TBT: When I Free Wrote

TBT: When I Free Wrote

I miss doing this. I would write for ten minutes and come up with some random stories. Here’s one of my favourites.

A: Shall I take my gum out?
B: Up to you.
A: It’s … I’d hate for you to swallow it.
B: There’s worst –

A: How long does it stay in your stomach? 5 years?

B: What? Gum?
A: Or is it 7?
B: Just throw the –

A: I’m going to Google it.

B: What?
A: It’ll bother me otherwise.
B: I charge by the hour.

A: I know, this will only take a second. Hang on, Wi-Fi is slow.

B: Throw the gum.
A: Apparently most people think its 7 years but that’s not true, your stomach can digest it.
B: No!

A: Really!

B: I don’t believe that, let me see. You’re on Yahoo answers?
A: They’re usually –
B: Let’s find a proper website.

A: Yahoo are a proper –

B: No one has used Yahoo in years! Here we go.
A: What are you on?
B: Ohio State University.

A: What does it say?

B: Some parts break down but you pass everything anyway. I didn’t know that.
A: Wait until the guys here about this.
B: The hooker or the gum?

A: The gum, I use hookers all the time.

B: Wow, I feel so special, fuck me now.
A: Is the sarcasm extra?
B: Special offer, for you, no charge.

A: Well, you don’t get much for (chokes) I SWALLOWED THE GUM!

Project Honey Badger

Project Honey Badger

honey badger

I have a plan. A project. I gave it a kick ass name because it’s rather boring, time consuming and necessary. I’ve used a number of tools to write my plays. They start as free programmes that then move to online only unless you want to pay for it. I’ve experimented with other free, corrupt and wildly unhelpful programmes that aren’t worth the frustrations too. After speaking to a number of playwrights, they all agree: Microsoft Word is best.

So the nature of the beast is to retype and reformat all of my completed works, half starts and work in progresses into word documents. I said it was going to be time consuming. At the end of the day, these smaller programmes will come and go but we will always have Windows, Microsoft and Bill Gates. Not matter how awful the interface is or how often Windows 10 has to install updates and fuck up my old laptop (I type this on a shiny new red one, fingers crossed), broke writers like myself will always use Windows, Microsoft and Bill Gates.

I have no idea how long this will take or even if scripts have survived in the dated programmes; it has to be done. I’m almost certain I have most projects in a physical copy. I’m moving out soon to my own place and see this an opportunity to sort the gold from the shit. Time to kill some darlings. I have too many folders of newspaper clipping from crazy stories that are so impossible they could only be believed as fiction rather than fact. In my life time, I don’t think I’ll have the time to tell them all. There are some more urgent than others and I’d rather do them to the best of my ability. I want quality over quantity as any writer would. Is five a good number? I know it odd, but it’ a good round number. Yea. Five is good. Time to pick some favourites.

I’m Not a Writer Anymore…

I’m Not a Writer Anymore…

… I certainly can’t call myself a writer if I’m not writing. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve lost my routine and my kicks. When I worked at Waterstones, I had my lunch in the staff room. I read in the staff room. I wrote in the staff room. It was easy to have 15 uninterrupted minutes to complete a free writing exercise. Jumping off points that made me realise the hundreds and thousands of stories within me that I wanted to tell. I went to a playwriting group. I would make the 60 mile round trip to my old university for a gathering on the occasional Monday. I had the best attendance.

It made me write. It kept the passion burning. God I hate myself for saying that. When I experienced glimpses of writing it affirmed my want. Now I don’t do any writing at all. I’ve forgotten all I want to say and the bright eyed graduate that wanted to put humans and their struggles on the stage. I knew I wouldn’t reach the greatest heights; force students to see meaning in my work or, the pinnacle of my aspiration, get away with writing a 20-minute piece and people pay the same as a full length play because it was written by me! I knew none of that would happen. A paying audience would be nice. My name in lights above the Royal Court would have been nice.

I must learn new habits.

What I Learnt From Diane Samuels | #NaNoWriMo

What I Learnt From Diane Samuels | #NaNoWriMo

I’m thinking of writing a book about my experience in a playwright group, here’s a chapter. Please let me know what you think, is it something you would read?

 

It’s 27th October 2014 and Diane Samuels joins us. I couldn’t name any of her plays either and I still can’t. However, she is the writer that got me into freewriting. She made me see the light. It is something that must be done every day. Writing is a muscle that must be exercised. It also helps to walk every day. There are other muscles that need your attention too. Inspiration for freewriting can be found anywhere, Samuels askes herself every day: Who am I? what do I want? What am I grateful for? She thinks and writes for twenty minutes.

 

“Sit down with nothing and stand up with everything.”

 

The Process

First, answer this question: What is your writing life?

 

For me, it is the chance to eloquent. Say what I want, my opinions, my interpretations without the pressure of saying it myself. My writing process is bursts of anger and coffee.

 

This exercise was a lengthy one but you can’t argue with the results. We began with a group of random words. In the writing group, we contributed one each but you can think of your own. Here were ours: think, happy, sweat, black, theatre, light, help, brick, delicious, cardigan, banana, start, lightbulbs, tea, potato, feet, duality, ring, blue, bright, poem and forever.

 

There was a plan for these words but I set off with my own challenge. I had to write a story with the words in that order. Here’s what I wrote:

 

“I THINK I’m HAPPY. I can feel the SWEAT run down my back as the BLACK out draw closer on the THEATRE of my life. The LIGHTS are distant and are no longer a comfort or a HELP. I can’t see the breeze block BRICKS that build this hospital and my tomb. The irony tastes DELICIOUS. My life was here. It’s fitting I should die here. My CARDIGAN still holds my identification. Doctor. Doctor. My friends are now my carers. They bring me grapes and BANANAS in place of that Friday pint. Chasing tail. Staring at ladies in skirts that cover nothing. The LIGHTBULBS are hollow glass. The TEA is tasteless. The meals are ignored. I know the POTATOES are fake. My FEET must smell. When was the last time I washed or I was washed? I live in DUALITY, doctor and patient. I doubt every action; every pill I digest. Would I have done that? Probably. It’s rare, what happened. Green rings around my eyes. Cooper. Just one of my symptoms. My eyes are BLUE. Now they are framed with green. Just one of my symptoms. Not enough to find a cause. The lights in this ward used to feel BRIGHT, now they are dull. I used to write poetry you know, POEMS and such. Now they are lost in the great perhaps. The great maybe. The great if only. That seems FOREVER ago.”

 

I preferred that to what I wrote for the real task set. Using these words in inspire you, continue this sentence: ‘my adventure begins’. Samuels recommended interpreting yourself to add new words and take your adventure in new directions with ‘my adventure continues’ and ‘my adventure asks’. I’m a big believer of the opposite. Never stop yourself. Never try and take control of the story. Let it happen. I know I sound like a hippie but I swear by freewriting. I am now converted.

 

This is the story that came from the real exercise:

 

“My adventure begins at the start as I sweat in my chair. I think positive things. Cats! Cats on the internet. Haha! No, what did you read early, before you walked in? I was having breakfast, eating a banana, best cardigan and I was reading my cue cards. I’d done them in bright blue. That’s when I put my hand in and felt the notes in my cardigan pocket.

 

My adventure continues with a choice, like in the Oedipus at the cross roads outside … fuck, what was that city called? Thebes? Focus. This is media not theatre. What’s that gaze? The creepy one? I feel my bright blue notes in my pocket again. I can feel the comical lightbulb above my head. I could cheat. I wipe my hands on my skirt. The navy turns black with sweat. I calm myself. I count the bricks.

 

My adventure asks who I am? Am I one to cheat? Would that make me happy? An A would be delicious.”

 

See? Told you. The first one was better. However, my story Virginia Fears the Wolf came from the second part of that exercise. Share the story with your partner, if you’re on your own, read it outside to yourself. Get or give yourself feedback in the form of: a name, a colour and an animal. I got: Virginia, pink and rabbit. The rabbit and the pink part didn’t stick but the name did.

The Prime Minister’s Apology | #NaNoWriMo

The Prime Minister’s Apology | #NaNoWriMo

Prime Minister: I’m sorry. Thank you.

(Leaves)

Reporter2: Wait, Mr Prime Minister-

PM: Please, call me Steve.

Reporter1: Steve?

PM: Steve. Stephen. Just not Stevie.

R1: Why not Stevie?

PM: No more question from you.

R1: Stephen, please! One quick question.

PM: Go ahead.

R1: Daily Mail, thank you. I want –

PM: Oh god no, next!

R1: I had a question.

PM: And I don’t respect your paper. Next.

R2: Why so short?

PM: I’m sorry, who said that?

R2: Independent.

PM: No, what’s your name?

R2: Ashley.

PM: What’s your question Ashley?

R1: I have a question!

PM: Can someone remove the Daily Mail reporter please?

R1: We are –

PM: Smut. Sorry, Ashley wasn’t it? Please continue with your question.

R2: That was it really.

PM: What was it? Sorry, still new to the job.

R2: Why was your apology so short?

PM: Sincere apologies are short. I find long apologies are nothing more than excuses. And so publications like the Mail can’t manipulate my words.

Reporter3: Are you sorry?

PM: Of course I am. What’s was your name?

R3: Telegraph.

PM: I asked your name.

R3: Aaron.

PM: Yes, Aaron. I am sorry.

R3: Care to elaborate?

PM: You don’t want an apology. You want whys and lies. I am sorry for my actions on 31st December. Better?

R1: What happened?

PM: Have you not left yet?

R1: What happened that night?

PM: What do you think happened?

R1: You were drunk on tax payer’s money.

PM: And?

R1: And?

PM: Yes, and what happened next?

R1: You urinated on a post box.

R2: A gold Olympic post box.

PM: I thought we were friends Ashley.

R2: Is that what happened?

PM: Yes.

R3: Anything you’d like to add?

PM: When you elected me, you elected a human. You elected a 50 something year old white man because that’s what you like. That’s who best represents this country. Yes, I am a 49-year-old white man. My education wasn’t Eton but it was good. My upbringing wasn’t poor but it wasn’t wealthy. When you elected me, you elected a human being. A slightly overweight greying man that’s not perfect. I will make mistakes but I will own up to those mistakes and apologise for those mistakes. On the evening of 31st December or rather the morning of 1st January I was not the Prime Minister. I was human. I was a drunk man at a friend’s party finding a taxi ride home. And before you ask Daily Mail, the tax payer did not pay for my taxi home. It paid for the police car that took me to the station. It paid for the hard working men and women of the police force that protect us and our property and our country. That stop humans like me being an idiot and urinating on something that is a symbol of national pride. If you want a robot, you can bring back Cameron when I’m done. If you want a fellow human being, I’m right here. And if you’ll let me, I’ll be here a little bit longer. I won’t be sober all that time and I will make mistakes. I certainly will not piss on any thing again. At least, I promise to try but I do turn 50 next month. That okay, Mail?

R2: One more.

PM: No, I asked is that okay?

R2: Yes but –

PM: Thank you for your time. Again, I am sorry.

The Secret Life of Plays | #NaNoWriMo

The Secret Life of Plays | #NaNoWriMo

There is a secret life to plays. There are secrets that few know that can’t be explained. So many books about the rules of playwriting state that are no rules to playwriting. It’s extremely frustrating and still I buy these books in the hope of one making sense. I recently finished ‘The Secret Life of Plays’ by Steve Waters. You have to plough through over two hundred pages of nonsense for the gems of truth. For example: “Scenes, then, are units of dramatic energy, the muscles that drive the play forward.” If a scene does not propel, it does not matter.

Unfortunately, before you read ‘The Secret Life of Plays’, there’s a lot of homework. It assumes you’ve read the plays used as examples. And if like me you’re not familiar with every single word of Shakespeare, you may struggle. I was lost in a lot of places but I still highlighted a lot of it for future use. Maybe I’ll try again when I’ve read all the plays; it’ll probably make more sense.

There are better books about playwriting that I always refer back to. My favourite isn’t actually available anymore and that’s ‘Arguments for a Theatre’ by Howard Barker. I don’t actually like many of Barker plays, even after studying them excessively. But this little 90-page book and contains one of my favourite quotes:

“An honoured audience will quarrel with what it has seen, it will go home in a state of anger, not because it disapproves, but because it has been taken where it was reluctant to go. Thus morality is created in art, by exposure to pain and the illegitimate thought.”

This book is fetching £25 on Amazon and my copy has £4.99 printed on the back. I wish this was still true because every playwright should own this book.

One that is still available is ‘The Three Uses of the Knife’ by David Mamet. “I used to say that a good writer throws out the stuff that everybody else keeps. But an even better test occurs to me: perhaps a good writer keeps the stuff everybody else throws away.” Mamet talks about writing without fear but still maintaining structure and purpose. If there is a gun in the first act, it must go off in the third act. Advise I still use, everything in my plays is placed with purpose. It will cause a bang.

There are some more obvious books that every playwright has picked up in their time like ‘Brecht on Theatre’ and ‘Story’ by Robert McKee but I think these two are lesser known gems. Both of these books are covered in scribbles and highlights from my younger self and are books I shall be using for a very long time. I’ve also been given great advice from one of my lectures at university. Liz Kuti told me if I wanted to be better at writing plays, I had to read more plays. I watch many but haven’t seen how they look in black and white. Time to do more of that.

Accident

Accident

In trying to understand what happened to me, I wrote it down.

The crash must have been loud. It wasn’t what I heard, I only remember what I saw. Glass spraying my face. The air bag. I saw smoke. It was coming from the door. Hand break. Put the thing in park. I shut off the music. Glass everywhere. Engine off. Smoke settling. I cried. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I was still in the car. I’d be stepping out into the road. Crying still, shaking now. Someone’s at the door now. Do I want to get out? Yes. It’s not the driver of the van that hit me. A stranger I’d never see again. Van man passes me a phone. Speak to his boss. I can’t remember what I said. I thought I had more time. The words spin in my head. Back to the car for my phone. Mum’s out. No one home. Phone Dad at work. On his way. I can’t look at the car. I can’t talk I just cry. I can’t remember who I’m insured with. Don’t give your phone number. I have to phone work. The shop won’t open without me. I feel as though I have no one’s numbers. No one answers. Mark, please, sorry, accident. I can’t get to work, please, sorry. Still crying. Still shaking. I walk. I crouch. I cry. A face I know. Two faces I know. Big hugs and more tears. I’m bleeding. Small cuts but enough to scare me. I sit in a car. My dad appears. Police appears. My fault. My fault regardless of his speed or his actions. I’m 20 feet down the road. My air bag went off. This is more than a bump, he was doing over 30mph. Don’t blame me. You couldn’t possibly blame me. Mum comes. Big hugs. I’m crying. I’m shaking. I’m bleeding. We cry together. You can’t leave until the police come casualty has lacerations on her face. He can’t leave. Paramedics come.