Sunday, 21 August 2011

Multi-tasking Metaphors

I have a tendency to multi task. In fact I’m a bit of an obsessive multi tasker to the extent that I multi task myself into confusion. I can quite often be found staring blankly into space with several random objects in my hand; a duster, a plant, a notebook, tomato plant leaves.

This will be because in the process of cleaning the shower, I decide to give the bathroom a thorough clean, whilst cleaning the window-sill, I realise that the plants need watering, watering the plants I decide to dust the aspidestera leaves, dusting the leaves I decide the plant needs repotting, repotting the plant I notice that the tomato plant shoots need cutting off, cutting off the tomato plant shoots, I have a thought about a writing project, walking up the stairs to the study I decide the stairs need hovering. Then my brain stops and I’ll stand there with hoover at my feet, duster, plant, notebook, tomato plant leaves around me. I’ll be lost in a world of wondering what was I doing then I look about and it will come back to me and I'll retrace my steps and go back to each thing and focus on finishing, trying really hard not to start anything new.

This very much describes my writing process. Over the past few years I've tried to make myself focus, not let myself get distracted by new ideas, competitions, submission calls. I've also tried to make myself focus on one medium at a time, radio or tv or theatre or film. But I just can't do it, it's part of who I am as a writer and a person.

So instead I'm embracing that need for multiple projects and mediums. In fact I've recently embraced my biggest project yet. This project stems from me dithering for the last year or so about whether to do a PhD in Scriptwriting. Not because I think it will improve my scriptwriting but because I'm shallow. Several of my friends are doing PhD's and basically I want to join the Dr gang. Now in order to be a Dr of Scriptwriting I needed to find a large enough subject for about 5 years of research and writing and one thought I'd played with was using the same source material written for television, film, theatre and radio whilst exploring the differences that each medium demanded on the source material. In order to do this the source material had to be pretty vast to stand up to be being repeatedly mined to fuel the telling of the story in each of those mediums.

And then it struck me that most of the writing that I did in my formative years had one subject at its core - life in a mining community. A multitude of (sub)subjects had branched from that one but that was the essence. I've not explored the subject for a while because I and my life had moved on but in the corner of my study is several crates full of notes, research, several short stories, a play, a novel. All of it is rough, naive and very inexperienced writing but there's lots of great little ideas, characters, moments.

So I've started to draw on this archive of the life of a northern mining town and map out how I would tell the story as radio, theatre, film and television. It's a bloody huge project whilst also; completing the second draft of my mentoring project play, finishing the first draft of my writers group showcase play and also trying to get something completed for two competitions (one radio, one short film) but I'm in multi-tasking writers heaven. I also keep getting those great little epiphany moments when all the little threads just weave together and you find yourself with themes, metaphors and multiple layers. There is every possibly that I will implode (i was thinking of using cave in there but that would be stetching the mining imagery a little far) but it'll be fun while it lasts.