First off, I have to thank all of you who gave me a boost
and held my hand when I was flipping out. I feel a lot better about plowing ahead and finishing the draft, though I am beating myself up for not finding the time to actually sit down and do it. There's a fella at work who told me the other day that he does an hour of writing at a cafe before
he comes in at 8:30. I am in awe. (I know this wouldn't work for me for several reasons, the first and foremost being that I am not a morning person in any way. My best work happens curled up on my couch alone in my apartment late at night, though I do envy people who can produce in public spaces.)
Improv keeps teaching me great things about writing. I always have to work hard to turn off my writer brain when I do improv, where plotting will ruin a scene or a whole show in two seconds flat. The idea is to take a strong point of view and see where that takes you and your scene partner(s). A strong point of view can be as simple as "I need to hold your hand" or "I am always polite" or "I am a soldier," and it'll work as long as you let emotion guide you.
Donald Maass is talking about emotion
at Writer Unboxed, and he makes all the same points my new improv teacher made at my first Level 4B class last night. The emotions that cause conflict are inherently boring onstage: no one wants to watch scenes of people fighting, or people being miserable, or people giving up, especially when the audience came for comedy, and especially when a scene should be no longer than three minutes.
This is obviously not the case for drama. But Maass does have a point when he talks about a reader or a viewer sticking around to see triumph. And here's where I fret sometimes (can you sense a theme here?): I can plot like nobody's business. Plot is easy for me. Writing with emotion, on the other hand -- I have to wonder if it's because I worry about exposing myself. I wrote a play in college once, and was horrified to realize that I had laid out some very personal, very confusing issues in the text, for everyone to see. It was totally unintentional, and it scared me a lot. People loved the play for the most part, though. There was a lot of unfiltered, unself-conscious emotion in it, and while technically it may not have been amazing, there was something that made people respond. (It made my Shakespeare TA cry, actually. I was proud of that. Not least because I had a monstrous crush on him, but as a writer too!)
Anyway, the point is I'd like to challenge myself this year to be less guarded with emotion in my writing. I think of most of what I write as removed and controlled and plot-driven. I feel like both my writing and my improv will improve if I can push myself there more.