I’ve been trying to catch up on a backlog of writing. Writing, put on the back-burner because I’ve been lucky enough to be filming. A nice problem to have.
About three days ago, I hit the papyrus wall! Initially, I thought the plot of what I was tyring to re-draft. But it very quickly became obvious it had nothing to do with that. Plot, arc, characters, themes all solid. I was face to face with the notorious “writers block.”
The one thing that I have learnt through the years, is not to fight it, but to go with it.
Much as I do with insomnia. I don’t rail against it, I go with it. So, I downed my pen and indulge myself. I create some new digital art. I’m trying to improve my sketching skills. And I potter about on the internet. “Pottering” to me means, trawling around for things to watch. Films I haven’t seen for years, TV shows from childhood and teenage years. Watching actors, directors, DOPs and writers that I admire. A cyber busman’s holiday, if you will.
I ended up watching a TV drama Mad Jack by Tom Clarke, directed by Jack Gold, starring Michael Jayston as Siegfried Sassoon. That then sent me on a segway towards the 1973 BBC TV series Jane Eyre which also starred Michael Jayston as Rochester to Sorcha Cusack’s Jane. From there I was tripped over to The Sound of Music. (Theatre buffs will have already made the connection). Jayston played Von Trapp opposite Petula Clark’s Maria. That in turn led me onto Christopher Plummer and his work; not his film work as I’m very familiar with that side of things. But his work in theatre. I have seen a recorded version of The Tempest which her performed at Strafford (2010). Excerpts from Caesar and Cleopatra (2009) and Barrymore (2011). I was not fortunate enough to see Plummer live on stage even as the underaged theatre companion to my eccentric spinster aunt. Who took me to the theatre at precociously early age to the Old Vic, Aldwych, Savoy, Haymarket and many other Westend Theatres back in the very early 60s young child that my spinster aunt. I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed and carried the memories of his performance forwards with me into adulthood.
I don’t normally search for interviewed content from actors, famous, or otherwise – unless its for research purposes. Most of that type of content I’ve heard over the past forty, plus years, usually veers towards ego. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in the art, the craft the utilisation and application of that craft to create. Neither am I particularly interested in personal details. That’s one strand of thought that I have in common with Christopher Plummer.
Listening to the dulcet tones of Christopher Plummer’s 1967 filmed interview, was truly enjoyable. Hearing him generously and candidly share thoughts about the work, the craft, in this day and age of social media, click throughs, followers and blue ticks, where money is even more key than it has ever been, for both stage and screen, was a breath of fresh air.
It made me inspect and interrogate my own approach to acting, to directing, to writing. If you do watch an interview shouldn’t it inspire? Shouldn’t it open the door interrogation both internal and external? I’m not suggesting navel gazing, but an actual discourse with oneself that is not indulgent, egotistical or vain, but one that requires you to honestly evaluate and re-evaluate what exactly it is that we do. How we do it, why we do it and to what end?
If this current phase of writers-block does anything, it has given me the time to think about what I write, why I write and how I write it. Why I act, how I act and interact both professionally and privately. Like Church and State for me, acting cannot be divorced from the personal. Religion, if you are religious surely is part of you not something that is practised on a specific day or only at specific times of a day. It is part of your existence and how you live your life. As an actor and writer, it’s the same, it’s part of who I am, an active, living breathing, thing.
So, the negativity of writers’ block has actually been a positive thing. In fact it’s solved a conundrum on another piece that I’m drafting. It has been a moment for me to take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
So have a very merry Christmas however you celebrate the festive season and I hope that 2024 will bring us all happiness, prosperity, good health and peace.