Friday, October 19, 2007

A Play on a Train

On my most recent ('recent' being used quite loosely here) writing project, I decided to go back to longhand. Early this year I had been working on a prose piece, which has been backburnered, that had been extremely difficult to slog through. I loved the results, but most of the time I found myself only writing a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, before nodding off. Part of the problem was the style of the piece. It's got some similarities to the automatic writing of the Surrealists, and that's not an easy place to get to, much less sustain. There were a few times when I hit a streak and would go, go, go; most times, however, I'd slowly dip into a writer's coma. If you're still curious about the results, they're still up at Bries' myspace page; the link is to the right. I jumped over to another project (bad habit, I know, but I've always got four or five in a certain stage of germination) that became more pressing -- I'd like to have it available as a Per Diem possibility -- and also decided to jump to longhand, as the dim glow of the laptop also probably isn't very conducive to consciousness.

And it worked. I just finished the first draft of Peculiar Way. Well, I will have finished it soon. I've finished it in my head, but technically, I've got a bit of the final scene to actually put to paper yet. And of course, then I have to make the transfer to digital. But I consider it finished.

I never wrote the post about my writing process that I always meant to, so here's the truncated version: My writing process has no definition -- and I'm struggling (not struggling... ehhh... curious, maybe?) to decipher how much of that is me still finding what works for me versus me just not having a specific style. Because I know it is a mix -- formal reinvention and exploring new grounds are a big part of my process. Many of my ideas begin as formal conceits which then get a story built around them. And I've begun to notice thematic similarities that are emerging within these works, despite the varying styles. The most obvious (to me) example is a sense of the circular. Most of my work ends where it begins, sometimes (borderline often) quite literally, even to the point of repeated scenes. I haven't put effort into figuring out why I do this, and to tell the truth, I don't plan on putting much effort into it at present. But I digress: no defined style, partially due to a lack of refinement, partially due to a refusal to stay in one place. That's me right now.

And fitting with that, when I switched to longhand for Peculiar Way, I also naturally shifted my writing schedule ('schedule' being used quite loosely here). Portability is a blessing -- no longer did I do my writing at home in the evenings where my dim glow was awaiting. Nope, I always had that notebook with me, and the best time and place for a little inspiration seemed to be... on the train during rush hour coming home from work. Unlikely, perhaps, but 90% of this (albeit, short) play was written in a cramped, tired, and not particularly happy railway car. I hope it doesn't reflect.

But despite its unfortunate birthing conditions, I'm quite keen on Peculiar Way. At least I'm keen on what it is in my mind; we'll see how I feel when I type it out. It's been a process of discovery (which isn't all that remarkable, I know -- the writing process should always be one of discovery) -- this will be the first time I dedicate a work to someone. I was a little way into the work when I realized that this story, sparked by a very minor scene in a Tarkovsky film, had evolved into a reflection on my relationship with one of my best friends from high school. And I've already said too much -- I hate discussing deeper readings of my work with any but a few intimate friends. Chalk it up to the journal aspect of having a blog. So it's a work that is close to me in a very specific way -- that's the official summation.

A short play. Six scenes. Three radio, three intimately staged, about an astronaut and his loved ones during the days approaching his launch.

The current idea running through my head is an inclusion of Peculiar Way in a Per Diem evening of radio and radio-esque plays. All things providing. Keep an ear to the ground -- or this blog.



Tony said...

I always seem to have an easier time doing fiction/playwriting with a pen and paper than a keyboard. But, I have horrible handwriting so it's a chore to go back and retype it.

In a way that's probably a good way for me to self-edit. I don't bother typing it unless I really like something.

Paul Rekk said...

There's something about the visceral aspect of it as well. It's so much more enjoyable to be able to indicate emotion through penmanship.