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
David Bowie died last night. That’s a sadness to wake up to on a Monday especially on a week that began with such positivity and bodes such opportunity for creativity.
This is my holiday week, a week I have set aside to visit the moors of Northumberland to write. This is my time to get a synopsis and some material together for the next stage of R&D for The Haunted Man. This is an opportunity to walk, write, drink wine, eat cheese. I am assured that I will be forced to stay in my seat by the wonderful Kim until I have something down on paper (screen). I acknowledge it is a luxury and a privilege, and the only way I’m likely to find the discipline to concentrate. This is an opportunity to stop worrying about the emails, telephone calls, cleaning jobs, visiting the gym, looking at Facebook (just f@@k off with that one) and every other tool of procrastination that I can invent (and believe me I can invent many) and just feel and write.
The past 5 years have been full of change, London does that, it’s also been filled with treading water, London does that too. This city is distracting, noisy, confusing, wonderful, hateful, frustrating and very VERY unconnected, well, I’m not connecting with it anyway. So it’s time for something else, again, and that’s fine and great and exciting. So lets see what this week can do.
And Bowie dying? Well, I’m reminded this morning how listening to Bowie when younger, sitting in bedrooms, smoking Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, laughing, dreaming, wearing stupid clothes and talking bollocks, was so positive was so creative. And we could do anything we wanted to because we didn’t check ourselves, and we were shown by Bowie that if one thing didn’t work/became boring/was a bit crap, you did something else. So, this week/year/life is about keeping moving and playing and making… something. Anything,. simply doing.