“May you live in interesting times”

- a Chinese curse, that. Apparently.

Anyway – the Imp is doing just that: living in interesting times (well, aren’t we all?). And one of the moments on the horizon is that I’m about to spend the night in a near-empty theatre, writing a 20-minute performance piece, from scratch, for 6 actors I’ve yet to meet, to be performed 24 hours after we wet our pens. Dead excited, but also nervous.  The whole thing goes up on the main stage – and it’s filling up (this ain’t no teeny theatre).

Cor – the unknown – and I don’t mean Rumsfeld’s unknown knowables….

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Beautiful….’cos what could I possibly have to worry about, having read that?!

;-)

The boiler’s gone. And it’s raining. T’was sludging earlier, so this is an improvement. And I’ve not really got my brain in yet, either. Next couple of days bring trips to That London, the far east (Anglia), friends, professionals and recalcitrant teens. I’ll play teacher, adult, grouchy stranger and, in-between, really get to be a mate.  Part of me would much rather curl up and hide. But if I did that, who knows when I would reappear?!

I suspect half of this desire for the cave is about writing. In the last few weeks, I’ve spewed out plays of 60 and 15 minutes. That’s not to say they’re good; they will more than definitely need work, but the act of squeezing them out is quite intense (and throughoutly enjoyable – lucky me this time, as it can be merry hell). I’m also now reworking an earlier, incomplete work, and seeing how weedy and flawsome it was – also a good feeling, but….So, yes: engagment with the outer world is going to take me away from this lovely writing.

Better get back to it, then!

;-)

I remember why I procrastinate when it comes to creative writing: it’s bleedin’  HARD.

Luckily, the only diversionary tactic I can legitimately allow myself (apart from this. Ahem) is harder and definitely less appealing: updating the personal finances.

I don’t think I can stretch this out much longer…except (phew!) to remark that I really might have lost my quality-ometer and have no idea whether what I’ve written this last few weeks is any good at all (it’s a script rewrite, following a script-in-hand rehearsed reading/performance).

I mean, it might be ok, or even not bad (go on, push the boat out!), but – well, people saying the original was any good so took me by surprise that my critical compass looks rather unreliable and may well have gone completely haywire (if a stopped clock is right twice a day, a buggered compass must swing past North every now and again).

Any writers reading, or any body reading, with thoughts on knowing quality (or is it a knowable unknowable?), click the button and say your thang! Help me lose that haywire-making magnet!

;-)

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened

- Winston Churchill

I’m working on a new play. While waiting on verdicts for the first. Scary, possibly arrogant, but hell, what’s an Imp to do? I’m loving it; it’s great fun. It’s also an utter privilege – I have time and am very conscious of that, using as much as I can to scribe.

However, strange things are happening, and any writers who are reading might recognise this. Happily, the characters are taking on lives of their own, cheekily doing things I hadn’t planned, and that is wonderful. But – also great for the creative end-result, I hope – some really dark things are crawling out of the subtext, smearing their inky, spindly feet all over my previously neat little drama.

This is a good thing – absolutely. It should make the thing more complex and more true to life. But it doesn’t half mess with your mind.

First of all, the little hints I had planned about the darker elements of some  characters’ personalities have become 10 foot high monsters, breathing their stagnant toxins all over the world of the play. The second strange thing is that I  feel so utterly right and at home doing this. I think about what I’m writing, or will write, almost all the time – more so than when I was working on the first play almost full-time a year ago.  I’m writing almost full-time again now, but it feels more ‘proper’. Perhaps it’s ‘cos I’ve got used to the idea of being a writer, but then, I hate the idea that I needed to give myself permission to write…

I think there may be some truth in this, however. Have you ever looked back at a particular time in your life and noticed how good it was – perhaps more than you realised back then? I am getting much better at living in the present, and perhaps this writer-thingy is just  a symptom of that larger attitude. Neurological studies  (Oliver Sachs and others) show that if your sense of time is destroyed through accident or disease in the brain, you can end up without fear or angst about the future. They also report a sense of well-being, even though the people involved know that they have a neurological problem.

Now, as you know, I like the old time/bondage/consciousness thing (if you want to read more, type ‘time’ into the search box on the right hand side, or click here to go straight to the results of that search, thus saving you some time). And it’s fascinating to think that you can lose your sense of time, and when you do, you lose your worries (worry is always about things which might happen, i.e. in the future) and that your sense of well-being shoots up. That says to me that perhaps the lower our consciousness of time, the lower our negative experiences could be. Down with time, up with happiness?

What would we really lose if we stopped worrying….?

Hats off to medics and care/health-worker types. Many fine people in there. ….What inspires this particular random salutation?

It’s the little memory I’ve had just now, that in measuring the success and value of various interventions (operations, drugs, procedures, protocols etc), the quality of the patient’s life is often taken into account. And there are scales of measurement. Which is, natch, where the fighting begins. Quite right too: you have to get these things right.

Quality of life ought always to be a consideration when treating someone’s health.  Seeing the patient as a person, not a “condition” is the only way you can do this, and it takes time. Thoughtfulness always does. What’s so tricky is that things that improve my quality of life are completely subjective (thankfully, otherwise we’d all be quarrelling over the strangest items).

But are you aware of the things that improve your quality of life, really? Today I got a full 3,000 words down, had me hair done, did some proper cooking, had a great conversation with my hairdresser and said ‘screw the tax chores’. All on top of yesterday’s wintry-sun five-mile, peaceful wander and a damn fine sleep. These things make me happy and each one (and other stuff) make my life better.  But it was the writing that made the day so good and really made me feel fine – when I would have thought it would be the walk or the sleep that won.

Of course, it’s not necessarily the activity that generates a sense of well-being. It’s the state of mind generated by the activity. I’m having a jolly fine time right now, thanks to the barber’s shop rendition of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” rolling around the kitchen right now [it's the radio; not me!]. And chatting with you, of course. Although it’s not doing my concentration much good, as you can clearly see.

Lots of us use TV to relax, to switch off – in effect to make the day good after hard work. Some read, others drink, play sport or chat. Do they get you to where you want to be? Have you thought about it? Do you ‘save’ quality of life-improvers for the weekend, thinking they require time? When was the last time you tried or found a new life-improver (without obligations – the horrible fun-spoilers that they are)?

We’re coming up to a time of year that causes so much stress for so many people, when it ought to be enjoyable. Take the holidays and find the fun for you. An Imp on every Christmas tree!

;)

Readers! Regulars will see that I’ve changed the design of the page today. This is something I do every so often, to alter my relationship with it. I wholly believe in changing your writing environment, and (related) that the appearance of a page affects how it is read.

So, in that vein, we’ve shifted from what I would call the womb-like, warm, surrounded feel of the old design, to this bold, stark, newspaper-esque style.  The words are just the same, but your thoughts are more than welcome – for interest, not necessarily consultation! ;)

Not even sure how I’ll get on with it – but always worth a try!

I am a completely horizontal author. I cannot think unless I’m lying down.

- Truman Capote

I was mighty pleased, relieved and smiley to read in this weekend’s papers that Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies needs his desk to be “just so” before he feels he can write. He admits it’s just superstition, all in his mind, but it’s important to him; the tweaking of the papers, the feel of the angles, etc etc. I am, horribly, the same, and found this confession immensely reassuring.

So, what’s all that about? I need to be able to forget the world, to write successfully (definition of success here is that it all flows; I lose track of time; the other world completely absorbs me). And I can’t do that if (I allow) little things  start to bother me. A glimpse of the tax forms, the unsubmitted expenses, the albumless photographs, the empty ink cartridge longing for a refill. Oh, yes, all excuses, I know too well.

However, the Imp’s river of activity for this and next week has to take itself not only through the ugly urban landscape of Adminville Central but also must (on pain of death, or rather, of artistic embarrassment) dive into and feed the hillocks of Little Scribbling and trickle along the slopes of Great Mount Do-your-best. Yup, it’s workshop time for The Play’s script- London & elsewhere.

Having put it away for a fortnight, it’s time to review, unscrew my eyes, resist the temptations either to rewrite too much, or to plunge the thing in aspic before it reaches the table. It’ll be more than a week before all this is over, but then – ? Let’s fling all superstitions to the four winds, and off we go! Anyone have any weird work rituals they care to share?

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