by Kitty Felde
Back when I was a journalist by day and playwright by night, I stumbled upon a terrific psychological tool to fight off doubt and rejection. When the “thank you for your submission, but…” letters poured in, I picked myself up off the ground, telling myself, “I’m not really a playwright. I’m a journalist.”
It worked the other way, too. On those days when police spokesmen were rude and TV cameramen trampled me as they rushed ahead of me on a story, I’d console myself by saying, “I’m not really a journalist. I’m a playwright.”
Simplistic, but it worked. I could protect my ego simply by switching hats.
It was my power of two: two identities, twice the chance to succeed. The double identity also provided me with a built-in escape route.
THE POWER OF TWO (me and the two lions that led to Rancho Montoya in the old TV show “The High Chaparral”)
I find myself using the power of two with my sewing projects.
As a sewist (one of those new titles that feels contrived) I like to have a project in hand, and one I can cheat on – er, dream about in the future. I have some lovely green corduroy for a pair of trousers for fall. I’ve cut out the general pattern. But before I can head to the sewing machine, I realize there are some fitting issues that need to be tackled, and fitting is hard. I don’t want to do it. So to escape the immediate challenge, I dream about the next one.
What can I make out of that crazy Italian racing striped jersey I found at that warehouse of a fabric store in Phoenix? A tee shirt? A dress? Let me go through my stash of patterns… In other words, I “play hooky,” thinking about the next project. And while I’m planning ahead, my brain is also organizing the steps needed to fit those damned trousers. It’s as if my creative brain needs to be engaged on something else in order to figure out the answers to the problems at hand. The power of two.
It’s the same with my writing.
I long for the times when my fingers fly across the keyboards, wonderful dialogue springs forth as if it was written on air and I’m just transcribing what I can see before me. Characters suddenly introduce themselves and insert themselves into scenes, as if they’re telling me, “Trust me, I know what I’m doing. Just keep up with me.”
Then there’s the rest of the time. Every sentence feels tortured. The overall concept for the script seems unimportant, trite, overdone. Some inner voice screams, “This will never be produced!”
Some call it writers block. Others call it a lack of confidence. I call it hell. I know it’s all part of writing. But it’s no fun.
My solution? I cheat on my writing. The power of two.
I spent most of the summer working on the audio script for the second season of The Fina Mendoza Mysteries podcast. It’s usually an “easier” kind of writing: you already have the plot, characters, conflict, etc. But how do you translate them to audio? I kept getting stuck.
So I decided to cheat on Fina with a completely new project.
I’ve had an idea noodling around in my head to start a new mystery series of books with a new character and turn-of-the-last century time period. It felt fresh, new, exciting. Research for it took me down new rabbit holes. Words started flooding the screen. It felt sneaky, like I was getting away with something. Instead of writing what I SHOULD be writing, I was sneaking off to write something new.
Yet all the while, my subconscious was working on the problems with the Fina script. Because I wasn’t confronting it head on, the creative brain was allowed to find its own way, thinking outside the box, finding solutions almost on its own.
I went back and finished the audio script. Yay. And the bonus: I didn’t have to start from scratch with a new project.
The power of two.
Kitty Felde is a playwright who also writes books for children. Her latest Fina Mendoza mystery “State of the Union” is available from Chesapeake Press.