Monday, May 17, 2010

English is so Imprecise

I never thought I would write this about chocolate (because if you know me, I'm a Chocoholic of the First Order), but I feel indifferent, no, disinterested, no, false, no...see, English is so imprecise. There's got to be a word for what I feel in some other language, like schadenfreude in German. Maybe I need to make one up.

At any rate, 'Chocolate Cake' has evoked feelings in me that I've experienced about my work before, but the stronger versions of these feelings usually make me put the play down for a month or so and come back when I've had the space and time to work on others things, and let that one simmer on the back burner.

But this play--it feels like I'm going through the motions, sort of. Like there's no real emotion in it. Like I don't care, but do. Like maybe if I keep working on it, I will break through to it. So that's what I'm doing--keeping up on it until I know for a fact it's time to give it a break. I'll know when it is, and it's not now. Maybe when I complete all the scenes.

The characters are evolving fine, the plot is falling into place, with the exception of a few things here and there.

Actually, I'm not sure the problem is even the play itself--I think it's something else entirely. It stems from getting into graduate school and then not being able to come up with the money to pay for it--and student loans are out of the question. So you know, there's that. I feel like my work needs another step up at this point--like I'm writing in a vacuum. I know there's a cure for it. I need to just present my own work, and I am working on that. The only way my work is going to improve is to see it up on its feet, and if I can't find a theatre who will help me out, I just need to do the work myself. And I have no one to blame but myself for not getting this going sooner. There's no time like the present.

So I think my feelings of strange indifference for this play isn't about the play in general, but about my career as a playwright, which feels stalled out right now. I am doing the right things--I join the right organizations, I send my work out, I get my work rejected, I write, I write, I write--but it's been five years since I left UIowa, and I guess I expected that since I was going at such a high rate of speed as far as writing and getting published and all that that I would be much further than I am right now.

So, obviously I just need to get off my duff and do what I need to do. It's that simple.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


There must be something strange in the stars the last few days for me and technology and the current play I am working on entitled 'Chocolate Cake'.

I managed to lose edits I had already put in and then had Final Draft freak out when I tried to over-write the file of the current edit with a new edit. To be safe, I went ahead and saved it to two different drives and then emailed a copy to myself.

Short answer: technology hates me.

It's a bummer, because this play is sort of coming together too. Losing those edits was an annoying thing that happens, but I fixed it and now I can move beyond it.

I have another play that I am working on, called 'Blue Sunny Day'. This, along with the project I am going to work on at some point this summer with my fiance, Bill, is the first of my unofficial Jonathan Coulton project.

I am also writing a column for about fan fiction. I have an extensive history with fan fiction, and while I am slightly embarrassed by some of what I used to write, it really sculpted me as the writer I am today. There's nothing wrong with cutting your writing teeth so to speak on writing stories about My Little Ponies and rock bands you loved and 'The X Files' (which, really, is the only real fan fiction I ever wrote, although I have a killer idea for a sequel to 'Dr. Horrible's Sing a Long Blog', which will remain in the back of my mind until I am able to find someone to help me write songs). The point is, we all start somewhere, and some of us have fan fiction skeletons in our respective closets.

Anyway, this is the closest I get to fan fiction these days, writing plays based on songs. It's actually something I've done for quite a while. 'Sexy Messiah' is based on a Stuart Davis song, about the next coming of Christ as a teenage girl; 'Man out of Time' was based loosely on the Elvis Costello song of the same name, 'Human Girl' will, someday, be written and is based on another Stuart Davis song. Stuart has been a big influence on me as a writer, but Jonathan Coulton is coming in a close second.

Stuart and Jonathan have a lot in common--brilliant song writing, amazing presentation of stories. Love them both.

My musing is this: how much of a work I write based on or influenced by say something by Stuart Davis or Jonathan Coulton is mine and one of theirs? What are the legal ramifications?

Also, how did I get from 'Chocolate Cake' to a discussion of the legality of my writing about a song someone else wrote?

Bill was right, I am good at holding about 50 conversations in my brain at once.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

something's always wrong

The title is true, but isn't true. I am writing. It has been tough, but I am sticking it out. And things are coming through. There's the moments of tingly excitement that come with a breakthrough and a piece falls into place, but somehow, it rings false.

And then I start to wonder things like...
Who has the wrong name?
Who isn't supposed to be in this play?
Should this character NOT be a gay man of the cloth?
Should this character have mother and God issues that are unresolved?
And what's the deal with atheism? Like, I don't have a problem with it, but how can I make this play less of an issue play and more of an actual play? I don't want it to be coming down on the side of atheism is bad or believing in God is bad, because that is not an opinion I need to concern myself with in this play. Or is it?

This is the kind of neurotic behavior and thought pattern I get into with plays. I get energy from a controversial subject, with setting the characters loose with their own issues going up against each others' wants, needs and desires, and then when they run off in contrary to me directions, I kind of freak.

Somehow, I can't seem to keep in mind that I am NOT really in control of the people of my play. They come to me, in whatever shape they are in, if they are drawn off of someone I know, a character trait, an idea, a comment I overheard someone make in the cafeteria, or something said directly to me in a small cubicle in the Scientology building on Hollywood Boulevard about how my father would have been alive still if he had had Scientology, somehow, something creates the character. And then as that character develops, they become like teenagers and go off in their own directions and become writers, drug addicts, alcoholics, doctors, lawyers, mothers, teachers, as well as any other number of things their parents did or didn't want them to become. At any rate, they become their own people. And losing this control is terrifying, because I don't know where the play is going to end up after that.

And that's okay. I've been writing and dealing with character issues like this since I was at least 12 years old. It's been over two decades' one would think I would stop having 'The Fear'. It doesn't ever go away.

And the Scientology story is best saved for another time. But it happened between my junior and senior year of high school, and it just NOW figured out a way into my play.

Everything and everyone is in danger of being in a play. You have been forewarned.