DANGER! You Can Get Into the Work, But Can You Get Out?!!


Susan RubinMy blogs have turned into mirror images of whatever I am going through artistically when I write them. So today I will be talking about doing the work and then getting back to normal. What do you do when that day’s writing is over? Here are some thoughts about getting in and back out again:

1. Going in is hard. I am at the computer, I would love to shop online, read my emails, read AOL news or do anything but my writing.

2. But I need to write. It isn’t just the looming deadline, it’s also a need I have to tell my story. If it weren’t a need, I would – play video games and call it a day.

3. I know where the writing will come from, and this makes it worse! I don’t write from my intellect anymore – I write from the stories that live inside of me.

4. I have a theory – that each of us has a certain number of stories we carry around as a result of the Life We Have Lived. I believe you can tell these stories by writing – like a good actor can access her stories in other peoples’ writing.

5. To get to the story I am currently telling, I trick myself by allowing at least 30 minutes of wasting time playing Klondike or Book of Treasures. I know I said I would play video games and then call it a day, but the truth is, the games are the way I lull myself into thinking that what I write will come out easily, and cause me no pain.

6. This is a lie.

7. Where were we? Yes, lulling myself into an almost comatose state before starting to write. Eventually, I turn off the games, and open the script. I usually take a look at the last things I wrote, fiddle around with a few changes, replace “the book” with “a book”. This is more lulling – “see, all we’re doing is changing words around, we’re not going to hurt you”.

8. Finally I will get to the real deal. Last night I was trying to re-write a monologue and had decided to write about a recurring dream I have about showing up to an important test without my underpants on. I think everybody has a dream something like this, so I figure it’s a good way to express the character’s emotional state.

9. Then I realize that it could sound really stupid – “I had a dream in which I was taking a test with no under pants on”. Wrong, wrong, wrong for this character. I insult myself for a few minutes, and then I remember the PERFECT dream: I am walking through New York City but it is NOT New York City. It is like NYC, but it is all covered in white. Not snow. Just whiteness. The streets are like streets I know in NYC, but they are NOT those streets. I am profoundly lost in my own home city. Yes, this is where the character is at this point in the play.

10.  Now the writing flows freely through my fingers. I read it. Re-write it. Change some little things that make a big difference. The better it gets, the deeper I go down the rabbit hole and into the dream. I am lost in a familiar place. I cannot get where I need to go. It is frightening. I am deeply upset. But the monologue is now very good. It will serve the purpose I need it to serve. The character is in a safe place, and I, the writer, am totally freaked out.

11.  I have worked as hard as I can for that sitting. I still can’t shake the dream feeling that West 4th Street disappeared completely. That the entire West Village was covered in something white. What the hell was it? Never mind. The answer will not come, the only way back up to the surface is to hit “save”, close the script and –

12.  Another 30 minutes of video games on the same keyboard I used to write the monologue. Then wine. And email sales. If I play games, look at cheap sweaters, read some AOL stories that pull me back to reality – then slowly the dream world of my writing will fade.

I envy actors who perform in difficult plays that pull on their inner lives and stir them into the emotional whirlwind required to deliver the part. Afterwards, actors can go out and drink and laugh with their fellow cast members. I have my computer, my cats, my life partner, and maybe a new sweater. On sale.