Life After Siddhartha

As I mentioned in the previous post, I became unusually energized after I’d finished a voice recording of my Siddhartha Monologue, and in that uncommon state of enthusiasm, I wrote nine more pages of dialogue, largely completing the “Ice in Hell” sequence of Scene Three.  This was, I believe Thursday night.  I stopped at a logical break on p.40, where the female antagonist, Ms. Mortalis encounters my protagonist W. Greene for the second time.

It’s logical that their encounter further develop their association together as human beings, outside of the mere show context in which she is a licensed clinical social worker who has simply been assigned to his case.  Do these two people innately like each other, outside of their social roles at the moment?  Would they get along on a date or in a relationship?  All that stuff ought to be going on, either behind the scenes in the dialogue, or blatantly, openly, as it were.  That I have balked from Thursday night till now is, in a way, unfortunate, but in another way par for the course.  We all know I’ll not put pen to paper till motivated to do so.  Why write something substandard?  Something that is not supposed to be a part of it at all?  Of course I wouldn’t want to steer myself down the wrong path intentionally, only because I felt pressured to write something — whether good or bad, as though time were of the essence.

But time is not of the essence – not in the strictest sense, anyway.  There is no due date, no deadline, no moment when my completed work needs to be on the desk of another entity.  The only deadline, in that strictest sense, is death.  But this relative license can also be misleading.  One does not want to lose momentum,  to wait too long, and then find oneself having lost interest in one’s work entirely.  So what are the real barriers to my picking up the script again?  No doubt they hinge upon my not-knowing.  My not yet having decided what it is that Ms. Mortalis and W. Greene should have to say to one another at this moment.

But they are more specific than that.  Prior to stopping, I was “on a roll.”  I felt a surge of confidence that the words of my character, barely altered since the original draft of the “Ice in Hell” sequence several years ago, were eminently consistent with the types of language and imagery that have become associated with his intriguing character.  I felt ashamed neither of Winston nor of my work on the whole.  But then, I had to stop.  Why then?  Because when I looked at the words of their dialogue before me, I found that the words I wrote years ago are completely immaterial to whatever is going on in the energy of the two characters today.  Unlike the previous sequence, I can hardly use any of them at all.  So new material needs to be written.  Of the nature of that material, I am still in the dark.

But not as much in the dark as I have been previously, till now.  For this time around, writing this third version of the as-yet-incomplete musical script to  Eden in Babylon, I have made critical changes in the character of Ms. Mortalis.  She’s not a person with any a priori knowledge of the protagonist – of Winston – and she doesn’t meet Benzo (the male antagonist) till Scene 2, had no prior knowledge of him.  She’s just been assigned to Winston by whatever the psychological powers that be would have been that had placed her with him.

But now she has to act accordingly.   Now, whenever she sees him, it’s not as though she has all kinds of data on him – she’s learning about him as she encounters him.  This is actually much better.  It’s more engaging of an audience than had she simply been scripted to spout of all kinds of previously gleaned facts about Winston to the audience.  That’s what she was sort of doing before in this scene, and I’ve realized that it won’t fly.  As to what will fly, however, there are still key questions to be considered.  Now that she’s sees Winston as he is more in his element – not just powerless as he was sedated on the gurney earlier – what does his personality and his presence spark in her?  Outside of her assignment and their respective roles, how does he strike her?  And vice-versa – what kind of feeling does Winston get from Ms. Mortalis?  Or, rather, what kind of feeling does he seek to foster in her?

That I should not put pen to paper till these questions are answered is only sensible.   And I do have confidence that pen will be put to paper at the proper moment – probably sooner than I think.  Sure, she is fascinated with the folk-hero.  Sure, he plays upon this in his precocious flirtation with her.  It is coming clearer every minute.

This is the clarity that comes with increased faith.  My faith in this project has been greatly increased ever since I recorded the Siddhartha Monologue.   The reason is because in so doing, I have recognized a consistency in the character of Winston Greene that is actually very engaging.  It is this recognition that has largely spurred me onward.   I suddenly find that I have confidence in what I am writing now.  The things that had earlier deterred me are not seen as even obstacles or hurdles any longer, barely even challenges.  The potential audience has somehow been made real  – and that audience is already on my side.

In the atmosphere of such confidence, all resentments toward interfering individuals vanish immediately.  I know that sounds crazy – but it’s true.  Every previous time I was thirsting for the approval of others – and I resented them when their approbation was vacant, or nil. I no longer need their approval.  This changes everything.  I no longer need these additional voices to validate my creation.  My creation is already validated.  I know what it is that I am doing now – and what I am doing is within my integrity.  What more could I ever want, artistically speaking, than this?

Breakthrough

It was Wednesday evening just before Choir practice when I posted The Siddhartha Monologue.  I slept well that night.  Then Thursday throughout the day I wrestled with the prospect of creating a decent audio recording.  I did a couple bad takes, and wound up feeling rather disgruntled.  Irrelevant old resentments were resurfacing, irrespective of the fact that I knew they would do me no good.   I began to feel pent up, and cooped up in my studio – stir crazy, and needing a break. So at a certain point I headed down to the Bagel Shop downstairs and across the corner.

Ah! I was the only customer, I thought with relief.  I didn’t really want to have to interact with any people in particular, not in the mood I was in.  But Paul, the young man behind the counter, is an amiable chap.  He just got his degree in some form of psychology, and he appears to be quite the optimist.  I wound up confessing my dilemma to him – how I’d thought sure I’d have gotten a lot accomplished by that time on that day, but here it was about seven in the evening already, and I had nothing to show for it.

Paul’s suggestion was that I go back upstairs and try completing some completely unrelated household chore, something that has nothing to do with the project, such as washing the dishes.  Apparently that’s what works for him, in such cases.  But I found that, in my case, after putting my angst into words in the presence of a single intelligent, if innocent, young man, I was considerably more optimistic upon returning upstairs after my cookie and cup of coffee.   There, I did a third take of The Siddhartha Monologueand I finished it at nine o’clock exactly.

The Siddhartha Monologue

That’s my voice you hear, acting out the part of Winston Greene, a thirty-something year old man.  I hope you enjoy it.

I suddenly felt more than satisfied.  It wasn’t just that I’d succeeded in recording a decent take of the monologue.  After all, recording the monologue was only a side project.   But what resulted from it was my realizing that the monologue is good; it does work; it encapsulates who Winston Greene is in essence, as well as marks the monumental nature of the moment in which he now finds himself, having encountered the realities of poverty for the first time in his life.  This realization greatly increased my confidence.  In fact, I was so energized, I wrote nine more pages of script, all the way up to page 40.   This was from nine up till about midnight.  As I did so, I had the rare experience of actually believing in what I was writing  believing that I had something to get across as a Writer and that I would be able to get it across to an audience through this musical theatre medium.  

So I relaxed within myself quite a bit, as far as this project is concerned, after that.  It now seems that I actually have a potentially marketable product here – I’m not just a dreamer anymore at this stage.   However, the last four days have not been conducive to much creative work.  There have been holiday-related obligations; also I played a lengthy Christmas Eve service, a Christmas Day service, and at two nursing homes on Christmas.  Then I had dinner over at my pastor’s house with numerous other people, and didn’t get home till eight in the evening.   I pretty much rested throughout the day yesterday, although I did return to the steadier process of scoring music using my Finale software – a process that is more immediately rewarding than that of writing text. 

So, hopefully today I can get moving again on the script.  I have some creative problem solving to do at page 40, which is why this was a logical stop.  Although I don’t have the answer yet, the experience of unknowing is no longer manifesting as high anxiety, resentment, or rage.  Something has changed.  I believe in my project now – it is not just a cover for insecurity or wishful thinking.   I don’t feel harangued by resentment towards others, or even toward myself, as I proceed.  I no longer need the approval of any of those people; for it has been communicated to me that my work is good, and the Source of that communication is One whose assessment is reliable, One whom I need not doubt.  

The Siddhartha Monologue

You know, it sort of seems weird that I’m writing about writing, while writing.  I would think it would all be one giant act of procrastination, were it not for the fact that writing about my writing helps my writing while I write.

After I wrote what I wrote last night, I noticed a remission in the resentment against the irreverent rogue in question.  Thankful that he had become irrelevant, I turned out the light and lay in bed.

Sleep, however, eluded me.  My mind seemed almost automatically to dart over to Scene Three, right where I’d left off – at the beginning of the daunting Siddhartha Monologue.   After about an hour of tossing and turning, I said, “forget it!”  Got up, started cranking it out.

I don’t know what to say but that it was one of those rare experiences when everything seemed to come together almost supernaturally.  I wrote the last word, put a period at the end of it, and looked at the clock.

It was four in the morning exactly.  I had finished The Siddhartha Monologue.  Going back to bed, I rolled over, and in no time at all, I was snoring like a man.

Forgiveness is Complex

I’m a bit depressed.  I stopped writing last night on p.30 of my script, just as my protagonist, Winston Greene, is about to launch into what I am calling The Siddhartha Monologue.   I had figured it for a good day’s work, and was sure I’d be able to pick it up full steam in the morning.  

Instead, I managed to accomplish nothing whatsoever all day.   I’ve been restless all day, and brooding.  It’s almost ten at night, and I am still hung up on getting something done, although it now seems completely unlikely.  It’s as though I won’t let myself rest until I’ve at least made a decent start on the monologue.   

The thoughts I’ve been entertaining seem to be prohibiting me from working on my script.  Although I thought I had forgiven the professor, I must have been deluding myself.  For me to presume myself to be more capable of forgiveness than I actually am now appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking on my part.  It irks me to believe that there is an all-loving, all-understanding God who has forgiven me; and yet I cannot forgive my fellow man.

The unforgiveness I harbor toward this fellow is particularly evident in my thought processes as I mull over the darkness of Scene Three.  In my estimation, it is the scene most likely to have warranted the main thrust of his criticism.  When I read the words “over the top political references that get in the way of the story,” the first thing I thought about was the Ice in Hell sequence in that scene.   But because the professor did not tell me specifically what he meant by “over the top political references,” I didn’t know for sure.  As I tried to express in the 7th paragraph of my post, A Whole Lot of Love, the extent to which I have been plagued by this unknowing increases steadily the more time goes by.  This is why I have compared my Writer’s Block to a progressive illness, in the sense that alcoholism or drug addiction is considered to be progressive (at least in theory.)

If this is the case, then my earlier announcement that the block had been broken would have no more merit than a drug addict’s announcing that he or she had been healed.   My block might have been in remission, but somewhere behind the scenes the insidious disease that brought this block into being still rages with a fury, waiting to strike again.

That disease – is hatred.   Hatred for my fellow man.   Hatred for the Almighty who, despite having forgiven me, had dealt me a hand so impossible, it makes me feel that, had He been more merciful from the start, there might have been nothing to forgive me for.  

So I have scheduled an appointment to discuss my issue with my pastor, who seems to be a very kind and understanding, insightful man.   When I brought up the matter, he said something very succinct, but at the same time very profound:

Forgiveness is complex.

If only I had known, when I first set about to write a new musical about classism in America, how horribly complex it would be.

Inspiration

There are mornings when I awake without any sense of inspiration whatsoever. Nothing inspires me.  Nothing thrills me.  Nothing moves me — I find no sense of joy or purpose in my heart. Sometimes on such mornings I struggle for three or more hours with the notion that life is meaningless, that everything is vain and pointless — that there is no better end for me than to take each day’s evil as it comes, praying for the best but expecting the worst, and so trudge the tumultuous trail of trial after trial till the travesty of such tragic tribulation trickles into death.

How I thank the Lord above that this morning was not such a morning! As I woke, I registered that I had been dreaming song lyrics in my mind, to one of the tunes I’d written while I was still wandering wistfully about the dangerous streets of Berkeley— a tune I’d only barely begun to sequence in my new and much more palatable place of pleasure, poise, and purpose, the providential paradise I now am proud to call my home. Though the phone rang immediately, sidetracking me suddenly from the sweetness of my song, I was nonetheless thrilled to find my dearest daughter Echo on the other end of the line, equally inspired — though she, unlike her father, is forever inspired, even on her bad days. As her dad, needless to say, this makes me glad.

Although the Internet was down where I consumed my morning coffee, I thank God all the more so. For before I’d downed a single cup, five offline files were at once thrown open before my eyes, as though competing for the privilege of my sole creative fury — as if to see which one would lend the greatest inspiration to my heart. Lo and behold, there has emerged a victor:  

The Very Same World

Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Michael Pope
All Rights Reserved.

At last, the formerly unfinished lyrics flow so finely, I’ve no doubt in my mind I will have sung this song with my own voice, and added my own singing to that instrumental track – ere sundown, I would wager, if I were a gambling man – or my name’s not Andy Pope.

And yet, alas – I  seem to have forgotten that sunset is at 4:30 in this part of the world.  But even in this embarrassing peccadillo do I thank the Lord above.  Thank God I’m not a gambling man, for I have not lost the bet.

 

Intervention

For anyone who might have caught my recent series on Writer’s Block (consisting of the four posts that began with this entry), I feel I ought to let you know that the block broken now.   In fact, I am genuinely thrilled about what has been taking place.  I had been hoping to break the block only insofar as I could proceed to a critical scene that had me stumped, about two-thirds of the way through the show.  But instead, I’ve actually been motivated to go all the way back to Scene One and implement an exhaustive overhaul.  I would never  have been able to do so, had I not wrote those four posts and engaged in an active effort to break the three year Writer’s Block.

This also has caused me to see the professor’s “scathing critique” in a new light.  It might sound strange after everything I’ve said earlier, but I actually see the man’s innocence in this situation.   He didn’t really intend to rip my heart to shreds.  If he didn’t put the 100% energy into my project that I’d hoped he would, maybe he didn’t feel a need to.  Maybe he saw some general things he figured I might have overlooked; since after all, I do sometimes have a tendency not to see the forest for the trees.  Even the part that he clearly didn’t understand is something I can use to my advantage.  Let’s face it: the man is in a much higher class than I am, in the present socio-economic structure in America.  It is well known that people in the upper classes perceive those in the lower classes less accurately than vice-versa.  There have even been studies to this effect.  Since, after all, Eden in Babylon is all about class, I can easily utilize all that information as fuel to support my cause.

I finished my Scene One rewrite on Friday morning.  One person has read it so far – the woman who directs the Choir at my church.  She’s a musical theatre actress and has a feel for this sort of thing.  So she sent me an email with detailed comments, mostly good.  There were some minor things she pointed out, and I made adjustments accordingly.   In no way was my reaction anywhere near as shocked or bewildered as it was when I got the earlier critique back from my longstanding friend.  In any case, I feel that I’m back on a solid roll; I’m fervently working on Scene Two, and I hope to get a draft of the entire show finished by December 31st.

Scene One is now twelve pages long in Standard Script Format.  Six of those pages include a monstrous musical number called “Intervention.”  If you want to hear what it sounds like, an instrumental version of about 1/3 of it can be heard below.

Intervention

from Eden in Babylon:
C
opyright © 2016 by Andrew M. Pope

All Rights Reserved