More than ten years ago, I took a playwriting course hosted by the Windybrow theatre in Hillbrow.
From the course I was even able to write a couple of plays, and one of them enjoyed a short run in Johannesburg and had a showing at the annual Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
Anyway, last night I went through some of the boxes where I stored my creative writing materials, and I came across a notebook full of notes from the playwriting course.
Presenters included Maishe Maponya, who spoke about playwrights as activists, Paul Slabolepsy, who touched on the subject of inspiration.
A lot of the advice is relevant not just for playwrights, but for all types of writers. It may also seem obvious to experienced writers, but when I was first starting out, I found it to be very useful. And I hope these wise men’s words educate and inspire someone else through this blog:
Playwrights as activists for their industry
· Playwrights must chart new directions, and interrogate issues.
· They need to be well-informed on current affairs issues, so they can hold government, national performing arts councils and any company that has power over their working conditions accountable.
· Playwrights need to ask themselves: what did we fight for yesterday? Are we getting it? Shoud we be engaged in a new lobbying process?
· You must allocate time to spend writing everyday, so that you can get into the habit of writing.
· The more you wait for the play to come, the less inspired you will be.
· You must read variously – all literature, not just plays. It will show you the different methods of telling a story.
· Watch a lot of plays, and be conversant with the language of theatre, what a stage looks like and what you can or can’t do in a play. It will spark your imagination and give you boundaries.
· Keep a journal or notebook. It will help you keep your ideas. [Note: The wisdom of this piece of advice, and of keeping your notes for as long as possible, is aptly illustrated by this blog post, where I’m using notes from a decade ago, and the information is still relevant.]
· Maintain contact with other writers. You need people who understand your situation and who can encourage you to try harder on days when you face challenges.
· Write what you know about – often writers don’t know how special their story is [Note: not necessarily your biographical story, but your perspectives and influences.]