Tuesday, 19 July 2011

the ideas phase

And so it transpires I am now in the ideas phase. I've finished a short piece, there are some rewrites to be getting on with, but there's a gap in my writing schedule for the main event. The thing I have to write. The one that gets under my skin right the way until completion.

The ideas phase is a dangerous place to be.

The best plays you (n)ever write are those ghostly, fantasy plays that get written entirely in your head, and never make it to the page. You can spend hours on them - imagining dialogue that is heartbreaking in its poignancy, side-splitting in its comedy. They will bring a profundity to the British stage never seen before or since. You are dazzled with the brillance of your ideas.

Almost without exception, these plays don't work. I don't know quite what happens, but when it comes to putting them down on paper, everything is lost. The dialogue, that was so brilliant in your head comes out stilted and unconvincing. The plot doesn't make sense. That character, that amazing character that was going to have Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart fighting to play the part? Yeah, turns out he's a total wally, and dull to boot.

The solution - the only solution I've come up with to all this - is to write it down first. When the first inklings of a work of genius arise, I get me straight to my notebook. And I know, pretty quickly, whether it will work or not. But honestly, some of these plays I've written in my head.... It is no exaggeration to say they could have been literally better than Shakespeare.

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