As I shared with my Facebook group yesterday – the process of birthing a new play is messy, emotional and a bit of a head fuck. The highs of creating your characters and developing their story into a piece of dramatic art are often dampened by the painful process of having to shape that story into a narrative that will make even the vaguest sense to your audience. And as a first time playwright, I’m having a difficult labour, for not everyone who comes to see this show will be as butterfly brained and non-linear as I am. Some people like structure – this happens and then that happens and the story flows from A to B. My brain is to structure what Donald Trump is to intelligent oration and it’s proving to be somewhat problematic.
Having received feedback from a writer and director I admire a lot to the effect that my play was a little all over the place and somewhat confused about its purpose, I found myself in a mild funk yesterday afternoon. Draft 4 and it’s still a meandering mess – maybe this play is just not meant to be. Maybe it will be the play that teaches me how to be a better writer, that coaxes my rebellious brain into playing by the rules when it comes to story arc and process. And maybe that’s OK. But then again, maybe that’s not. What is a writer to do?
Not trusting my brain to come to the right conclusion, I did what I do the majority of the time when faced with a question to which there could be many ‘right’ answers. I decided to sit with it and ask my body what it thought. What was my creative gut telling me on this one and how did I feel about its pronouncement. I went for a ponder wander, I meditated and rather than chasing the answer, I decided to just let it ‘download.’
And the conclusion I came to was this. My mentor is absolutely right. This play is non-linear, it doesn’t follow a sequence of events and it might even be a bit of a mess right now, but honestly, I am absolutely OK with that. And then, as if to further convince me to trust my gut, the Universe sent me a sign. As I darted through my Facebook feed trying to avoid the politics, I came across an interview with an Irish film director called Mark O’Connor. Responding to a review of his latest film, which had been described as a ‘mess… but a beautiful mess,’ he said: ‘I like it when scripts go off in tangents… some of the best moments in cinema are simply about being in the moment… All I have ever wanted to do is make beautiful messes… I’m not a structure person.’
And I literally shouted at my Macbook: ‘Neither am I, Mark, neither am fucking I.’
And I decided that I wouldn’t go back to my script and unpick it and unpack it further, or cut characters, or make it about just one thing. Not just yet. Because this play is about more than just one thing. Life is messy and complex – we are all the product of the myriad experiences we have had; the traumas, the heartbreaks, the losses, the ‘bad’ decisions, the toxic relationships, the secrets we have harboured, the shame, the fear and the love. God almighty the love. And I wanted to write about all of those things. So I did.
As makers of art, we have to be prepared for criticism; not everyone is going to get what you do or see what you see in it. And 100% yes, we must learn to be humble enough to take the advice on board, go back to the drawing board and try to make some sense of the meanderings. But we must also learn to trust our creative souls, be the guardians of our stories and remember that one man’s non-linear is another man’s beautiful mess. Let your work lead you where it will, stay open to the ‘downloads’ and enjoy the chaotic, crazy, painful and wonderful process of birthing your art into the world.