It's quite something.
I feel very lucky that I got to be one of the writing mentors on this endeavour. Over the last number of months we’ve been meeting for long sessions on Saturdays, looking at the mechanics and the art of writing for theatre and then doing quite a bit of writing for theatre too. It’s been an absolute blast and the five young people are, without exception, some of the most committed, imaginative, and talented people I’ve met.
So this evening should be a bit special. The five writers will see their new plays performed in rehearsed reading, with full tech support, before a lovely audience. Hopefully, some of the seeds of encouragement that will have been planted by this process will germinate into a continuing writing habit for at least some (if not all) of the participants. And we all know where that can lead.
Because, in my small opinion, a little encouragement can be the difference between being a continuing writer and not. It’s an often-lonely endeavour, with nobody to lean on but yourself. If somebody comes forward at some point, and leans over your shoulder, and says, “Hey, that’s pretty good,” well, that can sometimes count for a lot. More than you might imagine.
In my own case, and I know I’ve written about it before somewhere in these pages, I received writing encouragement from my English teacher Patricia O’Higgins. She would slip me the more challenging books to read and talk to me in terms of my ‘writing’ before I ever even considered I had any writing in me. She started me thinking that maybe I could scribble something along the way.
These seeds sometimes take time, though, to germinate. Through my early twenties, I did some writing but never showed anything to anybody. I wrote sketches and little comedy routines and I kept a diary of my time bussing my way around Australia. In the reading room of Melbourne Library, I wrote my first full length screenplay in longhand. I was writing but, in another sense, I wasn’t.
Then IRDP and LBC held a ten-minute play writing competition in London, not unlike what this evening’s cohort have been working on. I was newly-returned from the world trip, unexpectedly unemployed, and a little adrift. I entered and I was one of the winners. As a result, I spent a magical, unforgettable, Saturday in a studio with professional actors and a wonderful director, who teased out my fledgling script and made it into something. That was me. Done. From that moment on I was sold. I wanted to write, not just for myself, but for people. I wanted my little plays to be seen and heard. And I went off and managed to do that. I’ll never be rich, I’ll never be famous but, in my own small way, I am a writer and that brings me joy and some peace.
And this process, the dealing with these wonderful young writers and showing them the bits and pieces I have picked up along that way, it’s a mutual-beneficial process. At least, I hope it is. I know for sure that it benefits me. To tell somebody these things that you know, these things that you believe to be important, it’s like telling them to yourself all over again. It’s like reciting a sort of a Creed. And doing that reinforces for me what is important in my writing and what is not. It refreshes the techniques and the technicalities and makes them relevant and new again. More importantly, much more importantly, it refreshes the creative corner of the mind. To see the young people conceive and develop their writing, unencumbered with fear or trepidation, it can’t help but rejuvenate your own process and send you back to your desk with brighter and better ideas.
It’s the old, old story. Whenever you do something a bit good for someone, you also do something a bit good for yourself. The benefits of committing a little time and energy come back to you twofold, if not in time then certainly in energy.
So I’m looking forward to this evening. There’ll be a little edge in the air, as there always is with theatre. I wish the participants a good experience and I hope there is encouragement in it for them.
I’ve got mine already but, who knows, maybe tonight I’ll get a little bit more.