One of the hardest things about the 29 plays later challenge is having to produce and sign off on work that doesn’t work, that isn’t right, that fails or that failed to spark.
Few of us are proud of the musicals we made for day six. One of my favourites of my own pieces is the one where we were trying to write total crap. But I’m an ironist.
Writing without irony is for me harder than writing farce. Both have an over seriousness that makes me laugh, which suits the straight faced desperate comedy of farce but not the seriousness of drama. I was once in a metal band for about two weeks, but I just can’t take the genre seriously, because it takes itself so very seriously. It’s a serious problem for me, you see?
Outstandingly imaginative individuals sometimes forget that most people find it pretty tough to just make things up. When people discuss literature they obsessively trace the sources of the writing as if it has to spring from reality, as if the writer couldn’t have just made up a load of stuff.
I’m interested to see what happens when you run out of ideas. Who can write 29 plays in a month? Shakespeare only managed 37 in a lifetime.
There’s a singer I like whose songs are neurotically detailed and rich in surreal minutiae. She’s a virtuoso harp player who seemingly got bored of it and prefers the challenge of playing the bass guitar petty badly instead. Her lyrics are hilarious perhaps because she takes them completely seriously. They’re great not because she is a poetical genius but because she has a complete lack of imagination. She hasn’t made up a thing. She documents things with such an eye for detail that it’s disarming. That it seems so serious also makes it funny.
So this is why I don’t do serious much. It tends to make me laugh.
For day 9 we were asked to “find something in the news that’s upsetting you and respond to it” and write something moving and heart-wrenching. Class warfare specifically the crushing of the poor by the rich, is legislatively enshrined in the UK. If you’re poor, sick, young, old, female, anything other than affluent white male basically, they’re trying to crush you. One of the most dementedly sadistic inventions of the Tory government is the bedroom tax. I wasn’t really writing ‘about’ that but it came into it, a monologue about the recent experience of a lady in the neighbourhood who is being slowly murdered.
Oscar said “Sincerity is the enemy of art”. I see it all the time in poetry. A poem is only ever good when it’s made up. Whenever a poem has a personal meaning to the poet it is invariably bad. It’s essentially writing for yourself rather than other people. It’s unlikely that the deep resonances and wealth of meaning you find in your bloody awful poetry about your drivelly life are shared by anyone else, and unless you express them with some degree of artistic distance they just won’t enrich the work for anyone else. That content simply isn’t there except for you.
Well, that was incredibly harsh, wasn’t it? See, this is what happens when you take something too seriously. You lose your sense of humour.
Day 9 – Parakeets