Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keeping the faith

We’ve now had a few orphan (instructor-less) “Unblocked A” meetings, and we’ve fallen into a good pattern. We’re good at giving each other feedback. At least no one has cried during a meeting and it seems that we all keep coming back. We have our rituals. We start by talking about our lives between meetings, then any theatre we’ve seen lately. The conversation meanders around touching on a wide variety of topics before we settle down to work. It seems that we need to ease our way into it, but we do get there.

I had originally wanted to keep meeting with the group for a vague sense that we could “support” each other. I’m starting to realize the value of that support.

First because I’ve come to discover that the first draft is not the hardest part, for me, at least. I used to think “once I have something down, then it’s just a matter of building, sculpting, it’s a piece of cake really, once that first draft is there”. “Ha” is all I have to say to that now.

I'm now into the third draft of my first act, which bears little or no resemblance to its previous incarnations and I have no idea what to do with it. In the beginning, there was optimism. The ideas were there and I didn’t know what they would look like on the page, but they were beautiful. They had potential. And yes, I had to discipline myself to keep to my 4-page-a-day 5-day-a-week writing goal, but that was okay. I had enthusiasm.

Now I’m at draft three of Act 1. And to be honest, my second draft (of Act 1) was probably a bit – hmm “challenged”, shall we say. And yes, I know it’s only draft three and there are probably twenty more in my future, but it’s tough going. My initial enthusiasm has become full-on “I’ll do it right after I finish watching America’s Next Top Model” procrastination. The sense of potential that was palpable in draft one is nowhere in sight and the ideas are on the page, but where do they go and should I really put that unicorn in that scene? No one can say what to do, or how to fix it, except supposedly me.

In these difficult times, deadlines have become very important. We all take turns having our work read and because of that I am officially accountable to a group of people to show up with something new written by April 4. And although I know my laptop won’t explode if I show up empty-handed (at least I don't think it will...), that sense of accountability keeps me going. Without it, I might be tempted to jump ship, or at least to put the script in a drawer for a while and let other things become more important. With it, I soldier on, putting one foot heavily in front of the other.

The other reason that the group is important to me right now is this: I am an emerging writer. I have never published anything. I spend my days in an office where I might be identified as “administrator”, or “colleague” or “you know, that woman, in that office, with the emails”. After work, I shuffle my way through a variety of other roles, but there isn’t any space in my life where I get to fully inhabit the identity of “writer” except twice a month in the PTC library.

Now, I know it’s a dangerous thing to look to others for this kind of acknowledgement; that I should know in my heart I'm a writer no matter what anyone else says, but it's so good. It's good to be seen as a writer by someone else, even if there are only five people in the world who think it might be the case. For three hours every two weeks I get to “talk shop” and make jokes about the importance of scotch drinking in the “process” and pose questions that only other people in this group would even entertain and damn it, it’s good for the soul. These evenings fill me up, they re-inspire me and keep me going. The more I write, the more I realize how solitary it really is so I’m grateful for this community that we’ve created. It’s true that without them I would probably still write (slowly and furtively), but with them, I am buoyed up and the journey is infinitely more enjoyable.

- Melissa Haller, PTC Member

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