Friday, 24 October 2008

music matters

There are the bands that I love with all my heart. (In no particular order.) 

Belle and Sebastian
Broken Family Band
Arctic Monkeys

I can't really listen to any of them when I'm writing. No sirree. I start singing along and getting far too distracted. 

My best ever, number one spot for band I can listen when writing is (drumroll please)...

The Lemonheads. 

Random, I know. I think they have just the right blend of tunefulness and familiarity and background warmth. I don't know why they never got more famous. I think they're great. Shame About Ray is the obvious place to start, but Come on Feel is very underrated I feel. And very good to write along to. Trust me. 

(And when you've stopped writing, definitely listen to the Broken Family Band - Welcome Home Loser is a good album to start with). 

Sunday, 19 October 2008

jumpers can be very inspiring. really.

So, I'm tidying my room, and I'm putting some jumpers away, and the drawer gets stuck. Really, really stuck, and I'm tugging away and all the stuff on top of the chest of drawers is starting to fall off. And I just lose it. I get really angry at this stupid bloody chest of drawers and really angry that I just don't have enough storage space and really angry that I had a really rubbish week at work, and this is somehow all converging on a stuck drawer. 

So I throw out all my clothes onto the floor, including lots of cedarwood balls which are there to deter moths, and which are more than likely to cause a comedy wobble/painful fall/broken arm at a later moment. And I do a big old scream of rage. Then I worry that my neighbours might think I'm being murdered, as opposed to having a childish strop while tidying woollen garments. 

So I sit on the bed in a mix of anger and anxiety for a few moments. And a little scene for my play emerges more or less fully formed. It's sort of based on a scene I've been trying to write for years, in different pieces of writing, and this is the first time it's actually worked, even a little. So I write it. And this is kind of a happy ending to the tale of stuck drawers/inadequate storage space/unsatisfying jobs. 

Except that, if I'm ever in the very fortunate position of having someone ask me what my inspiration is, I'm going to have make up something a great deal more interesting than the above. Some transcendent moment, or traumatic childhood event or the like. So I'll get thinking on that. 

Saturday, 18 October 2008

a play wot I liked

I've been to the theatre quite a bit lately. The last thing I saw was Now or Later, at the Royal Court. I wasn't sure about it at first. It's a very talky play. It's set before a fictional US election but explores issues of race, religion and identity I hadn't realised it would cover. 

The things that were good:
Acting: Exceptional. Especially Eddie Redmayne, recently in Tess of the D'Urbevilles, and sporting an impressively whiny American accent. 
Themes: More complex than I anticipated. And handled well. I didn't know what I thought by the end, and this was a good thing.
Overall niceness: I don't know how to describe this, but there was a real warmth to the play, and some good humour. 

The bits that weren't so good? Well, it was a tad didactic at times, feeling the need to explain US political history in a rather clunky way. And there were a few moments when it went a bit Dawson's Creek Election Special. You know, everyone expressing themselves very eloquently, and showing off their full range of vocabulary and tortured vowels, and doing those unnaturally long monologues while other actors ostentatiously nod at appropriate moments. 

But these are small things. Still an excellent play. And now I know how hard it is to even try to write a play, I'm all the more impressed by people who actually get things written, and written well. 

Monday, 13 October 2008

what's going on? I dunno.

Here's the thing: just how much do you explain? I mean, obviously your (entirely hypothetical) audience aren't imbeciles, obviously. And the half the fun of theatre is trying to work out what's going on, and filling in the gaps for yourself. But, with all this in mind, I think I might have to explain a little bit more, even if only to myself. I think I should understand how it all works, or I'm in trouble. In case someone asks. I just have this sense that it's something you're supposed to know. Sigh. 

Anyway, talking of how much to explain, let me recommend Six Characters in Search of an Author, a new adaptation at the Gielgud theatre. It's brilliant and emotional and creepy and lots of WEIRD SHIT happens and it's sort of explained but sort of not. I'm still spooked by the characters, but then I've gotten quite worried watching Columbo in the daytime before now, so it's fair to say I'm a total scaredy-cat. 

Go and see it, anyhow. 

Sunday, 12 October 2008

the fine art of putting stuff off. and not getting started. even though you know you should. oh look - that skirting board definitely needs dusting...

I've been writing for a little while now, and my main enemy is procrastination. You know, the kind of procrastination that sees you sit down at the 'puter, all set to write your masterpiece, only to decide to clean the kitchen instead. My house is never tidier than when I'm writing, or at least attempting to write. 

I fear this is a common problem. 

Some strategies I have adopted to overcome this include:

  • Writing in the park (or the cafe in the park): so long as I don't take a newspaper, this one works pretty well.
  • Writing the word 'notes' at the top of any document I'm writing on (whether on the computer or longhand). Ridiculous, I know, but somehow this soothes the demons inside - the ones that whisper at every line 'well that's not very orginal/insightful/interesting'. It doesn't matter, it's just 'notes'!
  • Not giving my characters names. What? I hear you cry. And rightly so. I find that writing scenes with 'man' and 'woman' as characters is really helpful. Otherwise I sit there for hours going 'but is he a Tarquin or a Tito' and working out cultural baggage therein. So I'm a convert to this now. (And I read somewhere that Pinter writes using A and B when he starts, so I'm in good company on this, even if this is where the similarity ends.)
Er. That's it.