Heart Song

Some people from my church had me over for dinner earlier this evening.  It was the first time I was able to articulate my dilemma regarding the Writer’s Block in such a way that I was absolutely certain that they understood what I was talking about.   I don’t know if anybody reading this has issues with feeling misunderstood.  If you are, then you know how it feels.  It’s not love we look for.  It’s not even respect.  It’s understanding.  We love those who understand us – and we don’t feel “loved” when they don’t.

So it was a blessing to be able to discuss the matter in “real time” and get some insightful feedback other than the superfluous:

Get over it.

F–k him.

Take a Xanax.

So I came home, opened my script at random, and read these words:

WINSTON:
Perhaps an example will clarify.

#9: Monologue and Song: “Heart Song”

There was a certain charismatic figure who dwelt in the realm.
He had a charming smile,
a compelling style,
and hypnotic, dark green eyes.
His academic lectures and topical orations
received standing-room-only standing-ovations.
His musical concerts were roundly applauded,
his literary works acclaimed and belauded,
his products and services widely promoted,
his slogans and sayings repeatedly quoted,
round and round the realm.

TAURA:
That sounds like you, Winston!

ZYOWELLE:
Sssshhh!!

WINSTON:
But the more he gained in influence and clout,
the more the ruler of the realm felt threatened,
so he sent out a number of clandestine scouts,
to glean information as to what, after all,
this most mysterious figure was really and truly about.

And yet, all the while, in his secret spot of sacred seclusion,
the vibrant visionary kept valiant vigil,
and carefully crafted a culture of the future,
where no one would reign,
nor would any be ruled,
and no stigma remain,
for all would be schooled,
and taught to be equal in all the essentials –
not equal in power, or wealth, or credentials –
but equal in something far more germane;
that is to say, equal in rights.

So upon the completion of his grand design,
the famous folk figure then issued his claim,
arranging to meet with the ruler by night,
and to kindly submit without conflict or fight,
the plan for the realm that would set things aright –
but how he was shocked to encounter disaster!

For just as he ran up to greet that staunch master
Did handcuffs and clamps have him brutally bound,
And bayonets aimed at his heart bid him pause,
As the ruler declared: “How dare you defy the divine book of laws!
Down you must go to the depths of the Earth
Where you’ll learn not to doubt the full scope of my worth!”

But as our friend fell,
through all of that hell,
he still dared to gaze
at that hoarder of praise,
And left with the monarch a song to his shame,
that no measure of might could contest or defame,
for the plan he had crafted
would later be drafted,
to the glory and honor of the human name:
in a world where not one will look down on another;
in a world where we all will be sister and brother –
And destined to sing in one voice and accord
Before all who have called themselves Master or Lord –
In a resonant blast,
in a chorus resounding
beneath the most luminous, shining dark sky
On that night, when at last
freedom shall be abounding,
On that night, Man and God shall be equally high!!

The underscore brightens into accompaniment for Winston, as he now begins to sing.

Progress has been made.  I did not go into a rage this time.  I merely continue to be baffled.  Could these be the “over the top political references that get in the way of the story?”

Heart Song Monologue
from  Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Michael Pope
All Rights Reserved

Writer’s Block

Somebody said something to me yesterday that struck a major chord within me.

“Forgiveness isn’t between you and the person you’re trying to forgive.  Forgiveness is between you and God.”

I stared at her for a moment, half humiliated, half disgusted.

“I knew you were going to say that.”

Of course, it’s true.   The only drawback is, now I have to forgive God, too.  I have to forgive God for making it so hard to forgive that other guy.  But looking at the bright side, let’s consider what I need to forgive the other guy for.  

In case you haven’t been following my last few posts, the man in question basically pulled a hit-and-run.  He hit me – then he ran.  As far as the actual hit, I can roll with that punch.  It’s the run I have to forgive him for.  He abandoned me.  He ditched me.  He forsook me.  But will God forsake me?   Will God run?

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5 ESV

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.– Joshua 1:5 NKJV

There you have it!  He said it at least three times – (in three different translations, even.)  That Guy will not forsake me.  So why not start looking to God for my forgiveness needs, not to people?  If I’m mad at Whats-His-Name, be mad at God instead.  If What’s-His-Name won’t help me to forgive What’s-His-Name, then turn to God to help me to forgive What’s-His-Name.  If What’s-His-Name won’t help me remove my Writer’s Block – then maybe God will.

In fact, that’s it!  I need to ask God to remove my Writer’s Block!  Not whoever that other guy is.  In fact, it’s not important who he is.  What’s important is what he represents.writers-block-1-2

No one having offended me and left me with a Writer’s Block would have the power to remove the block by ceasing to offend me.  Moreover, it is not possible for me through my human powers alone to persuade somebody to stop offending me.  This is all just some game I’ve been playing at a deep unconscious level, blaming some other guy for my Writer’s Block.   That block is not going to be removed until God Himself removes it.  So all I need to do is to start praying for God to remove my block.   Then, when the time comes – and not a moment before – the maddening three-year-old Writer’s Block will at last be removed.

Then, and only then, will I be to finally finish this script!  Why didn’t I think of this earlier?   I’ll get on it right away.  Praying right now — even as we speak.

 

A Whole Lot of Love

Because this blog is supposed to be about the creative process and how it relates to my spiritual perspective on Art, I generally disdain from discussing personal issues in which impertinent emotions might be involved.   However, I have found that the emotional turmoil of the past three days is proving useful in getting me to discern certain elements of my Artistic goals more clearly.   I have concluded that is time to come up with a definite plan.

We are talking about three unproduced musicals.   The first of these, The Burden of Eden, is complete.  That is, we have a full piano-conductor score, and a full script.  The second, definitively entitled Eden in Babylon, consists of a complete score and an incomplete script.  The third, as yet untitled, consists of a complete score and an unwritten script.

I have no interest in beginning to write a script that I haven’t yet begun to write at this stage.  As my deadline approaches — that is to say, my death — the prospect is mind-boggling.  I’m looking for a librettist and have put out some feelers.  As for the first show, I wrote it between 2004 and 2008 when my head was in a much different place than it is now.  I basically think it sucks; I make no effort whatsoever to market it, but if anybody wants to produce it, you can go right ahead.   Just spell my name right and give me a decent cut of the royalties.

It is the second of the three shows that is my current concern.   Anybody reading my plot synopsis can tell instantly that the spiritual themes and social statements interwoven in the fabric of my story line are very near and dear to my heart.  Naturally, I would very much like to complete that script on my own, or at least collaborate with someone on it.  However, since the reason I have written practically nothing on that script for three years now (though the score is essentially complete), involves an enormous writer’s block associated with a personal issue, I need to somehow break that block in order to do so.  Also, the usual recommended methods for breaking writer’s blocks have not been working.  I cannot, for example, plow through the impasse and write anything that comes to mind.  No matter what I write, I find myself yelling and screaming obscenities while I do so.  I hit the keys too hard.  I risk destroying my computer keyboard.  I risk disturbing the neighbors.  My reactions even put my own health at risk.

So, please let me describe the nature of the block, and perhaps one or more of my readers might offer some sage counsel; or at the very least, be moved to pray for me.

It is not possible for me to dissociate myself from the awful feelings connected with this mysterious total put-down I received three years ago from a person whom I thought was my best friend, when I asked him to provide feedback on my script.  Every time I try to work on the script, my head becomes filled with garbage pertaining to how badly he treated me, condemning my work as “unproducible,” comparing my personality to that of a wildly deranged and sociopathic protagonist, and so forth.  Worse yet, he refused to address any of these issues, but after he assaulted me in this fashion, proceeded to ignore me completely for three years.  And yet we had gotten along perfectly well prior to my sending him the script.  It is almost as though something in the content of the script offended him personally; and he decided after reading my script never to contact me again.

This also has the nature of a progressive illness.  The more time goes by, the more difficult it is for me to work on the script without associating it in some way with this fellow who, ironically, does not even like it.  My indignation increases the longer he avoids me.  If I thought he owed me an explanation two years ago, that is nothing compared to the explanation he owed me one year ago.  By this time, I would venture to guess he owes me three or four, or perhaps five explanations.  If I was mildly disappointed in him three years ago, I was more than a bit miffed two years ago, markedly angry a year ago – and frankly enraged this last weekend.   But don’t get me wrong – in no way do I hold this man responsible for my rancor.  I only feel that if he were to offer me at least one of the many explanations I have come to feel that he owes me, everything would brighten up.  I also know which explanation he needs to provide for me.

He told me that my work  was “chock full of over-the-top political references that get in the way of the story.”  Again, I have no doubt that these references exist.  The problem is, I don’t know where they are.  He could have meant this here, or that there, or maybe the other thing — or none of the above.   Would it really be too much for this highly reputable and well-regarded professional theatre person to take a half-hour out of his busy schedule to point out two or three of these references for a fellow Artist who is suffering?  Does he not realize that the power to remove my block lies in his hands?   Or does he find my work so despicable that he does not actually even want me to complete it?   These questions will never be answered as long as he keeps ignoring me.   Yet, yet — they plague me.

As much as this single travesty has prevented me from finishing a work about which I am passionate, the amount of support I have thus far obtained from people on all sides of the spectrum has basically amounted to this:

“Take a valium.”

“F–k him.”

“Andy, get over it!”

The first of these is out of the question, as I determinedly stopped taking all such medications on May 10, 2004 and am proud of that choice.   The second is, to say the least, easier said than done.   The third borders on hostility.   None of these is particularly constructive, and none of these addresses the issue.   The issue is that I cannot finish this script as long as the block remains.

As I said, death approaches.  I do not know when it will come, nor am I unhealthy.  In fact, I am in excellent health, and fit, and vigorous.  Doctors tell me I should expect to live to be one hundred or more.  But it will take till I am 100 years old for me to finish this script at this rate!  It is becoming harder every year – and I am becoming “healthier” every year (if you get my meaning). 

I cannot close this post without bringing in the spiritual perspective.  What my naysayers are telling me, in so many choice words, is that I need to “let go.”  Now believe me, you do not know how many times I’ve tried.  This is a complex issue, and it cannot be solved by abandoning it.  In my perhaps not-s0-humble opinion, the solution to this problem is Love.  Love – good will in action – what in a former day, we used to call “Christian Love.” This is not the same thing as “letting go.”  It involves engagement.  It involves communication, respect, and participation between more than one person.  It involves sacrifice.  The amount of sacrifice I am requesting on this person’s part is very small.  And yet, I am sacrificing my life’s work here, because of his refusal to engage. 

My Love dwindles and wanes the longer there is no one willing to receive it.  For this dear old friend to take even a half-hour out of his time to give my work the little bit of attention I request, may seem like nothing.   To me, that would be a Whole Lot of Love.

The Bottom Line

It’s been a very depressing day for me.   I’m not a person who is prone to depression, though I certainly recognize it.  Depression strikes me rarely enough, however, that I pale at being able to navigate it.  It always seems like new territory, and highly dismal, unrelenting terrain at that.

I started thinking about going word-of-mouth on the “advertising” venture alluded to earlier, and I received some referrals to people who might be interested but who haven’t gotten back to me yet.   Then I began to ponder the idea I had last Saturday that would neatly take me from my most recent impasse to the end of the Winston Greene show, so that I would have a completed rough draft at last.  So I thought, well, I’ll try to do it myself – it is my idea after all, my “baby” as it were.  But as soon as I hit the pages of that script, I felt this familiar surge of resentment against one particular individual, whose identity it would be completely inappropriate to disclose.  Let’s just say he is a dear old friend of mine, somebody who is precious to me but who for some unknown reason has decided that he cannot have any contact with me.  Even that decision was communicated to a third party to convey to me, and rendered three years or more after the fact.

That alone baffles me, being as I am actually incapable of making such decisions, nor as a Christian do I believe them to be loving or godly.  I can’t think of anyone on earth whom I have ever decided is not worth my time.   And I’m fine with that.   Many people shun me because of my personality traits anyway.  I know what it feels like to be shunned, and so it is basically a Golden Rule issue for me.  I don’t like being dissed, and I don’t diss people.  

But this guy – I tell you, it would be so easy for him to take an hour out of his day and participate in the healing of my wound regarding him.  Yet I cannot control the actions or reactions of any person other than myself.   So of course there is nothing I can do or say to change this man’s mind about me.   Yet the way that the severance came about was so ugly and so entirely unnecessary, and its resolution so entirely doable if only he would do his part, it calls to question not only his morality – though he claims to be a Christian (which of course says nothing) – but his actual professional integrity.

How could he have ripped my script apart at a moment when he knew I was only looking for support and encouragement, and he also knew that I respected him very highly and would no doubt internalize his comments?   How could he then proceed to never answer emails, never answer phone calls, when the solution would be so simple?  If there are, for example, “over the top political references” in my script; and if they do, in fact, “get in the way of the story,” why did he refuse to tell me where these references are and how they get in the way of the story?  I have scoured this script ad infinitum, and he could have meant practically anything.  I don’t see them, personally, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

He commented on a typo on one page, objected to capitalization in stage directions, and happened to note that I had set up one of the scenes very nicely – as though all the scenes had not been set up impeccably.  I took graduate playwriting course at U.C.Davis; I rarely got a grade lower than an A+, I am not some hack!   Where was this guy coming from?  It seemed as though he skimmed the script during a ten minute coffee break, looking for innocuous peccadillos to shove in my face, as though taking pot shots at me.  It wasn’t what I expected from a longtime dear friend at all!   Nor from a professional in the field!  I am absolutely horrified by this inexplicably unacceptable behavior from someone of his obvious highly esteemed stature in the Performing Arts.

He said the show was ‘unproducible’ due to the cast size.  I chopped the cast szie in half and sent it to him; he still ignored me.  I sent him personal handwritten letters to his home address, sometimes even letters of apology – though God knows what for — and still he would not budge.  Yet before this notorious critique of his, we had been in contact probably two to three times a week.   After ridiculing me while I sought his encouragement, he curtly turned his head away and removed me from his existence as though I were a piece of human feces being flushed down a toilet.

Was it because of class?  Is he only supposed to extend professional respect toward rich people, or famous people, and not toward those who are struggling?   He used to always send me a little gift on my birthday into my PayPal, fifty dollars or so.  Enough for the poor bloke to get himself a dinner, and maybe a date, or perhaps a glass of red wine.  Even that kindness stopped abruptly.   Why?   Does he only answer to those who “count” in his world?   And why do I no longer count?

While assaulting this “over-the-top” character that I had created for dramatic effect in a musical – as though characters in musicals are not by their very nature “over the top” — he quite casually added: “This of course has no reflection on the author of the show” (meaning me, of course).  I was not born yesterday!  This borders on character assassination!  And of course, I was hurt emotionally by that sarcasm.  But what hurt the most was that he absolutely refused to address any of these issues that he himself had raised – and there were many others.  Instead,  he proceeded to avoid me completely, block all my email addresses, delete me from all interfaces, never return phone calls, and basically blot my existence out of his mind as best he could, I would presume, for three years.  As though he had nothing to do with the matter, and there were nothing he could do to resolve it.

Because I’m a Christian, I have to forgive him.  Because I’m a human being, I have to get over it.  Because I have a job to keep and an apartment to maintain, I have to focus away from it.  But it just irks me that I should now be left, not only with a failed friendship, but with a total psychological block against finishing this project that is dear to me.  You see, every time I open up the pages of that script, I practically burst into tears thinking about how a scathing critique full of mockery and insult, followed by three years of silence, ruined a forty-year friendship.  All this fellow would have to do would be to own up – to man up — and my whole block would disappear for good.  It would take an hour, at the most, of this man’s time.  And yet — he will not give me that single hour!

Is it Christian love that would refuse to bend that far for a human being whom you have hurt?  To see the solution so clearly, to hold the very solution in your own hands, and yet refuse to render it?   I could easily forgive him if he owned up.   I do my best to forgive people their understandable transgressions, even as God has forgiven mine.   But when I’m having trouble forgiving someone, why do they make it harder for me to do so?  When they could so easily do something about it!   Why is this forgiveness ball always in my court??

What is forgiveness anyway?   Some say it’s simply “overlooking” the offense.  Scripture says “it is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.”  (Proverbs 19:11)  So I guess if I want any “glory” – if I want to ever actually finish this script — I’m going to have to overlook this offense – huge and overpowering though it may be.

Or maybe — I shouldn’t want any glory. 

I wonder if that’s the bottom line . . .

About to Advertise

So I finished the fix-its earlier alluded to, and am reasonably satisfied with all the music you can now hear on these links:

Ode to the Universe – 4:40

Urban Pathos – 17:52

Berkeley Playlist

But let’s face it.  I’m not ever going to get either of these scripts written.  All I’m ever going to do is keep writing music.  My mind is going to continue to generate new music, despite myself, no matter what else I set about to do.

So this is what I should do.  I should advertise for a lyricist and a librettist.  Somebody to write the lyrics, and somebody to write the scripts.  Maybe two different people.  But they need to be competent.  They can’t be only in it for the money.   Probably, there should be no money involved.  I want somebody who resonates with my music.  Who recognizes that these are show tunes – they’re Musical Theatre.  They suggest witty lyrics with sophisticated internal rhymes.  They suggest movement and dance.  They suggest more than mere mood.  They suggest dramatic action.  They suggest scenario.

Either I advertise on someplace like Craigslist, or I go to the nearby University music departments and drama departments, and post notices.  Or both.  But it’s got to be done, otherwise all this music will go to waste.

And there’s  too much of it to go to waste.  Also – it’s not worthy of being wasted.  There’s decent music here – but like I said, it’s show music.  It suggests a certain kind of lyrics, along a certain kind of theme – and it suggests action. 

There’s no sense in postponing “action.”  Now’s the time.

 

Standstill

It’s been two days since I posted that last, most exuberant announcement, regarding the Creative Upsurge I so enjoyed for a time.  Rest assured that the Upsurge has all but desurgified, and that there have been no creative juices flowing per se except for a few nagging senses of a paralyzing insistence on performing multiple instances of pure perfectionism.  Specifically, I continue to get the sense that everything is at a standstill until I correct these relatively random musical errors in my already submitted work.   Not the emphasis on the word “submitted.”

It is of relevance to me that the work I must now be so laboriously readjusted is work that I have already released via social media as well as a few very vociferous email blasts.  On checking my rarely visited  SoundCloud, I find I’ve gotten 15 hits in the past twenty-four hours – the norm usually being zero.  So people are eagerly soaking in this prematurely released version of my work.  This has me uneasy, and just as eager to get the new reincarnations of these pieces into their possession.  But that runs counter to sound creative doctrine.  Best I relax, and get it turned in at its natural rate; say, around this coming Saturday or so (today being Monday.)

This will however virtually necessitate that I once again do not venture upon untraveled textual terrain, such as attempting to complete a script or libretto or lyric set, or anything along non-musical lines that may be related to any of my projects.  I cannot so venture, because my absorption in the musical aspect of everything is so exclusive.  I need to see myself through this travail, musically speaking, before anything is considered in any other area of life.

Creative Upsurge

There was a huge creative upsurge instigated last night at maybe around ten. At that time, feeling totally creatively dry and dismal, I decided to simply *listen* to my most recent playlist.   As I was listening, my creative juices started flowing again. I started randomly tweaking my “Ode” piece, and at a moment of particular satisfaction decided it was time for bed. I went to bed feeling quite fulfilled, but awoke two hours later, at around ten-thirty, with an unusual hankering to get back at it. So I stayed up till about three-thirty working on “Ode.” Then, finally, I went to bed again (or, more accurately, yoga mat on three layers of cardboard on hard wood floor.) I was up and at it at eight-thirty.

About an hour or so ago, I finished the Ode to my ultimate satisfaction. Then I pasted it to where it’s supposed to fit into my Urban Pathos sequence in show context. (This causes the “Urban Pathos” sequence to now reach 17:37 in duration.) But before I did all that, I had an insight. Also, right when I was done, I had a second, related insight.

The first insight was that, while I often am very concerned with the balance of fitting in my writing music into an overall, broader and more general, positive spiritual picture; I have been less concerned with something that I should be *more* concerned about; and that is, how my writing of music fits into my overall writing as an Artist and a writer. In taking a look at this, I have found that I have been neglecting all my other creative writing because I’ve been writing so much music.

So, I determined to finish this “Ode” and then, since I could tell I was going to finish it early in the day today, I figured I would work on one of my scripts for the rest of the day. Then I decided it would be the Winston Greene script. I’ve just gotta get that thing finished, and out of the way. And then, the second insight came, right after I finished “Ode.”

The second insight, in brief, consists of my now knowing where to proceed from here in that script. I had just reached the state, several months ago, when half of the Kids were going to defect and split off with the charming hustler Howard Trout, whom Winston discerns is actually Benzo Diablo, his nemesis, in disguise. But I didn’t know what to do next, except for that I had to bring in Cynthia Morales, but that I didn’t want to bring her in awkwardly or with too much of a sense of arbitrary contrivance according to convenience unto deus ex machina. But now I know how to bring her in boldly, in a way that will encapsulate the main character conflict between her and the protagonist, in a clear and timely manner that will surely engage the audience.

Ode

“Ode to the Universe” from Eden in Babylon.
Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Michael Pope.

All Rights Reserved.

So – all this stuff has come together for me, all at once. Now I need to run with it.