Wait until the last minute. Swim in a pool of guilt when you consider the months you were given.
Get on Yelp to find the perfect coffee shop. Consider the seating, the available outlets, the parking, and savory food items, which means, must have melted cheese. Remember: location, location, location.
Situate. Why are coffee shops getting rid of their outlets? Do they resent the writers? Sit next to someone who appears appropriately interesting (not too crazy, not too loud, but not too boring. Will they watch your laptop if you need to go to the bathroom? Of course not, you always say sure when people ask you, but you’d never leave your precious, half-written, non-backed-up scenes in the hands of others.)
Do a mental assessment of all those half-written scenes you wrote and decide to start over. New page, new document.
Let your eyes and ears roam the room. Listen to people: on their phones, in their meetings, deep inside their gossip.
Type up their words–dressed up in their inflection, their outrage, their excitement. Everything is copy, even this saying. (Norah Ephron’s grandmother?)
Ruminate over all the public plagiarism scandals. That girl from Harvard–name omitted here because she deserves re-invention; she was so young. The guy Oprah named to her book club. The ridiculous white woman who pretended to have a Black foster mother named “Big Mama”. You called that one right away after reading the NYT mixed review of her memoir. Chuckle at the memory of your perspicacity and your ensuing vindication.
Start to cast the play for the developmental reading, even though you’re not even sure which characters to keep and which to ax. Too many is better than not enough right? Send a flurry of emails, inform them that the reading will be cold. Keep the pressure down.
Crave a cigarette. Pretend to smoke one and hope no one is watching. Wonder why you didn’t do more drugs in your youth. Would your life have been better or over?
Fill out your ballot. Begrudgingly. Remind yourself to incorporate your cynicism into one character. Or two, why not?
Think again about your play–the one you’re actually trying to write. Make excuses–a lot of them. If you hadn’t taken on that second job that’s not even really worth the money. If you’d only started earlier. If you hadn’t gotten sick and slept through an entire week. If you’d researched better, this all might be so much easier.
Speaking of research…get on Youtube. Start with a relevant question. Like, what is the strategy of Voir Dire? Watch some lectures. Take notes until you feel bored.
Jump into a rabbit hole of court tv sentencing videos. Observe the faces of defendants as they hear their fate. Be disgusted by your voyeurism.
Turn your attention to your ailments. Start searching up about that strange skin rash on your finger. The possibility of early onset tinnitus. The pain in your bunion when the weather turns cold.
Get sucked into the ads. Wonder why you’ve been so poor when there are so many ways to make money.
Consider what it would actually take to get a flat belly. Or how to get flawless skin. Why are there suddenly lines around your neck?
Think of metaphors too. Cliched ones, strange ones. You are lost out at sea with this damn play. You are in a perpetual permanent press cycle in the washing machine of your life.
Think of alliteration. How cool it is, how crisp it is, how syntactically delightful.
Think of repetition. And rhythm. It’s pertinent; it relates. This is a patchwork play. Things, people, characters, they must weave through like colored thread. But order matters. And what the fuck is the order?
Consider your concerns about the climate. Why did it take you this long? What are you doing about it? Admit, nothing. Is putting it in your play a small measure of penance?
Think of the parts of a story, especially the climax. What is the climax of your play? Must a play have a climax? Can it be a series of vignettes that don’t actually rise to any dramatic moment of peril?
Notice the temperature. You are cold. It’s a cold world. Everything is a metaphor for capitalism and its grip on us. It lives in our bones.
Notice the time. In minutes, hours, and days until your reading, and by the way, check your emails for actor responses.
Map out a schedule, number of pages per day and hour until your deadline. Revise and rewrite as needed, as every hour escapes you and you stare at page 15, the place where you are stuck.
Go home. Go to sleep. Pray that your dreams will inform you.
Wake up early and try to manifest with meditation. Picture yourself banging away at the keyboard. The words tumble out of you. They dance on the page.
Feel the mounting dread in the pit of your stomach. Think of its color, its texture. Consider if it is gassy or solid. Can you vomit it out? Would it be better expelled the other way?
Google contemporary playwrights. Google the awards they’ve won.
Eat a lot. Think about the concept of insatiability. Does it live in every worthwhile play? Is it evil, good, or neutral?
T-minus twenty four hours until the reading. Remind the actors, they will be reading cold. Apologize profusely. Promise they’ll have a script by lunchtime.
Turn off the wi-fi. Make more coffee.
Tell yourself: a bad decision is better than no decision at all.
Cut and paste. Cut and paste. Sew at the edges of words between the jaggedly cut fabrics you are willing into form. Think of the word interstitial.
Look up how to pull an all nighter. Roll your eyes at their dumb tips, but do stick your face in the freezer. Then sit again at the keyboard.
Set an alarm and take a nap in an uncomfortable position, so as not to oversleep.
Wake up. Train your eyes on the clock. Remember, this work is for you. Remember, you have something to say.
Write. Write a lot. Messily, desperately, with both focus and abandon. Focused abandon?
Invoke the Gods. Ask for a miracle.
Strive for passable and page count, forget perfection. Work toward a semblance of cohesion, create a lot of filler dialogue to be replaced later.
Grind. Your keyboard. Your teeth. The hours into minutes.
Eyes on the page count. Eyes on the clock. Eyes on the words, the sentences, the stage directions.
Think of the end, which will really be the beginning. Get to it. Complete the cycle, so that you can rinse and repeat.
Think of the actors…waiting. Think of their frustrations, their judgments. You’re already two hours past the promisedlunchtime hour. Re-frame your negative thinking. Think of their grace; think of their talent.
Freewrite a monologue on the fear of death. This is the heart of the character; this is the heart of the play. This is the existential question. Make your audience consider their mortality.