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.

😊

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I used to sleep

HYPNOS: I used to sleep. I used to sleep and dream. Dream about sheep. Just kidding — I never dream about sheep. Sheep are boring and expected. Still they are cuddly and innocuous little beings. Eating their grass. Baa-ing. Wandering around. Eating more grass. Laying down… what do you think a sheep thinks like? 

Do you think sheep have the same kinds of problems people do only maybe their gradiation is smaller? Like sheep has blue, yellow, purple, but humans got chartreuse, goldenrod, amethyst. How do you think a god sees? It’s… indescribable. You see, to understand it would be touching divinity. It would mean that you’d have to die. Maybe then you could understand. The dead understand a lot of things that the living don’t.

There’s a seed in the heart of the forest down in South America that is supposed to be THE remedy for sleep. It’s been 21 days. Even for a god, I’m starting to feel as though something is off. As if I don’t understand myself anymore. I was looking for ways to get this seed here, but of course, it’s near to impossible. 

First of all, you’d need a guide to even find it. But the guide doesn’t speak Spanish or Portuguese so you gotta find a guide for the guide who knows the language of deep within the forest. Second, the conditions have to be just right for the plant to flower and fruit, or so it’s indicated on these numerous websites that I’ve bookmarked. Apparently it’s a really stinky kind of flower that attracts the worst kind of bugs.

I’m afraid of bites… Well, I suppose that’s obvious though…

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite…”

“Good night!”

Good night. 

“Good night.”

I can feel the world’s people go to bed. And I’m going insane. People tell me “just go to bed,” but I can’t go to bed! I’m racing once I’m in there. Ready to go. Better than coffee. Better than any kind of drug. I’m like thinking a million things a moment. I have all these ideas like toaster with a side container to make eggs. Dog socks. A left-handed violin. Shoes that clean themselves. Jackets that turn into seat cushions. I could go on forever.

I could go on forever.

I could…

go on…

forever…

Forever. 

I need to sleep. The dreams do something with all these thoughts. The dreams know how to sort it out. The dreams point the direction. 

And I stop worrying.

I walk.

I enjoy my day. 

I remember what it’s like to laugh.

And the deepness of an instant.

I see me again. 

When I dream.

I miss dreaming.

little change of pace

little change of pace. i was talking with a friend today and wanting to write more plays/scenes. so here you go… ūüôā


It’s a room that is dim and amber. It’s warm and hidden away though in the center of things. It’s a room that has cozy chairs and there’s one window with it’s blinds semi-opened to the outside world. It’s far away from where they sit.

In the distance, you hear the traffic. You hear the commotion of people moving through the streets below. You hear the flutter of pigeons as they fly to perch. And the coo as they sit, listening on the other side of the walls.

1: no no

but you were like really afraid

like you wouldn’t even look up

2: i don’t know

1: it was weird

2: well what did you want me to do, i-

1: look up!

2: pssh whatever

you don’t get it

1: okay yea maybe

you always say that

by the way

2: yea but like what you supposed to do with stupid things that come up that make no sense? it’s not like i’m afraid of you now/ and that’s what’s important

1: that’s what’s important

2: yea exactly

see that’s what’s i’m saying

like

you want to dwell in the past and act like “oh this is who you are so this is all /you’ll ever be, but i-”

1:i didn’t say that

2: no, okay

yes, i said that

but you see what i’m saying right?

like

1: what?

2: it’s just not all i am

that’s all

that’s my only point 

1: well, yea, i mean

i know that

that to me is like a given

2: okay…

1: look, it’s so much a given i never think about it

2: i do

1: i know you do

2: pssh… okay fine

1: what?

2: well you make it seem like it’s this goal to get to/

1: isn’t it?

2: like i should be aspiring to get to here

1: yeah!

2: okay…

1: well, i mean what’s wrong with that?

let me just ask you –

what’s wrong with that?

2: okay… i get it

look i get it

seriously
she smiles.


1: you’re a lot better now

seriously

2: thanks…

1: i mean it

i kinda like you a lot more now

2: thanks? 

1: no you know!

c’mon

you’re just like

2: like what?

1: you’re cool

you’re just cool

you’re a cool girl

2: thank you

finally

took you forever to say that

1: oh come on you don’t need me to say that

2: people do

they need some…

glitter sometimes

1: glitter?!

2: you know

shiny

something you can be dazzled by for a while

something you can hold on to

1: what kinda glitter are you talking about?

2: oh come on you know what i mean now you’re toying with me

now you’re just toying with me

he laughs.


1: okay

you’re right

you got me

what can i say?

you got me
from another room, a soft song plays. it’s distant and nostalgic, but something about it, while melancholic, brightens the air.

they listen for a while and then look at each other smiling “did you hear that?”– they both noticed something change and are happy that they both caught it.

San Francisco Olympians Festival– support a new play I’m developing¬†

I was trying to think of the various ways to share the indiegogo for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which is ending soon. I came up with a couple things on facebook. Ways to illistrate its importance to me and how it helps to foster an artistic theater community here in San Francisco. Then, today in the eleventh hour, I thought of my blog. 

Normally the way I communicate with you all here reading is by short story and poetry. As you’ve probably already noticed, I’ve been sharing a little something every day and it’s developed into a practice for me. Originally I felt like I needed to carve out something for myself with the lowest possible stakes so that I could share my creativity — specifically creative writing– with more people. I suppose because I get nervous about using my voice some times. I worry what other people think. I do. No excuses, that’s where I’ve been at. But the amazing thing is how using this “little bit a day” approach has helped me improve my confidence and become more self-empowered. 

I started this off because I needed a place where I could write freely. Where the writing could come naturally without any imposition by deadlines or writing contests or grandiose, ambitious ideas about publishing, producing, or rallying for my work in any way, shape or form.

A surprising thing happened.

People started listening.

People started following. Liking my stuff. Commenting and thanking me for doing what I do. This still baffles me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it doesn’t matter. And maybe the discomfort that I feel about it is okay.

I want to let you know that if you’ve read even one word or looked at some of my pictures or found some joy, support, or meaning in anything that I’ve put out there, I am truly grateful and thankful for that. It really does mean more than I can express in words. I’m touched.

So, what’s prompting me to say all this is that if you look at the rest of the site, you’ll see it’s kind of under construction in the sense that I haven’t yet put in plays I’ve written and pictures from productios, readings, etc. I don’t always share what I’ve done or what I’m working on and I want to get better at that. At this point, I feel okay in continuing to move forward and express that even though my hands are shaking, I have a knot in my stomach and it sort of feels like I’m going to cry. Don’t worry, I cry easily. I have tissue. ūüôā 

Later on, I’m probably going to either read this and cringe — potentially resisting the urge to delete or make private this post. I may laugh because there’s a part of me even now that recognizes that this is really no big deal. It’s just another step. Even though lately my life has been feeling like I’ve been leveling up and yet struggling to manage that.

All this to say that I do have something to share with you. It’s that I’m co-writing a play with a friend of mine, Julie Jigour, that is inspired by the ancient Greek god, Thanatos, the god of benevolent death. I think of him kind of like the Grim Reaper, but less scary. Like he touches you, you die peacefully perhaps. Anyway, we’re writing this story that we intend to be serialized at some point. It’s a mystery where Thanatos has been having these dream-visions that he shares with his twin, Hypnos. Now Hypnos up until this point has been able to sleep and dream, but something happened to make them not work the way they used to. Julie and I think it has to do with their sisters who are goddesses of violent death. So, in a way, it’s a crime mystery. They need to remedy the past in some type of way. We’re also playing with the idea of alternative timelines/realities and past/future realities as well. 

It’s very complex. Mainly, we’re just trying to go with the flow and be kinda stream of consciousness about it. 

 

crow flying
Thanatos is also known as the black-winged god.
 
That reading will happen October 15th at EXIT Theatre in San Francisco. It’s a part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival and was commissioned by them. So many of you live far a way, but I did want to share that I’m doing this. It’s exciting! 

And if you wanted to support not only mine and Julie’s play, you could do so by giving a gift here, in these last few days.

This festival is not only a great place for community, but it’s brought to life SO many new works and artists. It’s an incredible feat to have done in the past six years andit runs on very minimal costs. It’s one of the few writing opportunities I’ve had that pays me and other artists for creating. Not much, but to even be recognized in this way means a lot. It saysthe work you put into this matters. And it does. Art has the power to change lives…

I’ll leave it there for now, but I am going to try to post more about projects I’m working on. Take this as the start (or a deeper continuation of what already existed, if you prefer) of this endeavor.
Thank you for reading! Thank you for listening!

oh, idk i was just messing around with plays and characters…

It’s a summer night and there is a warm breeze.

G and H sit on lounge chairs on the patio. 

In the distance, you can hear the constant hum of the highway.

Well, except for H eating chips. H finishes a bag of chips.

G: It’s like I can hear the moment your teeth hit the chip. Like the chip’s like “oh my god don’t eat me”– crunch! Like there’s no escaping these teeth.

H: Mmmhmm.

G: I’m just saying that it’s like bam! Another chip just completely in shambles. I mean do you ever stop to think that that bag of chips has feelings? Like maybe you shouldn’t crunch them so loud.

H: These ones are good.

G: Everytime I see you now all you eat is one thing. Like-

H: Chips?

G: Oranges…

H: Noodles.

G: Like noodles exclusively. No sauce, no veggies or meat or cheese, just nothing.

H: I like what I like.

G: But it’s constantly changing. How am I supposed to keep track?

H makes the “I don’t know” sound and shrugs.

G: That’s all you’re gonna say, like I gotta keep guessing?

H: why not?

G: Because you’re completely unpredictable!

H: You give me too much credit. I like what I like. Last week, oranges. Before that, noodles. Before that… uhh…

G: Salad dressing.

H: Oh you are keeping track. Huh…

G: what?

H: No, just like that takes so much time to do that.

G: So.

H: So… are you trying to get something on me? Like something you can use against me later? 

G: What? No! That’s ridic-

H: Is it?

G: Yes!

H has finished the chips at this point.

G: I’m trying to get to know you.

H: Oh…

G: Yeah.

H: Well, don’t be mad.

G grumbles

H: Why don’t you just ask me some questions or say how’s your day or something?

G: Because that’s so boring. People lie with politeness so they don’t ever show themselves.

H: …so you creepily track someone’s food habits.

G: Well, I mean, it’s just one thing…

H:… there are others?

G forces a big smile.

G: What? Look it’s totally notmal stuff.

H: When you describe something as normal it usually isn’t.

G: Look, this is besides the point.

H: Okay, listen, I got an idea.

G: What is it?

H: A way for you to know me.

H stands up and pulls G up by ghe hand.

G: Where are we going?

H: Oh just into the world of my imagination. Come on!

G: Wait, what?

H: You’ll like it. It’s a little weird, but you’ll have fun.trust me. 

G: Uh… 

H: Just come on.

G and H walk into another realm.

Exciting Changes for Babs!!!

happy trails, my friends

Guys,

Wanted to let you know about some exciting changes for me that have been happening lately, or are on the horizon. You probably area aware of most if not all if you follow me on twitter (@bjwany), but here are some more updates:

First off, you probably all know that I was accepted as an MFA candidate for Dramatic Writing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. As such, I will be moving from my little studio in San Francisco over to Pittsburgh in mid to late August. :’-) bittersweet!

Summer Schedule

As such, it will probably be hard to visit me in San Francisco after July. I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be after that! Things are probably going to get pretty crazy, but here’s my schedule:
Tues, Thurs nights and Sat mornings¬†= tai chi and kung fu – sorry guys, can’t miss this since i’m gearing up for a double test in July!
June 7th Рbook release for SF Olympians Fest at the Exit Theater at 8:30 PM. https://www.facebook.com/events/387541187963322/
June 14th Рlast day to donate on indiegogo to the SF Olympians Festival III. Share it! https://www.facebook.com/events/203903426397019/
June 15th РJune Literary Clown Foolery. SF Olympians at the Booksmith from 8 to 9:30 PM https://www.facebook.com/events/231438463615532/
first weekend of July Рpossible 108 Heroes event! Stay tuned! http://108-hero.com/
July 14 Рdouble test for kung fu! (omg, hope i pass!!)
July 26th¬†– Opening for¬†It’s All in the Mix¬†(7/26 to 8/11 on Thur, Fri and Sat – location TBD)
Aug 11th¬†– Closing for¬†It’s All in the Mix¬†(and possible good-bye party??)
San Francisco Olympians Festival III:
If you haven’t already donated to the indiegogo page, we’re currently $973 short with only 8 days left to go. I am honored to have been commissioned to¬†write a one-act play for the goddess, Hera, in this year’s festival and had the opportunity to serve as the box office manager last year. Everything about it is great, guys. The artwork, the writers, the partnerships within the community. It’s a fun time and I hope you will consider contributing even the smallest amount. It helps a lot. Namely, it pays for the space to do the festival in the first place, for us to keep ticket prices low ($10 -what??!), and anything over our goal gets re-distributed to those involved in the festival (artists getting paid to do their craft??! That is insane!). FYI, my play is scheduled to be read on¬†December 19th. SAVE THE DATE!
Check out the indiegogo page here: http://www.indiegogo.com/SFOlympiansIII
And if you want to see my bio and what I have planned for my play about Hera, you can read it here (also, there is a HUGE picture of me…):¬†http://www.sfolympians.com/?page_id=849
It’s All in the Mix
Guys, this is my first full-length play in production by¬†All Terrain Theater! I’m fortunate enough to work with some AMAZINGLY talented artists to bring this production – the culmination of maybe eight plus years – to fruition. It would mean a lot to me if you could support this. I just found out today that we did not get the grant we were hoping to cover part of the costs, so everything is going to be¬†extremely¬†bare bones. No worries there. Love theater that is bare bones! But let me tell you a couple cool things about this production: it’s a love story about DJs, it’ll be a site specific work probably at a club, bar or cafe, it will be music-oriented and interactive, and probably unlike a lot of theater you’re either used to or expect! And, I’ve been working extremely hard at this (for the past eight years…) so, if you can come see it, if you can support it financially, if you can spread the word, that would mean the world to me.
I don’t have a ton of details for it right now, but hit me up if you want me to keep you in the loop (or follow me on twitter). What we do know is that we’re working with a couple former/current students at Laney College and that the director and producer are¬†incredibly¬†suited towards this production, we’ll probably involve a DJ (or maybe more!), and the dates are¬†July 26 to August 11th¬†on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Support if you can:
If anyone has the capacity and inclination to support either (OR BOTH!) of these projects with a challenge grant, I know that works at my job at Second Harvest Food Bank, and I think we could do it on a much smaller scale for these projects. Both have reasonable, achievable budgets of under $10,000. Hit me up if you’re interested in¬†offering up a challenge gift¬†for these projects. I’m thinking even a gift as low as $50 to $100 we could help make work with this type of fundraising. I’m thinking if we could get a small group together, that would help encourage people to give.
Also, if you know anyone who would be a good person for me or my crew to talk to¬†regarding partnerships¬†for the SF Olympians Festival III and¬†It’s All in the Mix, please let me know!!
  • Please spread the word about both of these events to your networks. That’s cheap ($0!!) and easy, and helps out A LOT!
  • Consider a financial contribution
  • Get in touch with me before I leave SF!!
  • Come out and see both plays!!
Follow My Blog!
And finally, follow me on my blog at¬†https://dynamicsofgroove.wordpress.com/. I’ve been slacking as of late, but more updates/posts soon. Including a calendar of events! I’ve been inspired…
All right, everyone! Thank you so much for supporting me on this path. 2012 has been amazing to me so far and I feel that everything I’ve been given this year is such a gift. I don’t know why that after years of working towards these goals that things are finally starting to happen, but what I do know is that I absolutely could not have done this without all of your support. That’s not a pitch. I treasure it more than a rinky-dink email could ever express. So, if nothing else, thank you all for helping me get to this space. I am so excited for what the future will bring and know that I’m going to honor these gifts to the best of my abilities.
I love you all!
-Barbara
aka
Babs
My last month at work.