Archive for Procrastination Posts

published in Creativity, Death, Habits, Life After Loss, Playwriting, Procrastination, Saviour Play, Souls by Maryanne | October 4, 2017 | 4 Comments

Perilous Playwriting – Let’s Air Some Dirty Laundry, Shall We?

 

 

“Be truthful, one would say, and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting.”

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Or…rather confusing for all concerned.

Picture, if you will, a boardroom table…

Six strangers are sitting around said table: a playwright, a dramaturg and four actors. All are gathered to read aloud a play script.

What, perhaps you wonder, might this be experience be like – for the (squirming) playwright?

Imagine a big pile of dirty laundry (belonging to the playwright) being dumped on the table and then the next eight hours are spent watching a small but determined group of strangers systematically sift through (and comment on) each and every piece of one’s (not only dirty but decidedly un-sexy) undergarments.

A tad uncomfortable?

Oh, you betcha.

For that playwright was me. The script was Saviour. And the “dirty laundry” was not just my chaotic thoughts and heartbreaking emotions experienced during the darkest days of my life, but also some marital laundry as well, such as two spectacular (but significant to the story) arguments that John and I had about my habit of procrastinating on my writing and my refusal to say no to unreasonable demands placed on my time.

And those were just a few of the facts (and the human response to those facts) connected to the real-life story. Add in a complicated plot, a completely imagined world (what the soul experiences as the body dies as the result of a brain-injury), and four well-developed but overly chatty characters still trying to sort it all out themselves, and let’s just say the script was in need of…some slashing ☹

Here’s a snapshot of Saviour:

Can one soul save another? A young couple, Sam and Adri, have an argument about Adri’s procrastination as a writer and belief in Virginia Woolf’s idea that in order to write well, women need a secure income.

Sam, a police officer, goes to work that night, falls through a roof and hits his head, only to discover it is Virginia Woolf who will take him to the moment of his brain-death. Meanwhile, Sam’s Sergeant guides Adri through the early days of grief – and tells her she will receive Sam’s wage for the rest of her life.

Saviour is about the need to live and die in peace – and just how difficult that can be to achieve. The play promises the audience a fast-paced, imaginative and compelling theatrical journey that has strong links to real-life events.

Though a love story, Saviour challenges the notion of romantic love and suggests instead the staying power of tough love.

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”

– Virginia Woolf


Although I haven’t yet personally experienced this as a playwright, I suspect a workshopping of one’s entirely fictional play would be uncomfortable. After all, regardless of the story’s roots, whatever we create is an expression of our imagination. It’s our story, our creation…our baby under the knife.

But add in the fact that it is based on personal events and boy oh boy, it can get really uncomfortable.

A workshopping of one’s play can be a very useful exercise (it certainly has been for me) but it is not for the faint of heart. You pretty much have to leave your ego at the door, put on your big-girl panties, shut up and listen.

The problem, of course, is that we can’t really leave our ego at the door. Like it or not, it goes where we do. The solution to this, I have found, is to take notes. Lots of notes. And remind myself, more than once, that I have chosen to be experience this because I am HERE TO LEARN.

In other words, my big-girl panties had to be very big…granny-panties, in fact.

There are times, of course, when the playwright does get to speak…like when one of the actors asked me a question about a character’s journey that I thought was blatantly clear. But guess what: if someone has to ask the question, it obviously isn’t clear – especially if everyone else around the table has the same question.

A good question – and there were plenty of them – is pure gold in terms of figuring out how best to move forward with the next draft.

I learned an awful lot in that eight-hour workshop, both about the Saviour play and playwriting itself.

Which brings me to my next point: I choose very wisely WHO I let sort through my dirty laundry.

I have been working with the Alberta Playwrights’ Network on the Saviour script for nearly a decade. Trevor Rueger, the APN’s executive director (and the dramaturg at the table), has earned my trust over the years. Trevor knows what he’s doing. I know he’s not only going to get the right actors to the table, he’s also going to make sure the workshop is of benefit to me. The learning curve for playwriting is steep…I need constructive criticism, honest feedback and useful guidance on that seemingly endless upward climb.

Yet at the end of the day, it is my play and deep down, I KNOW which nuggets of advice to run with – and which ones to leave on the table.

And how do I know? Because of the resounding “click” I feel in my soul when someone says something I needed to hear…like another little piece of the puzzle was just put into place. And since this particular play is about the journey of four different but interconnected souls – mine being one of those – this makes sense.

That the workshop was on the actual 17th anniversary of John’s death was deliberate. I knew magic would happen. And it did. It just wasn’t the fun, Disneyland kind of magic.

It was better.

Here’s what happened:

After an intense session of brainstorming in the afternoon, Trevor called for a break. But the actor who read the part of Sam (the character based on John) and I continued chatting. Or rather, he continued chatting. I scribbled in my notebook what he had to say.

Prior to the break, we’d all been discussing WHAT it would look like for Sam to achieve peace. Sam’s goal – what he had to achieve by the end of the play (which is the moment of his brain-death) – is to be at peace with his sudden death at the age of 32. But the group had been brainstorming about what specific outcome had to happen so that Sam could be “at peace” when he died.

Here’s what the actor who played Sam said to me on break:

“I think what would give Sam the most peace is seeing that Adri is okay…and by that I mean she is taking her writing seriously and that she does, at long last, believe in herself. He needs to see that she has become empowered by him, and his sudden death, to do what she needs to do, which is write. And when he sees that she is empowered and does, finally, begin to write three months after his death, he is able to die in peace.”

I nodded and continuing scribbling like a madwoman as this total stranger summed up Sam’s journey as it relates to Adri – and therefore, of course, John’s journey as it relates to me.

And the actor had more to say.

“Oh, and I think,” he added, “that’s what the connection to Jesus as Saviour is about, too. It was likely not the intent for Jesus to come back and single-handedly save humanity with a magic sweep of his hand. Rather, his job was to be a role model to empower people to save themselves and each other.”

So I HAD hit the mark!

I just need to make the story less convoluted. Easier said than done…but certainly do-able.

After the workshop, I returned to John’s sister place, where I was staying, and collapsed on their couch…overwhelmed and exhausted. I stayed there, staring at the ceiling and processing the day – until a steak dinner got me back on my feet.

The next morning, I woke up, dusted off my bruised ego and jotted down a summary of the key insights. Thanks to the workshop, I now have a clear idea of what needs fixing, why…and how to fix it. My imagination will take care of the rest 😊

You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes and failures. 

– Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life

 

 

published in Change, Dreams/Goals, Fear, Inspiration, Procrastination by Maryanne | February 12, 2017 | 2 Comments

Waffles Anyone – What Type of Decision Maker Are You?

 

“We don’t know if a choice is wise or wrong until we’ve lived it. We can’t ever really know where a choice will take us, though we may sense its direction.”

Sarah Ban Breathach, Something More; Excavating Your Authentic Self

When it comes to making big life decisions, I tend to waffle back and forth.

I’m the type of person who tries to look at ALL the angles. I write out all the pros and cons I can think of. I ask people for their advice. I do the research. I wrack my brain trying to think of all the things that could go wrong. But, of course, trying to determine all possible things that could go wrong – or right – is technically impossible…because we don’t know what we don’t know yet!

Sure, we can anticipate the obvious likely outcomes, if we chose a certain course of action. But there is simply no way we can anticipate all outcomes because there are, whether we like it or not, other variables that likely aren’t even on our radar yet.

In other words, we don’t live in a vacuum.

I’ve been waffling over a decision for quite some time now, so when I was reading the February 2017 edition of O Magazine the other day, an article caught my eye. It was about the different types of decision makers there are. So I did the little quiz and it turned out I am “The Waffler.” I laughed out loud…yup!

Here is the description of The Waffler:

“You’re a thoughtful person who considers all the angles…but now you’re overanalyzing, so busy looking you can’t leap. The more time you spend thinking about what you should do, the less able you are to do anything at all.”

YUP!

Sometimes I think so much, I think myself right into a big fat corner, immobilized by indecision and terrified of making the WRONG decision. So I put off making ANY decision…which, of course, is still a decision – just not a particularly proactive one.

In terms of advising us Wafflers on how to flip ourselves out of the damn pan of indecision, O Magazine had this to suggest:

“Do a gut check. Write your choices on a separate piece of paper and fold them into squares, then throw them in the air and pick up the one that lands closest. When you read what’s inside, check your physical reaction. Are you holding your breath or sighing in relief? Do you feel lighter or heavier? Let your response be your guide.”

– O Magazine, February 2017

So that’s exactly what I did – and you know what? It kinda helped! And I think I know why.

This strategy is similar to a cute little coffee-table book I have, called The Book of Answers by Carol Bolt. It was given to me by a dear friend years ago. It is, literally, a book of answers, in that each page has a single “answer” on it.

So what you do is hold the book, close your eyes, ask yourself a close-ended question (e.g. “Is the job I am applying for the right one?”), then open the book up to whatever feels like the right page, open your eyes and ta da…there’s your answer!

Here are a few sample answers:

“That’s out of your control”

“Don’t ignore the obvious”

“Make a list of why not”

“You are too close to see”

“You will find out everything you need to know”

Kids love it!

Now, of course, the book doesn’t really have THE answer to our questions. It just has an answer – and it is up to us to see how that answer makes us feel. And that, I have found, can actually be very helpful – similar to the idea of tossing the pieces of paper in the air and randomly choosing one.

If I ask the book a question and I rather like the answer I get, then that tells me I might be on the right track. If I DON’T like the answer I get and am, in fact, a little miffed at the audacity of the Universe to suggest such a thing, then that is also revealing in terms of helping me figure out what I don’t want.

“There comes a time when we aren’t allowed to know.”

– Judith Viorst

In the end, a decision needs to be made – even if it is the decision to do nothing at all. But what I’ve also come to realize over the years is that, for me, waffling may actually be an important part of the decision-making process.

Maybe we waffle when we know we have to make a change – but aren’t quite sure what or when…possibly because there are other factors and forces at play that we have no control over?

Perhaps other things have to line up first and then when everything else is in place, the time comes for us to make our move – and, low and behold, we DO know what to do and when.

In other words, maybe the process of waffling has helped prepare us to be able to make the right decision when the right time comes to make it?

Food for thought 🙂

When it comes to making big life decisions, are you a Waffler? What is your decision-making process like? Do you trust your gut instinct?

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

This is the first blog in the Life After Loss blog series:

 Awakening the Soul – Loss as a Wake-Up Call

 

“Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep.”

 – Anthony de Mello, Awareness; the Perils and Opportunities of Reality

On the afternoon of Thursday September 28th, 2000, I had an argument with my husband, John, a police officer, about my habit of procrastinating on my writing.

We were at the dog park and I said to him, “I am so scared I am going to wake up twenty years from now and still not having finished writing a book.”

John turned to me and said, “You’re probably right about that…just as long as you know that will have been your choice.”

Ouch.

But by that point, we’d been together twelve years…that’s a long time to listen to someone talk about their dream of becoming a writer – yet doing very little in the way of actual writing.

After the dog park, we went home and John had a nap before going in to work for 9pm. Before going to bed, I promised myself, again, that I would wake up early the next morning and do an hour of writing before going into my regular job at 7am. In those days, I worked as a civilian for the same police service John did. I was a report processor and took incident reports from officers over the phone.

But when my alarm clock went off at 5:00am the next morning, I reached over and pushed the snooze button. I don’t want to wake up. I don’t feel like writing. I don’t want to go back to my job either. Why do I have to type police reports for a living?

Ten minutes later, the alarm went off again. I pushed snooze. I don’t want to get up. I can’t write today. I’m too tired.

Ten minutes later, the alarm went off; snooze was hit. I am SO anxious! I don’t like my job. I don’t want to go back there.

And nor would I. For during that exact same time-frame of me pushing snooze, John was lying on the lunchroom floor of a warehouse, dying of a brain injury. He had responded to a break and enter complaint at a warehouse and was searching the mezzanine level for an intruder, when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling and fell nine feet into the lunchroom below. There had been no safety railing in place to warn him – or anyone else – of the danger.

The complaint turned out to be a false alarm; there was no intruder in the building. My wake-up call, however, was devastatingly real.

My soul had been awakened to a new reality. I was a thirty-two-year old widow entitled to receive my husband’s paycheque for the rest of my life. As a wanna-be writer, this was a dream come true. As a woman in love, it was a nightmare from which I could not awake.

Death took my soul-mate; life got my attention.

Two weeks later, I started writing what would become my book, A Widow’s Awakening. It took me 8 years, a dozen rewrites and an ocean of tears to get it (and me) where it needed to be for publication. But I did it. And quite frankly, the process of writing the damn thing probably not only saved me, it showed me the path out of grief.

John’s sudden and easily preventable death made me realize just how precious life is – and how fast it can end. We may think we have all the time in the world to do what we are here to do…but we might not.

Losing John just about killed me. There were days I wished it would. But it didn’t. In fact, his death gave me a beautiful new life – just not the one I’d planned on. And yet, right from the moment I was first told about his fall, along with the hurt, shock and fear, there was also a powerful sense of inevitability about all that was unfolding…as if a tiny voice inside me whispered, “And away we go.”

Perhaps because:

 “Your soul knows the geography of your destiny.”

– John O’Donohue, Anam Cara; A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Thankfully, loss isn’t the only way to awaken one’s soul to the reality that our time here is finite, so we’d best be making the most of our lives – but it is certainly an effective one. Or rather, it can be.

For at the end of the day (or a life, a relationship, a career, a dream), choosing how to move forward after a loss is always a choice.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.

 

For further info about the Life After Loss blog series, please click here.

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