Mystery Pen Woe!

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‘Mystery Pen Woe’, as I discovered yesterday is a very apt anagram of my name. I could have also called this blog post ‘Weeny Sperm Toy’…a more amusing anagram, but it’d be less appropriate for the situation at hand.

I think I have writers block. I maybe realized a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t know it was writers block. I just thought I was being lazy!

I recently struggled through writing the first quarter of the first draft of my first feature length film script. In the past I have written predominately theatre or short film, or comedy sketches. I wanted to give myself the challenge of writing for film. I love film, and I want that string on my bow.

So I moved on from thinking it was just laziness and started thinking about other factors. I have been quite down recently, and a bit stressed- caused by a multitude of factors. It got me thinking back to when I was last this depressed- in my late teens. I didn’t write plays or films back then, I hadn’t discovered it. I was however a guitarist and main songwriter in a string of very bad grunge bands. I wrote songs, quite prolifically, but thankfully never fully unleashed them on the world. Most of the time I wrote through being depressed and it was a positive channel for my emotions.(I was probably just a regularly slightly chemically imbalanced teen, nothing too severe- and my self deprecating would no doubt have been fuelled by my depressing choice in music!). So why now can I not write through a down spell? This confused me. Obviously depression can be a cause of writers block, but why can I not channel it into my writing somehow? Maybe its a different depression? Maybe I deal with emotions in a different way these days.

Talking to a friend of mine recently who is an artist, gave me a bit of an insight into the way I write. For him, painting is about process and isn’t so much about a final painting. I can relate to that. When he paints, he experiments on the canvas. He doesn’t sketch out a a detailed plan to follow or mix his paints to the perfect flawless texture or colour before applying them. The paint is mixed on the canvas. It’s about expression and experimentation. Normally I write for theatre, I am used to this. I find it quite a free medium to work for. The rules of theatre aren’t stringent. A theatre audience suspends its disbelief quite freely. I came to realize that often, when I write, I am slapping paint on a canvas and moving it around. It’s not uncommon for me to throw words at the page. Not literally of course. But I will quite often write based on a feeling or a theme, without necessarily assigning the dialogue to a character. Then, later I will go back and more analytically make dramatic sense of what I have written.

So where have I gone wrong now? Why does this project feel so hard for me? Why does it not feel like I am writing and getting the same release from writing as I would usually do? Why am I so disconnected and dissatisfied with what I have written? I am starting to think that my altered process has scuppered my creativity. Now that I am writing for film, I am feeling that I have to conform to more rigid rules in my writing. It’s a period piece. 1920s Sheffield, with a backdrop of gritty gang violence two cousins, raised as brothers become enemies, divided by fate. If I wrote that in the style that I would write a play, but expect it to be cinematic just because I have called it a film, it wouldn’t work. But then at the moment I feel detached from this more clinical approach. Trying to map it out in detail. Trying to stick to a dialogue style that I think might be more realistic. Avoiding soliloquies and remembering that there is generally a forth wall in cinema.

But then I think, maybe if I applied a freer writing style, then it would ultimately be a better script.

I guess the only way I can find out for sure is to experiment! I have another six months or so to work on it, it may well be a vastly different script by the end of the summer. Maybe I will try writinig each scene in two different styles, concurrently.

This weekend, my work in progress will be subjected to a directed read through by actors in front of a jury of my peers. It will no doubt be beneficial. It might underline my feelings about the script so far, or it could prove me wrong, and that I am just blowing hot air because I am just not used to writing this way, and maybe it is just as valid and interesting as my other writing.

Watch this space to see if my pen woe desists!

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