When the first lockdown hit, I was just about to start writing my first play. Over the preceding 18 months, I had written, re-written, and partly devised my solo show It’s Beautiful, Over There. It was a collaborative effort and writing was new territory for me. But I enjoyed it! I had a spark of a new idea - although, it was a little different. The concept was a two-hander set on trains and train platforms. This required me to sit down and write a script. I found this concept terrifying. Dialogue?! Yikes. I had not taken any playwriting classes during my first degree. What right had I to sit down and try to write anything?!
The brain is a powerful thing. It took the entire country locking down and me not being able to leave my house to give myself permission to just try. I think the blank page can be overwhelming, so I developed the following system. It’s not fast, but I have yet to be in a position where I was writing on a deadline. This might not work for everyone, but if you are struggling maybe it can help.
I decided I would write on a Wednesday.
For my new play, I wrote out all the scenes on small index cards. I had mapped out roughly where I wanted the story to go so I could write out all the key scenes on cards. I made a promise to myself that I would write one scene every Wednesday. Having a choice of scenes meant that I could get around any writer’s block. I would just pick the scene that felt most interesting that day. Every Wednesday, I would sit down and pick a card. As I started writing, new ideas for scenes would come or I would find gaps in the story and I would just add that scene to my pile of cards. I found it easier to map out where I was going. I wrote the play completely out of order.
Writing on a Wednesday meant that I did not let my brain stress about writing any other day of the week. I didn’t allow myself to feel bad about it. I didn’t use it as a stick with which to beat myself. I didn’t think about “not getting enough done”. My job was to write one scene every Wednesday. That seemed like an achievable goal.
I was freelancing at the time so I could move other work to the other days of the week. This is not a luxury I have now but I still find this method useful. Then every Wednesday morning, I would pull up two documents: one blank new one for the new scene I was about to write and then my “document of rubbish”. My “document of rubbish” is the document where I write down all thoughts, sensical and nonsensical. If my brain doesn’t feel like writing the actual scene, then I close that doc and open my “rubbish” one. On there, I type anything that comes into my brain. It doesn’t have to be full sentences, it's just thoughts. Sometimes, I would write "I have no idea what to write" over and over again. But I was writing something. More often than not, that stream of consciousness turns into something useful and I turn back to my scene again. Once I had written that scene, I was done! I closed my laptop and that was it.
There were days where I would write a scene before breakfast and I’d be done for the day. There were days where it would take me all day to turn out 2 pages. But I did it. Every Wednesday. I loved the routine of it and it managed my stress really well.
I have just started a new play and I am back to Writing Wednesdays. I get the feeling that the first draft of this one I might actually write chronologically but I am sticking to my method of one scene every Wednesday. It’s worked for me. Maybe it’ll work for you? Best of luck writing!