Wrote a play last week. How did that happen?

I was there. I shouldn’t be surprised. But, I kind of am. Because, frankly, it was HARD. It was HARD to write a play. I hadn’t written one in over a year. Been mostly focusing on writing TV specs and a web script. And those are very different beasts. They require a different way of thinking. A PLAY… well, a play has to be theatrical. A play SHOULD be theatrical. Or why make it a play?

I’m a member of the Playwrights Union, here in Los Angeles, and each year we have a challenge. Write a play in a month. Or finish something you’ve been wanting to finish. The idea is: write a PLAY. I did it last year. Wrote a GREAT play. (Really, if you’re from a theater, you could read it: email me.)

I had such a great time, I wanted to do it again. I wanted to write a damn play. Shake things up for myself. Get my self out of the writing funk I was in. (Because, I was in one.) I committed to do it. I was going to do the CHALLENGE.

One month. That’s not hard. One month to write a play? Even if I just wrote a page a day, 30 pages, that’s a nice sized One Act. I can do this. So I thought. I can kick some ass.

After finishing up a draft of… sigh… another police drama… I was ready. Ready to write the HELL out of a play.

That’s when it happened. I couldn’t. DO. it. I couldn’t write a play. First it was settling on an idea. I have plenty. I have LISTS of things that I’m interested in writing. But, at that moment, NONE of them seemed… well… very good. Ah, yes. I’ve been HERE before. The land of self censorship. Lovely. I spent TWO WEEKS going back and forth… remembering an idea, discarding it, thinking of a new idea, discarding it.

I wanted to be swept away by the idea. I wanted to be SO inspired that I had no choice BUT to write the play.

UGH. Inspiration. Totally overrated.

With time running out, I knew I wanted to write a science fiction play, because, well, WHY NOT, and I had a couple of ideas of TV shows and I thought, why not use one of them, because… WHY NOT? So, I started writing… And it quickly became apparent, I didn’t know how to write a play anymore. I was writing TV on the stage: short scenes, fast “cuts”, wanting to SHOW everything, and above all, it was just very, very realistic. 30 pages in… and I just had to stop. THIS isn’t what I wanted to be writing. THIS isn’t a play… (Before you all go saying, what IS a play? For me, a play is not TV on a stage, a play should be…hell, I said it at the top…)

I chucked the pages. As much as anyone can chuck digital bits of information. And then, I wasted a few more days…

The Playwrights Union challenge culminates in a weekend long reading of the members who participated. We sit around and we all read everyone’s work. It’s a long weekend, but it’s a FUN weekend. And that weekend was fast approaching. I couldn’t afford any more hemming and hawing… I HAD to write something.

I thought of a way I could make the play a PLAY, full on THEATRICAL, still keep my sci fi idea, and maybe, just maybe make something pretty cool. Turn on the coffee maker, turn off the internet, and start making pages. Slowly. A page here, a couple of pages there.

It was hard. All the instincts I HAD been developing where saying, this isn’t right, this isn’t what you do, and here, HERE you need a plot twist, shouldn’t we have an act break, you know, for a COMMERCIAL? When THAT voice came up, I stood up… took a walk around the apartment, and then, went right back to writing. And kept writing. Until a very simple, first draft emerged. It’s not perfect. But there’s a shape to it.

So, I wrote a play last week. It’s called Analogue. A science fiction murder mystery, where the victim and the suspects come from all different Universes, and they all look like the same man, the dead husband of the woman investigating. How did that happen? I sat down and WORKED. That’s how that happened.

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