The Summons

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Kind of.  More-or-less.

Q. Does this make you uncomfortable?

A. Occasionally.

Q. Why?

A. Because the Bible says: “The question is in the mind of the man; the answer comes from the Lord.”  Proverbs 16:1.  Just read it this morning – this being the 16th day of the month.  But what we’re doing, you and I — it seems the other way around.

Q. Then why have you summoned me?

A. Because it works.  I really try not to summon you too often.  It’s a last ditch effort.  A gesture of desperation.  But – it does work.

Q. So what’s on your mind?

A. My incompetence.

Q. What makes you incompetent?

A. I can’t do it.  I can’t even begin to create a simple piano-vocal score.  I stare at the page, knowing it should be easy to open up the script to the proper place on one window, find the cue I need to input, input it onto Scroll View on the Finale template in another window; convert it to Page View, and see if it all looks groovy.  Yet I stare at both windows mindlessly, aimlessly drawing a blank, and feel guiltier and more helpless every damned day.

Q. Might not this simply be another Writer’s Block?

A. If it is, then I’m sure not blocked up about any other writing project I’ve got going on.  It’s just that those projects are not what I am supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to be notating this grueling, arduous, tedious piano-vocal score that will take me five months to complete even if I do get on the ball with it.

Q. What makes you think you’re supposed to be doing it?

A. I’m supposed to be doing it because nobody will ever produce the show without a written piano-conductor score.

Q. Why not?

A. Because nobody will ever be able to play the piano part, except for me.

Q. Then why don’t you just produce it yourself, and play the piano yourself?

A. Because I don’t have enough money to do so.  I can’t even rent out the theater less than two blocks from my house.  You can’t do anything without money in this world. It sucks.  Talented people go to their graves with their dreams unfulfilled, while people who are rich by inheritance use their money to screw around with high-class call girls.

Q. Is that really always true?

A. No, it is not.

Q. Then why are you so hung up on the theme?

A.  I don’t know.  I’ve got some kind of chip on my shoulder.  I get tired of being lectured by rich people, because they have no idea what it’s like to be poor.  Nor do they have any comprehension that I would never want to be rich; never want ot be like them.  I only want enough money to produce my show.  And still – this piano part – I say I can play it, but that’s a crock.  I can’t even play it.  It would take a pianist much better than me to play it.  So the score needs to be notated, whether I were to self-produce the show or not.

Q. Then what’s keeping you?

A. The block.

Q. What is the essence of the block?

A. I’m not sure.  Somewhere between lack of confidence and laziness, or some combination of both.

Q. Are you lazy?

A. Um — no one who truly knows me would characterize me a such.

Q. Do you lack confidence?

A. Yes.  I’ve watched over three months go by without me being able to get started on this simple task.  How can I not lack confidence?

Q. Is there a way you can proceed without confidence?

A. I hadn’t thought about that.  Perhaps so.

Q. How so?

A. Maybe if I — if I pray – if I trust God — if I ask God to just get me through this block on His power, being as my own power is insufficient.

Q. But would that prayer be sufficient?

A. Only if He answers it.

Q. Why would he not answer it?

A. If it is not within His will.

Q. Why would it not be within His will?

A. If my creation of this p-v score is actually not what I am supposed to be doing.

Q. How will you ever know?

A. If I try.  If I pray.  If I pray, and then open up the windows, and see if the prayer has been answered.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I will.

Q. Will you?

A. Yes, I will.

Q. Honestly?  How many times in the past three months have you said you would get cracking on this, and yet not budged an inch?

A. Innumerable times.

Q. Then why should this time be any different?

A. Because it has to be.

Q. But what if you don’t even pray?  What if you’re scared to?

A. If I don’t pray, then somebody else will.  But I will pray.

Q. How do you know you will?

A. Because I just did.  And I ask other believers to pray for me as well.

The Questioner is silent.

 

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

The End

This post will be very brief.

As most of you know, I have been working on a musical play, off and on, for about five years.   This included a writer’s block of three years that was finally broken over Thanksgiving dinner last year.  I picked it up again on Thanksgiving night.

As of 11:15am this morning, I have finally put the words THE END at the bottom of my  document.   Eden in Babylon is complete — book, music, and lyrics — 132 pages in standard script format for a musical play.

Please fill out the contact form on this website if you would like a copy of the script, and we’ll see what we can do.  No doubt changes will be made, being as this is an initial draft.  I will say, however, that the satisfaction I am feeling at this moment far exceeds any previous form of satisfaction I have hitherto been known to feel.

Special thanks to Mary Donohoe and to all the members of the Palouse Writer’s Guild for their support — and to all of you, I offer a very special thank you, on this day.

Time to Come Out

People in general have no idea how insecure I am about this whole playwriting process.   I could gloat about how it seems as though I’m gradually developing a positive support group in the community here — and I must admit the guys at the bagel shop downstairs have been remarkably supportive.  But what is that, really?  So there’s this guy who lives upstairs who likes to come down for a bagel and has a halfway interesting project going on.  So what?

To their credit, the “guys” to whom I refer are Paul, the night manager who has a degree in Psychology; and Josh, the swing shift worker who has a degree in Acting.  That’s a good blend, considering the subject matter.  There’s also Mary, the choir director at my church who played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and this fellow David who is the Artistic Director of the local community theater, who got his MFA in Playwriting and Directing from the University here.  I’ve discussed my work with a handful of other people, but the obvious course of action is to find some kind of writer’s  workshop.

writers-workshop-returns-1862When I ran into David the other day, I asked him if he thought it would be possible to audit a playwriting seminar at the University.   He seemed to think it would work if were to email the professor who teaches the class; and then, if I didn’t hear from him for a few days, just to walk into the building and announce my desire.  When I mentioned this to Josh last night, Josh also said they would almost certainly let me do that.  He then directed me to the building – so at this point it’s only a matter of working up the fortitude.

It might be a good idea for me to print out the script first, what I’ve got anyway.  Basically, since whenever my last “progress report” was, I’ve written up to p.53, or about midway through Scene Four.  There’s a good chance that if I start now, I can finish Scene Four this morning.  Then maybe I can print the pages out at the library.  It would be nice to show up with hard copy in hand, willing to let somebody look at it if they like, before they decide what to do with me.

Yes – this is the obvious solution to my woes.  The writer’s block that I occasionally encounter may not be as severe as the one earlier blogged, the one that kept me at a standstill for three years.   But the impasses are painful.  They slow me down, and they need to be addressed.   It’s time for me to get off my rump as far as presenting myself to the Performing Arts community here.   It’s not that I’m not thankful for the support I’ve thus far gleaned – it sure beats wandering the streets of Berkeley trying to maintain my sanity by composing music out loud after gang bangers hit me on the head with guns and stole my laptops.

But it’s time I did things according to reasonable protocol.  It’s time to break out of my shell.  It’s time to come out.

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.

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 . . .