Life's Labours Lost Downtime doesnít mean off time, nor time off
By Ken Robinson
Ever get tired of writing?
Of course not! No self-respecting writer would ever do such a thing.
Itís a good thing Iím not self-respecting, because I do get worn down. I try to avoid the signs. But whatever is out there that ushers me on my path in life periodically steps in and slaps me upside the head to get my attention.
Occasionally this includes sticking its nose into my business and mucking about causing all kinds of bedlam, according to me that is. The latest episode involved my backpack, which contains my writing life, being left in Oklahoma City and ending up in Arlington, Texas. All my current projects, notes and ideas were sitting in the middle of Texas all by their lonesome with no one to take care of them.
And being a writer Iím continually broke and so was the person who had it. So I couldnít get it sent back up to me. That put the kibosh on just about all the projects I had going on.
I almost freaked out. I was just about to hitch a ride down there to reclaim my life. After I finally got over the initial shock, I became irate at myself for not keeping up with the backpack. I had just finished the pilot episode of a TV series and was ready to get it typed-up and out. Eventually I sat back and thought about what I should make out of this little dilemma. Was there a silver lining or message for me here?
When I looked at the whole sordid story I could see it was one of those supposed-to-be, fate per se things. After a long weekend of tequila, toilets, bull rides, and bar fights in OKC (which is another story) I was ready for the three-hour drive home. Just as I got on the turnpike I realized that I had left my future in the hotel lobby.
I pulled off the road, backed up, and looked around. I couldnít find a way to turn around, get off the turnpike and go back. And the next exit was 59 miles away. I sat there for a moment befuddled, angry, and confused; it is some combination. Luckily nobody else was with me in the car.
I called my friend who was getting ready to leave the hotel. She just happened to be in the lobby right at that moment and took my life into custody. Whew, was I relieved. She was going to be coming back to town in a couple of weeks. Yeah right. Two months later I still hadnít reclaimed my life. After a while I realized I wasnít going to have it anytime soon, so what should I do?
I had just finished four scripts and I wasnít very excited about getting started on another one even though I kept telling myself itís time to get going again. That is what all self-respecting writers do; write till it hurts. But that had been neatly nipped in the bud, to quote the immortal Mayberry Deputy Bernard P. Fife.
Sometimes you need to get hit square between the eyes before you get the message youíre being sent. My message was to take a little time off. Not everyone can keep up with Stephen King.
I seem to have an internal reservoir that periodically needs to be refilled. I can usually tell when itís almost empty, even though I ignore the signs, as I become very unenthusiastic and itís very difficult to get motivated. But when itís full again I feel like I can take on the world; the new world Iím creating in my next project anyway.
Getting the aquifer refilled isnít always easy. It can be a slow process. Being around like-minded people enhances the rejuvenation process. Although I fight doing it kicking and screaming when Iím not in the mood. I need to get out there and be with other people who are supportive of my demented dream to be a writer.
Thank goodness they have a very skewed and deranged view of the world around them. They see things in a way I would never have thought of. That is one good reason it helps to have a writing partner or at least someone who can read your material and give you good feedback. But brainstorming sessions are the best. They really get me going.
Downtime doesnít mean off time. This is a good time to be a people watcher. I get feedback by just sitting there and observing people around me and how they behave and look. As I watch them a small story builds around them and is put away for future use. These are stories and character traits that I can later go to the well for. I feel a trickle filling the reservoir. Donít ask me why.
When your better half drags you to the mall and you get tired of being disingenuous, I mean nice, in your comments when they ask youíre opinion about something they like and say, ďItís so cute, lovely, cool, awesome, or you look fabulous,Ē sit down, relax, and watch people.
You will see the whole world pass before your eyes. All ages, shapes and cultures. When you put these people into storage they get to know one another and their different parts mix and reform into the characters that I can pull out to use. I watch with my ears as well so that I have a wide variety of voices to put to my characters. The way someone speaks says volumes about them.
Wherever I may be, I watch the people as they pass by, each in their own little world.
After all, weíre all just characters in somebody elseís passion play.
(Editor's Note: T.E. Watson, the usual Write On! writer, is on leave of absence due to personal matters. Ken Robinson has ably filled-in.)
Ken Robinson grew up and lives in Oklahoma. After five years in Ireland, he's been writing screenplays for two and a half years. Four of his scripts have been optioned by Woofenil Works, two low-budget projects now in preproduction, as well as West Law. E-mail:Krobinson104@hotmail.com