Today I started reading Playwriting: Writing, Producing, and Selling Your Play by Louis E. Catron. So far it’s a good read. I like Catron’s direct no-bullshit approach. He’s not trying to work New Age marketing crap into his book. From what I’ve read so far it’s a solid introduction to the basics of writing for theatre.
He has a number of early suggestions about how to develop as a writer long before he gets to the concrete advice about constructing a stage play.
For instance he advises writing a journal. He has some nifty ideas for establishing a private journal that is designed to keep random dialogue, story lines, characters, stray scenes, and personal thoughts in one notebook. This blog doesn’t really qualify because to mangle Heisenberg: the readers of a journal change its state. Or certainly, my knowledge that there are others reading this journal changes its state in my mind. I won’t be totally forthcoming on certain topics, and I won’t discuss specific details of my projects. Catron advises a journal in which you can be completely frank and uninhibited. I may take up Catron’s suggestion, but this blog has certainly given me the incentive to explore the process of writing and to reflect upon it.
You learn about writing by writing, but you also progress by giving the process serious thought, and writing about that too.
The second of Catron’s early tips is to write a credo. He describes it thus:
“A credo is, simply, a personal statement of convictions. A credo is the writer’s beliefs concerning topics he or she feels are highly important. It is focused most especially upon those portions of life that concern the writer most. It addresses topics about which the author has a deep emotional attitude–a burning anger, a scorn, an affection. It is, then, “This I believe…” It is uniquely your own.
This is a fine idea, and I plan to put one together. Catron suggest that it should be at least eight pages to begin, but fully expects it will grow quickly. The idea, of course, is to discover what fuels your passions, what fires you up, and therefore what subjects you can attempt to tackle in some form in your writing. It’s a way of eliminating muddled thinking too, and of figuring out exactly what is your opinion on certain topics. I’ve read of similar exercises (lists of hopes, dreams, fears, etc.) but the simplicity of Catron’s model is elegant.
I already know what the first two lines of my credo will be, and alas, they are not my own. Some time ago Robert Anton Wilson summarised one of my own principles rather succinctly.
Thus, my credo will begin:
I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.
I’m not one for dogmatism or inflexibility in thought. Many years ago a friend of mine said to me: “Always remember that here is a “lie” in belief.” I try to eschew rigid, static, beliefs. As Rufus says in Dogma: “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.”
And thus my credo unfolds…