Writing Furiously without a Pen

For a writer, it’s important to have understanding people in your life because a good part of what you do looks like goofing off.

That is, you may appear to be sitting on your porch and watching the breeze sway the poppies while listening to Dylan and The Band play “The Basement Tapes,” but, in reality, you are deep down in some inner movie, watching scenes you don’t understand appear and fade. In short, a lot of writing is not knowing what the hell you’re doing and being okay with that. Right now, I’m chasing something. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it. And it’s giving me pictures and little snippets of dialogue, but I don’t know what it’s going to be, how it’s going to emerge, and it’s necessary to kind of operate on faith–faith that your mind will let the rest float up to the surface when it’s ready.

I mean, I don’t have time to write at the moment. For the next couple weeks, my day job is going to be very demanding, and then I’m producing the End of the Pavement festival, and the two take a great deal of energy. I don’t even want to think about how tired I was yesterday and how tired I’m going to be by next Friday. So I can’t really write. I scribble down little bits of stuff in the mornings or lunch hours, but I can’t sustain the kind of extended concentration writing requires. I’ll get there, but the unconscious, after awhile, knows not to let loose until it’s ready. I guess I’ve been doing this long enough that it’s well trained.

And then it’ll be: bam! And you’re off, trying to keep up with the goddamn thing before it can get away from you. In the meantime, you just have to kind of roll with this twilight state where you get glimpses but they’re gone before you can do anything with them. In a way, it’s kind of enjoyable. I get to see the preview reel, unedited, before anyone else. And it looks fun and weird and spooky and intense and, best of all, new…but, of course, I’m sworn to secrecy. There’s nothing worse than talking something out before you can get it on paper.

So I’m sitting on the porch. Watching the poppies dance. And way down underneath, something unknown is taking shape. It just looks like nothing. And, as Dylan sings, too much of nothing makes a man ill of ease….

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

2 responses to “Writing Furiously without a Pen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: