I have a confession to make. I have been working on the same play for over ten years. And it’s still not anywhere near where I want it to be. It isn’t a particularly long or epic play (one of the constraining features of writing for performance is you have to bare in mind your audience’s bladder capacity). Ideally I would like it to be a relatively short play, between ninety to one hundred minutes, two characters on stage the full time, one room… simple.
I’ve set myself due dates for drafts and made the dates very public amongst my friends (by the by: NEXT DRAFT OF THE PLAY IS DUE 26 JUNE! Right before leaving for my annual WordTheatre writer’s retreat. There, see…) I’ve had public readings. I’ve written all the plot points on post-it notes and hung them on the wall, arranged them into acts and figured out exactly what my characters are up to. I’ve done diary entries as the characters and lived in their shoes for a day. After ten years I have done every last trick in the book to write this play, and it still eludes me.
Actually, it does more than elude me. This play flat out refuses to be written.
All creatives worth their salt have at least one project of absolute brilliance that suffers from an extreme bout of, for lack of a better term… creative constipation. And like constipation of the other kind it call have a variety of causes: fear, not being proactive, not ingesting the right things, not drinking enough (just ask Hemingway). None of those seem to be the issue. Sometimes, even when you’re good, things just get… stuck.
I’d like to think it’s the projects that we struggle with the most that makes us as creators. But like so many other things in this world that is a cliche because it’s true as often as it is poppycock. It could be that by the time I get this play to a point where I am happy with it, nobody has a clue what I’m talking about. I’m not writing it to be famous or in hopes of it being my breakout success. I’m writing it because I have to. Because the play has been itching me for ten years. Because I won’t sit comfortably until this play is written, and after over a decade (bare in mind I came up with the idea when I was a teenager!) it is beginning to irritate me.
Andre Dubus III talks about how often we cannot explain a fight after it’s just happened because we are too close to it. This seems to be the most plausible explanation of any. The play itself can best be summarised as being about when to give up on a dream, a question that I’ve had to struggle with nearly everyday over the past decade both in terms of my careers and relationships as well as lots of other areas of my life. As much as I think I’ve learned the lessons that this piece will explore, actually writing the play seems impossible. Perhaps it’s still too fresh.
It’s back to the laptop again these days, trying to push out a play that is wanting to be born, but is still suffering the pains of early labor. One of these days it will see the light, when its time comes.