Allison Page is dancing as fast as she can.
Forgive me for the stream of consciousness-esque post – that’s just where I am, kids.
AHHHHHHHHHH! I’m being crushed beneath the weight of my own choices! I’m being lowered onto the fire of my own creation! The tips of my toes are touching the flames!…I have too many deadlines.
But I need the deadlines. I can’t function without them. I imagine there are people out there who can write without deadlines. Who just magically get things done “in their own time” except that, unlike me, “their own time” is a week from Thursday instead of three years from now.
I’ve set the hardest deadline for myself yet: I scheduled a first reading of one of my plays for January 26th. In case you haven’t noticed, or in case you’re reading this in the future (OR THE PAST) – that’s 12 days from now. I scheduled the reading last month, knowing I was already behind. But to be honest, if I gave myself more time…I don’t know that it would make any difference. I’m not a well-oiled machine without a deadline. With one, I know how much time I’ve got. I know how much needs to happen. Without one, I’m like a kid who has been sent outside to play and doesn’t come back home for 6 months because she followed a field of pretty daisies and took a nap in the sunlight every day. I wish I weren’t like that, but I am. At least I can recognize that and try to schedule myself against it. I don’t think that makes me a bad writer (If anything makes me a bad writer it’s probably all of my run-on sentences.) it just makes me the kind of writer that I am.
We all work differently. And apparently I work better under the pressure of just having a cast show up to read something that isn’t done yet. Thankfully, most of them are friends of mine, and in the event that I bring in an unfinished script, I really don’t think they’ll give a shit. But hopefully that won’t happen. But if it does, I’ll feed them booze. And pizza.
Last night I finished the first act. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) There are only going to be two total, I’m not doing three. That just feels like the way this particular story breaks down. I’m sure there are opinions about that, but that’s what I’m going with currently. This whole play (OR THE HALF THAT EXISTS) is me doing things exactly how I want to do them anyway, so I’m really whole-hoggin’ it. That being said – I cannot work without an outline. There was a 6 page or so chunk that I was miserably stuck in. I just couldn’t figure out how one scene was going to go down. You know why? Because I decided I didn’t like that part of the outline. You might think “Well, Allison, why didn’t you just changed the outline?” and the answer is…I guess I thought I was James Dean or something. I tried to work it out in my head while looking at something that didn’t jive with what needed to happen. Eventually I changed the outline, after writing the damn scene several times and deleting it, and then it finally came together.
The worst part was the grind of that group of pages. Right after I got through them, I immediately wrote 10 more in the space of 45 minutes, when I had wasted two weeks on the previous 6. Isn’t that stupid? I’m inconsistent that way. Maybe everybody is to some extent. I bought “The Diaries of Dawn Powell” the other day. The earliest diaries are very short and say things like “Wrote a story today.” Or “Wrote a play today.” Or “Finished a novel today.” And those made me ill. Because they sound like they were so…easy. Then I got to the good bits last night. After I finished the first act, I celebrated by reading some more. I got to a portion where she had been working on a novel. She talked about how miserable it was and how she didn’t think she’d ever do it again once that one was finished – which isn’t what happened. She wrote a bunch more. It was the perfect book to buy with the struggle-y writing I’ve been doing lately. There are gem entries about how much she loves the play she wrote and thinks it’s the best thing she’s ever done, followed by an entry about how she let her playwright friend read it and he absolutely hated it. Then later someone else read it and loved it. It’s the truncated version of things so many playwrights and writers in general go through. It’s those bits that make you say “Oh, yeah, I’m not the only one dealing with this noise.”
I recommend the book for people like me who might want the occasional dose of “I’M NOT ALONE!” or any playwright, really. It does a great job of capturing the feeling of creating a new work. Later on she apparently delves into what happens during a disastrous production of one of her plays – I personally can’t wait to get to that part. But, uh…I should probably be writing instead.
You can follow Allison on Twitter @allisonlynnpage where she promises to post quips about playwrighting. You can also see her onstage at SF Sketchfest on February 3rd.