Exploring the creative process with the voices inside my head

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So my new year’s resolution to pursue more creative work in my free time has been coming along pretty well.

For a few years now I have thought that I needed a writing partner to collaborate with, when it came to my comedic writing process. This past year that idea seemed to be reaffirmed when I took comedy writing workshops at Loose Moose and Second City, most of the time it is easier when you had someone to riff your ideas off.

In 2014, I thought I would try to form a weekly meet-up group for sketch comedy writing classes. The first meeting was held on a blistery -30 degree day and only one kind soul decided to show up. I went over my workshop notes and we tried to brainstorm short premises and sketches but the truth is we were just not jiving. It was probably because he did not get any of my television references because he didn’t have cable; and I did not get his Star Trek and World of Warcraft scene ideas because that just ain’t how I roll.

To be honest I was discouraged, this was not the first time things didn’t work out with a potential writing partner. To be fair I am looking for someone as obsessed with comedy and writing as much as I am and then I am expecting some kind of magical chemistry to just appear, before all the amazing work does. I came to the stunning realization that much like traveling and experiencing other joys in life, I could not spend my time waiting for a partner just to go through with it. If I was going to write, I was going to forge ahead on my own. I have spent the last two weeks writing my sketch play alone and to be honest, I feel more driven to write than I have felt in ages.

I have always been a bit of a weirdo. I make entire people, conversations and situations in my head all day long. I did that in school and when my mind wanders at work now, it is still what I am doing. When I used to take the train to my downtown job I would make up back-stories for my fellow Ctrain commuters. When I worked in retail, I would write the inner dialogue of the customers on receipt paper. For as long as I can remember there has been a constant dialogue running through my brain, so why couldn’t I take those conversations and put them to paper on my own? I am not sure! But I have spent two weeks staying up until 2 am every night, playing with the voices in my head. Sitting alone in my apartment, saying my lines of dialogue streaming through my head out loud. In this week I have written something that really inspires me and makes me want see where I can take my writing.

Today I went to a great double header at Loose Moose and it did another wonderful job showcasing the depth of comedic onstage talent here in Calgary. I was casting my play while they slayed it on stage and I only can hope and dream that I can create something as brave as they can in their few minutes on stage. I love going to shows and being in the audience, I have extreme gratitude for the things in my life that bring me laughter. But I always come away from a night at Loose Moose, inspired to create and be a part of that community of comedic talent.

I am really happy with the work I have done on my play. I have been showing it around and people seem engaged with it and think it is funny. I think it is a unique concept and I would love to see it come to fruition. I hope to come back here with some news of progress but until then I urge you to go forth and seize the day. Go after the things you want, chase down your dreams and don’t wait for anyone to hold your hand to make those things happen. You are mightier than you think!

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Chasing the idea…

ImageAbout ten years ago today I was watching this mini-series on CBC called Human Cargo, which focused on human trafficking post-911. It was an incredibly well done and an eye opening mini-series and it inspired me to look further into my dream of creating television like that for Canadians. That winter I applied for the broadcasting at Mount Royal College and I was more than thrilled to have gotten in after interviews and testing. Upon entering college I initially thought I wanted to work on the news production side of the broadcasting industry to produce television like Human Cargo. In the Broadcasting Program you have to take both news and creative in the first semester and boy I am glad that we did. That first semester was in 2004 and it was a very turbulent time in the world before Saddam Hussein was killed and people were being beheaded on live television. News, while informative and eye-opening, is incredibly dark and while I am not the most sunshiny, happy person – I was not dark enough to withstand a career in news. Luckily as I was making that realization I discovered the joy of creative radio and television writing. The Broadcasting Program at Mount Royal College is very hands on. If you had an idea, you could produce it for a project and see it come through. We did radio dramas, television infomercials, music videos and all sorts of creative projects. In my writing classes, where I could brainstorm an idea and work with my classmates to produce it and then edit it to my liking, those were the happiest times of my life and brought me back to that drama class bliss of high school. We would get a lot of guest speakers coming in to tell us how challenging the broadcasting industry was with a decrease in jobs and not that much money for the work you would be doing and you would likely start out in a small town. Little did our little eager asses know, that there lay truth in their foreshadowing.

We called the first few months after Broadcasting, retirement because we just sat around waiting for a call-backs from our tapes and resumes we sent out. Until one day my best friend Sherri and I got tired of waiting and decided to take a road-trip to basically beg for work and amazingly enough it worked out and I got my first job in the industry in Saskatoon at Rawlco Radio. I was thrilled and my mother was devastated but I thought I would like Saskatoon. Sure, I am not really a small city kind of person but our fall tour of the city made it seem like a laidback, cool city. It was not until I weathered the four month blizzard that I came scurrying back and left Sherri, who had just come to help me settle in, to develop a seriously admirable career in television with Global Saskatoon. I moved back without a job or a plan and was lucky enough to get a job as a National Account Coordinator and Junior Creative Writer at Corus Calgary. My job was 70% processing paperwork for agency and supplied commercials and 30% writing for the smaller clients. While I truly hated 70% of my job, the 30% where I could come up with an idea for a client and then see it through to production gave me that sought after thrill and kept me at Corus for almost four years, until I was laid off.

It is at this point every dream and plan for my career just all went up in the air. When I got laid off, instead of be broken by it, I saw it as a sign to wake up and explore. I had never really traveled and my severance cheque gave me opportunity to go and explore this world I had only seen on a screen or page. My travels came after a long period of depression and it brought me back to myself. I consider that time in my life a miracle, it truly resurrected me.  When I got back into the job market in Calgary there was no work in the broadcasting industry, so I looked elsewhere and found temporary work with the government until I found my current position at an oil and gas event company. The money is double what I was making at Corus and almost triple what I was making in Saskatoon and I have been lucky enough to work with great people. There are a few rare moments when I can have that rush of the idea but maybe it is because of the dryness of my subject matter, the rush is just not the same. I was starting to forget about it to be honest until I started to take adult improv classes at Loose Moose Theatre. I can’t fully find the words to describe the feeling I have when I am up on stage when things are going well with my partner up there, the ideas are flowing and we’re creating this little story.  And it does matter how small that audience is, all that matters is that we are creating an idea and seeing it through in a way that makes people either laugh or think about the world in a different way. Any time I get to do that, those have been the best moments in my life.

Ten years ago, I was naïve, brave and crazy enough to take a leap and attempt to chase in my dream of working in television. And today, in 2014, my resolution (along with the old, lose weight one) is to pursue my creative pursuits, to see my ideas through and to be crazy and brave enough to see that dream through.

I pray for courage, tenacity and most importantly, money!