Each summer, the public park directly across the street from our Sebastopol, (Sonoma County) California home is transformed into a site for festivals, concerts and live theater. Ives Park is the summer home of Main Stage West, our resident theatre company, located two blocks away in “Downtown” Sebastopol.
This year, we were treated to two beautifully acted, staged, and costumed plays: a non-Shakespearean work: Carlo Goldoni’s classic comedy, The Servant of Two Masters and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.It’s hard to believe that theater can still be compelling, engaging and enjoyable when performances are carried out within earshot of nighttime Little League playoffs, but when it’s done as well as this, it is. At its best, theater can transport an audience to another time and place, despite Billy’s cheering parents or the whoops of his teammates.
This year, I took my 12 year old Granddaughter, Marley, to both performances and she loved them. An out-of-town Granddaughter, Kelly (11), joined us for The Tempest. I wasn’t sure about taking kids this young to a Shakespeare play, but they loved it — especially the scenes with romance or slapstick humor.
I know I’m lucky to live where the arts and love theater are valued and where they are made accessible and affordable.
Thank you, Sebastopol!
It took me a while to realize that I’d developed a system for sustaining my writing over long periods of time. There was nothing intentional about it. It only became evident in hindsight. Here’s how my writing process seems to work:
- I get an idea for a writing project and start to think about it. A lot of it’s just that. Thinking. Sometimes I also take notes. If I can sustain my attraction to the idea for a few days or weeks, I’ll get serious and really get to work on it.
- Once started, I can almost guarantee that eventually I’ll run into an internal (or external) roadblock. For me, that usually means that I don’t know how to proceed or that I’ve lost confidence in the validity of the project.
- Rather than bash my head against a wall, I’ve found that it’s better for me to simply stop working on the project that has me frustrated and set it aside to quietly “ferment” while I tackle something else.
- Since I have amassed a good quantity and variety of work in various stages of completion, this is when I take up a writing project that I had previously set aside. In 9 cases out of 10, the magic of fermentation has done its work and what had seemed an insurmountable problem has been reduced to a manageable scale.
- The whole thing is a cycle. While I’m working on one writing project, others are fermenting. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? But when you’re stuck (or at least when I’m stuck) it’s not always easy to remember that you don’t have to sit there in misery. You can move on and come back later.
Fermenting. It’s not just for yogurt!.
Over the past ten years, I’ve written five full-length plays, four short plays, one full-length historic reenactment, one full-length film treatment, two books of short fiction and one published memoir. Spelled out, it seems a respectable list, but on those days when writing is the last thing I’m able to manage, I grow critical for not getting to “it.”
But if I’m willing to take a deep breath and step away from self blame, I begin to see that what looks to me like inactivity often serves a function; the function of “fermentation.” Just as with making sauerkraut or yogurt or wine, fermentation is an essential component of my creative process.
My fermentation has two stages. The first one often comes on early. Once an idea for a story or play begins to take shape, I’ll outline what I think the plot could be, what form it should take (short story, play, etc.) who the characters are, the location . . . the essentials. If research is required, I’ll start that, too. If the shape of the writing project is clear and I’m satisfied, then I can work steadily at it for days or weeks at a time. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the writing process.
But often, after that initial burst of enthusiasm and creativity, I’ll run into what feels like a brick wall. Nothing makes sense . . . what had recently felt exciting now feels uninspired and flaccid. Rather than toss the project, this is the time for me to launch the first period of fermentation.
(To be continued)