All posts by Jennifer Bobiwash

Diversity

I have been trying to write this blog post for the past week. I have started and stopped, trying to wrap my head around the subject. Talking to other people and reading things online has made me talk in circles to the extent I don’t know anymore.

What am I talking about? Writing about diversity.

I still consider myself new to playwriting regardless of the number of plays I have written and I overthink everything. When you’re writing your show, you’re thinking about the characters and who they are, how they sound, look and move in the world. At some point you have to write the character description. You know, that page right after the title page where you introduce the reader to your world.

The character breakdown:

Amy: Female, 30s, African-American, Grounded and stern.

Josh: Male, South Asian, Middle Eastern male, extremely handsome, winning smile.

Steve: 20 to 30 years old, all ethnicities.

Each of these tells about how you envision your play.  The character name, age or age range, ethnicity and some telling trait. As brief or detailed as you want.

But, recently with an increase in the need for diversity, sometimes an ethnicity or age is added to just add diversity with no thought to the actual story.

This in turn, leads to me to thinking who can play what. And for me, my plays are about American Indians and just writing my character description has become a thoughtful exercise. 

In 2015 Howl Round had a week long takeover by Native voices on the American stage deemed #InsteadofRedface.  A collection of American Indian voices as they share their experiences in (North) American theatremaking.

But what does it mean? #InsteadOfRedface? Are the playwrights the only ones who have to be Native? Does your cast have to include Native characters as well? If it’s done in a theater class is ok to cast whomever? And is Native not enough? Do we include Indigenous people as well and is it ok for them to play Native roles?  And do all the roles have to be actually be played by Native people? And how Native do they have to be? Like I just took a DNA test and I’m 5% Native, so I can play Native roles now ok?

So many questions.

I’ll keep thinking on this…

But you should keep writing!

Happy Writing! Jennifer

People need people…?

Do we? Do we really need others?

I think I have always been a writer. From the angsty teen poems that I would submit to the slew of teen magazine without a second thought to the angsty adult ruminations that will never see the light of day. I started writing years ago when a friend wanted to write a play. We called ourselves “writing partners” and met once a week for hours at a time. We sat around the dining room table discussing our latest thoughts for the week, then would set the timer and just write. I miss that. I miss the accountability of sitting with a someone, anyone and writing. I don’t really have to share my work, I just want a place to write with others, and no going to a local coffee shop where other aspiring writers are working doesn’t count. I want the possibility of being able to discuss a thought and I don’t think that would go over well in Starbucks.

My writing partner moved away, yet we still meet once a week via Skype. We catch up on our week, then set a timer and write. Having someone to write with is a gift. Sometimes I just need to say things out loud, to a person, so I am not losing my mind. The person doesn’t necessarily have to respond, because sometimes at these moments, my thoughts are like fragile pieces of glass that will break with the slightest breeze, yet I say them all the same. I guess I’m not that afraid to share. Sorry for that, I just had a moment of clarity while I was typing. If you’ve read my other posts, you get it. But if I can say things out loud to someone who actually supports me without worrying what they have to say, why should it stop my writing. Yeah! Heck yeah. Sorry again, more epiphanies of courage.

You see my writing partner is a long time friend, but we share differing opinions, and sometimes I feel my opinions may hurt her feelings, so I don’t say them. But when I do share them, yes I sometimes regret them because my thoughts…whoa, that’s another post, we have a deep thoughtful conversation about it and it helps round out my opinion, even if at the end of it we don’t agree.

So verdict in. I need a writing partner. Or even a writing group. I need a place of accountability every week, aside from checking in with my local barista. So if you know of one, please share!

Happy Writing! Jennifer

Day 4 of everything

Well, maybe those serene views and walks and this blog have been helping me. I am at Day 4 of writing, as well as Day 4 for of my 90-day playwriting. I decided to re-visit the book, as I will soon be without internet (heaven forbid) and what will I do with all my spare time. I mean aside from perform, which I was hired to do on this wild and crazy trip, what should I be doing? Also, after much pondering, and let’s face it, procrastinating, I really want to write. I have stories I want to share. I’m sure if you’ve read my other posts, somewhere along the way I have said that I am afraid of the comments. Ooops, and if I didn’t, cats outta the bag now. You know the conversations that happen, hopefully after your show, and not during intermission while people are walking out wondering “what the heck” that was and how they lost their mind wanting to come and see new work. “No, no honey, let’s stick to the classics, I don’t understand the crap some people write.”

Back to the beach….

Ok, peaceful moment taken. I’m back.

I just have to keep reminding myself that people don’t really care. Sorry if that’s a shock to you, but I think on some level it’s true. Let’s take my one-person show. I wrote what turned out to be a very personal story, something I had not intended, about my life, sprinkled with some truth and some fiction, but nonetheless as it was being performed I realized “Holy heck, people are going to think this is how I think, that I did this that or the other thing…etc. And lets face it, it was too late at that point. But for all the worrying I did about what people were going to say and not agree with me, all the thoughts I had put in my head, none of it happened. Ok, it may have happened but no one talked to me about it, so it didn’t happen. I was ready for the conversations I had imagined my work would provoke and nada, zip, zero, zilch. What did happen was a pleasant conversation with a lovely elderly couple who identified with my 8-year old character. Something totally unexpected! So, see. It wasn’t about me, or even the story I had imagined I was telling. This couple spoke of how this little 8-year old girl made them feel. And in my head she was talking about her culture, her loss of it, her finding it, and how she identified in the world as a NATIVE person. Yet this couple was non-Native and saw themselves in her. I try to prepare myself for conversations that I am trying to ellicit from the audience with my work. I think of both sides of the argument so as to have a well rounded view and informed opinion, but the conversations and comments I imagined never happen.

People are going to come into your show with whatever baggage has happened to them that day and they’re going to watch your show and put whatever their worldview is on it and their ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.

So just take a breath. Clear your mind of worry, and write. That’s what I’m going to try to do. ON TO DAY 5!

I wish you happy writing!

Jennifer

Checking in

Ok. So it’s now the end of March. It has been roughly 60+ days since my last post and my grand ambitions of 2019 goals. I just looked at my last post Moving On and I am taking a moment to review my list. Truth be told, it’s a list I had forgotten I made. You see, I have been here

ALASKA, BEACH

since my last post. How can you get anything done when this is your view? I am still here, working on a new project and I was reviewing my note book, where I put my January Goals. Yup, my 2019 plan was to write down monthly goals to keep me on task. But as I turned the pages, I found no February or March goals. Oops. I have written a few things. Daily musings of life on the road but no finished play like I had hoped. The 90-day play book I had started, still on day 3, the daily writing I wanted to do, of anything, non-existent.

But with this new project, came encouragement from the playwright in the form of a blank journal. I had just been shopping for a new notebook and here one presented itself. The perfect size, 6×8 lined and stapled. The notebook I had brought with me, found at the Dollar Tree I think, is falling apart. This one is ready for a new adventure. So, yesterday while taking my daily walk on the above mentioned beach, listening to a podcast and running lines, thoughts and stories running through my head, I pulled out my shiny new notebook, found a relatively dry log on the edge of the sand and started writing. Day 1 done and in the books.

How has the first quarter of 2019 been treating you? Hopefully better than mine. But I would love to hear how it’s going. Inspiration. Motivation.

I wish you happy writing!

Jennifer

We interrupt…

Ok. New Idea. Sort of. But where do I start. How do I start? What do I write? What kind of play is it going to be? How many characters should I have? When is enough? Ok, deep breath, step back, take a minute, take off the perfection hat and start writing. More deep breaths, panic has set in. I don’t know what I’m doing….

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

We interrupt this blog post for a tiny meltdown. Please enjoy this calming landscape, while we collect ourselves.

Sandy Beach, AK

Ok. It’s just me, trying to keep writing. J.

Moving on

We are 20 days in to the new year and hopefully you are keeping up with the list of goals you planned for 2019. But if you’re like me you have made abstract plans and you are 20 days behind in your daily writing practise do not lose faith. Do not fret or worry. Just move on. I know what you’re saying, “But Jenn, you don’t know what it’s like….” Please, I am all too familiar with yet another Monday re-boot. (If my plans or goals fall short, I say to myself, we’ll start a new on Monday). We have to be encouraging to ourselves, but we must also examine what is holding us back and why we cannot move forward. I started this year by making goals for one month at a time, with an overall goal for the year. Just one play. That’s it. I just want to complete one play tip to tail. It doesn’t have to be workshopped, or even read by other people, I just want to finish a full length play. Then I’ll worry later about submitting it, or having people read, but first it has to be written.

Things that will help me further my goal:

  1. Setting a deadline.
  2. Sitting down to write, no matter how bad it is. I just need a first draft right now. Writing everyday, even if it’s crap. I need to create a habit of sitting down and writing.
  3. Not getting down when I hit a stumbling block. Just keep writing.
  4. Having someone to talk to about my show. For me I don’t necessarily need feedback, I just need to say my thoughts outloud to another person instead of trying to run them in my head.
  5. Moving past resistance. This is where the gold is (or so they say, I have yet to move past it).
  6. Read more. Articles, books, short stories. Get out of my head.

I am collecting the bits and pieces of ideas I’ve had and seeing what magic I can make. Maybe an additional goal will be: Submit a play. Look for companies that host new work, my favourite, then it gives you an opportunity to re-work your show and see how people respond to it.

Did you set goals for this year? Leave a comment to share those goals. You know what they say about accountability…yeah, yeah, I know.

I wish you happy writing!
Jennifer

Still with me

Yup, I think I still have it since my last post, but on a much deeper level. I am not totally empty.

Writer’s Block? When I first started writing, I read a zillion articles on writing (instead of writing). I procrastinated in search of writing the perfect play, the perfect subject, the perfect setting…the perfect everything. The one article that stuck with me was touting how there is no such thing as writer’s block. While I was reading it I couldn’t imagine running out of ideas. How can you just stop writing. I have bits of pages with ideas from books, tv shows and conversation. I even find inspiring thoughts from social media workshops and conferences. My latest venture was to organize it all in the hopes of streamlining my writing. Grouping these bits of brilliance together to form something bigger.

But then it stopped.

The fountain of ideas running through my head just dried up. So I went through my notebooks and index cards in search of a reason to start writing. For further assistance I looked to “How to write a play in 90 days”. What could be better? Someone telling me how to write. I wouldn’t have to think about a thing, just let your fingers to the talking. The first four days went well, but then the holidays and all its magic happened and I stopped writing. When I returned to my 90-day notebook, the book suggests having two notebooks, one for your work, the other for your thoughts, I tried to continue at day 5, but I couldn’t. Even after re-reading the notes from the previous days, I couldn’t get back into it. So I did what anyone would do, I started something new. After a day of that I couldn’t get into that one either. Then I started to panic. Is this writer’s block? But there’s no such thing, so why is it happening to me? What else could it be? I am still struggling through a blank slate in my head. Ideas that popped like popcorn are now the unpopped kernels that don’t even warm up in the microwave and just end up being thrown away. Yes, dramatic I know. As I’m writing this, I am hoping my brain decides it want to continue writing stories.

I am once again starting on my looking at writing prompts in order to get the juices flowing. So I am setting aside 30-minutes a day to get this done. I chose 30-minutes, because that’s how long I have to keep my teeth whitening strips on, so it’s a two-fer.
With two weeks in to the new year, we’ll see how long this writing streak holds up!
What do you think about writer’s block and how do you move through it?

Happy writing!  Jennifer

Finding writer’s block

I think it has finally happened. I think I have writer’s block.

Deep breath and keep writing!

When I started writing, I was taking classes to learn how to write, the different genres and structures.  I was also reading books and articles about writing and from the beginning I read how there was no such thing as writer’s block. I always thought about writer’s block in terms of not being able to continue to write.  You know, you’re half way through your story and you don’t know what happens next.

But since I finished my last play, I have written bits and pieces of ideas and thoughts, but I never thought of what I was going to write next.  It usually just came to me and I sat down and wrote about it.  I would write and re-write the same thing, different ways, working the story out.  But right now, I’m at a loss.  I finished the story, had my characters yell and scream the things people don’t dare to say out loud.  I had found the perfect setting for this to happen and made the cast small enough to include all the backstory I had dreamt up.  And now.  Nothing.  I can’t even see the next thing.  Instead of writing a play, I sit trying to finish a collection of essays about the same subject, and am rehashing the same stories in different settings, trying to get a different audience to understand.

Right now I can’t imagine another play, another story I want to write.  When I was writing, I was reading different blogs and books about the subject.  Different viewpoints, trying to understand the story from all sides. Listening to podcasts and interviews, talking ad-nauseum with friends about their thoughts on the subject.  But nothing.  I can’t imagine that I am done with the subject. It still keeps me up at night, or wakes me early in the morning, usually at 3 am.  But why can’t I write anything more about it? Why can’t I see it anymore and better yet, is this writer’s block?

In the articles I had read about, they said there was no such thing. It’s a figment of your imagination, you’re just not working hard enough.   Even trying to write this on this blog this week has been a pain staking task.  Racking my brain.  What do I say? How do I say it? Who will read it? Does it matter?

But wait. A glimmer of hope.  I started this post on Monday. It’s now Sunday night, my last day to post and there is a story brewing.  While getting lost in distraction and procrastination this week, I found a new book to read and a different angle on my story. Actually a whole new play.  Now starts the ruminating.

I would love to hear your thoughts on writer’s block, because I’m sure it is not done with me.

Happy writing!  Jennifer

 

Let it go!

First off, let me start by apologizing if you have “that” song stuck in your head.  But it is something I have been thinking about lately.  Letting go and just how you do it.  After having some deep thoughts about what to write about next, I find old starts to plays that I never got around to finishing.  Be it from losing interest in the subject, or getting lost down the rabbit hole of research, these tiny gems of writing deserve to see the light of day.  Or do they?

When I started them, I was passionate about the story and felt I needed to tell it.  But as interest waned, so did the story.  I did not love it as much anymore, so I stopped writing. At times I thought I should just push through the pain and agony I felt of writing, but other times I would think why work on something you don’t love.  And if the latter is the case, will I fall in love with it again?

As I sit here sorting through my note cards of brilliance (as I like to call them) I feel the sparks of love that were once there.  But will the spark turn into a forest fire, or just fizzle out in a light breeze?

The next thoughts that seep into my brain are:  “Well, this story is kinda current in the news right now; maybe I should finish this piece”.  Again is that a good enough reason to look into? There is no burning desire to work on it; it’s just “yeah, it’s there”.  But I also don’t have anything burning a hole in my notebook that I must write about.  (Sidebar: what’s with all this burning?)

Why do I even worry about this?  Why am I now expending so much energy on this topic?

I am thinking about this, not only for my writing, but other aspects of my life as I take a look at what I have done thus far this year and how I’m stacking up with my to-do list.  Looking at new job possibilities and the freelance lifestyle that I currently have going on. When is enough enough? When do you shut down these passion projects that were once integral parts of your life, as expiration dates creep up, you start evaluating whether you want to go on or not.

So I ask you, when is it good to “Let it Go” and when do you push through for writings sake?

Keep writing!

by Jennifer Bobiwash

Done!

by Jennifer Bobiwash

I had forgotten the exhilarating feeling of enjoyment of writing. I have been working in a supervisory roll, meaning I sit back and wait for something to happen, and most days I literally just sat there. I could bring other work if I wanted, but I chose to sit there, glancing occasionally at my phone and social media, but that got boring after a while. This of course was after clearing out my podcast backlog. Who knew it was that easy to go through 100+ episodes of just one.  I had to start looking for other things I was interested in. I cannot tell you what a motivator this was to me and it made overseeing the job not so quiet.  I could sit there with my phone on speaker or just one ear bud in, and take notes of the interesting points of view from that day’s topic.  It also helped my writing. When I write, I try to work out all angles.  I play my own devil’s advocate. I should look at it as giving my characters different points of view and more depth, but for me it was to try and hit both sides of the argument, because even though I might share only point of view, I tried to construct how my argument would happen.  I never thought of this as dialogue, I just wrote it out, but realistically, that what it is. Giving my characters depth and being able to present current issues in a well rounded point of view.

After a few days of procrastinating and working things out in my head, I finally narrowed down what I wanted to say.  I also only had 2 days until the submission deadline. What made it easier for me was to write out the rant(s) that my character needed to say.  After listening to the variety of podcasts though, the rants were all over the map.   When I was finally sitting down writing out the scene, all the things I wanted to say were distilled and my protagonist found her voice.

Next problem, was figuring out how I wanted it to end.  I finished it and submitted it with a whole day left to spare.  It was like a weight had been lifted and I wondered why it had taken me so long to write this 10 minute play, but it felt so good!  The only drawback now, what’s next?

How do you feel when you’ve finished that first draft?