Monday, February 14, 2011

Write about what you love

World premiere of Measure of Love  in 14/48, Seattle

It’s Valentine’s Day but I have a different kind of message about love for you today.

There have been times I wrote a play because I thought it was funny, or a good idea, or was intellectually stimulating, but if I lacked any emotional connection to that play, the idea or story would never really take off.

This has happened more than I would care to admit, actually.

Which is why I want to stress to you the importance of writing about what you love.  They say you should write about what you know (and I think that’s true to some degree, as well) but what will really pull you through the dismal days of rewriting or writer’s block will be the emotional connection to your characters and material.

This idea to “find the love” is true of all artists, actually, from actors to designers to directors.  I make a conscious effort sometimes to start conversations about a show I’m working on by saying, “What I love about this play is…” 

If you can’t come up with one or two things you love about the play, you shouldn’t be working on that play.

If there is no ache inside your gut to tell a particular story, then walk away.  This is not an easy decision to make, of course, but you’ll know when you need to just let it go.  For instance, if you started writing the story but a year later you just can’t get interested in finishing it, you probably didn’t have the emotional connection you needed.

Although I’ve never run a marathon, I imagine that writing a play or screenplay is much like that arduous activity.  No one wakes up one idea and says, “I think it might be a good idea to run a marathon”.  Most marathon runners have some kind of inner drive, or compulsion.  There is a deeper need.  That’s what gets them through all the training, and the pain, and the psychological hurdles they have to overcome.  There's a deep love there.  Either that, or they're just masochists.

If you are passionate about what you’re writing, that will be evident to the audience.  They will pay attention.  And then, once you have their attention, tell them a damn good story.

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