I’ve been extremely zen like since I got back and I seem to float around with the biggest lump in my throat. I feel physically sick when I think back to the week just gone and whenever someone asks me how it went I start to cry. This is a good thing, it was magnificently perfect. I couldn’t have asked for more, I’m just in mourning for what has been an emotional and enlightening week of self discovery of not only my writing but my attitudes to work and my drive.
I’d intended to work on one of the two plays I have lying around aching for re-writing but Simon threw me a curveball whilst having a smoke on the Monday night. “Why don’t you try writing something new whilst you’re here?” I baulked, I panicked. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it because he was right. My plays are at a stage where I just need to write them and not dwell on development anymore. So I started looking at a four paragraph monologue I had banging around on my laptop that I’d done as a writing exercise rather than anything; I’ve never written a proper monologue for performance before.
Then my journey began. I’d wake up at 6am then work on the piece, have the group session at 10am and hand work to Simon. One-on-one tutorials were in the afternoon and after mine I’d work on it again before dinner, then our evenings were planned with readings or a guest speaker and then after the frolics and copious amounts of alcohol I’ll go back and work on my piece till wee hours of the morning. I did this every day I was there so no wonder I was an emotional wreck by the time I got back home after the 3 hour drive. It was a routine, my routine that worked and I stuck to; something that doesn’t happen when I’m here, back in the real world with jobs and events and stresses.
More importantly I was making decisions for myself. It’s great having a mentor to guide you through and pick you up and point out the great bits to you but when you’re capable of being able to be self-aware of those decisions it’s so much more poignant. I told Simon that I was fucking proud of my piece of work because I had made the decisions and realised when they were right. Everyone was at varying degrees of their career in writing but I did feel a little out of my depth and once again was the youngest. But to be honest we all shared the same ambition so I felt more at ease once I felt like I knew what I was doing.
To have someone out there in the profession whose just as eager and prone to the pitfalls of the commissioning process say they’re excited about your work is just something I wanted to write on my forehead so I could see it every time I looked in the mirror. There was so much Simon said to me but for fear of sounding like I’m gloating and because a lot of them were personal I won’t splash them on here. All I will say is that it felt like I had an enthusiastic tutor who was also a mate. Admittedly on the first tutorial I felt a little intimidated but he’s such an easy going, extremely fucking funny, guy that you forget where you are and your half hour tutorial has whizzed by in a fury of energy, ecstatic words and a bundle of motivation.
The last night of the week we were all encouraged to read out some of the pieces we’d been working on in the week. Simon was eager for me to read the entire monologue out and it was true that I wanted to hear it but I wasn’t too sure about me being the one to do so. Throughout the week Simon had been reading us samples of his work that had never been read before and it was electric. He also has a great aptitude to sight read and give it full meaning and resonance. I voiced my concern at reading the piece myself and when I asked him if he’d read it on behalf of me he jumped at it. Not only did it help that I’d hear it back but it was brilliant to hear it for the voice it was intended for, male. As Simon read the piece and gave it his full attention and brought every nuance to light I sat and held my breath. This piece had just been born when I arrived at the Hurst so both Simon and I had seen this develop and grow as the week had gone on. What was evident as the monologue silenced the room is that I really had done a lot of work on it and Simon could see that and stressed how strong and clear it was. He knew this piece as well as I did.
There are so many things to take away from this trip and I still can’t get my thoughts into order so that I don’t well up every time I think back to the lasting effect. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t hunched over my laptop sobbing every night I was there. It was the idea that I had to carry on this motivation when I returned back to home. It was the big realisation when I had to leave the last morning that the rest was now up to me. I knew several of the Lovely people I had met whilst there had already left at 6am or thereabouts. I got up early and sat and had breakfast with myself but I couldn’t shake this melancholic feeling. I sat in silence and was adamant that I wouldn’t leave until I shook myself out of this slump and realise my achievement. There was no way I wanted to make the 3 hour drive back with my mind cluttered with clashing thoughts. So I went and stood looking over the hills in the morning sunshine. Then Ewan appeared and we had a laugh over breakfast and instantly my mood lifted. Simon soon followed and then the laughter continued and it was like mates saying goodbye rather than the end of a long week. My head and my heart were in the right place and as we hugged our goodbyes and kissed cheeks I knew my drive home would be a determined one. By the time I’d reached the other end I was inspired to calm down, slow down and realise my potential. Whilst I’m focused on what I want to achieve I more than often get tangled in too many projects and spend my time trying to rely on retreats like this to write when I should be doing it regardless.
I met some cracking people up in Craven Arms most of which I’ll keep in contact with and that includes Simon. Too many things to try and tell you about that were amazing and great and funny but it’s bound to end up being many of those ‘you-had-to-be-there’ moments. But I’ll leave you with this; drinking whiskey neat by candlelight till 3am listening to Mark Eitzel with Mister Stephens is going to stay with me for a long time. That and being mistaken for Lenny Henry multiple times.