Another Scene Down

I’m not sure exactly how many hours I put into my writing today.   It seems I didn’t really get started till about one in the afternoon.   Let’s say there was an hour break for dinner and bathroom stops.   So I guess I wrote for eight hours.   All I know is that when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene One” at the bottom of p.104, I looked down at the computer clock — and it read 10:00pm exactly.

I had a feeling today would be a good day.  I awoke in good spirits, feeling relaxed and relieved after having resolved a difficult situation at work.  I also knew I had the day off — and I knew what to do with it.   Most of the writing of the 17-page Scene consisted of refining the six pages leading up to the song called Hunted, finishing the lyrics to Hunted, writing all the dialogue between Hunted and the following song, writing a new monologue called the “Mainstream Monologue,” and finally finishing all the lyrics to the song Children of the Universe.   (If you happen to listen to the music of that song, you can easily discern how writing its lyrics was no small task.)

Obviously, I felt very pleased when I finished all that work.  But there’s something gnawing at me.

real-writerIf you’ve been reading me much at all lately, you’ll know that I’ve been contemplating the different stages of the creative process as well as the different spaces of Bipolar Disorder, and how they seem to coalesce in order to yield long periods of time when nothing gets done at all — at least not consciously — followed by long periods of time when all kinds of work is steadily produced.   Even though I only have two Scenes left to go, and I can actually even see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have this horrendous fear that the next period of depression – or incubation – is going to last even longer than the last one, which was damn near seven days. 

For the sake of balance, I want to stop writing now, and rest my weary head and bones.  But for the sake of getting the show finished, don’t you think it would be better if I forged forward, while I’m still on the roll?   I’d hate to plunge into another week or two of dry vacuous nothingness.

But no – I must seek a more healthy balance here.  I have tomorrow off as well, so I might as well get some rest, and have at it once again in the morning.   I’m starting to get the feeling that God is actually going to allow me, after all these years, to finish the damn thing.  I need to ride on that hope.   There’s no turning back by now.

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.

Highs and Lows

A while back, in my post The Creative Process, I wrote these words:

There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously.  This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation.  Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed.   Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished.  Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day.   Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about. 

At the risk of being stigmatized or stereotyped, I’m going to open up about one such theory.  It is said that some very creative people have Bipolar Disorder; and it is also quite possible that I might be one of those people.  If so, it is possible that, for me, the stage of “incubation” corresponds to the low end of the bipolar mood swing, commonly referred to as depression.  Then, the stage of “illumination,” – and all the satisfying work that follows – may correspond to the high end of the swing, commonly referred to as mania  I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve been writing this play, I’ve been cycling back and forth between these two stages — whatever they’re to be called – and that the cycling has been occurring like clockwork.

However, when I read the symptoms of the disorder, they seemed to me to be much more extreme in general than what I was experiencing.  It may surprise you, for example, that I wasn’t so concerned about the low end of the ebb.   Sure I was depressed when my sister died.  Of course I was depressed when, three days later, we in America elected a reckless and unscrupulous, inexperienced buffoon to be our chief political officer.   I was also more than a little depressed whenever I was first trying to break through my three-year Writer’s Block, and could not get my mind off how my failure to make progress with this piece seemed inextricably linked to a failed 45 year friendship.  But as far as depression that would be experienced as part of a cyclic mood swing — no, I did not experience depression at any level nearly commensurate with the awful accounts I read about.  If anything, I felt a bit annoyed that I seemed creatively dry, and I was eager for the situation to change. 

It was what happened when the situation changed that concerned me.  True, I would have incredibly satisfying bursts of long-winded creative accomplishment, such as the day when I wrote for sixteen hours.  It’s also true that I would sometimes enter into elation, and feel that I needed neither sleep nor food, on the premise that my soul was being fed.  While excessive goal orientation and loss of interest in food or sleep are both known symptoms of a bipolar “manic episode,” I still wasn’t concerned.  What concerned me was that I became so happy that I was finally getting into my script again, after an infuriating three year Writer’s Block, I could barely sleep at night for excitement.  All I could do was lay awake in bed at night fantasizing about who was going to be playing what part on Broadway, and what my acceptance speech would look like when I picked up my Tony Award.

So I went to the clinic and saw a doctor, who had me fill out a simple questionnaire.  He wound up diagnosing me as “mildly bipolar,” and put me on a low dosage of a bipolar medication.   This turn of events seemed reasonable to me.  My level of bipolarity, so to speak, is not so huge as to cause gross disruptions in my personal, social, and professional relationships.  However, it is pronounced enough to have caused me to become concerned and seek medical attention, before the situation should worsen.

It has now been ten days since I began taking the medication.   Although at first I didn’t enjoy its effects at all, I’ve begun to notice some things that I can’t help but interpret as positive.   Let me list a few:

  1. If a problem is solved during Writers Guild meetings as a result of intelligent feedback from the other Writers, I don’t become so excited about it that I can’t focus on applying the solution.
  2. I no longer lay awake in bed all night fantasizing about future successes, but rather wind down normally, do some light reading, and drift off into sleep.
  3. I’m more relaxed in my work situation, and less anxious about missing my cues.
  4. Probably most significantly, the amount of time spent in what I’ve been calling the “incubation” or “depressed” period is significantly reduced – at no expense whatsoever to the amount of time spent in the highly productive period.  The only difference is that I am now more inclined to stop the production, get some food or rest, and continue the high level of productivity the next day.

As to point #4 above, I’m in the process of getting the first Scene of Act two prepared, which will include the musical number I call Hunted.  I wrote this in 2012, when I first conceived of this musical, as described on this page.   I’m eager to finish the lyrics, and apply its dynamics to the current incarnation of Eden in Babylon.   In the meantime, I’ve linked to a instrumental recording of it below.  It is my hope, like that of any other Artist, that you will take a few minutes to enjoy and appreciate my work.

Hunted

from Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2012, 2o17 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.