Saturday, 3 March 2012

damn you, actors!

Last year I went to a script development workshop - a chance for writers to have their work dissected by actors and see what happens. I was there, I thought, under false pretences. My 15 minute script was already pretty great. I knew it was great because I'd seen it performed in Camden and it was amazing. Clever and funny and a little bit political.

So when, some uppity actress in the workshop had the cheek to tell me one of the characters was underdeveloped and the other one didn't half go on a bit ('wanking' all over the script as she memorably put it) I did what any sensible writer would do and completely dismissed all critiques and advice.

A year later (now) and I am in Budapest. I've joined a new writing group. I take this script, because it's the only script of mine I have printed out, and also I really want to impress people, and this is fucking dynamite.

And of course, I haven't looked at this script and it's a cold read-through and these people are great but not professional actors and OH MY GOD it's a mess. Character one is completely underdeveloped. Character two is totally self-indulgent, saying lots of clever lines that show how *great* I am at being a writer.


This is what I've learned then: don't judge your script from the version where brilliant actors and directors have taken it and made it work, because that is their job. Don't assume that your script is is brilliant, just because it's had a good performance. And, as ever, editing is a million times easier after a good break away from your script, when you're less embroiled in the amazing cleverness of it etc etc.

The good news is that the rewrite is going well, and who knows? Maybe one day soon I will also have a new idea or two which would be very welcome and all that.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


This time a year ago, I jacked everything in. I left my job and my (rented, shared) flat and put stuff in storage and set out.  I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a right lot of money. I just had this kind of hopeful, nervous belief that things would somehow just about work out alright.

I went to India and travelled around being awed by friendly people and stunning temples and the most beautiful mountains in the world and life-threatening driving to get to them.

I came back to London and stayed on sofas and felt some angst to be doing this in my thirties.

I moved to Budapest, and continue to be impressed and delighted by the experience of living abroad. (mental right-wing governments aside).

I fell in love (swiftly, glorously) and out of it again (slowly, painfully).

I did a minimal amount of writing, but a maximum amount of living.  

If I was writing this as a real-life story for a women's magazine, there would be a Triumphant Conclusion. The Unforeseen Setbacks would be overcome, it would all crescendo to a Moment of Truth, and I would be sure that Everything Had Worked Out Great In The End.

I'm not sure I ever feel quite like that. Life is complicated. There are ups and downs, wherever in the world you are. Today is not a great day.  I don't really know where I'm going or what I'm doing.

But there's never a day when I regret leaving a job where I felt chained to a desk every day, looking out over the grey roofs of south London in a office devoid of life, devoid of laughter. There's never a day when I regret choosing the complicated mess and uncertainty of adventure and risk and taking a change and sometimes feeling down but sometimes feeling up in the clouds. Always, whatever my mood, feeling alive.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

today I am...

1. Sitting in a cafe in Budapest, which is the city I flew to late last night to spend a few months and hang out/do freelance work/write a masterpiece. Well, to write something, at any rate...

2. Feeling delighted to find a site-specific/immersive theatre festival in the offing, and hoping some of the stuff is in English.

3. Feeling slightly embarrassed to be the kind of person who publicly declares excitement about site-specific/immersive theatre.

4. Relieved that the letting agents have finally got round to sending round a cleaner/plumber, although wondering why they couldn't have done it before we moved in, since they had two months notice.

5. Wondering if I will ever be rich enough to buy a house and not have to deal with letting agents. Although not letting it bother me too much...

6. Wondering how long it will take to learn basic Hungarian. (And deciding, er, quite long, probably. It's flipping hard!)

7. Feeling glad to be here. And reminding myself it's all an adventure...

Thursday, 25 August 2011

time management (or lack of)

random clock picture
I bought a time management book a couple of years ago. 

It had been packaged to look all modern, but inside the advice basically consisted of 'get your secretary to do it'. Presumably it was written in ye olden days when you could smoke in offices and people used typewriters and all managers had secretaries to brighten up the place and do a bit of light shorthand.

In the brave new world of doing everything for yourself, it was entirely flipping useless.

I'm not sure whether time management techniques really work for creative writing. I can go for ages without writing (see: the last few months), and then be inspired be a random conversation and plunge straight back into it (see: last night).

I should add that it's different, I think, with a commission and a deadline. But for me, ongoing creative writing happens when it happens.

Having said all this, I do find the following things help:

1. Don't be afraid of writing rubbish: the longer I leave it, the harder it can seem to get back into it. It becomes more of a big deal. So I think there's definitely an argument for writing a scene or two even if you're pretty sure it's crap because it's still writing and it counts for something and it can be edited.

2. Using scraps of time: I've never sat down and devoted a day to writing. Not even an afternoon. It doesn't work for me. I feel under pressure. I procrastinate. Instead I write in the gaps between all my other work. Half an hour seems like an optimum time for the creative stuff. I can do longer in an editing phase, because it doesn't require the same amount of raw energy. Editing is more of a reflective, biscuits and cups of tea phase.

3. Um, that's it. Those are the things I do.

I'm not exactly filled with hints and tips today. But always interested in hearing other people's techniques...

Friday, 12 August 2011

me vs not knowing what I'm doing

There's a myth, I think, that emotional turmoil is good for creativity. As if creativity only comes from heartbreak and absinthe and living in garrets with questionable bathroom facilities.

Maybe it's true, to an extent? Big emotional experiences can certainly feed your work. There's a reason why every second rate indie band and their cousin has a break-up album, all snivelling ballads and 'eff-you' declarations of moving on to better things.

Of course, it doesn't always make it good.

Right now, I'm finding emotional turmoil is getting in the way of getting on with stuff. Because all the time I spend angsting about and staring moodily into the middle distance is time I'm not spending getting on with actual writing. All the mental energy I'm expending on little questions - like what am I going to do with the rest of my life - leaves me much much less to spare for being creative in any way. Thinking of a mildly intelligent facebook status update is a challenge right now.

Hoping for a bit of stability soon. Not so much as to make life boring, but enough that I can happily sit typing up the latest script (there is one, I have ideas, hell, I have notes) for a few hours without stressing wildly over job applications, preparing to move country, wondering what I'm doing with my life/career/everything else...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

let the bloggers in

The Wheel (image by Gottfried Helnwein)
Oh, I like this. The National Theatre of Scotland have issued a social media call. for their latest production: The Wheel, by Zinnie Harris. This, presumably, in addition to the more standard press call.

They've set the barriers for involvement pretty low - anyone with a blog, facebook account or twitter feed can go along and take some pictures and find out more. So a self-selecting group of interested parties can go along and promote the play.

I don't know if many theatres have already gone down this route. But I'd like to see it happening more. Not just because I have a blog and like the theatre (send me free tickets, people, obviously). But because it reflects the way that most people hear about new stuff and get interested in it.

I often look at reviews in the press, but I'm just as likely to be swayed by a trusted friend talking about a play on their blog, or mentioning it on Facebook.Perhaps even more so. And of course, it all helps to generate a buzz, which takes interested theatre-goers from 'maybe I'll get round to seeing this' to 'must book now'.

Oh, and here's a video about the play: 

Friday, 22 July 2011

getting ATTENTION as a writer

Harry Potter and the tenous connection picture opportunity
I had a short play on in Camden recently. Afterwards, one of the actors told me that his next job was to wander around in a cloak pretending to be a deatheater, at the red carpet premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2.

Which is a pretty cool gig!  And of course, it left me wondering if I can inject some kind of Harry Potter angle into my writing CV. I can't. Obviously I can't.

Writing is the main thing. OF COURSE. But a neat marketing angle doesn't do any harm either. My first ever script that got produced was part of the Sitcom Trials - a comedy competition. One of the other writers sent out a press release, based on the fact that one of the actors was the niece of the bloke who used to play Mike in Coronation Street. Clutching at straws? Hell, if it gets bums on seats, it has to be worth a try...

Failing spurious celebrity connections, I also like this approach - the website for Redundancy: the musical.  Writer Naomi Lowde has created the site for her musical before it's even been staged.

She's also set up a Facebook page to start gathering followers. I think this is a great idea. You have to market your work to a theatre, company, or producer to get it on. And if you can prove that you already have a fanbase in place, well, all to the good. And especially with a strong concept like this.

My next play isn't quite at this stage sadly. I don't thing the world is ready for www.playaboutsomestuffnotsurequitewhatyetbutabitpoliticalyeah?

It is the world's loss, obviously.