What are you saying?

Is it Liberalism? Is it Margaret Thatcher? Is it the substitution of need for greed? Or is it just a phase we’re going through? The after-effects of affluenza, a post-viral infection of your ability to judge and comment on something – like having M.E. of your critical faculties – so all you can think about is yourself, or put another way: ‘ME’.

For some reason, and in my experience, those 4 words, ‘what are you saying?’ seems to give a disproportionate number of writers a lot of trouble – once they go beyond the knee-jerk and instinctive: ’I don’t know’.

How come?  What’s happening to us?  How can so many people have such a strong passion and desire to write, and yet have nothing to say? Have nothing they want to say… nothing they feel they have to say?  That’s the point really: right there, in the pit of your stomach, in your heart, on the tip of your tongue – like a permanent sitting tenant poised and ready to leap into action onto your lips and out into the domain – all guns blazing and making it abundantly clear that this is exactly what you think. All they need is the word…but these days the word never comes.

So what do you believe in?  What do you care about?

A favourite warm up of mine on a writers’ course is to simply take a minute, and to get each writer to write down on each line of their page: ‘I believe….I believe…..I believe….’ etc. and then finish each of the statements without censoring, second guessing, trying to be funny or trying to be right. Just see what comes out.

Do it now- it only takes a minute and what have you got to lose apart from one minute?  I dare you: say what you believe…really.

Because that’s another point: it seems to me that people say they don’t know what they believe because it’s easier and safer. Nobody gets challenged. Nobody gets upset and nobody has to do any thinking beyond whether or not they’d like a pepsi or a coke, or an americano or a cappuccino.  How can you not have anything to say?

If you’ve got 5 minutes to spare, have a go at this exercise:
(And if you haven’t got 5 minutes  – and you really want to write – you need to take a look at your life and ask yourself why not?)

We’ve probably all had that conversation with our friends where we wished we could go back to school, but knowing what we know now …yes? Why? Because it would give us the upper hand in all those situations where we thought we somehow ‘lost’, or were out of our depth, or were mortified by the situation and the outcome, and we thought it was oh so important and desperately unfair and\or humiliating, etc. With hindsight and in truth, most of it wasn’t actually that important or rather, it was simply an important part of growing up, but now you’ve got over it and you can carry on. However some of it was important and it remains so even to this today.

So spend 5 minutes making a list of all those things you know now and wished you’d known then.

Same again: just do it. Don’t censor or question or judge it yet…just do it…and see what it reveals. If nothing else you’ll certainly have a sense of what you believe in – what you think is right or wrong.

Now take another 5 minutes.  (This is the last one for today. I promise.)

Take another page and write on it what you know to be true about people – from your observations and experiences – everything you’ve deduced – the good, the bad, the rights, the wrongs, the wonder, the joy, the young, the old, those nearest to you and those furthest….what do you know to be true about them? Everything…farts and all.  And from this list can you see any elephants…you know, things so big it’s impossible to miss, but everyone’s pretending they’re not really there?

So what’s your next play going to be about?  Or more importantly what’s it really going to be about and what are you trying to say?

How can you write, want to create, or make believe without believing in anything?  Personally, I don’t believe you can.

 

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“Ola Animashawun is blessed of a wisdom that arrives like happiness itself ... He has been the Royal Court’s secret weapon for years.”

Jeanie O’Hare, Former Literary Manager, Royal Shakespeare Company
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