That September Feeling

Lisa Tierney-Keogh (NPP 2009)

Lisa Tierney-Keogh Early September tends to set off a tiny panic clock in my head with that back-to school fear I still get every year. There is something to be said for a biological alarm, a reminder to stop the faffing around, and get back to work after summer, to get into a routine. I need this alarm. Think of those writers who declare proudly and boldly that they rise at 5am every morning, do some yoga, eat some berries with nuts and then do five hours of work. Well, I am not one of those writers.

At the tender, vulnerable stages of the beginning of play number eight, I am finally coming around to the realisation that every piece of theatre I write is done in my own particular brand of emergency style. I have no set pattern to writing a new play, no go-to ‘I’ll just do this and it’ll all fall into place’ system. For me, every play is another desperate attempt to spew something out that cannot stay inside me anymore. And no two play writing experiences are the same. I have tried and failed many times to set a plan and a schedule for writing my latest masterpiece. Weeks and weeks into the process, I’ll find the ‘schedule’ on a piece of paper and stick the shopping list for the week on the back and later lose it in the cereal aisle of the supermarket. I have learned, the hard way, that there is no magic formula, so secret method. There is only one way to write a play and that is to graft and redraft. Rinse and repeat. For me, that means there will be reams and reams of pages of what passes for my handwriting, as I try to find my way into the woods a new play. Mindless drivel, searing insight, endless facts, streams of thought, notes on themes, characters, plot, all in search of that ever elusive grande damme…what is it really about? Because if there is a point to playwriting, I think that’s it.

Right now, as of today, September 6th, I am on about page 38 of scrawling notes into a notepad. I will duck and dive, bob and weave like this until some day in the coming weeks, a character will finally enter stage left and say, “any chance you could go to script with this?” At that point, and only then, will I put down the tea and biscuits, and open up Final Draft and type those exciting two words, ‘scene one’. And then, all bets are off, it’s just me in an open playing field, making the game up as I go.

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