Monday, December 9, 2013

"Arthur! Christmas is not a time for emotion!"

I like Christmas.  And I celebrate it.  I know there are plenty of people who don't and that's okay with me, as long as they don't mind that I do.  Today's post uses a Christmas celebration as an example, but is not, itself, about Christmas.

This year I worked with a group of teens to put on a Christmas play and yesterday they performed it.  It was a remarkable experience for me and I learned a few things about inspiration.  First and foremost, when I originally agreed to help, I said I would write the play.  I was excited, and inspired to participate.  It didn't matter that I had never written a play and didn't know what I was going to write about.  I was coasting on the high of finishing two screenplays.  How hard could a 15 minute pageant be?  That "part of the vision" inspiration is very important, you should seek it and ride it and live.  Nano is sort of like that in the first week.  That sort of inspiration is what gets you involved in the world outside of you.

The second bit of inspiration was when I wrote it.  I had a couple of false starts.  I also had a little bit of accountability -- as in, "Jon, where's the script?"  Enter Delta Airlines.  I had to sit still.  For hours.  Might as well write.  And I did.  And it was neat.  The inspiration that comes from being trapped is real.  Stuck at the blank page?  Trap yourself and write.  (Or call it discipline...)

I brought my words to some beta readers.  Made a couple of changes.  Presented the script to the group.  Have you ever tried to get a teenager to be excited about anything?  Imagine trying to get a whole group of them excited.  But they did get excited.  And that first time they read through the script, and I heard the words I'd written being spoken by actors, with their own interpretation and personality... I get chills thinking about it now.  That was some serious inspiration.  I made that.  And it was alive.  And the teens... laughed.  At the jokes.  They liked it.  The inspiration of validation.  You can't survive on this alone, but learn to recognize its many forms and take it.  You are, after all, writing for other people's enjoyments, right?

Then there's the last bit of inspiration for the writer that I received from this project.  The performance.  The teens told the story.  They were amazing.  The audience heard and understood the story.  They laughed, they reflected, and they applauded.  Other people, people who had not had a word of the story explained or analysed, got the story.  We missed two lines.  Lines that I agonized over writing trying to get the message and the cadence perfect, lines that were distillations of many lines painfully chopped to a more appropriate length.  Lines that cut to the heart of the protagonist's character and journey.  Lines that showed the conceit of the author because you know what?  They weren't needed.  Everybody got the story without them.  And when I was watching I knew they weren't needed.

I was really proud of the kids.  They did an amazing job, something in the project inspired them too -- they went from lukewarm about the whole thing to knocking it out of the park.  I'm not a playwright.  The script is not formatted correctly and I didn't get any of the cues put in.  But that's okay.  I saw it as a movie in my head and that's what I wrote.  The cast saw the movie too.  And they translated to the stage wonderfully.

And what more could any author ever want?

1 comment:

  1. I was proud of them too, Jon, and of you too! Two thumbs up for you and the teens!