AKA Why I’m a Writer…
This week I had an interview for the Old Vic 12. I was over-the-moon-excited to have made the longlist and gladly spent Wednesday morning on a train to London to have a chat with them about my work. It was a lovely, positive experience. Everyone I met, from the person registering us at the door to the other playwrights to the panel members were smiley and welcoming. We were invited to wait in a green room where we could help ourselves to tea and coffee. I chatted to a lovely writer named Annie, no sense of competition, just a shared excitement of the potential of the day as we talked about our readiness to have our work on stage. When I got called, my panel member was also called Becci (sp?) and super approachable. We talked for about 25 minutes about my proposal, my background and the scheme itself. All in all, everything possible was done to make us feel at ease. The problem? Me.
Some of you may know I’m a freelance Creative Producer. Ask me to explain how to write a Grants for the Arts? I’m in my element. I could wax lyrical about what artists and theatre companies need to know about producing their own work, how to build in meaningful, mutually beneficial public engagement and the importance of considering your audience. But ask me to talk about myself and especially my own work and my writing. It’s a verbal writer’s block. I’m a mess of self-consciousness, insecurities and doubt. And the crux of it? That’s why I’m a writer. It might sound selfish, in fact, it probably is. But writing, for me, is a way of being heard, of having a voice. It’s the chance to be the articulate, eloquent, funny version of myself I could be if I could spend the same amount of time editing and tweaking what comes out of my mouth as I am able to when writing my thoughts, characters or dialogue onto a page. I’m not saying that my writing is the epitome of any of these things but there’s certainly a lot more potential than when you put me on the spot and ask me a question.
I’m not suggesting that every writer is an introvert but I’d say in a Venn diagram of the two, there’s a high crossover. The ability to understand how people think, feel and act as a consequence. To get under the skin of an issue, situation or group of people. A lot of this comes from being able to listen and observe. Which is very different to being the extrovert, outspoken, life and soul of the party. Or being the engaging interviewee that you can’t help but remember. There’s not much room for observation in an interview situation if you’re the one being asked the questions.
In short, the qualities that could and might make me a brilliant writer make me a mumbling mess in the interview room.
At the end of my chat, I asked if there was anything else she wanted to know or anything I hadn’t told them. I don’t really know why except that it’s the reverse of a question I like to ask when interviewing which goes something along the lines of, ‘Is there anything you wanted to tell us that we haven’t asked you?’ She said no, and was there anything else I wanted to say. I also said no.
What I should have said was this:
“Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. For seeing something in my writing that was good enough to invite me down here for a chat. I have wanted to feel able to call myself a writer for so long that even just being on the longlist has given me more confidence than you can imagine. I’m sorry that I haven’t articulated my proposal very well. The project I have proposed is something I believe in and I would absolutely love the opportunity to work on it with the support of the Old Vic. I would work hard to make it the best it could be and enjoy every moment of it, exploiting every opportunity for advice or feedback or the chance to better myself and deliver something you could be proud of. I am a writer because it is the best way I know how to express myself and the world around me, to articulate all the things that make us laugh or cry, feel pain or get angry. In short, the things that make us human. I want to be able to reflect an audience back to themselves, to make them notice something they hadn’t before or think about something in a different way. It’s what being a writer is about. That’s why I write and what I want to do. So please, judge me on that and not on the things I haven’t said because I don’t know how.”
For anyone who is interested below is the piece I was trying (badly) to pitch is below. The best thing to come out of this experience is the realisation that given said inability to articulate this in person; for residencies and programmers, I’m going to find a way to make it happen for myself. To create a beautiful, warm theatre piece that does the talking. If anyone would like to write a letter for the project, let’s talk. Just not in person.
Letters to Myself
Letters to Myself will explore what we, as women, would say to our past or future selves, what we would say to the women we love or just what we wish every woman knew. It will examine the very particular friendships formed between women and through this, ask how we become better at being our own best friend, valuing ourselves with the same support, guidance and strength we offer to the other women in our lives. The piece will be a gentle revolution, a loving protest against our critical inner voice and a celebration of brilliant women. Letters to Myself will be written in a naturalistic style, including some verbatim text from the research and development. With two performers playing multiple characters, Letters to Myself will weave multiple stories together through shared experiences and common themes.