Procrastinators Anonymous

Hi, my name is Jessica Abrams and it’s been a year since I’ve worked on a new play.

I’ve mulled ideas over, even jotted some thoughts down (you know the kind:  you look back at them in a year’s time and they make absolutely no sense) but no scribbles have given birth to characters who then tell a story, and no story keeps me up at night or distracts me from the nastiest of Real Housewives catfights.  And even though in said year I’ve produced a play of mine, written a spec script for an existing TV show, worked and re-worked a pilot pitch, pitched that pilot at various studios, had two readings of other plays, fostered a pitbull, deep-cleaned my kitchen and gotten on intimate terms with several Facebook friends and their families, I miss waking up in the morning energized to see what those kooky kids — my characters in a good mood (or me in a good mood?  It’s often hard to differentiate) — have to say.  I miss the exhilarating feeling that comes with creating an entire world out of a handful of people and a stage.

If this were a support group as opposed to a one-sided blog post, I would ask you, fellow creative talents, to share any thoughts you may have on this subject.  I do have a few flimsy hypotheses myself.  For instance, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I’m spoiled.  The last four plays I wrote came with an ease that I still to this day marvel at.  The characters in The Laughing Cow, the play I co-produced last Spring, ambushed me as I was walking across the Disney lot, where I was working at the time (and on which the fictional company in the play is “loosely” based).  A tiff with a 20-something hipster neighbor over the well-being of her cat spawned Easter in Tel Aviv.  A handful of ex-boyfriends came back for a few more rounds and poof — a one-woman show.  Spoiled or intimidated?  That’s the question I often ask myself.

There’s another issue here too.  Not (yet!) being paid to write my plays I have the luxury of being able to write what I want.  But that can create an added burden.  I had the amazing fortune of attending the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive two summers ago and the opportunity to hear Marsha Norman speak.  She implored us to search within our souls for that thing we are trying to exorcise — which is essentially who we are — and to shape our stories around that.  Find it before writing, she said.  Figure that out.  (And anyone who was with me that day — including Ms. Norman herself — who may have experienced that talk differently, please accept time and historical relativism as my disclaimer).  I think there’s a lot to be said for understanding that deep need, but I’m also willing to accept that those questions can get answered once the writing has begun.  Thoughts?

I’m always amazed (and a little jealous) at my friends getting their MFAs and how tight their deadlines are.  I know from the Kennedy Center that a creative environment fosters creativity; or is it simply being scared shitless by a particular professor? My point is…?  I’m not sure what it is, exactly.  Maybe I’m just “sharing”, as they call it in 12-step programs.  The truth is, I miss being in that heightened creative state — it gets me up in the morning.  It fills me with joy like nothing else.  It connects me with myself.  I think I need to jump-start a new play.

Or maybe I should look into getting my MFA.

1 Comment

  • By Robin Byrd, September 14, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

    Great article, Jessica…

    That thing…which is essentially who we are and shaping stories around it…

    When I was in high school, there was an article in a writer’s magazine that talked about making a notebook with dividers to have your notes, story ideas and your theme. It was suggested you should know what you believe — what your personal theme is — like having theme music… everybody has a song. I took this to mean that it would be hard for me to write without knowing what I value. So, I started trying to discover my belief system and wrote down what I thought it was, then forgot about it and went on with my life. Upon finding that old notebook some decades later, it was interesting to see what, a 16 year old thought she was making up just to get to the next tab in the notebook, turned out to be so true.

    As I have matured, I have found that my values do inform my work even when I write characters who are against them.

    I don’t think I am trying to exorcise anything although sometimes the writing of it does give release. I mainly want to share. As there is more than one thing, I am always surprised by what shows up and how.

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