Goldilocks is a rotten writer

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Are you a Goldilocks writer? One of those people who has to have everything perfect?

 That idea’s too hot. That idea’s too cold. I’m not ready to write, I’m not in the mood. I need to have the exact right idea to get started.

Goldilocks writers have the best of intentions. They want to write something good. They want to be a good writer. They want to write under the best conditions. They are willing to wait until everything is just right.

Goldilocks will wait forever for the right conditions. They spend their entire lives saying “I’ll write tomorrow. I don’t have time today. I’ll get started when I know exactly what to write about. “ 

The only way to become a writer is to put words on the page. Good words, bad words, ugly words. If you wait to only write something good and perfect,  you’ll never write. If you wait until you have the perfect writing conditions, you’ll never write. If you wait until you have time, you’ll never write.

Is that you? Are you a Goldilocks?

The first  secret to being a writer is that writers know there is no such thing as constant perfect writing conditions. Sometimes you have to scribble notes down in a car. Sometimes you only get five minutes. Sometimes what you’re writing is awful – but you don’t stop. That’s key. You write when the bed is lumpy and when the porridge is cold.

There is no quota or quality control when you’re a writer. No one will come and knock on your door and say: You wrote poorly today. Hand over your writer’s license.

The second secret to being a writer is consistency. It’s better to write every day no matter what.   If you write every day  good moments start to pile up. Five minutes a day is better than an hour once a month. The more you write, even when you don’t want to, the more writing becomes a part of you. The more  you want to write. The more you celebrate your bad and ugly words. Ugly writing is still writing. It’s way better than no writing than all.

Don’t wait for perfect. Don’t be a Goldilocks. Don’t wait for porridge that is just right. And don’t take someone else’s porridge either. Get your own.

What do you want your Play to do?

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It’s a simple question. It’s something that writers, in this case playwrights, forget to ask.

What do you want your play to do?

What do I mean by that. You have a play, it’s being produced, there’s an audience, they are on the receiving end of your words and…. what?

  • Do you want your play to inspire?
  • Do you want your play to enrage?
  • Do you want your play to inform?
  • Do you want your play to make them laugh? Forget their troubles?

All of these answers are valid, so long as you choose one. Knowing what you want your play to do gives your work a purpose. A drive. There has to be more to your work than just  – you know, I want my stuff done, just getting it out there, it doesn’t mean anything,  you know.

No. I don’t know. You need to know why your writing, what you want to achieve with your work, how you want your audience to act.  And it doesn’t have to be political or epic or grandiose. To bring joy is a great action for your play.

This knowledge will give focus to your writing. It will curtail writers block. If you have the why and you have the endgame you can reference each when addressing a problem.  If character X does Y will that accomplish Z?

Are you working on something right now? Ask the question. Write it at the top of a fresh piece of paper. How easy or difficult is it to answer?

What do you want your play to do? 

It’s Ok to Walk Away

Not everything you write will be perfect. Are you ok with that?

Not everything you write will move forward to completion. Are you ok with that?

The first one is pretty tough to deal with. We all want perfect writing.  It’s hard to not keep working and working and working at something until you get it just right. My latest play is in proof form and still I can’t help tinkering. Trying to get it perfect.

tinkering

But over time it becomes easier to realize that if you want your writing out in the world it has to reach “doneness.”  Doneness can be wonderful, and it can be your best work and not be perfect. And that’s ok. It has to be. Because as we  have all heard time and time again – nothing is perfect. It’s tough to come to terms with that, but not impossible.

But what about that second one.  What about the idea that some of your work will never, ever reach doneness? It won’t even come close.

Could you walk away from a piece of writing?

That would feel like failure wouldn’t it? That would feel like your quitting. That would feel like you couldn’t hack it as a writer. That would be proof that you will never be a writer.

No. No, no, no, no.

You can’t think like that. What if you had a great idea that just doesn’t flesh out? What if you started writing a play but quickly realize it’s more suited to being a novel, and you don’t write novels. What if you lose your passion?

Maybe you need a break from your writing and everything will come together later. But maybe it just doesn’t work.

There are many reasons why a piece won’t reach the finish line. Not everything you write will succeed every time. And so what if it feels like failure? Failure in the arts is good. You have to fail. You should try things knowing they might fail and do them anyway.

If you’re trying to avoid failure as a artist, then you’re doing it wrong.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t leave everything half finished in a drawer. But if you’re consistently writing, and consistently finishing product and then this blip in the road comes along, treat it just as it is –  a blip in the road. It’s a pot hole, not a pit. Don’t collapse into a deep dark hole that isn’t there. Simply put the words to the side and pick up something else.

It’s ok to leave that writing and move on. That’s what writers do.

 

Forgetful Nut?

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Has this ever happened to you?

You’re watching a rehearsal or a production of one of your plays, or maybe you’re reading something you’ve written. You hear a line or read a sentence and your first thought it – “Who wrote that? Did I write that? I didn’t write that – they must be throwing something new in. That must have been edited.”

This happens to me all the time. I’m watching a scene and I’m sure the actors aren’t saying my dialogue. I really like what they’re saying, it’s great stuff. But I’m sure it’s not mine.

Of course, when I go to the original material it’s totally mine. The actors are not  making something up or throwing something new in. They don’t have to, they have a script. It’s my dialogue.

So am I just a forgetful nut or is it something else?

When I watch one of my plays, I really try to become an audience member. I don’t want to be THE PLAYWRIGHT. I want to be entertained, moved, made to laugh. I want to be engaged by the theatrical experience. And that means sometimes I forget the writing process of a particular play. I think that’s good – I don’t want to be reminded of what it was like to write a play, I want to be swept away by what’s in front of me.

An audience doesn’t care about the fact that it may have taken 2 years to write something, or that you re-wrote such and such a scene 12 times. They care about the experience. And so should we.

When you read or see your work, do you remember the process, or are you engaged with the product?