Best laid plans…etc. I was going to religiously chronicle my writing all last week while up in Wark on the Northumberland Moors (well actually it was a cottage pretty much in the middle of no where 7 miles from Wark), but I got distracted, partly by the incredible location but mostly because, well, because I was writing!
The point of sending myself to the moors was to reduce distractions (very poor internet connection, so almost zero Facebook) so I had little to do but walk and write - mission accomplished! However, the most important gift I was able to give myself was time. Time to think, wander and muse. All I had to achieve was some material (a very generous five scenes) to take to the next session of R&D. I didn’t achieve all five scenes, but certainly enough material to give us something to work on. I was not having to rush or pressurise myself all I had to do was let the writing happen. And it did.
I also able to find a system. Afternoon - write. Anything. Evening - hate what I’d written, it’s rubbish. Morning - re-read, not terrible, tweak and fiddle, make it better. Afternoon - move on to a new bit and start the process again. This produced 30 or so pages of first draft material, some of it is questionable, the odd bit good, the bulk disposable, but plenty to allow me to the exciting bit which is ‘fixing it’. This system was made possible by time. Try doing that, however, in london when in the morning you have a load of emails, followed by earning money in the afternoon, then a meeting the next day, and plotting and planning future work in the evenings, and…so it goes on. But it is important to remind ourselves that these are things that everyone has to deal with whether you live in a city or the Outer Hebrides, we are all distracted; very few people’s situations are ideal for what they are doing with their lives.
However, last week taught me a huge amount. The actual writing time was smallish, maybe a couple to three hours at a time, the head space to work things out, unpick and re-sew, straighten the conceit and have the ease to throw stuff out, was, however, utterly invaluable. That, of course is harder to find once home, but it may/can can be found by allowing pockets of ‘not doing’ (to include stopping Facebook, Come Dine With Me, pointless job applications etc) and being a bit moe disciplined. Yes, two hours in stunning countryside walking and figuring (with voice-memo in phone on tap to record thoughts and changes as I wandered over hills - good discovery!) might be more attractive than the 10.31 to London Bridge, but you have to take what you can where where you (though I concede it is far from ideal).
What has the proved? That the time to actually write need not be great, you just need to have headspace to play in. Belief that you can actually do it is a start, but sitting and doing, proves that is possible, so…just do it.
And now, back in London, with noise, anxiety, deadlines, earning money etc - here begins the challenge. However, an absolutely key lesson from last week, putting aside the views, the space, the wood burning stove, the hills, the snow etc. was that when in full writing mode, I was only conscious of one thing, the world of the play.
So what to bring back home? Imagination goes with you everywhere, London or Northumberland, that doesn’t change, so use your time and let the writing, with the imagination, take you to a better place and simply play there.
View of some understandable distractions