#5

more confused than angry

more stuffed away than needing to speak

more afraid of meaning than feeling

more resentful than righteous

more betrayed than mistrustful

more disgusted than indulgent

more agitated

more disappointed

more hurt

more angry about the understanding than the experiencing

such a fleeting moment

it lingers longer than is comfortable

then is washed away by song

and sun

and tomorrow

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.

😊

go-to song

my go-to song on play

volume up

don’t care how often i play it

because it’s never enough

song will always go

and i have no favorite part

because it is all my favorite 

i listen and i am whole again

there is no other music

song makes me look to the heavens

question my sanity

my sobriety 

my reality

until i realize that none of that matters

because song is what it is

i hear a new lyric every time i listen

even though i know it

by heart

i can anticipate its groove 

and enjoy where it takes me

look around to the world that isn’t so bad 

sometimes 

even when it can be pretty bad

sometimes 

i remember this when i have nothing

which is always

we always have nothing 

but you can enjoy a moment every now and again

that is an element that is in this song

as everything is

and the timbre of the music swirls around

until there is no escape from what music brings

song is a different world 

that i can’t begin to comprehend 

play this song for strength of vision

bounce

this song will hypnotize

this is the song you tell your problems to

it is a patient listener

but don’t surprised if it moves around while you talk

it has things to do

as you are in the same room as this song

you notice your heartbeat begins to slow

until the guitar enters

and it is unexpected and your eyes will dilate

you hadn’t noticed before the temperature of the room

but suddenly you do

the song looks at you

the song doesn’t blink

the song gets closer to you

the song makes you uncomfortable 

the song makes you question how you are in life and how you show up

as the beat quickens

you hear its message

you are engrossed

you listen intently to every sound

every tone

every note

every beat

and the temperature of the room it creates

a piece of the world becomes unveiled 

the unnoticed becomes noticeable 

and you realize you are in the song

you are no longer afraid of the song

you breathe calmly with the song

you see with clarity through the song

you know what to do because of the song

you know your purpose for today and all the days that are next because of the song

you repeat the song

you repeat the song

you repeat the song

you repeat the song

until it fades to quiet

playing songs

i have a song with cello

it contains samples

its beat is slow and soothing 

there is a piano that plays and feels like a dark lit lounge

an ethereal singer’s voice floats warmly 

the air in this song…

i can’t tell if it’s foggy or smokey 

but it is thick

light gets caught in it

when you listen to this song 

you are transported to another place

you forget where you are

you see a different side of yourself

maybe one you’ve forgotten 

you don’t know that i have another song 

i’ll play it for you after this one

blend it so that before you know it

you are in a new one

there are elements that match the first

the space you’re in will transform 

will be magnified 

will open your eyes

will vibrate with bass

make your body want to move

even if you resist it

you can’t help it

eventually you’ll move and it’ll be to the beat

you’ll blink on a snare

time your movement as the melody builds

and just when you’re into it

a sound that is familiar with itch at the back of your skull

you won’t be able to place it

but your heart rate will go up

and you’ll have no choice

you gotta move

nod your head

tap your fingers to something 

and that sound will build

at the moment you realize you like it

it’ll be when you figure out that i’m bringing in a new song

and you’ll shake your head acquiesing 

i got you

and then you’re into it

like really into it

number one fan 

because if you know

than you and i both know the next song

you can anticipate what to do

and at this point

no inhibition remains

because now you see

we both like great music…

so we can slip back 

enjoying the scene

taking in the temperature 

as the journey continues 

and the sound runs through you

power of music

music flows from the windows

and the bad notes

fall flat to ground

stick to the walls with their sharp edges

digging into the deep parts of soul

and hitting high notes that might make weaker folk

faint from the lack of security with the intensity if feeling

that sound

that voice carries

across ocean waves

through valleys

from the highest sea cliffs 

to the lowest floors of the desert floor

tops of pine trees and cypress needles vibrate with 

beautiful melody and harmony 

when voice sings loud and clear

the darkest parts of the world shaking

because light has found a way in

song

like a boat at sea

middle of the ocean

swaying

there’s a certain kind of pull from the ground

and yet you could be miles above the land

water

the silence that comes isn’t silent

but rather the lack of chatter

and what you hear instead

is a song

the place of hidden echoes

there’s a place few know about

it’s a special place where

sound 

echoes into forever

it gets etched into time

it’s a place where you can shout at the top of your lungs

you can tell the world anything in this place

and voice reverberates across land

across water

it echoes and barks back at you

the loudness of this voice becomes 

incredibly 

amplified 

it takes a while to get used to this sound 

the intensity of this sound

it shakes the foundations of being

it breaks all that is flimsy 

made with no foresight

no inclusivity in mind

the only thing that remains

is that which is truly essential 

what brings us forward 

what inspires us

you could sing into this space

and your voice would be joined by a harmonious choir

working together

to make beauty

an all encompassing

fluid song

voice fills your body

and your eyes open

sound that lasts forever

music keeps playing

echoing

twisting

drifting

turning

transforming

into the endless space

 

favorite song

favorite song comes on 

static electricity 

and the people that know

say yes

hands outstretched to the sky

lights turn to blue

flash to magenta

now’s the time for your best dance moves

or sometimes you just sit back and smile

arms laced in back of your head

close your eyes

nod to the beat

as it transports you 

in an instance

for a moment

you’re in the music

you live in it

favorite song knows how to get you

favorite song and the eyes glimmer

something dormant comes alive

something sleeping wakes

and whether you move or not

time stands still as it moves around you

world moves around you

you dance with it

you watch it

you see the symphony before your eyes

see the dance

synchronicity of every moment

perfectly matched with the song

the beat

and you sing

because it hits you deep

play it again

inside music

in my favorite kind of music 

sometimes you can see space birds

flying with sparkly rainbow tails 

paint the sky fire red

bubbles drift up from the ocean 

yellow blue and purple 

like a fizzy drink

and birds sing love songs to each other

songs of togetherness

like how drifting and swooping 

through the magical air

feels like the greatest thing

and to be able to enjoy it with someone else

is a wonderful thing indeed