Being a playwright- finding your muse is very important- having your space, having your music, having your spells, chants, and charms around you as you write is very important. But sometimes it just doesn’t come.
My first mentor/friend in playwriting was Stephen Adly Guirgis. Outside of my mother, he was the first person who told me I could write. I remember that day so clearly – we went to this small pub in Cape May, New Jersey to eat and chat about a play that I had written and he had read parts of . I had no formal writing training, but it was what I knew I wanted, so I wrote blindly and with passionate error. I won’t get into too much detail about the event but it ended with me walking to the ocean a couple of blocks away and crying on the beach – really believing I had a chance at this career.
One thing I remember stressing to Guirgis was that I couldn’t just sit and write. It had to well up inside of me. He had expressed the same concern – he would get an idea and have to stop and write it down on a napkin or in the middle of the street before he forgot. There was no luxury in waiting for the weekend or free time. If it came, you popped a squat and wrote, or you’d lose it until the next gut bubble.
Now-a-days I have a stronger control of my magic and can force my muse a little easier. But I am a vomit writer. I will fill a well of ideas for months until it comes up. Most of my writing is done over a single night. To me, I find it easier to complete a play in one sitting (coffee, food, pacing, thinking, researching, panicking, showering, coffee, food, pacing, laughing, crying, talking out loud). If I don’t write a play in one session I feel as if I lose the sugar tap I was sucking from. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new tap.
I used to drive 14 1/2 hours to see my folks from Gettysburg Pa to St. Louis, Mo. I had to do it in one day because I knew if I broke it up over two days, I knew the next day I would just be driving instead of being where I wanted to be. Get what I mean? I might be tired at hour 10 but if I could push through the other 4 1/2 hours I knew the next day I would be doing something fun and seeing people I loved, rather than being trapped on the road and getting there in the afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing, but I also enjoying typing END. That feeling of accomplishment is bliss. The race is addicting. I have a strong passion for writing and I have a strong passion for seeing the child fully formed and breathing.
I was always ashamed of being a vomit writer and being jealous of those who could set aside two hours a day and always write. Now that I’ve been writing for a few years and meeting other writers – quite a few of us are bloaters and vomiters.
Something I have recently talked to a cohort about was writing in duration to let your subconscious take control. A lot of writing how-to books will tell you how to balance the subconscious and conscious to expel the first draft. There is something really magical about letting your subconscious take over for a while. Quite often the next day you don’t necessarily remember what you wrote but more often than not, you’re f***ing impressed. For personal experience, you’ve also become bolder in the choices you made. You allowed yourself to throw those characters down the stairs and you watched them get back up.
In end all, be a vomit writer until you can’t. I used to have a professor that told me, sleep on the floor as long as you can because eventually someone will ask you to voyage somewhere foreign and you won’t be able to. So sleep on the floor, experiment, explore, and write – and be proud of the type of writer you are.