Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Goes to show you never can tell.

Last year, I was ill. I took several months to get myself on the road to recovery and it affected my output somewhat. I did write a few things whilst I was "under the weather", but I was definitely slower than before, not so prolific. I was also dreadfully unsure of the standard I was achieving.

I managed to write a couple of things, but each word was wrung from me, and there were tears shed over my lost ability. I was convinced each scene was rubbish, so much so that I was almost embarrassed to show anyone.

I managed to write three major things during my illness. The first was a Pantomime, "Ahmed and the Mummy". Basically, I told myself I was going to write it, and I forced myself to do so. Every joke was, to my mind, unfunny. Every line of dialogue sounded stilted. Every situation was cliched and lacking in humour. Friends told me it was funny, but they could not convince me.

At their instigation, I sent the pantomime to the British publisher Lazy Bee ( He'd already published 7 of my plays and pantos, so he'd give it the time of day. He would also reject something not up to scratch. There's no old pals act with MY publishers.

Imagine my surprise when he told me it was funny and original and agreed to publish it. That showed me I was not the best judge of my own work!

This lesson was reinforced when I was asked to write a modern day Nativity for a local junior drama group. The result was "Power Play". Again I was not convinced of its merits, but it fulfilled the brief, and they liked it. I went to see it. The audience raved about it. I was speechless.

It's to be done again this Christmas, by a different group, which is quite gratifying.

Finally, I wrote a community drama, "Barabbas". I did it because I'd been saying I would and it seemed a good idea to follow through, rather than be known as someone who talked and never did.

Barabbas was one of the hardest things I ever wrote. Every scene was agony. Every line was written several times. Oh, the days when I would put in nine hours solid, have several pages, only to delete the lot the next day and start again. I would go to sleep each night working out the kinks, and wake up every morning ready to take notes. I thought about it over lunch, when I should have been listening to the sermon in church, when I was in the dentist's waiting room. I spoke into my dictaphone while I drove or walked the dog, or did the housework.

It took some months, but Barabbas was finally finished. I sent it to a publisher where four other of my plays have found a home: Eldridge Publishing ( They have rejected as many of my works as they have accepted, and I was fully prepared to have this play thrown back at me.

It was accepted. The editor called it "A fascinating exploration of the last days of Christ", and said it had "richly nuanced characters which makes us really care what happens to them." She went on, "From the opening, bracing violence, to Barabbas' final line, "Because he died for me", we found the play utterly absorbing, compelling, and ultimately uplifting." 

Needless to say, the letter made my day, my week, my month. It buoyed me up and made me feel that maybe I COULD still do this. It showed me that I shouldn't judge my own work when I am in a low frame of mind, and it taught me to keep the faith.

I'm writing again. I'm feeling confident in my abilities again. And it feels good.

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