Friday, 16 November 2012

Watching sunrise over Hackney Marshes


Since the end of September I've done a workshop or conference or training event every weekend except one; Dirty Protest workshop with Tim Price on structure, Ty Newydd Mentoring project with Kaite O'Reilly, Radio Writing masterclass with Alan Harris, London Screenwriters Festival and Radio Writing masterclass with Dan Rebellato. In the midst of this I've launched a production company Scriptography Productions, organised the first scratch night and been dense in production preperation for the first Scriptography Productions project a new full length play by Catrin Fflur Huws called To Kill a Machine. With all this going on there hasn't been time to even write a blog let alone creatively write. Every single one of the events has been brilliant.

Tim Price, writer of Radicalisation of Bradley Manning for National Theatre Wales amongst others and also writer of Switch on ITV2 at the moment (if you haven't watched Switch then do, immediately), talked about inciting incidents, mid-points and obligatory scenes that really made it click for me in terms of using it in theatre structure. I realised that a play I've been struggling to end was a struggle because it either has the wrong beginning or I need to write a different play.

Kaite O'Reilly, well she's Kaite O'Reilly, and as a seasoned attendee of many of her courses at Ty Newydd I knew what to expect and as always she delivered beyond my expectations - she was as always a goddess of writing tutoring, the weekend was the usual rollercoaster of exuberance, genius and straight-talking. I would not be the writer I am without her, her mentorship and her friendship is immeasurable and she's just so bloody lovely, and amazing and inspiring so yes that was an incredible weekend.

Alan Harris, writer of A Good Night out in the Valleys for National Theatre Wales and also many other plays and also writer of one of my favourite radio plays Gold Farmer came very highly recommended. Everyone I know who has been tutored by him sings his praises and always he's described as being really lovely. Yes, he was both a great tutor and really lovely. So I was very happy to have given up my Sunday afternoon for him and also to have stayed sober on a Saturday night so as not to be hungover. That's high praise indeed. He shared several of his radio plays with us and made us analyse the beginnings, think about why they were commissioned because of how the idea was pitched - he didn't actually tell us they were his plays though - sneakily entertaining.

London Screenwriters Festival was a jam packed weekend of whizzing about from room to room. Simply too many highlights to delve into in any detail but favourite talks were Eran Creevy, Frank Spotnitz, Katie Himms, Kate Leys and all of the writers at the writing for soap session who really made me want to write for serial drama.

Dan Rebellato, writer of My Life is a Series of People saying goodbye who shared some real insights into the process that went behind writing several of his plays for radio and also made radio writing seem even vaster than I already thought it was.

So there you have a crash course in my crash courses. Not a one of them I would of missed but I got to the end of it and thought fantastic - some time to write, finally. I decided that I needed to stop going on courses not because I know it all, because the things I really know about writing you can write on the back of a postage stamp, and because I think we can always learn more from writers talking about their writing no matter how experienced we are. But all this training is bloody pointless if I don't have time to write, so I've banned myself from courses because the only way I will ever learn anything from these courses is if I use them as ways in to learn from my own writing. I need to remember that I am, after all, the expert tutor of my writing.

The other thing I came away from all those courses thinking is that my favourite thing about being on writing courses and events is that I really love talking to writers about writing. Take the London Screenwriters Festival, the thing I really loved was spending more time with people I'd only briefly met before like Rhys and Anne-Marie from Wales Screenwriting Posse and Janine who I briefly met at the Dirty Protest workshop and being able to spend even more time with the Aberystwyth posse, Julie, Sean, Debbie and Rachel. But I also need to stop talking about writing and get writing because though I dearly loved the chance to spend more time with friends, talk to old friends or meet new ones unless I'm actually writing new plays I won't have anything to talk about.

Then one final thing, learned from the last few months, came from the thing I did whilst at the London Screenwriters Festival - I met up with a very good friend of mine who I've not seen for about three years. I stayed with her on a house boat in London and loved it so much on the Friday that on the Saturday I stayed there again. It was an amazing experience that made me see London in a whole new light, literally a new light on the Sunday morning as I watched the sunrise above Hackney marshes. Whilst on the boat I had at least two if not more ideas for plays which made me think, (I challenge anyone to go through Islington tunnel at almost midnight on a houseboat and not come away with some ideas), that yes as writers we need to be writing but we also need to be living. And yes it is possible to sit at your desk day in and day out imagining worlds but surely we need to occasionally lift our heads from the laptop and watch the sunrise over Hackney Marshes?

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