Tuesday 13 March 2012

Pulling Teeth - a guest post from Elise Newman

Thanks, Debbie, for making space on your lovely blog for the ridiculous musings of this short Canadian would-be playwright, director, and vagabond.

I have a hard time saying “I’m a writer” when someone asks the dreaded “And what do you do?” question. It never comes out without a bit of waffling and mumbled “sort of” and “one day” and “I try to be...”

It might come off as obnoxious self-deprecation, but it’s seriously difficult to claim “I’m a writer” when most of my day is full of non-writing. When Debbie suggested we swap blog posts, she thought I could write something about my process. At the moment, my process isn’t really working out, seeing as I’m spending my days finding excuses not to write.
I love having written. The actual writing of it is sometimes like pulling teeth.

When I do decide to pull teeth, my writing process goes something like this:
1) An image, sentence, or character gets lodged in my imagination.
2) It grows, swims around, and hatches in my head.
3) I sit down and write random thoughts, scenes, dialogue, and images all the while trying not to think too much. This step rarely happens without a deadline.
4) I try not to censor myself as I write. This is my biggest challenge.
5) I eat a lot of chocolate, drink a lot of coffee, and stay in my pyjamas as much as possible.
6) I write nonsense by hand, rewrite it as I type it on the computer, doodle, read it out loud, print it, mark it up, rewrite it, get depressed because it’s terrible, organise my pencils, sleep, read it again, find something ok in it, rewrite it, send it to a friend, get an ego boost from their comments and a reality check from their criticism. Rewrite it.
7) Realise it’s not perfect, but save the document with a final-seeming title anyway.
8) The process usually takes a long long time. Years, even, if you count all that percolating of ideas (steps one and two).

These days, I’m letting things block my process at step 3. I have ideas. I have images and characters and situations in my head. I’m just too lazy (or afraid) to sit down and write. But I’ll get right down to it, now that I’ve admitted it publicly.

But I do have very valid excuses why I just don’t have time to write at the moment:
-I have to read this book/blog/cereal box first- it’s research! (Sometimes it’s time to put the research away and write what you think you know. And fix the facts later.) -I don’t have a good place to write- my desk is too messy (there are several adorable coffee shops around as well as a kitchen table, and the library).
-I need to clean my desk, my room, the bathroom, and reorganize my spice rack before I can even think about writing (if you can live in the mess, you should be able to write in the mess)
-I should finish this thing that actually pays me money before I spend time on writing (there will always be something that needs to be done)
-Let me just Google writing contests, grants, and residencies to get motivated
-Parks and Recreation is on. 

Me, actually writing.
If you'd like to peruse Elise's blog, Around the world in 80 plays, please do - it's funny, honest and takes you to places you've never been!

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