the process

[THE SINGULARITY will receive its first public reading (followed by a talkback) next month in Kitchen Dog Theater’s new play fest. The theater is in Dallas, so I’ll be able to attend. You learn so much getting a script in front of an audience that I anticipate returning home with my head buzzing. Which is good because I think I’m about ready to start writing my next play, and I like having conflicting writing desires.]

Here’s how it usually goes. I have a flash of an idea for a script. It can be a few words, an image, an ending, a beginning or a title. I don’t write this part down because, if the idea is strong enough, my OCD brain will keep rubbing on it like a worry stone. Over time, which can be hours, days or months, this glimpse of a slip peeking out below a hemline will start to have a bit more legs. The characters will begin to emerge from the fog and snippets of dialogue will be tossed around like white plastic chairs in a tiny windstorm. I still don’t write anything down yet.

In fact, I don’t put words on paper until I’m ready to write the play. When that moment comes, it’s full steam ahead, all night/weekend, typing like mad…staring at the screen…talking out loud…delete delete delete…typing slowly…staring…typing fast again…blinking because my eyes feel like sandpaper…refilling my cup with coffee or wine, depending upon my needs at the moment. James tells me that I get crazy-eyed when I’m deep into a story, and that’s his cue to just leave me alone.

[My friend Lisa writes while listening to classical music. Her favorite used to be Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach. I tried doing that, but I kept imagining movie montages or that I was riding a bicycle through Central Park or shopping at Victoria’s Secret, and I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing. A lot of writers use music while they create (Albee also listens to classical when he writes), and they say it inflects their dialogue with a musicality. So I hope I can figure that out one of these days. I want to write with musicality and shit. I’m trying to listen to Yo-Yo Ma (no, YO mama) while writing this paragraph, and I’m finding it distracting. Press stop.

I’m back to my regular soundtrack. The freeway (which I pretend is the ocean), the whirring of my ceiling fan, the noise Dali makes when she jumps on the futon in my office (she farts pretty much every time she jumps up there – the curse of being a big, old dog), the birds chirping in the back yard, James tinkering in another part of the house, something clanking in the dryer. Perhaps this is my music, and I should be grateful to have it.]

The physical part of the writing goes on for a couple of weeks, usually. As soon as humanly possible, I pull together the actors I work with (and often write parts for) to have a reading with just me as the audience. After we talk about the work, I return to the computer for the next round of edits. And then the play sits until I can get it in front of an audience in a reading or production. That is followed by another (usually final, if a play can ever really be considered finished) round of edits.

So the reading in Dallas next month is a crucial step in the development of this play. And the timing is perfect – I’ve been thinking about the next play for months now and just last night (“in a dream”) the title occured to me. At this moment, on the Saturday morning of a weekend that is wide open and lacking in commitments, I have opened a word document that has a title across the top.

The journey begins again.

7 thoughts on “the process

  1. Go get ’em, Girl!

    The Muse-ick matters as does the Muse but with me, when the fire is raging, dump trucks and street fights and the voices of angels or a solar flare inside my head may color the first draft but it is only that, early coloration or the crap that I throw out.

    It is the fire that counts and why I suppose I never tried out for the Pro’s of prose. Sentences like that last one just come out and make me smile and then fade away. Theater is Timely; meaning not that it has to do with current events but rather that it lives in the moment of frozen instances of joy or desperate conflict or sublime wonder or just the frightening prospect of being here as it all flashes by and not knowing why we were put here to watch it all as it happens.

    Shakespeare is a dream world fraught with constant…uh, drama. (Sorry)

    But when I read No Exit I am faced with the real dreams that haunt my nights and inform my awakenings.

    Shakespeare would be, these days (As then) big Broadway productions and Sartre would be getting typed out rapidly and in despair in a cubicle in a high rise and read in basement theaters with leaking ceilings and sparse audiences who do, after all: Get It.

    Does this help?


    yer pal, tj

    1. I would much rather hang with Sartre than ole Willie, so, yes, this does help. And though there is an element of preaching to the choir when working in independent theatre, it still is nice to present your work to people who get it. The ultimate goal being to eventually – sneakily – get in front of those who don’t get it yet.

      And goddammit, man, you can wrestle words into submission like few others.

  2. Oh, and one other thing. If your new script does not include a farting dog, I won’t come to the show. I am poor, but I can sew up a dog costume using toilet seat covers and used sofa upholstery and I work cheap. Real cheap.

  3. I assume you are familiar with the character of the Pirate in the Steinbeck book. It is an out of context moment of transcendental wonder and as an old Steinbeck hand, I have often wondered what he was up to and also how it got past his editors. But it was a cool literary moment nonetheless.

    i lost my books in my second divorce and so i have to drag up all my references from memory. No big deal since I can type a phrase up to the ‘pedia and pretty much get it back. But thirty years of collecting some really rare and odd stuff got lost to some dumb-ass garage sale in Northern Indiana.

    Crystal, I don’t mean to overstay my welcome but bicycle writing for me has run its course and for some reason i stumbled across you and your brother and one is a builder and one is a writer. I just find you guys to be a comfy couch and a warmly lit salon and I would like to see your site become a place where little maniacs can come to get support and direction and I mean it when I say I am grateful to have a place to ramble about without responsibility.

    Hack me at trailerparkcyclist at

    Today was my brother’s birthday, BTW. I would have called him, even though he never called me on mine. But I was the big brother, and that job carries responsibility. I’m sad, but sadness is part of what we do. Wouldn’t you agree?


  4. TJC – I’m sad to hear that your blog may be coming to its own conclusion, but you’re a writer so I’m sure the muse won’t leave you be. It may not be bicycles, but it’ll be something. Until then, we’ll all just have to subsist on your comments hither and yon. As Tohner has said, your comments are generally better than whatever post appears above.

    In other words, you’re welcome here anytime. Ramble on. And happy birthday to your brother.

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