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Prewriting in spite of traumatic topics

In Kirsten Greenidge’s Playwrighting I class, the semester culminates in a project where students complete a one act. I’ve been stewing on an idea for over two years now, and when this project that was longer than a 10 minute play was introduced, I decided it was time to begin.

The play is going to adapt a series of text messages I have that span over a year, when I was best friends with a person who was emotionally abusive and manipulative. I’m going to be turning this 5,331 page PDF into a play.

Since the friendship took place just over five years ago now, my memory is unreliable. Meaning that the best, most efficient, most accurate way to wrought this play is to go through the text messages and create an objective timeline. A few months after I got out of the friendship, I became obsessed with having proof of what happened (in the hopes of reporting the individual, not that anyone ever took me seriously.) This lead to me purchasing software that led to me being able to export my text messages to create the 5,331 page PDF–and I am eternally grateful to Old Me.

This play is a lot of firsts for me. It’s the first time I’m not writing a comedy. It’s the first time I know I’m going to do multiple drafts. It’s the first time I’m doing any outlining or prewriting of any kind.It’s the first time I’m really diving into dissecting this relationship since it happened. For all of these reasons, it’s been a very painful process.

The prewriting, for this project, is absolutely the most essential part. It is painful to relive these memories practically in real time, but I can’t find another way. I’ve tried to get outside opinions and ideas, but I’ve felt unsatisfied with all of the other options. I need to do this right, because I don’t have it in me to wrought this play more than once.

 

I’ve just begun seriously getting to work on the project this week, because I’ve been too terrified to launch up until now. But I’ve been working for two days–I feel like I should get a chip of some kind for being able to get through two days of work– and have gotten through roughly a hundred pages of the texts. This project is due December 1st, so needless to say, I am in panic mode (even though Kirsten has kindly reiterated that the due date is for a draft of an arc of the play, and not a production-ready draft.)

 

This whole post is just a roundabout way of saying that never in my life have I wished to have a dramaturg more. I am desperate for outside counsel and support, I need a person to help me create this timeline who I can trust to do it right, because it is so essential to writing the play itself.

But all I have is me. Dramaturging for myself is hard, and doesn’t seem possible to do while practicing “perfect” self-care. But it will have to do.

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