that impede a writer’s life, the cream (hopefully) rises to the top of our book-stacks, Blockbuster queues, and DVR schedules.

And we love them for it.

So it makes sense that, after a life spent rejoicing in the fruits of a writer’s labors, the occasional citizen (okay, many, many citizens) feel inspired to tackle the process themselves.  They think “I can do that!  I have a GREAT idea!” and, fighting plenty an obstacle to dissuade them, they set to work harvesting minutes from whatever it is they usually do, in order to indulge the passion that has swept over them.

And it is fun!  It’s exciting!  They have discovered a challenge of great personal reward!  They rejoice in the creation and birth of their idea-baby.  And I applaud mightily those that sweat their way to “The End” or “Fade out” because between having an idea, and seeing it to fruition, lies a trecherous path paved with self-doubt, the skepticism of family, friends, and bosses, irritating day-jobs, and various other personal challenges- some as revelatory as realizing “This isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be!”  And so, with that final, blessed period, the average citizen has just done something even seasoned writers can struggle with- they’ve created a First Draft.

And it is awesome.

All those words!  All those thoughts!  A pile of pages where before there were none.  A world of ideas painted by you!

You stand up from your desk and allow the internal dance of happiness and accomplishment to wash over you.

It is awesome.

It is also terrifying.

Because now you must actually hand this precious egg over to those who would evaluate it.  You must deliver it to the hands of (gasp) The Reader.  And The Reader, who may be your mother, your cousin, a teacher, or a professional acquaintance… They will look your baby over and deliver judgement.  They might be kind, scalding, indifferent… you have no way of knowing what an audience will think/see/feel/or even (God love ’em!) say.

Your dance of happiness and accomplishment tries to ignore the reality of this forthcoming “sharing”, and keeps dancing; you’ve come this far, surely the next part will be easier…

But your responding action to The Reader’s, well, response, is where a number of new writers stumble, throw in the towel and grumble.  The dance of joy becomes a tantrum of panic.  “You mean I’m not done?!  But… but… ARG!!! ”  It is yet another hurdle to hop.  It is the crossroads at which those who are content to have just done the thing go back to their day-jobs, and those truly believe (perhaps insanely so) in their work, in their idea, and in themselves, pick up the thing (now battered and bloody) roll up their (tired) sleeves, and set out to make it better.

And so the process goes; With each idea – new challenges and lessons.  With each lesson learned – new skills and stronger understanding of the craft.   With a stronger understanding of the craft – new and better work.

This is the life of the writer, it is one of constant evolution.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.

Because we don’t live to be still and we certainly don’t write to be stagnant.  We create to revolutionize – to stir thought and consciousness -whether to laughter, to tears, or to change – it is all born of “I have something to say that will move you.”

Which is why, if you have an idea, you must yourself be ready to move – to take action – to evolve.

Some people don’t see this.  They fail to open themselves up to the transformation that must occur, the metamorphosis that becoming (or accepting your path as) a writer requires.  They stand still and unbending, their “idea” wrapped around them like a steel case, cast and forged of machine, and they are unable to grow – unable to see the sun when it shines, disputing the rain when its drops fall, and forever peering up at the mighty trees around them wondering “Why can I not see what they see?  If I were only as tall as them, why, I bet I could see for miles and miles!”

The Sapling, so eager to protect itself, grows not an inch.  The Idea, born of so much passion and enthusiasm, sees not the light of day from its steel case of Ego.

And to these people, I can only say “I am sorry.”

For it is not enough to look up at me as I grow and ask me why you do not; you must also be willing to listen when I  answer.

You must be willing to try the tools that I hand you.

You must be willing to part ways with old thoughts, if you are to have any hope of absorbing the new.

And I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to pass my hard-won lessons along to those with deaf ears, blind eyes, and few roots.  I cannot describe to you the view from where I stand if you insist on staring at (and complaining about) only your own rocky ground.

Because I am moving.

Because it has taken me my whole life to get Here.

And I will continue to evolve as Here becomes There.

And until you respect and understand that writing a thing and becoming a writer are two very different things, all the words in the world will not be enough to make sense of that to you.

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  1. I so needed that today, Tiffany. I have been asked to submit my current full length script to a company AND I am so filled with nothing in my brain but a giant letter of apology for how imperfect it is in it’s current form that I am at an impasse. Thank you thank you thank you – why am I not surprised that you are such an inspiration to me?

  2. Oh, Katherine, I have been there! Especially with Twigs and Bone, knowing that it was so close… yet still eluding me. I read this really interesting article though about how women playwrights are more wont to sit and perfect a piece before submitting it than a man is. I fight the urge sometimes to wring absolute perfection out of a thing before I pass it along, but it is hard! Why send someone something I know isn’t as good as it could be? But maybe they can help you develop it? Get some readings together for you so you can tinker? Either way, you are working on it, and you are wicked smart and passionate, so, you know, you basically totally ROCK! 🙂

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