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Friday, January 17, 2014

The Drought and The Glut

I don't know if this happens to my fellow writers, but as a playwright I exist almost exclusively in a binary state. The zero I call The Drought. It's not hard to imagine what this is. Some call it writer's block, which for me is a bit of a misnomer. A block implies there is something on the other side of it, something pushing, struggling to break out if only it could get passed this THING sitting in its path. On rare occasions, I've had this feeling. And I believe I have tools to deal with this. Most of the time I write around the block, other scenes or other ideas. Often when I return to the trouble, I find the block was never really there and I just didn't understand what I was really working on. But The Drought is different. When I'm going through The Drought, there is simply nothing there. I have nothing to say and I have no way to say it.


This state can and will and has gone on forever. "You will never write again" is often the line I hear echoing in my barren head. It unnerves me and drives me to think that everything I have created is small and terrible. The Drought is depression and anxiety. It creeps into my personal life and drains every scrap of energy I have. I lay awake at night and worry. And I don't know how to fight it because I'm so immersed in the nothingness of it. Trying new projects seems futile and burdensome. Old projects just reveal what a horrible writer I am.And The Drought just persists, waiting for me to die as a failed writer.

And then the The Glut comes. I don't know why or how, but after my time in the wilderness, I find The Glut.

The Glut isn't an entirely joyous state. It's not focus. It's not the cup being replenished. Just like dried land hit by a sudden rain, it's an overflow of ideas. I have learned to try and capture as many of them as I can, to hope that I can get enough of any one of them down to finish it before The Drought returns. I think this is why I call it The Glut. It's not just the flow of ideas, but me frantically shoveling them into a form I can hold onto, even if I'm already over-flowing with thoughts. My writing returns to the teenage compulsion that could drive my mother insane. I scribble lines and ideas on any scrap of paper I find. It's often difficult to sleep (insomnia seems to be a core component of all of my writing) and when I do sleep, I curse myself awake for not getting that last brilliant line down before I drifted off. Unlike The Drought, I always know The Glut will end. I have this sensation that tomorrow it will be over and I'll be left with the wreckage.

Sometimes I can make useful time amongst the wreckage. Sometimes I can repair and complete the pieces thrown together in The Glut. But too often, I find the thing that kills The Glut is The Drought and forever has begun anew.

Such is my writing.

Over time, I have learned to feel each one less, to be less connected to the emotion of each state. But if I'm honest, they're still there. They still exist. I don't know why I'm saying this. But it's part of the process. It's how I function. And while the process of thought is a strange thing to analyze, I feel like admitting it somehow helps.

 That's all for now.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Remembering Todd Marrone

I can't shake this sadness that's been looming over my head, clouding my heart, that's been staying three steps behind me and waiting for me to sit down and get comfortable. It's then I feel it pressing down on my shoulders and pulling at the pit of my stomach. I've had this feeling since the day after Christmas, an association that has nothing to do with the holiday. That's the day I had to say this sentence to my wife: Todd Marrone died.

I met Todd once.

And just saying that hurts me. a bit. I met him once. I didn't need to meet him again because I would always have the chance to meet him again. He wasn't hard to find, he was a force of nature in the Philly arts scene, or at least in my head. I could email him and he'd paint a portrait for next to nothing. (I know because he did this for my wife.) I could go to First Friday and take one of the free drawings he always had stapled to a plywood board. (I know this because I did this with my daughter. I got to speak to her about Todd like he was Rembrandt or Van Gogh, because he was. I called him a great man, because he was.) I could just follow his wit and passion from online, watch as he changed the lives of young artists. I didn't have to put the effort into actually meeting him because nothing can stop a force of nature like Todd was.


Yeah, I'm not going to say it. Partially because I don't know the whole truth. I only have my inferences from what I've gathered online. It would be unfair. But I will say that I never wanted to be stronger than Todd. I always wanted someone to look up to like him. And now I find out that I probably am stronger, and I still don't want to be. I want... This is harder than I thought. I'm at work and I'm near falling apart. I've had to quickly scroll past the memorials and the love facebook is exploding with for Todd because I just can't let my heart break that much, that often. I've actually thought about hiding his feed because even a moment is too much. But I can't do that. I have to be stronger than I want to be, and I have to believe that I am.

But more than that. I have to celebrate art, celebrate life. I have to give away the weird pieces of me for next to nothing so it can be shared with people I don't even know. I have to tell my daughter that there are great people out there doing impossible things for all the right reasons. And that people are bigger than you can imagine, they are forces of nature.

And they're small and fragile too.

I have to remember Todd Marrone... because I never want to forget him.

With Love,

Monday, October 7, 2013

Why this play, now?

Over the weekend, I completed a draft of a new play, or rather I have generated enough of a draft that it is completed enough for me to say it will be complete. Meaning I could hand it to actors, designers, and a director and feel as though we all have something to work on. In theatre, there is never really completion until opening night and even then it's questionable. But the work I've done I think is significant enough for me to pause and perhaps reflect on it.

Riding into work this morning on the subway, I was doing that and one of the big "art questions" hit me... Why this play, now?

The question is designed to show immediacy and to describe the audience it is impacting. It's a really important question in theatre because you are choosing to share something in the moment to only a select number of people, really. It's perhaps the first question every production needs to grapple with. As a playwright, I am often gripped with this question myself. I complete something and I suddenly ask myself, "But why would anyone else care?" This question is one of my vampires.

Today on the subway, I was able to shine some light on that vampire. Now, vampires never really die, but at least I know I can make it retreat. Why this play, now? I don't know. This isn't me being coy or clever, really. I'm one artist and here's what's been broiling in my brain, here's what my life has incubated, here's what I think is interesting for me right now. In sharing my work, I'm actually asking, "This play, now?" to the world at large, but mostly to other artists who wear the hat of producer or director. It's not that I shouldn't grapple with the question, but to do that alone is at best egotistical.

Instead, I choose to collaborate. I choose to fight this vampire with fellow -as my friends at BRAT would say- art-warriors. Let the fight be good and the answer be even better.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Where did I go?

Remember when I was posting here a lot? I do too. I remember that it was important to me and I felt better the days I did post than the days I did not. I remember enjoying tracking to see if folks read this and hoping I could have more views than the last day.

Then I stopped.

Oh sure, the reason I stopped was freight train of art that ran over my entire life. And it was an awesome, awesome time. And that train continues to roll on in new and interesting ways. But that's also an excuse and it's time to start making thoughts public again. To start being afraid of the messy internal things that I share with the world.

Because that's an art too...

Monday, February 4, 2013

writer's lament

The worst part of finishing a draft is not being able to work on that draft. You've just fallen in love with the script and now there's nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's the little things....

So I haven't done this in awhile. Because... life, I guess. It's been weird, rough and wonderful. And it's been keeping me from this, or I've been ignoring it. Bad blogger.

The update is that things are moving along. I'll do a proper update later but this isn't the moment for that. What I really wanted to do was take a moment to praise a designer that I love... Jamie, my wife. (I also love her as a person, just to be clear, but this is about her design life and growth.) For awhile she's been locked in what I think of as an artist's death spiral. It's when doubt and longing of producing art becomes the center of your creative process. Maybe I'm being too dramatic about it and she doesn't feel that way, but I AM a playwright, so... I am prone to fits of drama.

Today, she seems to have taken the first steps out of the spiral. And I am very proud of her. I think it's an important job of any artist to praise others successes. So... today is about jumping for joy with her.

Want more details on what she's up to? Visit her blog and let her tell you herself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Submitted without title

The weird thing about second drafts is how much harder they are than first drafts. A first draft is limitless and displays the POTENTIAL an idea has. And... I hope you can see the problem right there.

A second draft is about fulfilling potentials. Sometimes you don't know what's broken, sometimes you do. But whatever the case is, you have to figure out how to fix it. And how is hard.

First drafts also have suggested forms.... in that it's similar to this or you're trying that. You can diagram things out a bit. But in a second draft, when that form is off the fix is not always as apparent.

Well... this is why it's a job, not a hobby.