Tuesday, 15 September 2015

This is not just my story

Today something wonderful happened. My play told me it was ready to be written.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but more and more lately I'm finding that it's true. I'll come up with an idea for a story, a play or whatever, usually just a skeleton concept, character fragments and some hint at what actually happens, but then it doesn't go any further. So I just forget about it, presuming I'll come back to it someday. Then, months, sometimes years later, out of the blue it'll come and smack me in the back of the head.

"Forget what you wrote down before," it tells me, "this is how the story is supposed to go!"

And it's usually right. 

Very often, the story is a stripped back and streamlined version of the original. I had a bad habit back in the day of trying to add too much drama to my stories, adding in storylines and subplots that just didn't need to be there, and that usually I didn't know enough about.

The best known rule of writing is:


And what do I know? What I have experienced. 

My most recent writing projects, primarily plays, have been stemming from my own life events, and I'll admit that scares the hell out of me. I'm putting myself out there for the world to see and judge, but it must be happening for a reason.

As I move into old age (and yes, 30 is old age!) I need to deal with my baggage, and writing is apparently my catharsis.

The play that got written today, has been on my mind for a good 8 months or so, ever since my friend Emma decreed she was going to hold a short play festival about mental health. I had an idea almost straight away.

Originally, it was going to be a monologue, someone else's story, and that's certainly still a road I could go down. But as my brain ticked over on the idea I knew that I simply didn't know enough to make that play idea work. Sure I could have researched it to death, but why do that when there are other sources to draw on it. I knew I had to write my side of this particular story.

Some years back I was in a relationship that proved somewhat damaging, those of you in the know will no doubt be pointing out there are several that could be classified thus. But this one had some particular trauma points that have stayed with me in a fundamental way. It seemed only appropriate that writing a show for a mental health showcase could be my own therapy.

The story resisted for a long while. I knew pretty much what I wanted to put in it but every time I sat down to write, nothing came. So I just left it alone. On Saturday, for no reason what-so-ever, it handed me the opening sequence. The next day it threw me a few more lines, the next day the same, and I knew it was almost ready.

I don't know why but last night, the night this play is based on came back to me quite vividly. I was desperately trying to get to sleep, knowing I had only a four-and-a-half hour window before I was back up for work again, but my mind kept on replaying snatches of conversation, small actions, facial expressions, and for the first time in years I allowed myself to cry for the events of that night. Eventually I was lulled into a dreamless and heavy sleep, rudely awakened before 6am to return to work. 

I thought nothing of those events throughout my first job this morning, but my brain must have been tick tick ticking on it nonetheless. By the time I arrived at my second job I knew something was ready to move, and fortunately the job was a slow one, couriering exhibitor cargo from the entrance of the conference building to their stands, a mindless job, leaving my head free to tick away.

The above small notebook has become my constant companion of late, it fits in the pocket of my work trousers, so now whenever I have a thought about any stories I can take note instead of presuming I'll remember it later. Heaven forbid anyone ever gets hold of this thing, I'll be sectioned immediately the content is so dark. And so between exhibitor arrivals I started jotting down lines. This went on for a couple of hours until the arrivals dwindled down to practically nothing and I just sat on the floor of the security entrance and just let it flow, my pencil barely stopping. I had been concerned that when the story was finally ready to hit paper I would find it distressing, but scribbling away I found myself at peace. A calmness settled over me that allowed me to just keep going. 

I finished writing an hour before the end of my shift, and I was eager to get home to type it up, my first edit pass, and get it off to my favourite first reader. But typing it up proved to be more difficult. I was more agitated, I was emotional and yes I shed a few tears. I have no doubt that my current state of ongoing sleep deprivation had a substantial hand in this process, perhaps helping me let my guard down enough for the story to flow freely, but the job is done, and the story is no longer in my hands.

The current PDF is only 8 pages long. Onstage perhaps it will run about 15-20 minutes, I'm not sure. Now that it's written I realise how heavy the subject matter actually is and now I'm fearful it will be deemed unsuitable. Only time will tell. My only hope is that if it does make it to the stage, at The Hope Theatre in March 2016, is that all who see it will be gentle in their judgement.

And now, the sweet oblivion of sleep beckons, and I am want to yield.
Good night.