#2

plastic granite table filled with phat beats

ridge around the edge

cut up yourself up

when you bump and try to fill this

feast of plenty

feast of a thousand songs

playing in plentiful unison

heartbreaking to soulful whisperers in the dark

in the darkness you look better

you can see you

how a book of matches keeps you level

you can see how you support the flashing lights

grumbling motors from faraway streets

yes, inside the bottom of a blue lit cavern

and below you behind a makeshift skirt

hidden treasures abound from journeys near and distant

hours spent enlisting, refining, the dusty discs

spin on the platters two at a time

transcendent sounds

banquet of healing

you take us to another space

simple as you are

we will spill on you

laugh, holding each other til dawn

dance by your side

bass makes you shake

fold you up and snap your legs back into place

you a lightweight so we just

hang out by the wall until the invited come again

and we decide the menu

Writing Progress

All right, so yesterday I finished a draft of my latest play, NANNA-SIN, inspired by the Ancient Sumerian myths of the god of the moon.

The story goes that two teens are the sole survivors of a village attack decimating their village. They make a pact to travel to the city capital to the temple of Nanna-Sin. One has a connection to the divine and the other seeks revenge. They cross paths with a priest in the House of Nanna-Sin, a lead orchestrator, who sees the potential to use their skill to make a political upheaval. The high priestess of Nanna-Sin is the one with the power, however misuses it to gain control over the people.

Anyway, without giving away the whole of it, which is what the reading on 10-14-17 at the EXIT Theatre is for (mark your calendars! 😉), I'm reflecting on a couple things I did differently this time around that I want to remember and perhaps expand on for next time.

You see, previously, my process of writing mostly involved swirling down the drain of imposter syndrome while simultaneously self-flagellating until the deed was done enough. After a recovery period of varying length, I'd say, "hmm there must be an easier way." But then, I'd return to the same old process and shrug that, "it must just be my process."

Well, how wrong I was about that! Here's some things I did differently this time:

1) Outline

Instead of diving into this good idea I had, I held myself to completing the outline. Well, at least 90-95% of it. The last 5-10% I was okay with coming up with in the process of writing out the script.

This helped SO much because when it came time to write, I didn't have to hold two different things "what happens next" and "what specifically they do or say in each moment" in my brain. I could get to the big story points and color in the details along the way.

The other thing was that if I discovered a new direction that didn't match up with a story point in the outline, it was easier to make a decision about what was the right way to go because I had choices. Not "this is the only thing at can think of"

Way more relaxing. Gotta do that again.

2) Collaboration and Constraints

I spoke with my director truthfully about where I was in the process and told her the story as I saw it.

A screenwriter friend recommended telling more stories as practice in… telling stories. I know, right? Like why did someone have to tell me this? But all I can say is that it wasn't obvious to me that doing this would have any positive impact on my storytelling abilities. Now it seems like a "duh" moment. Oh well, live and let learn.

So two aspects — talking through the story made me realize right away where I needed to work out some story holes and other challenges. For instance, one thing we acknowledged right away was that this story was way bigger than I had time allotted. So constraint #1, tell this epic story in 30 minutes and hit all the points. We talked through some ideas of how this could be possible. The story turns and transitions may be quick. I had it on my radar. Constraint #2, out of respect of my director's timeline and when she wanted to initiate rehearsals, it was going to be best if I finished by a certain date. Deadlines are always a good thing for me at least — though I am not nearly as good with self- imposed deadlines as when a deadline comes from someone else — especially if I'd be letting down another person or group by not fulfilling my end of the duty. Being on deadline gave me the ability to get it out despite it not being perfect. It made me make decisions that I couldn't worry too much about — should I really bring this element in or will people think that's hokey? Nope, gotta move on and get done.

3) Bring Yourself (Play to Your Strengths)

When you get into the nitty gritty of the story — this is where I shine once I'm in the flow. I knew I would be fine and could go for as long as I wanted once I got there. The outline and the deadline helped put a slight bit of pressure and narrowed the focus. Then, worries about what to say or how to transition from one thing to the next? Nah! I'm in the flow!

Flow Time!

And then everything is just calibrated to keep me up. Music helps me with my pace and to keep going. I personally prefer atmospheric dance music that doesn't have a lot of lyrics. Sounds strange, I'm sure, but there's something about moving my body to the beat that every so often helps me get back into it full force.

This story has a lot of ancient elements that I didn't know about — so research helped. Cool things that I learned like how the first author was a high priestess of Nanna-Sin. She wrote poetry and hymns. So interesting because when you read them, I was expecting more sort of exaltations of mystery but really there was a lot about being victorious in battle against their political enemies? Whoa, that could be useful. File that away for later.

And then there was the part where I had to just give myself creative freedom and say, ok I may not get this right the first time and that's ok. Like is it historically accurate? No, but if I invent something based on what I know, it will take less time. And then there were other elements I knew I were going to incorporate like the characters have metaphysical powers so it's like a parallel world where these kinds of powers were not thought possible but are.

Tons of solutions to try to figure out but ultimately I used what I had closest to me as a tool. So, in this story I brought in my influences from yoga, internal martial arts, and Hawaiian healing. Like there are healing chants/songs, a power that one can feel, physical protocols and methods. Is it representational of those things? Oh god no. My teachers or staunch practitioners of these systems would probably frown upon me if I did that. But look, I'm just playing. I can play with stuff and also practice it more traditionally too. No biggie. It made it fun to play in the world of the play.

4) Technique

There were things I did to negotiate between the largeness of the story and the amount of time allotted. For instance, there are some moments where I had to represent a complex idea — like simultaneous time with different space/characters or advancing one character's arch with not a lot of pages. And through the magic of the form, I remembered that I can run both at the same time. I can have two places represented at once on a stage. People have the ability to listen to a story being told by one character and understand another person on stage as a character in that story. There's a point later on that I'm particularly proud of too for its low-budget, high impact way of representing multiple worlds. I use what I know is available in most theater spaces to make the relationship representational in a 3D way.

All sounds conceptual, I know, and whether I was actually successful in clearly articulating what I meant remains to be seen, though at least I tried. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work and we can come up with something else.

It's All Been Done Before
And yet at the end of the day, it's all been done before. Someone else has written thousands maybe millions of stories with these elements. So it's not being created purely from scratch. Not when you think of it like that. Epic fantasy story that needs to be told in 30 minutes? A lot of cartoons do that successfully for multiple seasons!

There's something about the idea that if someone else figured out something remotely similar to what you're working on, it makes you (or me at least) feel like, ok well I can probably figure it out. At least an aspect of it! I mean I'm not trying to be a super amazing great writer all in one go, but, you know, occasionally people laugh at my jokes, think I represented a particular scene or moment in life well, or opened their eyes to a new perspective. Those things are all things that not just my mom and dad have told me.

😊

light from a distance 

floating cloud

drifts into the night

stars twinkling above

soft sounds from the waves 

water below

still as the image of the moon

patterned brightly in pieces

acros the floor of endless water

and in the quiet calm

the edge

far to distant to be seen

there is the tinge of purple

as the light from a new dawn waits

patiently 

quietly 

when its light will fill the sky

and we will gasp

would you look at that!

pointing overhead with such wonder and such joy

for the world is filled with such beautiful moments 

watching the moon move

i watch

small

as the moon

bright light 

big against the darky sky

drifts

changes faces

changes perspectives 

the way it moves across

smooth

like a ship on calm waters

deliberately 

it moves with purpose

i watch it

tracking it

learning from the moon

how to be so smooth

the time for rebuilding

night time is for recalibration 

body breaks into a million pieces before the sun rises

when it does

i go to collect them

the heart goes first

the nice thing is that it’s the first thing to come back

and it’s beating distinctly by the time the rest of the body is in order

night time is a time of reorganization 

memories solidify

information downloaded into muscles, sinews, bones

but you never remember where you are in the split second that you regain consciousness 

the realization dawns

when you’re lucky

when it’s quiet

you can segue into morning

past the darkest hour

into the first light of day

sun around the corner

coming up from the mountain 

and as the rays of light fill the sky

that’s when the body comes back to place

it has rested

it has recovered

it has reassembled

in order to live a new day

big dreams within the stars

you could cast a net across the night sky

and find millions of blinking glittery light

the kind that twinkles 

and makes the dark blue sky look like the most amazing garment 

inside each light 

a different kind of wish

different kind of dream

but not to worry

there are so many stars in the sky

like grains of sand

so when you need to dream big

the sky has you

can help you out there

can give you what you need

the moon’s sense of humor

tonight the moon is only a sliver

yet i can see its outline

it shadow glows against the backdrop of night 

not much illumination is needed to see its full shape

yes, the moon seems very close tonight

like i could reach out and boop

pluck it from the sky

like a blueberry 

or a marble

and it points to down below 

with its fingernail

it’s hidding something behind that smile

saying to us 

loud whispering 

look over here!

so bright

the moon can’t be subtle 

not with all that glow

no, but it would laugh if it could hear this poem

and nod

yes, the moon has an occasional sense of humor 

why do you think it “disappears” every so often?

haha, moon

caught you in your joke

i see your sideways smile

and it makes me smile too

half moon bay

the ground almost ate my shoes today

i thought i would slip off into the dark viscous goo that threatened to mutilate my new shoes

it was a poor choice in hindsight 

but shoes will collect dust

and become worn at some point

i saw the most amazing sunset

with clouds long and thin

purple lavender pink edges

a density that seemed so thick

and yet closer to us 

just the whispers of mist drifting across beach grasses

fluttering in the wind

at one point i looked into a car and saw a face who wasn’t there when i looked more closely 

it’s quieter here

i’ve always liked that

i’ve always liked how the main attraction is the sky

starlight not hidden by the glow of convenience stores and traffic

and i can hear the sound of waves

of wind

i can hear words

and the glow of lamps within windows against the night sky

more beautiful than any kind of orchestrated artistry i could imagine

it’s very soft here

the beauty in darkness 

in darkness there is wonder

you should never be afraid when the sun goes down

because we are never alone

we have the sky that fills our minds with conplex thoughts 

imagination 

rebirth happens in this space

this is a place of quiet

of respite

of care

it has the promise of a beautiful dawn

it has the expansiveness that we can never fathom

no eyesight needed

because to truly see in the dark 

is to know

when you know 

you can go deep

never look back

and make a leap that seems impossible 

in between evening

i’m going to tell you about the evening sky

orange turned to dusty blue

and last lights of the day 

glow on the green 

stretching into forever

where commuting traffic twinkles creating a river

cuts through low hills of grasses 

turned golden from the summer heat

i’m going to tell you about how the last steps up to the sidewalk

where passengers walk quickly to the next thing

to cars that speed away into the distance

to the windowed doors with fingerprint smudges

to the dimly lit empty elevators

empty halls that stretch endlessly

days pass as you walk and walk

each step takes you closer but so far to go

until finally the door opens

and there is instant relief

there is serenity 

half moon in the sky 

bright

so bright i can see the edges 

like i’m looking into a telescope 

oh, thank you, moon, there you are!

night keeps gently covering the land

but for now there is still the hint of an orange in the sky

and i can see the horizon

where the last light meets the hills

the moment where the day is done