Tales From The Midden

I’m doing The Artist’s Way all over again, straight after completing the 1st go-round.

And now, just reading The Artist’s Way for Parents, I’ve had an inspiration.

JK Rowling said she only got Harry Potter writ because she did no housework. One of the many reasons she has my huge respect.

My inner police-people are too uptight for that, though. I can’t focus in a midden. So I’m going to adapt that and do something lots of others who work at home / write / create might have thoughts on-  ZERO small chores are allowed to interrupt my day.

At some dedicated point – with my 6-year old helping – it will be “maid time”, when the “maids” come in (us) & we do the jobs that olden-day “staff” would have done. Until they come, it doesn’t happen. We play, make, create, talk, mess things up.

That way, the niggling guilt can stop AND a wee man gets to contribute to making his home a place that we make nice together. Wish me luck…!

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9 1/2 weeks. OK, 12. But I couldn’t resist.

If you were born after maybe 1975, you might not get it. But if you’re roughly my age (a grand forty-four and a half) you might now be hearing a dodgy John Taylor* theme tune and getting memory-whiffs of a tousled, sweaty Kim Basinger staring in a confused fashion at all the identical rows of white shirts & black suits in Mickey Rourke’s wardrobe and well, watching things on a projector. 9 1/2 Weeks was basically the forerunner to both 50 Shades… and Sleeping with the Enemy. But I digress.

What I meant to say was that between Mother’s Day & Father’s Day, I’ve done 12 weeks of The Artist’s Way. And jotting it down because the last post was helpful to some people I like. And doing it all has been so helpful to me that I’m starting all over again. pexels-photo-127968.jpeg

If you are interested in this for yourself (it’s basically a refresher / CPD / spring clean for any one, no matter who creative they want they are / want to be),  you don’t need or want a list of my “achievements”, or some wondrous “before & after”s. They’re my things, and while you might kindly say, “oooo, ahhhh”, that’s no good for you!

What might encourage you, though, are these things:

  • I don’t crave “success” for what I do. While I still very much want an audience for my work, I know it’s unequivocally because I want to engage with people, move them, make them feel less alone. Not because a large audience / exposure is a success. It ain’t necessarily so, as the wonderful Ella & Louis sang (go on, have a listen while you read on).
  • I’m just excited & inspired by others’ successes & by great work – and I’m 100% envy-free. When I see any good work in any form (music, theatre, TV), or hear anyone I know do well, my reactions are “clean” – like a happy kid. I want to applaud, cheer, halloo – and there’s not an atom of envy. Yep, with a foot-shuffling blush, I know there used to be. A bit of a “gah, I wish I could…”, nothing nasty, nothing against the bod or the work, but there was a “what about me? when will I…?” And now it’s gone, which is bloody lovely.  Instead, now, I cheer it all, and am just excited to be in the same game, playing in my corner, too.
  • I’m excited by creative risk, after years of keeping my head below the parapet. That’s probably not uncommon for anyone, artist or not, after domestic abuse – as in my case – but it might also be the case for anyone who’s been shamed / mocked / belittled/ blacklisted for creative risks – or just felt like they crashed & burned! That could be from a teacher years back, or your agent never returning your calls. Confidence can be fragile, but creativity depends on confident splash-splash-splosh! I know in my heart that playing safe isn’t playing at all.  It’s just people-pleasing and boring and really not me!
  • I’m kinder, lighter, and excited about the future. I’m working with a wide range of new collaborators on early-days ideas, working out what we might like to plant in the ground. Some of that’s theatre, some film or TV. Some is community, and some is business. But they are all connected, with no false divides.

I hope – if you’ve heard about The Artist’s Way, and wound up here, this is helpful. Or if you’ve never heard of it, your curiosity is piqued. For some, it’s about removing “blocks”, for others, it’s about getting out of a rut, that old rut. Some feel like it’s a spring clean to bring back their lost playfulness. Others, that it’s peaceful self-care, meditation and self-strengthening. Here, it’s all of that (and yes, stuff has happened. Big stuff has happened, and more is happening. But that, dear friends, is another story).

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*YES! Exactly! That John Taylor, from Duran Duran, going solo for what was basically a soft-porno. And ye gods, sorry, Mr T, it was not a great song. I still have the 7″.

Really? Oh, ok. Don’t say I didn’t warn you – it’s a bit 1980s rude: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5OBXJ2AxSA

Fingery-Pokery – The Artist’s Way

scan0056I heard about it.

I saw it in a friend’s vast personal library.

He said “Here, take it.”

It sat on my shelf for a year.

I started it.

Wow.

I’m reading / doing / taking / following The Artist’s Way. It’s a course in a book. I’m fed up of feeling my work is stale, fed up of the negative pixies who get to party when I get  statistically likely “thanks, but not today” emails, and I’m fed up of the whispering mists of pessimism and poverty.  And that’s enough indulgence in evocative eurghhhiness.

Because this 12-week thing (I’m reaching the end of week 5) is great! Jolly! Freeing! Happy-making! OH, MY GOD. I’m the Me I that adult me thinks I was when I was 7! (Creating for creativity’s sake, full of curiosity, mischief, devil-may-care fingery-pokery).

Talking of “God”, it/s/he crops up a fair amount in this book, but don’t be put off. While author Julia Cameron has a strong faith, she encourages readers to think about their own “god” – whether that’s the “creative force”, a muse, or a deity.

So much good shit is going down – as they say here in the streets of Bath all the time – and it’s not all about improving The Writing at all. But WHAT a relief to….

  • LIKE my drafts the next day
  • not to be put off by a roughly sketched scene, but see its glimmer
  • have optimism and glee
  • feel not a twinge at others’ hard-won successes (yes, shameful – it was only ever tiny, but ouch, I wanted that Jellytot!)

It’s a bonkers example, but I applauded – actually clapped at – the telly at the end of this week’s Line of Duty. See what I mean? I’m so proud to be loosely in the same profession as Jed Mercurio, how could I not? Ditto the finale of Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch. Hats off to them and the creative teams around them.

Anyway, I’m also …

  • taking action, instead of putting up with repeated promises that turn to bog-all
  • bolder with my dreams, such as going for “front of camera talent” instead of “director” as my role at Channel4’s Bristol PopUp last week (yep; I presented, and I loved it).

So – is this intriguing you? Be warned. There’s a crocodile. Week 4 is “reading deprivation” – no TV, films, books, papers, voice radio, mags, emails, social media…

It is hard.

It is great.

  • I went to bed when I was tired
  • My bum wasn’t glued to the sofa
  • I did some great piano playing
  • I did some brilliant (of course!)  writing.
  • And now, I carefully choose what to watch at night (1 hour; maximum 2 if it’s quality drama or comedy), like picking a quality chocolate or drink. I pay attention, rather than lever open my ears and eyes to have shit poured in.

Which is nice.

😉

Alex

“weird” “new” “habits”

It was when I joked, “Yep, it makes me feel like a MAN!” and then the women laughed knowingly that I realised I’d surprised myself…

When I’m not doing fee-paying client work over here, I’m parenting or writing. Or researching for the writing. Or applying for grants, entering competitions…you get it.

This time last year I led the Rondo Writers’ Group in Bath. Babysitter ensconced (I’m on my tod), off I’d trot for the night. For single parents, getting out at night can be a pricey faff. But this year, as winter drew in, I knew I’d have to get out and went hunting for a regular babysitter.

Now one night a week, I night-write in a city comfy chair. Researching, scribbling, grinning wickedly in the dark. No housework,  TV, or small person announcing a poo. Just the project in hand. It’s gloriously productive and weirdly liberating.

Writers who parent, especially alone, for 2-3h babysitting cash and the coffee or beer, I’d say it’s money very well spent. I work intensely, freshly, with a sense of having earnt it. There’s no waste and it’s a treat.  If you try it, let us know.

 

Some sharin’ – great TV writing resources

All quiet on this south-western front of late, I know. I’ve been putting my 6-hour working days (school hours for small ones) to good writing use, then throwing in some extra after beddy-byes. All guns have been pointing at a new TV pilot, strengthening my screenwriting muscles and learning everywhere I can.

So, without giving anything away about boring old plot stuff (YAWN)* I thought it mght be handy to point any writers out there towards the handy  – invaluable – resources I’ve been using.

And my imagination, but you couldn’t afford it 😉

Anyway, this stuff is – combined with the other glorious sites on my blogroll (to your right, I believe) – seriously invaluable. It requires some spend of dosh as well as effort, but this is my career. I seriously recommend you check these out if you’re serious about screenwriting. We’re learning a craft and that takes more than just talent. It takes learning!

* So “not” yawn; I love this world I’m playing in. It’s been months now and I dream it. One of us just won’t let go of the other.

The Awful Art of Unwriting

[stories] squareI’m not entirely sure why but er, um, I haven’t written a speculative  screenplay (plays, I have done) for err, um, five years. There you go. I have no more secrets.

What the merry heave-ho have I been doing? ‘Cos I’m pretty sure I call myself a writer a lot of the time.

There’s been some very masterly prevarication going on*; so good, I didn’t really see it. I mean, I’ve been busy doing writerly things, including theatre script-writing. The wise counsel of script consultant Philip Shelley last week made me blush: “Before all else, get yourself a new calling card script.” That’s what I’m working on at the mo (this is my break after a 5h stint, I promise!)

But I’m here ‘cos I wanted to show you how EASY it is not to write your new spec script, day after day…for a very long time indeed, without even noticing.

Here’s Gill’s Blush-Making Guide to Not Being an Unwriter:

  1. A great theatre show might get your work some attention from screen professionals, BUT it isn’t a screenplay
  2. Doing courses and reading experts’ blogs are not writing your screenplay
  3. Treatments are not your screenplay
  4. Teaching writing isn’t
  5. Housework CERTAINLY isn’t (tho’ parenting, love, loss and life all do help)

These are all things you rightly want (scripts onstage, networking, learning craft, working with writers, a clean home & a balanced life). They are ALL GOOD. But I did them AND I AIN’T GOT NO SCREENPLAY. And I do very much want to write – er – screenplays.

So, don’t let those other things eat up your screenplay-writing time. Just throw them some nuggets if you must…

JKR housework

* Here’s the answer to how my five years got eaten. I’ve writ a very big play about “quantum mechanics ‘n’ life ‘n’ shit”, crowdfunded £2,000 R&D for it (thank you, again!); worked in Whitehall for a year (and various other clients the rest of the time); writ & run GLITTER KNICKERS (see earlier posts if you managed somehow to miss that one); escaped a Helen Archer-style scenario (you either get that or you don’t) & raised a 2,3,4 and 5 year old (the same human, in ever-changing form). I’ve done well in competitions, written 3 film treatments, run a writers’ group, had a few smaller shows on of existing work, written & pitched several treatments and done lots of reading about writing. And bought a house. So that’s the to-do list done. Now it’s time for the er…what did I come in here for?

Never quiet; always learning

Gosh – the sediment from Glitter Knickers has just about settled on the bottom of the jar.  The feedback just flowed in – thank you very much indeed, everyone – and in the next couple of weeks, it’s my job to package that up, with a whole load of metrics for The Next Stage. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, paid communications jobs have come in (yippee!) and I’ve just writ my first short film script. It’s an excellent discipline – I’m very much still wearing armbands. If you’ve met me, you’ll appreciate that verbal economy is not always my forte. I’m now a big fan of image boards, drawing out comic strips (as I did for Glitter Knickers) and running away from spoken words.

Y Grace bookI’ve also polished off a couple of TV treatments and had some very handy feedback on them. To make them/ others they best they can be, I’ve also  bought myself a new book (yes, that’s it in the pic). It’s stuff from the brain of Yvonne Grace, a TV guru of great experience who can be found here and if you’re also on facebook, here.

Last, my Jan – April season leading the Rondo Writers’ Group has just ended, with scripts from four of the writers heading into a professionally performed & produced show at Bath’s Rondo Theatre. If you’re local and have the wit to enjoy new writing (and believe me, the scripts, cast & director are great) you can catch this on 4-7 May, here! If you make it, let me know!