This summer, besides working and making academic, logistic, and living arrangements for next year, my goal is to also work on new plays and new play starts. I’ve had a playwriting book, The Playwright’s Workout: Exercises for the Dramatic Imagination (see here; and yes I had to cover the book because I hate the front image), since January but I haven’t really tried most of the exercises.
Today I decided would be the day to make a change and start. I signed up for a Meetup group called “Shut Up, Sit Down, and Write!” and met with three other writers at an area coffee shop. Not only was it a great new coffee shop/writing spot find, but it was also an hour of pure writing. No talking. No messing around with Spotify or Facebook. I had three different projects set up, in case I couldn’t make it through the exercise, but I didn’t need them. In fact, it was over too soon and I had to come home to finish the rest.
At first I wasn’t too excited about writing a bad play. I thought it would feel horrible. But it actually taught me some very important things. For instance, when I don’t think about what I’m writing and I don’t care where it’s going, I don’t explain the reasons behind everything so much. It’s funny because I think that makes for bad theatre, and technically that was what I was supposed to be writing. But since I wrote without thinking I actually created a play that in one aspect was actually good theatre.
Technically, you don’t need any rules or explanations to do this exercise on your own, but I did like that Janet Allard, the playwright who contributed this exercise to the workbook, gave a few more stipulations like including a five-syllable word 40 times. I didn’t necessarily follow all her rules, but as I learned, that’s not the point of the exercise. The rules get you started, give you a frame of reference to battle the empty page. Then the rest is open and since there are no expectations, there’s no pressure! WRITE ON!
And if you want a little extra inspiration from Allard: “Writing can be a spontaneous act. So may this liberate you. Confuse you. Baffle and astound you and those around you. Make you laugh. Upset you. Be your best play. Your worst play. May you discover something you didn’t know and uncover further questions about what is theatrical.”