“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?

It’s a funny old world. Or perhaps it’s just been a funny ole summer and now that routine is back, the relief (as in contrast, rather than sense of escape) is tangible. Ne’ertheless, it’s prompted some reflection, wondering and blessing-counting.

At the weekend, (after watching an excellent kids’ version of The Lion, The Witch…) I went to Sussex to see a friend’s directorial debut, a production of Dream, which was truly superb, met an interesting actress and shared some ideas. Yesterday, after a year (with some hefty gaps), I finally completed the (I hope) penultimate version of my 90-minute stage play [workshops are the last stage, I hope]. At lunch, I bumped into an acquaintance whose flatmate turns out also to be a playwright who’s about to have her first play performed: drinks were inevitably planned. A cast member from a play I was in a couple of months ago called to discuss Ideas, as did the Dream director. And in the evening, I went to my script writing group and heard a dark, excellent comedy film’s first draft (I would love to tell you about it, but had better not). Have to say, I slept like a professional, gold medal-winning sleeping thing. Tonight and tomorrow, I’m volunteering at a local theatre.

Blah blah shopping-list-of-life blah some more. Yeah, I know – but to me, you see it’s sex on a stick. To see that all come together and not to be pie in the sky. It’s a deliberate attempt to change my life, to become a writer (most probably dramatic). But changing your life can be like  – ooo, like getting minute particles to collide at speed without creating a black hole, to use a topical analogy. The Imp life used to be about Meetings, Travelling to Meetings, Writing Strategies, Batting back Emails, Making Dull Calls and More Meetings. And now it’s not! Huzzah!

And to top it all, the sun is out and the gods of the ipod shuffle function are being good to me. See if you fancy listening to any of these (Last FM always recommended), my morning’s random playlist….:And for me, it’s off to finish some other well-overdue works of pen & paper….

corrr…..

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” - Buddha

Amazing morning: after days of torpor, sleep fallumping fattily all over me, Lethe dragging me under to wallow in her depths from afternoon ’til mid-morning, and a very bizarre appetite, today’s begun with a 7am up-and-at-‘em determination; with vim. Coffee and yesterday’s paper in bed were prescribed until consciousness was attained and then it was time for The Thing: a six mile run in the dreeky drizzle.

heron.jpgGorgeous! The birds were still in charge of the canal’s soundtrack; the clouds were not really weeping, more shaking the damp sleep from their eyes (perhaps with a bit of a sniffle); so few human beings about and none keen to smile or frown, not being really conscious, still taken by whatever subconscious scenes they played in the night before. My imping (not limping, thank you) stride came quickly today, half a mile sooner than usual: this is the point where you could as well be walking for all the consciousness you have of running. So then you push yourself, then lull back, push then forgetfully lull.

The better thing was that this is the first early morning run for months, since the stretch went over the four mile mark. Everything in 2008 so far has been mid-morning or mid-afternoon: a very different experience. And this morning thing really works – it’s why I’m writing this now, while I’m fresh with it. Great creative ideas for various writing projects (some very wicked and truly Imp, of which more in the future, I hope), a feeling of privileged access and insight into the route’s environment – just a peek, but special, nonetheless. Fantasies, half-anchored in reality, of the future life of the Imp’s play: who will play X character, would Y be a good director, an Imp-goading list of who will be in the first audience. Followed, not surprisingly, by resolutions and deadlines: this draft complete in days, before the next public reading on Tuesday – how fast can I commit for the third draft?

The play is definitely maturing. The first draft took three months. the-creation.jpgWhat delight, what pride, such celebration! Then we had some time apart – we were on a break, so to speak. Paying work intervened and to be honest, I neglected my honey. Thankfully, I came back. Thankfully, I now think, I went away. But what flaws I’d left it with: what a terrible lover, a terrible parent! So me and the play, we’re into some heavy nurturing, some repair, some shared, quality time. We’re helping each other – it doesn’t always do what I tell it to, but it’s often right and I am wrong. This may mean the original idea gets subsumed, but for something better.

OK, it’s calling….may your weekend be hale, hearty, full of love and smiles.

- TLI

“When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can.” - Samuel Lover

008procrastinationweb.jpgThe Imp has been clearing out its writing space today: making the studio a place of calm for concentration and inspiration. The week is going to be one of immersion in Projects: writing, creating, inventing, taking twists and turns and Absolutely No Guilt about dealing with the other things that come along!

A friend is coming from London, having just lost his mother, and that will take more care and attention than anything. What can we give a friend when we can’t make things right again? For me, it’s remembering to listen with care, asking questions sensitively, holding back the typical Imp instinct to relate back to my own experiences.

And there will be work, as much voluntary as paid, and the balance is moving to the former – which is exciting and very rewarding. For the Imp, head space is vital: getting the crap out the way (filing, bills etc – the Naggings) means all other activities are wholly justifiable and don’t get marred by “You Should Be….”s, which make you think you’re procrastinating. After all, if at first you don’t succeed, there’s always next year…

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