I’m absolutely the best procrastinator I know. When I’m working on a play – writing serious stuff – I will do just about anything to avoid the actual work. (I’m from the Dorothy Parker school of thought. She said, “I hate writing. I love having written.”)
Anyway, I’ve developed a practice that gives the appearance of intelligent and experienced planning. And I need it. Honestly, any distraction at all – a gnat crawling across the screen – will throw me into totally different directions. Any perceived change (should the page number be in bold or italics?) will stop me dead in my tracks … (Oscar Wilde once remarked, “I had a good day today. This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.”)
In the past, when I used to run into creative walls, I would go out and walk around the block. Sometimes I could be mere feet outside my door when the proper thrust of eloquence would be revealed to me. (The alleged storyline, we assume, is somewhat already in place.) Other times I would walk farther. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come out of my rhetorical stupor by wondering where I was.
But lately I’ve developed a new and by far less embarrassing procedure. I call it my “play within a play,” and here’s how it works; I’m flinging dialogue down a page as hard and fast as I can, when suddenly a character will say something that has the potential to be another work entirely. If I ignore it, I’m still focused on the job at hand. If I pause – for even a key stroke – I’m hooked. At some point (later) I take that idea germ and plant it (hopefully with fewer apologizes than for the puerile little metaphor I can’t believe I actually just put to paper.)
In this regard, my latest “play within a play” is called ROUGH DRAFT, and deals with characters arguing with their author about what should (or should not) be included in a story. It is, my friend, a hundred pages of silly, and lacking in any redeeming qualities whatsoever. (Case in point – eventually there is such a strong disagreement between strong characters and their feckless author, that the characters decide they can do better without her – and kill her. Only later does one character muse that since they were her creation, might she have secretly had a death wish?)
Eventually the play was completed (and I wish I could say the same about the play from which it was winnowed.) I sent the completed hard copy to a friend, suggesting that if his new puppy needs paper trained, here was grist for the mill … (and another truly horrid metaphor. Sorry. That’s what happens when I write at eleven in the morning, the sun is shining, and no libation is at hand … (Don’t blame me. It was Ernest Hemingway who said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” He also supposedly said “Wearing underwear is as formal as I get,” which admittedly has nothing to do with the business at hand, but DOES give me the excuse to avoid wearing socks for most of the year.)
I have digressed a bit.
Therefore, and in conclusion … (and you thought I was never gonna get there, didn’t you?) … it came as a shock when I received a formal request from a theatrical company to produce ROUGH DRAFT somewhen later this fall.
To say the least, I was surprised. Apparently I do silly and lacking in redeeming qualities better than I thought. (And the next thought was that perhaps you already knew that and were too gentle in nature to mention it.)